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Levelling-up Report

Volume 822: debated on Thursday 19 May 2022


Asked by

The annual report will use metrics listed in the levelling-up White Paper technical annexe. There are 22 headline metrics for describing the specific disparities and monitoring progress against the 12 missions, and 27 supporting metrics which capture information relevant to, but broader than, the specific missions. These are selected based on their relevance, availability, frequency of updates and geographical coverage. New and improved data sources may be added as metrics to relevant missions.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Within the levelling-up White Paper and Bill, there is a lot of planning for housing and communities. Will Her Majesty’s Government commit to planning communities with resources that account for community-level healthcare interventions that are designed around health and well-being, as well as their measurement, without which the levelling-up agenda will not succeed?

It is important that we look at some of these missions in the round. In that question, the right reverend Prelate brought together three specific missions: we have a health mission, a well-being mission and a housing mission but it is important that we find ways of ensuring progress on all fronts. We have set up an advisory council to do precisely that.

My Lords, as a contribution to levelling up, does the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, have any proposals to relocate his department and the noble Lord the Minister to Stoke? Does he not think that this might be a constructive suggestion and, in particular, enable him to practise what he preaches?

I thought this Question might go in all directions, including Stoke. We actually have a department in Wolverhampton and are going to conduct a ministerial board meeting there—but personally, I will be joining remotely.

My Lords, can the Minister simplify things a little and tell the House how much the Government plan to spend on levelling up?

Of course, the expenditure is governed by the expenditure review, and I note that this is a nationwide pledge to level up. Record amounts of money are being spent through the devolved nations.

My Lords, will my noble friend tell me whether it is strictly necessary to dumb down the English language in order to level up?

My Lords, I do not think the technical annexe is particularly dumbed down—it is pretty complicated stuff. To have a clear sense of direction supported by metrics which are then enshrined in statute is hardly dumbing things down.

My Lords, forgive me for not having the technical annexe, the 22 metrics or the others that the Minister has alluded to. Can he tell me whether it will include the numbers of people using food banks and of new food banks having to be started because of the increasing cost of living? Will we have any evaluation of the catch-up programme, which is so inadequate, in terms of the impact of the pandemic on children and young people?

We recognise the impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. But all the metrics are set out clearly in the technical annexe, copies of which are available on the GOV.UK website.

It is very clear that the levelling-up mission involves levelling up both within and between communities. Of course, it takes into account that there is great disparity within parts of the south-west of this country.

My Lords, does the range of metrics to which the Minister has referred include disparities within areas? It is no use levelling up Yorkshire by taking resources away from the poorest in London, or levelling up Cornwall by taking them away from the poorest in Hampshire.

As I said in response to the previous question, of course there are great disparities—within Greater London, for instance, never mind within Yorkshire. We must level up between and within communities; the metrics pick up that regional and local disparity.

When the Government are reviewing their progress on levelling up, how will they ensure that the budgets and funds allocated are spent in the way desired in the White Paper?

As well as the metrics, within the technical annexe there is a clear plan for how to achieve what is set out in the White Paper. All of that will then be enshrined in law in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

My Lords, an IPPR report recently found that with their cuts to council funding, the Government have taken £431 from every single person and handed back just £31 in their levelling-up funds. Does the Minister accept that the Government can meet their levelling-up tests only by working with, and properly funding, local government?

Local government has a critical part to play in levelling up the country. I would point out the commitment through both the UK shared prosperity fund and the levelling-up funds to turbocharge the 12 missions outlined in the Bill.

I am particularly interested in the aspirations around housing that are implicit throughout the levelling-up agenda. Given the northern consortium’s recent report on the fact that it is actually the quality of existing homes in the north that is a key factor in poverty and other indicators, what plans do the Government have, besides building brand new houses, to look after the existing stock that is in poor condition?

It is important that we think about our existing stock. As Building Safety Minister, I think that the quality of housing is incredibly important. One of the key headline metrics is the proportion of non-decent rented homes and ensuring that we continue to drive this down and increase the number of homes that have achieved the decent homes standard, which will be adopted within the private rented sector as well.

My Lords, do the Government think that it is an appropriate part of levelling up to postpone the ban on two-for-one HFSS foods in supermarkets and delay the advertising ban during children’s television? This morning, Cancer Research published data showing that 50% of adults in this country will be obese by 2025. As other noble Lords have pointed out, the disparity between rich and poor in terms of living with good health is now 17 years. That is a burden not just to them but to us and the taxpayer. Could the Minister therefore please explain to the House why the Government have taken this decision to make bad food cheaper, rather than subsidising healthy food to make it more accessible to people on a budget?

My Lords, I think it is for one of my colleagues to explain that decision, but it is clear that the healthy life expectancy metric—to increase it by some five years by 2030—remains, and the Government need to do all they can to achieve that.

Does the Minister not agree that, whatever the metrics are, the major decisions as far as England is concerned will still be made in Whitehall? Is it not necessary to give to the regions of England real powers over transport and economic development, and all the administrative powers that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have? Until the decisions are made in regional centres, there will be no real levelling up.

As someone who spent 16 years in local government, I am obviously a great fan of devolution. But it is very clear that, by 2030, every part of the United Kingdom that wants a devolution deal with powers will be offered one. That will be the highest level of devolution we have ever had in this country, and that is certainly a step forward.

My Lords, I am very pleased to hear what the Minister has just said about every region getting the degree of devolution that it requires. The noble Lord will be aware of the One Yorkshire committee, of which the leaders of Conservative councils in Yorkshire are members. All of them believe that there should be a single devolved authority for the whole of the great county of Yorkshire. Does the Minister concur with that ambition?

I know that there is a strong Yorkshire lobby here. When I look at a map of Yorkshire, I see that it seems to have engulfed most of the north of England these days. But we are devolving into parts of Yorkshire, essentially, with strong mayoral figures. I am sure that they have opportunities to collaborate with their fellow Yorkshire colleagues. But I think that we have moved on from the one Yorkshire idea.

Since he is a strong supporter of devolution, will my noble friend tell the House how our fellow country men and women in Northern Ireland will benefit from this process? How much money are the Government allocating to Northern Ireland and what will the results be? I declare my interest as a fervent supporter of the union.

The Northern Ireland Executive will receive a funding boost of some £1.6 billion per year. These are the highest annual funding settlement increases for devolved Administrations since devolution began in 1998.