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Levelling Up

Volume 741: debated on Monday 20 November 2023

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on levelling up. This Government are committed to levelling up and creating opportunities across all regions and nations of the UK. Last year, we set out our 12 levelling-up missions in the levelling-up White Paper, all principally aimed at tackling regional inequality, because we believe that people’s opportunities should be the same wherever they live, be it in a city or town, on an island, or in a rural or coastal community. I am proud to say that since 2019 this Conservative Government have committed over £13 billion of local growth funding to levelling up. Through the levelling-up fund, the town deal, the UK shared prosperity fund, the future high streets fund and much more, we are regenerating town centres and high streets, improving local transport, funding heritage assets and boosting productivity, jobs and living standards.

Our recently announced long-term plan for towns is providing long-term investment for 55 towns, and the money is to be spent on local people’s priorities. We have launched our investment zone programme: 12 investment zones across the UK will grow key industries of the future and increase jobs. That includes west Yorkshire’s investment zone, announced earlier today, which will focus on life sciences.

We have also made excellent progress on freeports. All freeports in England are now open for business, and we have announced a further four in Wales and Scotland. As levelling-up Minister, I have been lucky enough to see at first hand how we are using this transformative funding to unlock the potential of local economies and improve the everyday life of people across the UK. We recognise the good that this funding can do, so we have embarked on an ambitious plan to simplify the funding landscape for local authorities, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Our simplification plan describes how this Government will deliver our levelling-up White Paper’s commitment to streamlining funds in three phases of reform. First, there will be an immediate simplification of existing funds. Secondly, we will establish a funding simplification doctrine, by which central Government will abide. Finally, we will implement further reforms at the next spending review. We have already delivered much of the first phase. For instance, we have given local authorities greater freedom to adjust their town deal, future high street and levelling-up fund projects. We have also invited 10 local authorities to become part of the fund simplification pathfinder pilot, which will give them greater flexibility to move money between different funds. By increasing local flexibility, we will reduce bureaucracy and inefficiency within the delivery process.

The second phase of our funding simplification plan will see the Government launch a new funding simplification doctrine, which will change how central Government give funding to local authorities. It is clear that funding competitions can drive value for money and help identify the best projects for certain programmes, so we will continue to deploy competitions where they make sense, but we also recognise that bidding into multiple competitions, especially in parallel, can place a dispro- portionate burden on local authorities. The new Government doctrine will therefore ensure that we consider fully the impact on local authorities when designing new funds. Finally, we have committed to further reforms at the next spending review, including giving our trailblazer mayoral combined authorities in Greater Manchester and the west midlands single Department-style, multi-year settlements.

Of course, our work to give local authorities the right levers to spend funding efficiently is only one part of the picture; of equal importance is the funding itself. As I mentioned earlier, since 2019 we have made more than £13 billion available to local places. As part of that, across rounds 1 and 2 of the levelling-up fund we committed £3.8 billion to 216 projects across the country. We have listened to feedback from the first two rounds of the fund, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in July that we would take a new approach to round 3. As a result, we decided not to run another competition for this round. Instead, we have drawn on the impressive pool of bids that we were not initially able to fund through round 2.

Today, I am delighted to confirm the allocations of the levelling-up fund’s third and final round. We are investing £1 billion in 55 projects across England, Scotland and Wales. Copies of the successful allocations have been made available in the Vote Office. The sheer number of high-quality bids is testament to the enthusiasm for levelling up across our country and the hard work of so many hon. Members in supporting their local areas to develop strong plans for renewal. From Chorley, Mr Speaker, to Elgin, and from Doncaster to Rhyl, these local infrastructure projects will restore pride in place and improve everyday life for local people.

We have targeted funding at the places most in need, as identified through our levelling-up needs metrics. We have also ensured a fair geographic spread across Great Britain, including £122 million across six projects in Scotland and £111 million across seven projects in Wales. That means that across all three rounds we have invested more than £1 billion in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, exceeding our original funding commitments. It also means that across all three rounds of the fund, the north-east and the north-west will have received more per capita than any other region in England. They are followed closely by the east midlands and by Yorkshire and the Humber.

Our round 3 investments double down on two of our key levelling-up missions—pride in place and improving transport—but we also recognise the key role that culture plays in levelling up. We invested £1 billion on projects with a cultural component in rounds 1 and 2, and as part of this round we are setting aside a further £100 million for culture projects to be announced in due course.

We want to get delivery happening quickly. We will work closely with local authorities to confirm that their projects remain viable, and we will provide ongoing support to ensure that local places are able to deliver. We are committed to giving local areas the funding and power they need to deliver transformative change within their communities. We have committed more than £13 billion of local growth funding for communities the length and breadth of our country. We have invested in pride in place and reversed decades of decline. We are taking long-term decisions for a brighter future for our country. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. I start by congratulating all those areas that have been successful in their bids—including Chorley, Mr Speaker. Commiserations to all those areas that have missed out once again, although the truth is that even the areas that have won will find that this money is a drop in the ocean, compared with the £15 billion cut from local government funding since 2010. Only six weeks ago there were reports that councils face a £3.5 billion shortfall in their budgets for this year alone. How does today’s announcement help them face that existential threat?

At least the Government appear to have finally accepted that local authorities were forced to spend disproportionate sums in previous rounds to get bids prepared, although we appear to have lurched from one extreme to the other: this time, councils have not been involved in any dialogue on the bids and were possibly not even aware that their bids were being considered. Will the Minister tell us what discussions have taken place with local authorities before decisions were made? Given that the proposals are approaching being a couple of years old, what assurances will he give us that they still reflect local priorities?

