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Levelling-up Agenda

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 27 May 2021

Levelling up is at the heart of the Government’s agenda to build back better after the pandemic and to deliver for citizens in every part of the United Kingdom. Later this year, the Government will publish a landmark levelling-up White Paper, which will set out bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in every part of the United Kingdom.

The levelling-up agenda set out by this Government will ensure that long-forgotten communities across the midlands finally get the investment they deserve. Levelling up in order to regenerate our town centres and high streets, support individuals into employment, improve local transport links and invest in local culture will have a hugely positive impact across our country and in my constituency of Broxtowe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that having the HS2 east midlands hub in Toton is the only choice in line with the Government’s agenda to level up the east midlands?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He is a brilliantly effective advocate for Nottinghamshire and the people he serves. Indeed, investment in HS2 is critical to levelling up. The case he makes for Toton is one that I know resonates in the Department for Transport, and I will make sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware of his dedicated advocacy for that particular outcome.

I welcome the Government’s action so far on the levelling-up agenda to spread opportunity across the UK in order to support jobs, businesses and economic growth. However, I urge my right hon. Friend to pay special attention to the under- achievement of working-class boys, many of whom are not reaching their full potential. In particular, it is essential to ensure that people who work in the civil service come from all walks of life.

My right hon. Friend, as ever, is spot on. As well as being a brilliantly effective advocate for business, he is also someone with a distinguished former career in education, particularly further and technical education, and in advancing the careers of young people from working-class backgrounds. He is absolutely right. We need to do more in the civil service, as the recent Social Mobility Commission report points out, echoing points that he has been making for some time.

I very much welcome the levelling-up fund and the transformative difference it can make to constituents such as mine in Hyndburn and Haslingden. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is only a small part of our levelling-up agenda and that it is important that investment in local transport infrastructure continues, such as looking at the scope for freight terminals and the reopening of railway lines?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and Accrington and Oswaldtwistle could not have a better advocate. She is absolutely correct to point out that we need not just new investment in improved rail —indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has been reversing some of the Beeching cuts, with more to follow—but to ensure that local bus services and other transport routes are invested in. I know that she is a particularly passionate advocate for improving local bus services as well.

It is very welcome that north Wales is set to benefit from the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda, but will my right hon. Friend confirm what actions he is taking to ensure that it benefits not only the region as a whole, but areas of particular localised need?

I am looking forward to visiting north Wales and, I hope, my hon. Friend’s constituency, later this summer. One of the things I want to do is make sure that every aspect of levelling up—not just macro infrastructure projects but the micro projects that contribute so much to making communities cherished and attractive—are part of the levelling-up fund. I look forward in particular to working with local government in north Wales to make sure that our funds are spent as effectively as possible.

Cornwall has been recognised for decades as one of the most disadvantaged parts of our country. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that Cornwall will be at the heart of the Government’s levelling-up agenda? Can he say what plans the Government have specifically to invest in the Cornish economy and the jobs of the future?

My hon. Friend will know that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was in Cornwall earlier this week. He spoke from Cornwall at the Cabinet meeting emphasising the vital importance of investment not just in improved health care in Cornwall, but of making sure that jobs and opportunities for people in Cornwall were extended as well. The message is already being heard in the heart of Government, but my hon. Friend’s continued advocacy for Cornwall makes the point that, while it is perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom, it also contains areas that desperately need Government and private sector investment and support for citizens to flourish.