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Equity of Economic Opportunity

Volume 671: debated on Tuesday 11 February 2020

We will level up opportunity across the UK to ensure that every region and nation benefits from growth, including through better infrastructure, public services and investment in skills. I will set out more details in the Budget through the national infrastructure strategy.

Many of my constituents are delighted about the Government’s plans to level up funding across the country. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what that will mean for the people of east midlands and my constituents in Gedling?

As we level up opportunity in every region, we will make sure that the whole country benefits, including the east midlands. That includes, for example, the £3.6 billion towns fund that we have announced, with 16 town deals in the east midlands. The Government are also committed to the £250 million growth deal, which provides funding for the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire areas and will include projects such as the Gedling access road.

This is beyond parody. The reality is that after 10 years of Tory rule, the five richest families in this country own more wealth than 13 million of us put together. Fourteen million of us live in poverty. Two out of three of those are in working households. Childcare, transport and the cost of rent hold millions back, so will the Chancellor accept some tests for his Budget? Will he cut child poverty? Will he cut homelessness? Will he end the need for food banks? Will his Budget match his words? The hell it will.

Let me tell the hon. Lady what we have seen under 10 years of Tory rule, after Labour’s great recession. We have had nine consecutive years of growth. We have an economy that is nearly 17% bigger than it was in 2010, and 3.9 million jobs have been created—I would think that a party that calls itself the Labour party would welcome that. Unemployment is at its lowest level for 45 years, and according to the International Monetary Fund, our economy will grow faster this year than Italy, Japan, France and Germany.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are critical to economic opportunity and would undoubtedly benefit from greater access to business finance, yet challenger banks suffer from the same capital requirements as larger banks, despite the fact that they do not present the same systemic risk. Will my right hon. Friend say what he might be able to do to change that situation?

This is something that I have discussed with regulators. My hon. Friend is right in his general point about challenger banks and the risks that they may or may not represent. It is right that we take a fresh look at this because having more competition in the banking sector is a good thing, especially for SMEs.