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Devolution Across the UK

Volume 702: debated on Monday 25 October 2021

This Government plan to expand, augment and increase devolution across the United Kingdom, and we have already begun discussions with areas interested in county deals, and we will be setting out next steps in the levelling up White Paper.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. In the east midlands, we look with some envy at neighbouring regions that have elected mayors and have successfully attracted more investment. I urge him to make progress on an east midlands elected mayor. In the meantime, if he cannot do that, Derbyshire stands ready for a county deal and would appreciate being a pathfinder.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Expanding the model of combined authority mayors and a greater level of devolution are at the heart of making sure that local communities have strong leaders who can make a decisive difference, not least in the economic sphere. I know that Derbyshire County Council is now under exemplary Conservative leadership and we hope to be able to build on that.

I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his place. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 fundamentally undermined the devolution settlement and was explicitly rejected in Holyrood and the Senedd. He claimed again today that he seeks to augment devolution, so can he explain how riding roughshod over democratically devolved Parliaments does that?

We never ride, roughshod or otherwise, over the devolution settlement. I have two things to say: first, I hope that we will shortly receive news from the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the allocation of funds under the Act’s financial assistance power through the levelling-up fund. I am pleased to say that a number of SNP MPs—the hon. Lady’s parliamentary colleagues —as well as SNP councils, have backed bids to that fund. It is great to have locally elected representatives on the ground supporting the financial assistance power of the Act and the vital importance of working together. Secondly, although of course I will not interfere in the devolution settlement, there is a contrast between our approach, where we devolve more power to local government in England, and that of the current Scottish Government, which takes power away from Scottish councils.

Across Lancashire, we are ambitious about having a county deal—with a mayor, I hope—but levelling-up bids must come first. Can the Secretary of State give some clarity about the timing of the second round of those bids? In Rossendale, where we are working with our levelling-up board on a plan, we need to know the timeframe.

My right hon. Friend is right: east Lancashire is one area that we will focus on in the coming months. Much more needs to be done, and he has been at the forefront of ensuring that the voice of the whole of the north of England—not just that of east Lancashire—is heard clearly in Whitehall. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be in a position to share details of the next round with the House a wee bit later.