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Levelling-up Agenda

Volume 696: debated on Tuesday 25 May 2021

We have made a commitment to level up all areas of the country. The plan for growth is a critical part of that, and we will go further with the publication of a levelling-up White Paper, led ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien), later this year.

I fully welcome the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution as we build back greener. Green eco-businesses in my Colne Valley constituency are ready to play their part, so can I please suggest to the Secretary of State that if the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or any other Government Department is looking to relocate to the north, towns such as Slaithwaite and Marsden, with their mills and their direct rail links to the likes of Manchester and Leeds on the trans-Pennine line, would be ideal locations?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, we are looking at many ideal locations at the moment. I was pleased to make an announcement last week about Darlington; that is a really good move for the Department. We are always looking at ways to create more employment and recruit really great talent for our Department across the country, and I am sure that his constituency will also—perhaps—be among those considered for such expansion.

My constituents are very proud of the north of England and the midlands, even though we are in East Anglia, but they want a firm commitment from the Government—it cannot be stressed enough—that the levelling-up agenda also covers Ipswich. Of course, we have the £25 million from the town deal, which goes some way to assuaging these concerns. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that the skills improvement plan pilot bid from Norfolk and Suffolk could be a fantastic example to prove to the people of Ipswich that we are in fact at the heart of the levelling-up agenda? Will he engage in discussions with the Department for Education about the possibility of that pilot scheme, which would also feed the new freeport east in Felixstowe, which already employs 6,000 of my constituents but could employ many more?

My hon. Friend is quite right. He was good enough to mention the fact that Ipswich has indeed been selected for a £25 million town deal, and he suggested that that was as a matter of course, but I think it is due to his keen advocacy and his eloquent and persuasive powers that the Government can provide help in that way. Clearly, skills are at the core of any levelling-up agenda, and I know that there are great ideas in Ipswich and great things being promoted in East Anglia. I look forward to engaging with him on that.