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Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 17 January 2024

Q12. The Prime Minister has been very keen to take credit for falling inflation in previous months. Will he now take responsibility for today’s rise? (901009)

Inflation was over 11% when I got this job. Inflation today is 4%, in common with the US, France and Germany. All countries have seen a mild tick-up in December, but the crucial thing is that inflation has been more than halved and delivered ahead of schedule. That is an enormous benefit to families up and down the country—a benefit that would be reversed by the Labour party’s plan to saddle them with £28 billion of tax rises.

I am a keen parkrunner in Walsall, but I am also part of the core team of volunteers that recently brought parkrun to Tamworth. In the 20th anniversary year of parkrun, will the Prime Minister join me in encouraging other towns that do not yet have a parkrun to get one?

It is great to hear that my hon. Friend is an avid parkrunner. I thank him for volunteering so that the people of Tamworth can enjoy one, too. I completely agree with him—when I had more time, I was a regular at the Northallerton parkrun, and the junior parkrun, which I recommend to those with children. It is a fantastic and accessible way to get people moving. I join him in encouraging everyone to get involved in his local area and beyond.

Q13.   At the last general election, residents in west Hertfordshire were promised a new hospital, but we are still waiting for the green light and are having to put up with broken lifts and overly crowded treatment wards. In other parts of the country, entire hospital buildings have had to be closed down, like the one in Stepping Hill in Stockport, because they are structurally unsafe. From broken promises on new hospitals to the backlog of repairs, people are sick and tired of waiting. Will the Prime Minister tell me, by the time of the next general election, how many broken hospitals will be fixed, and will my residents be able to point to a single spade in the ground? (901010)

We are investing record sums to deliver not just 40 new hospitals across the country but 90 different hospital upgrades. The hon. Lady will be familiar with the plans at West Hertfordshire trust to develop a new emergency and specialty care facility at Watford General, including women’s and children’s services. It will make an enormous difference to residents in the area.

A recent BBC news article raised fears that Blyth could become a ghost town, as we see our shopping centre close, to be replaced by a new higher education facility. Residents are right to be concerned. I have personally seen decades of Labour neglect and decline in our town. This Conservative Government have invested hundreds of millions of pounds to level up my constituency, with spades in the ground as I speak. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the rebirth of our towns will continue as a key focus of this Conservative Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I commend him for being such a strong advocate for Blyth. Nearly half the recent towns fund has been distributed to northern regions in England to level up constituencies like his. That is the difference. As he said, after years, if not decades, of neglect under the Labour party, it is this Government who are levelling up across our country.

Q15.   In June 2022, to some fanfare, the Government announced the approval of £41 million for a package of works for the restoration of the Tyne Bridge, which is the route of the A167, the old A1, and connects Gateshead with Newcastle city centre. It is instantly recognisable around the world as an emblem of Tyneside. However, the funding is still awaiting sign-off within the Department for Transport and work cannot progress. Given the scale and complexity of the work required, and the significant additional cost implications if funding does not come forward, can we please have the money to get on with the work so that the bridge will be ready for its centenary celebrations in 2028? (901012)

I will ensure that the relevant Minister gets back to the hon. Gentleman with an update on the project. I am pleased that we are not just investing in that project in his area. Following on from the previous question, I know his area has received levelling-up funding worth £20 million to help transform the visitor economy in Gateshead—yet another example of the Government investing to level up across the north and across the country.