Skip to main content

Levelling Up

Volume 736: debated on Monday 10 July 2023

22. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of increases in the cost of living on his Department’s levelling-up agenda. (905876)

Levelling up is not just a slogan—it is an imperative, and that is why it is a driving mission of this Government. I fear that if I outlined every step we are taking to level up, my extensive answer would take us beyond time, Mr Speaker, but to name a few highlights, we are establishing investment zones and freeports to create high-quality local jobs, delivering billions of pounds of investment into vital local projects and empowering local leaders through devolution deals, putting power and funding back into local hands. That is levelling up in action, and there is more to come.

All those words are just empty rhetoric. It is a con trick. The truth is that in a single decade the Government cut £540 billion from public services, and by March they will only have put about £500 million—one tenth of that—back in through levelling up. Is it not clear that to level up properly, we need an end both to this Government and to the economic system they have established?

Absolutely not. This is a Government that have put levelling up at the core of every single thing we do. That is not going to change. The only way to ensure levelling up remains at the heart of Government is by voting Conservative at the next election.

Data from the Times Health Commission reports that nearly 11,000 people in England last year were hospitalised with malnutrition. Malnutrition itself has quadrupled since 2007, with a shocking rise in Victorian illnesses such as scurvy and rickets. Can the Minister explain how such shocking figures fit within her Government’s levelling-up agenda?

I thank the hon. Lady for highlighting that. She will know that the wider 12 levelling-up missions cover a range of areas, including health and healthy life outcomes. It is important that we all work together, across parties and across Government, to try to tackle this issue.

The Minister understands that regeneration of our high streets is key to the levelling up of our communities, yet she is aware that in Gosport that is being paralysed by unfair council tax being slapped on houses in multiple occupancy—very high-quality ones that are key to the future regeneration of our high street. As part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, the Secretary of State launched a consultation to address that question, but it concluded weeks ago and we still have not had the result. When will it be published?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her engagement with me and the Secretary of State on that vital issue. Unfortunately, I cannot give her a specific date right now, but I will meet her as soon as we have the result in place, because I realise it is a vital issue that we need to address.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for recent visits to Mansfield and the east midlands to support the many levelling-up projects we have going on in our region, from freeports to development companies, integrated rail plans, investment zones and levelling-up and towns fund projects, including in Mansfield. All that amounts to billions of pounds. What impact does my hon. Friend think that will have on my constituency?

My hon. Friend has done a great job of highlighting the incredible level of support going to Mansfield and the wider east midlands. A lot of that is down to great local leadership from him and his colleagues. That will have an enormous impact on the people living in the east midlands and on their opportunities to get on in life, which ultimately is what levelling up is all about.

Up and down the country, communities are struggling with the Tories’ mortgage crisis and the cost of living crisis. Those hit hardest often live in communities that were promised levelling-up funding, yet the Government sit on £1 billion of promised levelling-up fund money—money that could make a difference to those who need it most. Where on earth is it? Will the Government commit today to starting a process for the allocation of it?

I find myself a little confused, because we got a lot of criticism from the Opposition about round 2 of the levelling-up fund. They wanted us to get round 3 right, and we are taking the time to ensure that we get round 3 allocations right. We will, in due course, announce details on how we will allocate that money, which will change people’s lives.