London draining life out of rest of country - Vince Cable

Vince Cable

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London "is becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the country", Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned.

Mr Cable made the comment while saying that he believed regional airports should be expanded rather than London's Heathrow Airport.

The Lib Dem minister told BBC Radio 4's Today some "more balance" was needed.

But Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Mr Cable's assertion was "stupefying and ridiculous".

And Labour criticised the coalition for "dismantling" regional developments agencies, arguing that its alternative approach to addressing economic imbalances in the UK had been "feeble".

Mr Cable, whose constituency includes Heathrow flight paths, has long opposed plans for a new runway there.

Start Quote

It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that”

End Quote Chuka Umunna Shadow business secretary

He was speaking after Sir Howard Davies' Airport Commission shortlisted three options for expanding UK airport capacity, two of which involved Heathrow.

With much of the business world in favour of more airport capacity in south-east England, Mr Cable was asked whether he stuck by his opposition to expansion at his local airport.


He said: "What this report is doing [is] trying to reconcile two different things.

"One is to try to ensure that, for the economic interests of the country, we have more connection to the big emerging markets.

"On the other hand we have hundreds of thousands of people in London living under the flight path with very serious issues of noise.

"All the parties have made it very clear that we can't make that problem worse."

The "way forward", he argued, was to make "more use of provincial airports".

Mr Cable described Sir Howard's report as "very well argued".

But he added: "One of the big problems that we have at the moment, which I don't think the report sufficiently addresses, is that London is becoming a kind of giant suction machine, draining the life out of the rest of the country.

"More balance in that respect would be helpful."

Key figures for London and UK compared

Shadow business secretary and Labour MP for Streatham in London, Chuka Umunna, said: "It's no good him talking about regional imbalances when his government dismantled the institutions that were addressing that - Regional Development Agencies - then put feeble substitutes in their place in the form of Local Enterprise Partnerships which they gave no powers to nor appropriate budgets."

The London mayor, who also opposes Heathrow expansion, described Mr Cable as "the cabinet minister in charge of supposedly growing the UK economy".

He argued: "He's talking rubbish. I'm amazed and I fundamentally disagree. In fact the opposite is true: London now contributes more to UK GDP than ever before.

"This city is the motor of the UK economy, and the gateway to recovery across the country, attracting record levels of overseas investment, all of which is helping not hindering recovery.

"Far from being a drain on the the rest of the UK London is helping to drive job creation and growth outside the capital as well as in it."

The BBC's former economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, explored the issue of London v provincial cities in this film for BBC One's The Editors

During the Today programme interview Mr Cable made clear that he would argue "ferociously" in government against Heathrow expansion but said it was not a matter over which he would be prepared to resign.

The final Airports Commission report is due by summer 2015, after the next general election.

The rise and fall of unemployment around the UK since 2005
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Claimant count - June 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    I always thought the Digital Age was supposed to release us from all the centralised management and allow businesses to flourish no matter where they were based. Either this is the case and London has no claim to continued unreserved growth or we have all been spoon fed lies and London will have to continue as is. Which is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    25 Minutes ago
    is spot on
    We don't really have another major city in the UK which comes close to the size of London, our second city Birmingham is about 10 times smaller than London, and has not progressed much in the last 10 years mainly due to the incompetence of its council.
    Until the Government starts investing in another large UK city, the UK will always be too London-centric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    It should be standard practice when reporting economic statistics to give a version with London factored in and out. For instance, we are currently told that the UK is on the road to recovery with growth statistics used to back it up. The reality is that London is surging ahead and the rest of the UK is left behind. London is, in effect, a City State that selfishly looks after its own interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    Sadly Mr Cable has it around the wrong way. London is the only thing breathing life into zombie Britain. The UK would be a second-world country if it weren't for London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    London is a filthy rubbish infested rathole, last summer I walked up toward Tottenham , there were boxes of rotting fish and meat just left festering in the heat, the smell was foul.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    I think we can do both, let London continue to be world class capital city that it is, but move large employers like central government North say Tyneside, or Bradford..

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    I think London should be granted independence.

    Move the Parliament up to somewhere in the middle of the UK. Let Londoners pay for everything to do with London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    London is a great city but I do think Vince Cable has a point. He was talking in the context of the proposed expansion of Heathrow, surely it does make sense to spread air travel across the UK? Also, such an expansion would make London less desirable and even more congested than it already is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    8 Minutes ago

    He could stand for the USA's presidency as was born there.

    Boris is entertaining, great on quiz shows. Our finest son? No Boris is underneath the Benny From crossroads act pretty dangerous given any real power.


    But whom could he get to buy him the preidency?

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    So the HS2 was to open up London with easy commute from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. But now it seems like the only airports worth expanding are located in London. Isn't this contradictory?

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    Should Scotland achieve independence next year, then the focus will shift to the North of England. A new frontier indicating the next economic area wanting greater autonomy away from Westminster will emerge a little below the M62 corridor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    "835.Sally the Rothbardian
    And who voted to bail these fraudulent gamblers out, and pay them bonuses with our wages, our man Vince an friends?"

    Wasn't it Dear Prudence; Gordon Brown. Architect of the toothless FSA and the LBG merger?

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    Putting all eggs in one basket is just illogical incompetence.

    Germany, France, every major nation has 2 or more commercial centres & benefit greatly from them, as well as it providing enhanced national security.

    The whole problem of lack of spreading wealth is because of the bias towards London.

    Unless the London bias is remedied, it is impossible to have any balanced economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    The Olympics was a case in point - little of the promised benefit filtered outside the capital yet there was national funding as well as local funding for the event. You might argue the same applies for events outside London but often you find that they use London-based PR, Marketing and Management agencies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    London will always be disproportionately important to the UK. Geography and economics see to that. But I celebrate the fact that my home turf (a small Yorkshire market town) is nothing like London or anything else within the M25. London is 200 miles and a world away from me. When I'm there I feel like an outsider and I can't wait to leave it all behind and go home again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    Yes, this is obvious, but there are similar cases such as Bradford and Leeds, the latter takes all the investment whilst Bradford rots. The government can influence, but we need to be careful, who wants to live in either London ? Not me for one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    What is stopping an investment bank being based in say, Burnley? I tell you what, the fact that Eton and Harrow are in close proximity to London and all the bankers jobs are based on the old school tie system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    We're living in the dark ages, this is the age of the knowledge economy and the key enabler is fast movement of big data.
    South Korea has 500Mb/sec broadband & 1GB is being rolled out. Govt needs to invest in quick roll out of high speed fibre right across the UK, so firms in Wales can get same internet speeds as firms in London. 2Mb/sec and 4G is just not enough. Stop talking politicians & do

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    861.Dr Bob Matthews
    Just now

    Of course you do. That's why the IOC gave the games to London because its horrible! Its a great place full of great people and hard workers that is why London subsidizes most of the UK. I wonder why most tourist only go to London and the South East, oh yes its the only place worth visiting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    In some sense London is the heart beat of the UK however like the body there are other organs and if the heart takes all the oxygen/blood you do not survive. Wealthneeds to be more evenly divided!


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