The Government’s methodology notes say the Department capped bids for regeneration projects outside priority areas by local authority and region. Did any projects that met the Department’s threshold not get funded for that reason, and which ones were they?

Please do tell us what on earth is meant by a “funding simplification doctrine”—is it an elaborate way of saying sorry? Does it apply to all Government spending decisions, or just to this Department because it has so patently failed to get a grip on spending that it has to have its own doctrine? Is it being done to address the concerns of the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee that billions of pounds are being wasted because the Department has engaged in a programme without any understanding of its impact? As the IPPR North said, levelling up has been a

“litany of missed deadlines, moving goalposts and dysfunction”

although, to be fair, it could have been talking about any Government project when it said that.

Does the Minister accept that the new approach announced today means that the concerns levelled against the Department are, in fact, valid? With this latest iteration, how does the Minister expect anyone to keep up with what this Government want when they flit around so much? The Prime Minister announced five new priorities this morning. Were the projects selected in line with those priorities, or will they all be changed again to reflect this week’s prime ministerial thinkin

Of course, where does this leave the hundreds of projects that still have not been successful? There was no mention of any future rounds in the statement; in fact, I think the Minister said that this was the final round of bidding, so where does that leave all the places that have been unsuccessful so far? What is the plan to address those communities that are crumbling and those high streets that are emptying? Is this the end of any hope of levelling up for them?

Even in those areas that have attracted funding, we know that these crumbs from the table are not enough to reverse 13 years of neglect. Streets that were once bursting with pride are shutting down, rents are rising, mortgages are soaring, and insecurity is still baked into the workplace. Tackling those things would be genuine levelling up, and Labour believes in giving those communities the power, resources and flexibility to tackle such issues in the way they think best. That is a true way of allowing people to take back control.

The statement offers no path ahead to deal with those issues; it just rearranges the deckchairs of what has gone before. We have been left with a failed experiment—an illusion that lasted as long as the press release. It has not gone unnoticed that the number of Conservative MPs standing down at the next election has gone past 50. They know that after 14 years of stagnation, they do not have a record to defend. They are not levelling up; they are giving up.

The hon. Gentleman misjudged the mood of the House. He talks about local government finances. Last year, we gave local authorities an uplift of more than £5 billion. He asks whether any projects were axed by the methodology that we used—no, they were not. As I say, we set out the methodology online, and I will ensure that there is a copy in the House of Commons Library.

The hon. Gentleman asked what conversations there were with local authorities ahead of any announcement. We have area teams on the ground in all local authority areas, which confirmed with councils that projects were still a priority. They also confirmed with councils whether projects could still be delivered by the deadline. No projects were identified through those conversations that did not qualify this time around.

Further to that, the hon. Gentleman asked about funding simplification and why we are embarking on that. He mentioned the NAO’s concerns. Some of its concerns are legitimate, but we looked at its report and many of the figures dated from March. We have spent £1.5 billion on local places since March. We announced the funding simplification plan in July, in response to the commitment we made in the levelling-up White Paper to simplify the funding landscape.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman described £13 billion of levelling-up funding as “crumbs”. That says it all about the Labour party. It does not recognise the value of anything. We are investing £13 billion in local priorities, and Labour describes that as crumbs. I leave it to the House to determine what it thinks of that.

I am well accustomed in this place to rejection, and after rounds 1 and 2 of the levelling-up fund, it was disappointing not to see Brixham and Paignton recognised. However, I am delighted today to see that Brixham harbour and the EPIC centre in Torbay business park have been recognised with £20 million of support, which will make a huge difference. Can the Minister reassure me that that money will come in good time and good order, so that we have the ability to deliver as quickly as possible in our coastal communities?

Absolutely. We are delighted to be funding high-tech fish and chips in Brixham. This announcement comes on top of additional funding pots that we have been able to give Torbay, including the levelling-up partnership, on which I am working well with my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster). The funding will come in due course and we will work with local authorities to ensure that they can still deliver the projects on time and to plan.

Some Members may have an advantage on me in that they have seen the details of the allocation, which I have been handed just this second, so I will give a completely constituency-neutral response to the Minister’s statement.

However hard the Tories try to hide the truth, the fact is that these days, the word most people will apply before Britain is “broken”. Most people support genuine levelling up—who could argue with it?—but when the Prime Minister’s constituency got more than the whole of Glasgow last time around, and when most people think their high streets are getting worse rather than better, we have to ask what the real agenda is.

Will the Minister confirm how much of the money he boasts has been committed since 2019 has actually been spent? How does it compare to the overspend on HS2, for example?

The Scottish Government have decades of experience—Scottish Governments of various political persuasions, by the way—in successfully allocating EU funding, for example, in true partnership with local authorities. What discussions did the UK Government have with the Scottish Government, given their statutory role in culture and transport, and their role in pride in place, before he made today’s announcement? What discussions did they have with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to get a consensus view on what Scottish local authorities need? Or is this decision just being made by somebody in a ministerial office in Whitehall who is as out of touch with Scotland today as they will be out of office next year?

The hon. Gentleman describes being out of touch with Scotland; he also mentions Glasgow. I should tell him that Glasgow has received £15 million in this round, so I suggest that it is he who is out of touch with Scotland. The Government have a responsibility to all people, businesses and communities across the whole United Kingdom across all three rounds of the funds. As I mentioned in my statement, we have invested £1 billion of levelling-up funding in local authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman should consider his argument: it seems somewhat bizarre that he is frustrated at the funding that we are spending in Scotland. He should focus on what the cash is delivering, rather than on who is delivering it.

