Skip to main content

Regional Growth

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 15 March 2022

At last autumn’s Budget and spending review, we announced a comprehensive package of investment to level up the UK and encourage regional growth. This included the £4.8 billion levelling-up fund, the £2.6 billion shared prosperity fund and £1.6 billion of investment in the next generation of the British Business Bank’s regional investment fund.

Does my hon. Friend agree that town deals are one of the most progressive ways of supporting regional growth, and that the one for Southport will kick-start our economy locally?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his hard work to secure the £37.5 million town deal for Southport, which will be truly transformative for his constituents. That funding will bring in more private investment to his constituency, building on public funding and providing new jobs and opportunities for his constituents. It will be levelling up in action.

The stark reality in the north-east is that we have seen rising child poverty and reliance on food banks in recent years, and the poorest households lost £1,000 when the Government cut universal credit in the autumn. Rising prices look set to take away another £1,000 from households, before the economic impact of what is happening in Ukraine. Ahead of the spending statement next week, may I urge the Treasury please to do more to tackle the destitution that will be inevitable if nothing is done to intervene to support households in the north-east, who will then support the local economy to grow?

As other Ministers have outlined, we are supporting households with the rising cost of living, including a package worth £21 billion of support. In particular we are supporting those on universal credit by reducing the taper rate to ensure that work pays. Looking further ahead, through our commitment to levelling up we are investing across the country in skills and infrastructure, with the levelling-up fund to improve growth, boost prosperity, opportunities and pay, and thereby improve people’s standard of living.

The Minister will be aware of the positive contribution that financial services can make to levelling up all over the country. With that in mind, and with the work of my all-party group on financial markets and services on levelling up, will she commit that the Treasury will work with the industry to spread opportunity within the financial services sector, to help that sector spread opportunity through all regions of this country?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I know he is knowledgeable about this sector. It is important to remember that financial services are to the benefit of the whole country, with two thirds of jobs in financial services being outside London and the south-east. Financial services are absolutely an important part of our ambitions for levelling up.

In rural communities, especially Cumbria, we are deeply concerned about the Government’s apparent lack of concern about growth in the rural parts of this country. Is the Minister aware of the enormous damage being done to farming in the UK, just at the moment when we need our farmers the most, by the reduction in basic payments? That started in December when farmers lost between 5% and 25% of their basic payment, without any availability of anything to replace it for years to come. Will she intervene now to keep basic payments where they currently are, so that we can keep Britain farming?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I also represent a rural constituency with significant agricultural interest, and I assure him that we have protected agricultural funding through this Parliament. We are committed to levelling up across all parts of the UK, in rural as well as urban areas.

What steps is the Minister taking with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure that areas that need levelling up are able to attract private sector investment?

That is a very important point. Levelling up is not just about public sector investment—indeed, the lion’s share of investment in future growth in our economy will come from the private sector. One important thing that the British Business Bank is doing with its regional fund is crowding in private sector investment, so that we will get more private sector investment on top of the public sector investment we are putting in.

The shared prosperity fund could be one of the Government’s most effective means of encouraging regional growth across the UK, but only if the investment goes where it is most needed. Does the Minister believe that the Treasury should apply the funding commitments that were rightly made to Cornwall also to the Tees Valley as well as to South Yorkshire?

We are making a substantial investment through the shared prosperity fund and other funds across the country. We have committed to ensuring that the shared prosperity fund will be at least as much as parts of the country received before through EU funding, and I am committed to the hon. Gentleman’s area just as much as to Cornwall and other parts of the UK.