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Lord Austin of Dudley speaks at Richardson business event

Lord Austin of Dudley addressed a group of regional business leaders during a meeting organised by the Richardson business at their West Midlands office.

(This article was originally published in the Express & Star newspaper)

Lord Ian Austin (centre) with Martyn Richardson (L) and Paul Faulkner (R)

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North from 2005 until he left the party in 2019, said the outcome of the next election was far from certain, despite a strong lead for Labour at the moment.

Now sitting as an independent peer in the House of Lords, Lord Austin told business leaders he expected the Conservative Party to close the gap on Labour over the two years running up to the next election.

He said Labour had also held large leads when led by Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband, but still failed to translate this into general-election victories.

This, he said, represented an excellent opportunity for business leaders to lobby leaders of all parties to ensure the region received its fair share of investment and support.

Lord Austin said business and industry in the Midlands would face a period of great change and uncertainty over decades to come, and it was important that whoever formed the next government as aware of these challenges.

"Every leading politician is going to be heading to the Black Country over the next two years," he told the Express & Star after the meeting.

"That is an opportunity for businesses in the region to tell them what they want from the Government to attract more investment and support more jobs."

He cited the challenges of the motor industry in the region, saying it was vital that a battery manufacturer opened in the UK to avoid car makers moving abroad.

Lord Austin, who served as Minister for the West Midlands in Gordon Brown's government, also criticised Britain's dependency on shale gas from abroad when it could be produced in this country.

He said it was up to whoever was in government to take tough decisions on issues such as fracking if Britain was to avoid being left behind.

Lord Austin welcomed the opening of the Department for Levelling Up office in Wolverhampton, but said there needed to be more moves such as this.

"Having civil servants working in the Black Country gives them an understanding of what it is like, and what the area is about," he said.

Martyn Richardson said the meeting had been a very good opportunity for business leaders in the region to make their case to somebody who held considerable influence.

He said education and training was a big priority for business leaders in the Midlands.

To read the original article that appeared in the Express & Star click here:


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