I am thrilled that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has funded the green innovation corridor in my constituency. The Government have invested tens on tens of millions of pounds in Wolverhampton, which was desperately needed. However, speed of delivery is an issue. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how the council can be encouraged to deliver the projects quickly?

I commit to meeting my hon. Friend to discuss that matter. She is a fantastic champion for her constituents in Wolverhampton, which is a key place where we are seeing levelling up in action, including the relocation of DLUHC’s offices to Wolverhampton. I am pleased that we have been able to fund my hon. Friend’s project in this round, and I am delighted to be working with her on it.

The Minister has said a lot about inputs, but what is important, in the end, is outputs and the changes that are made. Will the Minister say which indicators have shown a reduction in inequality between the south-east and the north since this funding began, and in particular whether the productivity gap has reduced at all?

Finally, I am surprised there is no mention of the trailblazer projects in Manchester and Birmingham and their roll-out to the other mayoral combined authorities. I understand that they will be rolled out but with reduced powers for the rest of the combined authorities. Will the Minister tell us exactly what the situation is? Please do not ask us to wait for Wednesday’s statement. I read about it in the Financial Times on Saturday, and if the Financial Times can be told on Saturday, I am sure this House can be told today.

I am very grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee. As I said in my statement, across all three rounds of the fund, the north-east and the north-west have received more per capita than any other region in England. He asked about the specifics on productivity improvements and so on, and I will write to him and his Committee about that. Regarding the trailblazer deals, I have not read the piece in the Financial Times, but I will do so as soon as the statement is finished. I would encourage him to wait until Wednesday.

The Mid Cornwall Metro is a levelling-up infrastructure project to upgrade railway connectivity across Cornwall. It will bring huge benefits both economically and socially. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Government are keen to get on with delivering the project. I ask him to use his offices to work with the Department for Transport, the Treasury and Cornwall Council to get the final business case over the line and the funding released, so that we can get on with the project.

Absolutely. There are few greater champions for Cornwall in this House than my hon. Friend, and I shall work with him to ensure that the business case is signed off as soon as possible and that we are able to see levelling up in Cornwall. I am delighted that I will be visiting Cornwall in the very near future to sign a devolution deal.

I am not sure whether the Minister lives in some parallel universe, but he came to the Dispatch Box today to talk about the simplification of the process—a process that both he and the Secretary of State have been implementing—as though it is nothing to do with them.

County Durham had one successful bid in the first round, which happened to be in Bishop Auckland—surprise, surprise—the constituency of the former levelling-up Minister. In round 2, Durham County Council was asked to put in bids and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money doing so. Once the bids were in, it was told that they would not be considered because it had had a successful one in round 1. Will the Minister compensate Durham County Council for the money it has wasted, not through its own inefficiency but because he seems to chip, chop and change the rules when he likes?

The right hon. Member talks about the processes that are owned by my Department. As I said, we are embarking on this ambitious funding simplification agenda purely on the basis of some of the points that he has raised. Local authorities, Members of this House and the Select Committee were concerned about the number of competitions that were involved in various Government funds. We are addressing that through our funding simplification doctrine.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about Durham. I simply say to him that the international territorial level region for the Tees Valley in Durham has received eight projects across the rounds of the levelling-up fund. That equates to £128 per capita in the region, which is one of the highest amounts. I would ask him to welcome that.

Bolton is opening its new £40 million Institute of Medical Sciences, which followed an earlier £50 million levelling-up fund investment. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the latest £20 million of funding for Bolton town centre, for which I am very grateful, is not the end of his commitment to the people of Bolton?

It could not be the end of the levelling-up commitment in Bolton, because of the efforts of my hon. Friend, who works so hard for his constituents. I am delighted that Bolton is receiving money in this round, and I will work with him to ensure that levelling up continues in his part of the world.

In his statement, the Minister referred to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the north-east, the north-west, the east midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber. There was no mention of the south-west. How can this Conservative Government claim that they want to level up communities when Conservative-run Devon County Council cannot even level up the potholes?

I am delighted to confirm for the hon. Member that the south-west region has received 20 projects across the rounds of the levelling-up fund to a total value of £409 million. That works out at about £71 per capita. I thank the hon. Member.

May I warmly welcome the announcement of over £18 million to regenerate Gosport’s historic waterfront? It will drive jobs, attract visitors and drum up a huge amount of economic prosperity for the area, which has such a rich cultural heritage but has been overlooked for so long. This excellent bid was, of course, submitted under the previous Conservative-led administration. The council has since changed hands and it will be for the Liberal Democrat leadership to deliver on it. This is a Lib Dem leadership that has already paid back £1.3 million of brownfield land release funding to the Government because it was unable to spend it. What message does the Minister have for the council to ensure that the money is spent in a timely way to level up Gosport and drive prosperity for the region?

I am delighted that Gosport was able to receive funding in this round. The funding in Gosport must be spent on the project priorities. The council is unable to reallocate that funding to some other random Lib Dem project that it has in mind; it has to deliver on the priorities that my hon. Friend mentioned. There is an adjustment process that local authorities can work on with my Department to ensure that challenges around inflation, for example, can be met. However, the project aims must still be met, and I shall work with my hon. Friend and her local authority to ensure that they are.

