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Levelling-up Agenda

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 23 September 2021

12. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on implementing the Government’s levelling-up agenda. (903616)

13. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on implementing the Government’s levelling-up agenda. (903617)

20. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on implementing the Government’s levelling-up agenda. (903625)

Levelling up is at the heart of the Government’s agenda. The landmark White Paper we will publish later this year will build on the actions we are already taking to improve livelihoods and opportunity across the UK. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will be driving forward this agenda. I, and all my ministerial colleagues, look forward to working with him to deliver bold new policies that level up all parts of the UK.

I welcome the new Minister to his place. The Government are already taking great steps to level up Teesside, including our new freeport—the UK’s largest—and locating the northern economic campus there. Will he update us on the progress of the new campus and join me in encouraging Teessiders to apply for these highly rewarding civil service jobs?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. That part of the country is really on fire at the moment. It is fantastic that so much is happening on Teesside. There are some brilliant local Members of Parliament assisted by a fantastic Mayor as well. I am pleased to say that the Darlington economic campus is up and running. Almost all Treasury roles are now being advertised as available in Darlington, and we are recruiting exclusively for Darlington-based Treasury roles. These are great jobs working on issues that really matter to our country. I hope to see a range of people from north-east England, and beyond, take up these opportunities.

The levelling-up fund is going to be vital for Rother Valley to increase our prosperity, and we have a bid outstanding at the moment for Maltby and Dinnington. Can the Minister confirm when we will hear back about the levelling-up fund bid, and tell us what other steps the Government are taking so that the whole of Rother Valley, not just Maltby and Dinnington, benefits from the Government’s levelling-up programme?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise Rother Valley’s bid in this regard. We are committed to levelling up across the whole of the UK. The idea is to ensure that no community is left behind. The £4.8 billion levelling-up fund will invest in infrastructure to improve everyday local life and boost growth and jobs. All areas of the UK are able to access the fund, and Rother Valley is exactly the sort of area that it is designed to support. Applications for the first round of the levelling-up fund closed on 18 June, and we expect that investment decisions will be made for this funding round in the autumn.

Infrastructure and regenerating our town centres is a really important part of levelling up, but so too is education, skills and work. Will my right hon. Friend therefore confirm that ahead of the Budget and the spending review at the end of October, the Cabinet Office is working across Government with the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions and others to make sure that we leave no stone unturned in levelling up across the country?

Absolutely. The whole team—the Minister for the Cabinet Office and all my ministerial colleagues—are well placed to do exactly that, working across all Departments. Levelling up is at the heart of the Government’s agenda. My hon. Friend will not have missed the renaming of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will lead on that work. We are committed to levelling up across the UK to ensure that literally no community is left behind. We will publish a landmark White Paper later this year.

On 12 September, the world watched as 50,000 great north runners crossed the iconic Tyne bridge, whose peeling, faded, rusting and sad state exactly reflects the Government’s level of investment in the north-east. Just what is levelling up? How will the north-east know that we have been levelled?

I do not know why, but my application for the Great North Run seems to have been missed. Maybe next year we will have a crack at it. Levelling up is not a north-south thing, a one size fits all or just for some places; it is about disparities between and within regions. I talked about the north-east not two minutes ago. We are doing some incredible work in the north-east and looking to ensure that levelling up will benefit places that have seen economic decline and the loss of industry. That is exactly what it is meant to deliver.

I am sure that the Minister will share my concern about the York Central site. We have a great opportunity to level up York and see it as an economic and jobs gateway for the north, but instead, with the development of so many luxury homes, there is a risk of it sucking down into becoming a commuter belt for London. Will he ensure that public land is used for public good and that there is greater investment in jobs in York Central?

The hon. Lady is right to raise the York Central site, which I know well. We must ensure that the local authority works with the Government so that that site comes into use. It has massive potential. I really hope that City of York Council gets its act together and works with us, because it could be a stunning opportunity for jobs and infrastructure in the city of York.

In welcoming the new ministerial team to the Front Bench, may I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on Chorley becoming the epicentre of global parliamentary democracy?

Three of the 10 most deprived constituencies in England are in Birmingham, and 42% of children in Birmingham are growing up in poverty. However, rather than supporting hard-working families in Birmingham, the Government are hitting them with a £1,000 a year cut to universal credit and a national insurance tax rise. On top of that, they face soaring energy costs, increasing food costs, increasing childcare costs and increasing housing costs. The Government say that they want to level up, but is not the simple truth that the only thing that gets levelled up under the Tories is the cost of living?

I politely remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government have invested £400 billion in supporting the country, its businesses and public services through the pandemic. He is right to raise Birmingham, which has seen quite a transformation in recent years. I also remind him of the £4.8 billion levelling-up fund, the shared prosperity fund and the national skills fund. The Government are taking action on levelling up.