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Shared Prosperity Fund

Volume 662: debated on Tuesday 2 July 2019

The Government will establish a UK shared prosperity fund to spread prosperity and opportunity across all four nations once we have left the European Union and the EU structural funds. The fund will seek to raise productivity, focusing on levelling up parts of our country whose economies are further behind. More details will be announced following the spending review, and the Government will consult widely on the funds.

Analysis of local enterprise partnerships by the charity think-tank NPC found that only 26% of board members were women and that only 5% were black, Asian and minority ethnic. When will the Government finally come forward with their consultation on the shared prosperity fund? Does the Minister agree that funnelling the UK fund through the LEPs would be a mistake unless they are made more representative?

We intend to consult later this year, following the spending review. Officials at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have already held 26 engagement events and have met more than 500 representatives from across the United Kingdom.

With respect to the hon. Lady’s very important point about representation on LEP boards, I should say that the LEP review conducted by MHCLG jointly with the Treasury last year did conclude that they needed to have broader representation from the groups that she mentioned—and from private sector businesses, large and small. Those rules and guidelines are now in force.

Shortly after the referendum on Europe, I asked the then Prime Minister David Cameron what would happen to the £726 million of European funding that we were due to receive in the north-east. He could not answer. We are now three years on and none the wiser about the supposed replacement—the shared prosperity fund. How can anyone have confidence in this Government and their handling of Brexit if they cannot give even that basic information to the region that is set to be the worst hit by any form of Brexit?

The people of the north-east of England voted to leave the European Union; I know that the hon. Lady takes a different view, but we are trying to deliver on the outcome of the referendum. Had she voted for the withdrawal Bill, these matters would, of course, be progressing. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already said, we are guaranteeing funding to the beneficiaries of all EU structural funds to 2023, so there is a degree of certainty as we move forwards. But the sooner that this House can coalesce on a good deal and that we can leave the European Union in an orderly fashion, the sooner this matter can be cleared up.

My constituency and the rest of Cornwall continues to be one of the less developed areas, even though there is much going for where we are and where we live. What would the Minister say to my county, the Duchy of Cornwall, about how soon it can expect to really contribute to the process of the shared prosperity fund?

As I have already said, we intend to consult later this year. I strongly encourage my hon. Friend’s constituents to take part in that consultation; he and I have already spoken about this. I have met representatives from Cornwall Council, for example, to talk about the issue and some of the projects that they care strongly about—including, of course, the stadium in Cornwall, of which my hon. Friend has been a strong proponent.

Rebalancing the economy is not just about north and south or the different nations of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister ensure that the shared prosperity fund is distributed using a range of indicators, such as gross value added, the regional human poverty index and disposable income, so that areas in the west midlands in need receive their fair share?

Some of the problems in our United Kingdom can be traced to the disparity between the regions and nations of the UK. Will the Minister ensure that the shared prosperity fund is not the end, but just the beginning, of ensuring that there is prosperity across the entirety of our nation?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there are disparities of income and productivity across the United Kingdom, and what he mentions will be one of the key objectives. But the shared prosperity fund is not our only intervention in this area: we are taking a range of measures, including significantly increasing the amount of public investment in infrastructure—to the highest levels in this country since the 1970s.

Despite pledges that the Government would provide details on the shared prosperity fund by the end of last year, the Chancellor has been silent on how much communities could lose from the £17 billion-worth of structural funds. The Chancellor has only now woken up to the danger, splurging nearly £10 billion, almost half that amount, on tax cuts for the well off—as advocated, of course, by the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). Surely the only shared prosperity under the Conservatives is for those who are already well off.

Clearly, it is not possible to progress this matter until we have greater certainty about our exit from the European Union. Those Members of this House who want to see this matter progressed should be voting to leave at every opportunity, as we on the Government side have done. The important thing to point out on regional disparities is that this Government are investing far more than the previous Labour Government. In fact, £430 million a week more in real terms is being invested by this Government than under the previous Labour Government on infrastructure in all parts of the UK.