Can the Minister confirm that Rochdale received no funding in this round, in either path? Can he also explain to my constituents why, even if we had a successful bid, which we would have welcomed, it would have been dwarfed by the cuts made to health, education and, of course, our local authority? Those are the things, ultimately, that are destroying the quality of life in my constituency.

I would not accept the hon. Member’s synopsis. As I said earlier, we gave councils an uplift of £5 billion last year to meet priorities in their area. I cannot answer the hon. Member’s question today on Rochdale, but I shall write to him as soon as this statement is over.

I particularly welcome the £4.1 million for the Chambers Institute in Peebles, the £6.8 million for walks and cycleways in Clydesdale and the £13.8 million for transport in Dumfries and Galloway, but I pay particular tribute to the trustees of the Annan Harbour Action Group for its compelling bid, which secured £11.9 million to regenerate Annan Harbour. These are all essentially rural projects. Does my hon. Friend agree that rural areas across the United Kingdom must be at the core of levelling up?

There is no greater champion for levelling up in rural areas than my right hon. Friend. I am delighted that we have been able to give Dumfries and Galloway a chunk of money in this round, and I am sure that he will work to ensure that his local authorities put it to good use. I am delighted to be working with him on doing just that.

I confess that I am very disappointed by today’s announcement, because we have been trying to get some money for the Rhondda tunnel, which would be an enormous enhancement to the top end of the Rhondda Fawr. Successive Government Ministers have told me personally that we should apply under round 2, and then told the local authority that it could not apply under round two. I was then told personally that we should apply under round 3, and now it turns out that there is no such thing as a round 3, so we never had an opportunity to make a bid at all—of any kind whatsoever. I am hopeful that the Minister will now say that the Government are not closing the door on the Rhondda tunnel, and that there will be another chance for us to make an application to the Government for the £20 million that we need for one of the poorest areas in the country.

I understand the hon. Member’s concerns. To be absolutely clear, I have not made any such commitments to him. Levelling up is an agenda that the Government are focused on; this is not the end of the road for levelling up, and I would be delighted to come to Rhondda, not least because Rhondda received money through round 1 of the levelling-up fund—a total of £3.6 million.

The Minister knows full well how much Bingley has been neglected and let down by Labour-run Bradford Council, largely because I keep telling him about it. Bingley needs regeneration, and it particularly needs a new swimming pool, so can he tell me what the Government will do to help Bingley receive the swimming pool and the regeneration that it desperately needs? I am afraid that the people of Bingley cannot trust Bradford Council to deliver those for them.

I understand the plight of the people of Bingley because, as my hon. Friend says, he raises it with me at every possible opportunity. I will work with him to see what funding streams are available to tackle the mess left behind by Labour-run Bradford Council, and to fund Bingley swimming pool.

People in Northern Ireland will be angry tonight that not one penny of a fund that the Minister describes as creating opportunities across all regions and nations of the UK, and aimed at tackling regional inequality, is allocated to Northern Ireland. He gives the flimsy excuse that it is because the Northern Ireland Executive are not up and running. The Northern Ireland Executive did not have any input into the previous rounds, and would not have had any into this round. Of course, they would not even have needed to seek new allocations, because no new applications were needed. Is this not a case of blatant, pathetic, transparent economic blackmail to try to get the Assembly up and running again, without addressing the reasons why it fell, and of pouring the money into key Conservative marginal constituencies to bolster party support?

I share the right hon. Gentleman’s frustration that we have been unable to fund projects in Northern Ireland this time around. As I indicated to him, that is because of a lack of an Executive in Northern Ireland. I assure him that we have set aside what Northern Ireland’s allocation would have been in this round, and I commit to working with him and his colleagues to ensure that Northern Ireland receives the full benefit of levelling up.

I thank my hon. Friend for his statement. I have lost my voice cheering for the £1.1 million for Swadlincote town. This is the first time in 50 years that Government money has been put into regenerating that area, which is the heart of South Derbyshire, and I thank him very much indeed. I have had a word with the chief executive of the new Labour council, and I will sit on the board that ensures we have spades in the ground. I thank the Minister very much.

I am delighted to be able to give my hon. Friend’s constituency the funding this time around. She is an extremely efficient champion for the people of Derbyshire, and I am delighted that we have been able to fund the project.

I can be one of this Government’s sharpest critics, often justifiably, but today I thank the Minister and his predecessor, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison), whom I harassed relentlessly since the round two bid for Denton was rejected. I am so pleased that today “Destination Denton”, the project that we put forward, will receive nearly £17 million. Given that I am the constituency Member of Parliament, and was involved in putting the bid together, what assurances can the Minister give me that I will be involved in ensuring that the project comes to fruition?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. We expect local authorities to work with their Members of Parliament, who are key community stakeholders, in delivering the bids. A project adjustment request process is available to local authorities if projects need to be adjusted because of changes in inflation and so on; a key thing that I asked for is that Members of Parliament be consulted in that process, and I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman is consulted at all turns.

I congratulate the new Minister on the energy and purpose that he has brought to the vital task of levelling up the country, and particularly small cities and large towns, which were largely overlooked by the Labour Government during 13 years of focus on metropolitan cities. The £11 million award to the Greyfriars and Eastgate project in Gloucester will deliver a new shopping centre, indoor market and much more besides, as well as put a roof for the first time in 60 years on the beautiful 13th-century Greyfriars friary. That will make a huge difference, alongside the King’s Quarter projects that have already been funded by the local council and the Government. Does the Minister agree that if the shadow levelling-up Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), wants to see an example of giving up in this country, he is welcome to visit the car park bought by a previous Labour administration for £11 million and later sold for £1? That is why Gloucester, like the rest of the country, needs to keep regeneration in the right hands.

