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Levelling-up Fund

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2021

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the levelling up fund. (913426)

The levelling-up fund is unquestionably good news for Wales. It will ensure that millions of pounds is invested in Welsh local authorities, providing much-needed local infrastructure and driving up regeneration in left-behind places.

Would the Minister meet me about, and visit when possible, exciting projects in Clwyd South that fulfil the requirements of the levelling-up fund, such as Wrexham Council’s bold regeneration plans and the reopening of Corwen station in Denbighshire on the Llangollen steam railway?

I assure my hon. Friend that it is always a pleasure to meet him and hear about the enormous amount of hard work he is undertaking in his constituency. Unfortunately, I have been advised that it would not be appropriate for me to visit any specific project site, but I of course look forward to supporting him and other Members of Parliament who continue the work of using the funds being made available by the UK Government to drive forward regeneration in their constituencies.

I was delighted to see so much in the Budget for Brecon and Radnorshire. The levelling-up fund is extremely welcome, as is the commitment to the global centre for rail excellence in Coelbren in my constituency. However, parts of Brecon and Radnorshire are plagued by substandard broadband and mobile coverage. Could the Minister confirm that the levelling-up fund will make a genuine difference to structural problems like this that hold back rural areas such as mine?

We expect that the levelling-up fund can be used to invest in community infrastructure right the way across the board. Of course, the UK gigabit programme will invest in broadband and the hardest-to-connect areas of the United Kingdom. I was also delighted, of course, with the news about the global centre for rail excellence—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pushed very hard for it—which is also going to be good news for the economy in that part of Wales.

Given that the Welsh Government have worked with Welsh local authorities and other stakeholders to produce a framework for regional investment, can the Minister tell the House why Ministers at England’s Housing Department, with no history of delivering within Wales and no record of working with communities in Wales or understanding their priorities, are the right people to be administering this so-called levelling-up fund in Wales? Is this the result of this Government’s fixation with undermining democratic devolution?

That was a rather disappointing question from the hon. Lady. The Chancellor has made £800 million available for the devolved Administrations across the United Kingdom and wants the UK Government to be able to work directly with local authorities and to hear about what their priorities are. I think it is absolutely fantastic that the Chancellor, as well as being able to deliver that £800 million, has found £740 million for the Welsh Government and has continued the support for businesses and individuals in Wales affected by the covid crisis. Perhaps I can pass the hon. Lady’s congratulations on to the Government for a fantastic Budget for Wales.