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North-South divide grows as income and skills gaps increase


The Guardian and The Times report today that Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers is to launch a challenge against Prime Minister Tony Blair's view that the North-South divide in England is becoming smaller.

In a speech he is due to give later today, the Trade and Industry Secretary will draw attention to what he sees as an increasing gap between incomes, jobs, investment in business and qualifications between the North and the South of England - what he will term 'a winners circle'.

Byers will point to statistics from the Office of National Statistics which he says show an decline in productivity in the North since 1990, while the South-East continues to prosper, investing ten times as much in research and development as the North-East did in 1998.

The Trade Secretary will also highlight both an income and a skills gap which appears to be dividing the country - the figures show that almost 20% of people of working age in the North and the West Midlands are without qualifications, compared with just over 11% in the South-East.


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