Gloucester could not have a better champion than my hon. Friend; he is a fantastic champion for it. When I took on this job, one of my first conversations was with him about the urgent need for levelling-up funding in Gloucester. I am delighted that we have been able to fund his project this time around. As he said, it is important that we keep Gloucester in Conservative hands.

My goodness, what a con this is. Earlier this year, we heard from the National Audit Office that of the £9.5 billion allocated in the first round, only £1 billion had been spent. Perhaps the Minister can say how much has been spent now. Is this not much like any other Tory slogan—meaningless in reality? Once again, there is nothing for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. We heard from the right hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell) about the importance of rural areas, but there is nothing for the Portree harbour bid, which would have made such a difference.

I invite the Secretary of State and his ministerial team to my constituency. We will drive around and look at all the sites of the projects that were funded by the European Union—roads, bridges, harbours, sports facilities. That money would have come if we had stayed in the European Union, as Scotland voted to do. We are missing out on €750 billion that the EU was investing in regeneration, and once again we are getting nothing—zip—from this Tory Government.

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. I shall write to him following the statement on exactly how much UK shared prosperity funding his area has received, and I hope that when I do, he will come back to the Chamber to update the House on the facts of the matter. He asked how much money has been spent since the National Audit Office released the figures in March: £1.5 billion has been spent since then, but I would be delighted to come up and visit the humble crofter’s constituency.

Pardon me for having an unfashionable Thatcherite point of view, but much better than Government, taxpayer-funded levelling up is private sector levelling up. Although I thank the Secretary of State for having released some money for Gainsborough, £300 million of private sector levelling up, namely for RAF Scampton, is at risk in my constituency. Will the Minister meet me after the court case to ensure that, whatever its result, we get on with levelling up? For instance, the roof of the officers’ mess alone will cost half a million pounds. The roofs of the hangars are decaying. The site will not be viable unless private sector investment is unleashed and the Home Office gets on with it.

I would be delighted to meet my right hon. Friend, but one of the key ways to unlock private investment in the Greater Lincolnshire area is to progress with the devolution deal. I shall be delighted to meet him to discuss that further.

What consideration has the Minister given to the formation of development corporations to deliver specific projects? As he may be aware, I represent a Durham constituency that includes one of the poorest communities in the country. There has been a failure to leverage investment into the county, most notably in round 2 but also in round 3, and to resolve some very serious structural problems. I can identify lots of problems in the ABC streets in Easington, and the numbered streets in Horden and Peterlee town centre. We had two very successful development corporations. May I remind the Minister that Durham is run by a coalition of Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents that is failing to deliver?

I hear the hon. Gentleman’s plea for more development corporations. We are obviously on an ambitious journey with the north-east to devolve further through the new mayoral North East Combined Authority. That will be a key way to help ensure levelling up in his part of the world.

It was welcome to hear the news about Torbay today—taking the total regeneration funding available up to £100 million, which will hopefully be matched by a similar amount coming in from the private sector. We are of course in the process of negotiating the levelling-up partnership, and some of the schemes in that are now being dealt with via the levelling-up fund. What implications are there for the levelling-up partnership and will there be an opportunity to re-look at other schemes that can now form part of it?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting just how much levelling-up investment Torbay is getting under this Conservative Government. We are working with the local authority, as he knows, on the levelling-up partnership, and with local Members of Parliament and key stakeholders. Projects have been addressed by this funding today, but we will look at other projects to fund through the levelling-up partnership.

It is deeply frustrating to hear the Minister say that round 3 was done by reviewing round 2 projects, which meant the Pencoed level crossing in my constituency was rejected again. That means my constituency has received zero levelling-up funding. There is a wider concern in local authorities across the UK that level 2 rounds, which may not start until the next financial year, will not have continuation of funding into 2026, because the Minister has said that this will potentially all end in 2025. Will he confirm that any project that starts next year from round 2 funding will be funded fully for completion of projects, even if it goes beyond the Minister’s confirmed funding for 2025?

I will write to the hon. Gentleman on the specifics of his question. Without reading my notes, my understanding is that round 2 has to be spent by the end of March 2025, but I shall write to him to confirm after this session.

I welcome the Minister’s statement, and in particular the £20 million that is announced for Halesowen town centre. Halesowen has recovered well from the pandemic, not least because of the work of the local business improvement district. This further investment will be a secure investment in the future of Halesowen, and I very much welcome it today.

I am delighted that Halesowen is receiving funding in this round of the levelling-up fund. My hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for his constituents in Halesowen and I look forward to working with him to ensure that the project is delivered as quickly as possible.

Northern Ireland is missing out on this. It would be nice if we had a devolved Executive working with the Department, but that has not been the case in the past anyway, even whenever the Executive was sitting, so the Minister’s rationale simply does not stack up. Can he confirm that the money for Northern Ireland, which has been denied today, will be ringfenced, and what sort of timescale he envisages—including without a restored Executive—for spending that? Will there be a fresh round 3 in Northern Ireland, or will it too be a continuation of round 2?

I do not believe it is accurate to say that Northern Ireland is not benefiting. As I have already outlined, we have spent £120 million across the levelling-up fund in Northern Ireland, and we will continue to work with Northern Ireland communities on the delivery of those projects. With regards to the hon. Gentleman’s other questions, I will be happy to write to him after this session but, as I say, the £30 million that would have been spent in this round has been set aside for levelling up in Northern Ireland.

I welcome the £18 million for Mexborough and Moorends in my home city of Doncaster, but it does mean that Edlington in my constituency has missed out again. My constituents are missing a leisure centre, a decent shopping high street and decent quality housing. This needs to be addressed, because unfortunately we have had decades and decades of neglect from the socialist Labour council, which I know is playing party politics. Will the Minister and the Secretary of State, who on his visit promised he would help fund this, meet me to find out what we can do for my constituents in Edlington? It is not fair that they have not at least got a leisure centre.

I think both you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and my hon. Friend know how amazing a community Doncaster is. We want to do what we can to help level up in Doncaster, which is why we have been delighted to fund bids there in this round. I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concern that Edlington is not getting its swimming pool, and I shall meet him at the earliest possible opportunity to look at different ways that we could fund a pool in Edlington. I know that he is a fantastic champion for constituents in that community, and I will continue to work with him to do what we can to level up there.

I was here 10 months ago after the conclusion of round 2; none of Leeds—a city of 800,000 people in eight constituencies—was successful. Today, one bid was successful. What about the six constituencies in Leeds that have not received levelling-up money? We have five bids from round 2 that are on the table, and councillors and council officers have worked hard on them. What is their status? Is there going to be another round? Where can we go to deliver that project, including transport and employment land in my constituency, which would deliver thousands of jobs?

As the hon. Member mentioned, we are funding Leeds in this round for the “Heart of Holbeck” scheme, with almost £16 million of funding. As I said in my statement, Leeds is also the beneficiary of a new investment zone announced earlier today. This Government have continued to focus on levelling up, and I will work with him to ensure that the benefits of that can be felt in Leeds and across West Yorkshire.

I am delighted that the Isle of Wight’s bid has been accepted, and I am grateful to the Minister for pushing it through. Our cycle group—CYCLEWight—has raised with me the condition of current cycle routes on the Island. As well as this funding delivering new routes—especially the west Wight cycle route, which is incredibly important—when we are reconfirming the bid, will we be able to tweak elements of it so that we can spend some of that money on improving and repairing the existing cycle routes, namely Sandown to Newport?

I apologise to my hon. Friend that I am not able to give him that assurance today. We have an adjustment process where we work with local authorities to ensure that the projects that they have received funding for can still be delivered. If that is not the case, we will work with them to see what can be delivered through the bid. I am happy to work with my hon. Friend to do just that.

It is a really positive day for my beautiful part of West Yorkshire: £16.6 million for Huddersfield open market regeneration; and £48 million for the Penistone line rail upgrade, with stations in Honley and Brockholes in my constituency—and it continues through the patches of my hon. Friends the Members for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood) and Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates). Also today we have had the announcement of the West Yorkshire investment zone, which is anchored around the national health innovation campus at the University of Huddersfield. Will the Minister ensure that his excellent officials continue to work with the really hard-working officers at Kirklees Council, led by David Shepherd, to ensure that those transformative projects are delivered on time to the benefit of my communities?

I am really pleased to hear a positive voice for West Yorkshire in this House and to see some of the investment that we are making in my hon. Friend’s community. I know how important the Penistone to Stocksbridge line upgrade was to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mark Eastwood), and I am delighted that we have been able to fund it through this round. I will of course work with him to ensure that its benefits are felt right across West Yorkshire and that it is implemented as soon as possible.

I thank the Minister for his statement. I am disappointed that that levelling-up fund bid submitted by Somerset Council for the much-needed regeneration works in the rural market towns of Frome and Wincanton has not been successful. In the Somerton and Langport area, we have been without a train station since the 1960s. The Langport Transport Group’s joint proposal with Somerset Council has not received an update to their bid to the restoring your railway fund since July 2022. Will the Minister provide an update and support me to bring much-needed rail connections to the area?

I am responsible for many things, but not the restoring your railway fund; I ask the hon. Lady to contact the Department for Transport for assurances on that. However, I assure her that across the Dorset and Somerset region, we have been able to fund five projects to the tune of £87 million.

I warmly welcome the UK Government confirming Moray’s levelling-up bid of over £18 million today. When the Minister wrote to me, he said project adjustments may need to take place. One reason that there may need to be an adjustment in Moray is because the announcement follows hot on the heels of Moray receiving £20 million in the towns fund just last month. Will he work with me and the excellent local council leader, Councillor Kathleen Robertson, to look at the proposals for Moray leisure centre? There is an opportunity to also unlock private sector investment, which would mean more resources coming to Moray for people across the region. Does he also agree that local SNP politicians who were very negative when we were not successful in round 2 will surely be extremely positive in welcoming this investment from the UK Government?

I hope every politician is as positive about Moray and its future as my hon. Friend. It is fantastic that we are funding Moray’s bid today. As he said, it builds on its success with the long-term plan for towns. I am happy to work with him to ensure that the priorities of the local people in Moray are met through both funds. I will work with him and his excellent Conservative council leader to ensure that that happens.

The communities of Devonport and Stonehouse are some of the poorest in the country, so it felt like a punch in the gut when our round 2 bid was rejected. I thank the Minister for agreeing to the project in round 3. However, the bid we put together was delivered 10 months ago. Since then, Plymouth’s ambition has not stopped. We have part-funded elements and changed other parts. Will the Minister set out what the adjustments mean? For a community like Plymouth, which is trying to create more jobs and bring in private sector investment, how can the adjustment mechanism ensure that we get all the £19.9 million we bid for, and not just part of it, because our bid has changed, quite reasonably, because of inflation and other economic challenges and opportunities over the last year?

I am delighted about the work we are doing in Plymouth to level up, whether that is the Plymouth freeport or the further investment we are giving Plymouth today. The hon. Gentleman asks specifically about the project adjustment request process. A local authority can amend its bid by up to 30%. The bid is £19.9 million, so it will have flexibility on about £6 million. If any adjustments need to be made to a project, his local authority should contact my officials as soon as possible. We will work with them to reprofile the funds and ensure that his constituents and people across Plymouth are able to benefit properly from the funding.

I thank my hon. Friend for his work. As soon as I heard the good news, I was straight on the phone to our excellent council leader, Rob Waltham, duly confirming that we are absolutely positioned to bring these projects forward. I hope the Minister can find time to visit Scunthorpe and see some of the projects. I would be very happy to show him around and I know that the good people of Scunthorpe would give him a very warm welcome.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I have had many conversations with her council leader about devolution in Greater Lincolnshire. I look forward to visiting Scunthorpe very soon, hopefully with further good news on that front. I would be delighted to be shown around by my hon. Friend.

Here’s a first: I would like to thank the Minister. At last, after over two years of waiting and at significant cost to our council, the Government have eventually granted South Shields a piecemeal sum of money. He also knows that, thanks to Tory economic failure, the cost of delivering our bid is now much higher. I have just heard his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), but can he confirm whether it means that in South Shields we are getting more or less money now?

I am delighted to be able to give the hon. Lady the good news for South Shields today, building on the future high streets fund, which I know she is aware of, in her constituency. The money we announced today for South Shields—£20 million—will be given to South Shields to spend on the bids it outlined. There will not be additional funding coming in on top of that, but the project adjustment request allows the council in her constituency to move money around within the bid to account for inflation and other things. I am delighted that we are able to be levelling up in South Shields, with £20 million today on top of the future high streets fund that we have already given to her constituency.

Today is a very happy day for Bolton, with £20 million going to the Bolton town centre north regeneration project. That means that Bolton, across all its three constituencies held by both Tory and Labour MPs, has had almost £100 million since 2019. May I extend an invitation to the Minister to visit Bolton when he goes next door to Chorley, as part of his visit to the north? Today is a very happy day for levelling up. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), of whom I am very fond, spoke about giving up, but I say that today is a day for us all to cheer up.

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. He is a fantastic champion for his constituents in Bolton, and I am delighted that he has been able to get this funding for them today. I would be delighted to visit Bolton at the earliest opportunity to see him in action in his community.

The £20 million announced for Wythenshawe town centre today is testament to the hard-working leadership team at Manchester City Council. However, my personal thanks goes to Gavin Taylor from the Far East Consortium, who helped me kickstart this project just over two years ago. My thanks also go to the Minister. The money unlocks, with all the other things, the potential for 2,000 much-needed homes. Without sounding like Oliver Twist, may I ask the Minister to talk to his colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Care and request that they look again at the exciting plans at Wythenshawe Hospital just up the road, which could deliver an extra 1,000 homes on top?

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has been successful. He is quite right to praise his council officials, because his bid was one of the highest scoring bids that we have been able to afford money to in this round. I am pleased to be able to grant it, and I am happy to work with him on how we can level up further in Wythenshawe and elsewhere across Manchester.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement, with the investment for Billingham in the Tees Valley and the extension to our freeports. However, Darlington narrowly missed out in rounds one, two and three of the levelling-up fund. The Minister, who is from the north-east himself, will be familiar with the phrase “shy bairns”. What advice can he give me in respect of the Darlington projects that still need funding?

My hon. Friend is an amazing champion for Darlington. Without him, the great work that we are doing in levelling up in Darlington would not be happening. That includes: the investment that we are making into Darlington rail station; the investment that the Treasury has made, bringing new civil service jobs to Darlington; the buying back of Teesside airport by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen; and the Darlington town deal. All those things are dependent on my hon. Friend, who is a fantastic champion for Darlington, and his former council leader, Councillor Jonathan Dulston, who has done an amazing job. I will continue to work with him and others to level up across the Tees Valley.

My first correspondence to the Government since being elected was to ask the Secretary of State to look again at the levelling-up bid for Shawfield in my constituency. I am delighted that, after only a month in this place, he has awarded £14 million to that project. It will be a challenge to keep that up, I suspect. This is a really important project, which not only unlocks huge investment in my constituency but clears up a toxic legacy where, in the 19th century, the world’s largest chemical factory once was. It will make a huge difference to my constituency.

The Minister has been asked a number of times to reflect on the costs for local authorities in coming up with these bids, and I do not think that we have had an answer yet. As part of his review, will he look at those significant costs? I know that organisations in my constituency such as Clyde Gateway and South Lanarkshire Council spent huge amounts of time, expertise and money pulling together bids, which they then thought were dead; now they realise that the project has a second chance. Will he think about the total costs involved and reimburse local authorities for them?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for welcoming this funding. I am sure his letter to the Secretary of State had a key decision-making role in that. We are making capacity funding available within the Department to help local authorities where they come up against further challenges in the delivery of these projects. As he has rightly identified, these projects were submitted some time ago, so adjustments will need to be made. I cannot give refunds, unfortunately, but our funding simplification programme is all about ensuring that we step forward to a simpler version of funding that meets councils’ needs, rather than asking councils to meet the needs of various funding streams.

I am delighted to see Billingham awarded £20 million of levelling-up money, which comes on the back of £16.5 million for Stockton, £20 million for Yarm and Eaglescliffe and £23.9 million for Thornaby. For years, Stockton’s Labour council said that it did not have the money to sort out the eyesore that is the Golden Eagle Hotel in Thornaby, but for three years it has had the Government money to sort it out and it has made no progress whatsoever. Does the Minister agree that it needs to pull its finger out, and will he meet me to see if there is any way we can make that happen?

What an amazing champion for the people of Stockton my hon. Friend is. In Stockton, we are delivering towns funding in Thornaby, future high streets funding in Stockton High Street and levelling-up funding in Yarm and Eaglescliffe, and today we have confirmed levelling-up funding in Billingham. There is no place in this country that is receiving such love and attention from this Government, and it is thanks to the hard work of my hon. Friend, as well as people such as the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, and local councillors in Stockton such as Councillor Niall Innes, who I know was particularly keen on seeing this bid delivered. I shall be happy to work with my hon. Friend to ensure that the Golden Eagle Hotel is sorted out as soon as possible and to deliver on his priorities through the town deal.

It would help the House to come to a judgment on the funding simplification plan and the funding simplification doctrine if we understood the complexity of the current system of assessments of need. Try as I might, and I have looked at the White Paper and various other documents, I cannot find a single concise explanation. Could the Minister write to me, and perhaps place a copy of his reply in the Library, to explain how the current system has got us to this position?

I would be happy to do that, but we currently operate more than 70 different local growth funds across 17 different Departments. I think that demonstrates the complexity that local authorities and other stakeholders, community groups and so on must navigate to try to get cash for their area. That is why we are embarking on this funding simplification plan, and I am happy to work with him to ensure that it meets the needs of his constituents.

Today’s announcement of nearly £20 million for the Vale of Clwyd through the levelling-up fund is fantastic news for redevelopment projects in Rhyl, Prestatyn, Denbigh and elsewhere, and I look forward to working with the local authority on that. By my calculation, Denbighshire is set to receive £63.7 million through local growth funds. Will my hon. Friend visit the area, as I think he hopes to do, and will he provide an update on levelling-up partnerships in Wales?

On levelling-up partnerships in Wales, I would ask my hon. Friend to watch this space, but he is a fantastic champion for his constituents in Denbighshire. I visited Rhyl earlier this year for the wedding of another Member, but I would be delighted to visit again to see the work that my hon. Friend is doing and to see how we can ensure his constituents feel levelled up.

I thank the Minister for his enthusiasm in his answers to questions. Ards and North Down Borough Council has a project about mining in Conlig, which goes back to the early 19th century; it also has the Somme centre, which commemorates and runs a programme about the first world war; and part of another project was to do something on the second world war. The Minister has kindly indicated that moneys that would have been going to Northern Ireland will be ringfenced or kept aside. Can he give me and other Members from Northern Ireland a direction for what we should do to ensure that the chief executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Stephen Reid, can pursue, and get the moneys for, this tourism project?

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the project further. I would say to him and his colleagues in Northern Ireland that the key thing is that the UK Government and, I think, everyone in this House want to see the Northern Ireland Executive restored. When they are restored, we can discuss how best to implement levelling up in his constituency and across Northern Ireland.

I thank the Minister for the further funding award for Blackpool, meaning that we have now received well over £400 million of additional Government investment since 2019. The Minister will be aware of the partnership work between Blackpool Council and his Department to deliver a levelling-up project in Revoe and Bond Street in my constituency. Is he able to meet me to see how we can get this project over the line and delivered for those communities?

I am delighted to confirm that more than £15 million of investment is coming into Blackpool from round 3 of the levelling-up fund, announced today. That builds on the other investments we are making in Blackpool, which my hon. Friend mentioned. I will work with him on the projects he has outlined, to see what can be done to ensure they are delivered in a timely manner.

I echo my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney), who said that today is a positive day. Like him, I thank David Shepherd of Kirklees Council.

After campaigning for an upgrade since 2018, the £48 million for the Penistone line is fantastic news for me and my constituents. This is on top of the £44.8 million secured for Dewsbury town centre and the £318,000 for Shelley football club. Will my hon. Friend agree to come to visit the Penistone line user groups, the Dewsbury town board and the team at Shelley FC to celebrate these amazing levelling-up successes?

What an amazing champion for the people of Dewsbury— I am not sure that any Member of Parliament for Dewsbury has ever delivered as much investment as my hon. Friend. I would be delighted to visit his constituency to see some of those projects, and I will do so as soon as I am available.

Greenfield, around which the Delyn constituency bid was structured, is in the top 10% of areas of deprivation in Wales. As the constituency bid has again been unsuccessful, making a total of seven unsuccessful bids across both Delyn and Alyn and Deeside, which together make up my county council area of Flintshire, can the Minister explain to the people of Greenfield and Flintshire why, just like the Welsh Government, the UK Government do not seem to care about their future prosperity? If they do, will he at least take this opportunity to approve the joint Flintshire and Wrexham investment zone bid?

As I said in my statement, we have delivered more than £1 billion of funding in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland across all three rounds of the levelling-up fund. I am disappointed to hear my hon. Friend’s question, as he knows all too well that this Conservative Government care about the people of Wales.

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill: Programme (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(9)),

That the Order of 17 May 2023 in the last session of Parliament (Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill: Programme) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be taken in one day in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.

(3) Proceedings on Consideration—

(a) shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table, and

(b) shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.


Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Part 1

Three hours before the moment of interruption

Remaining proceedings on Consideration

One hour before the moment of interruption

(4) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption.—(Mr Gagan Mohindra.)