The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday 2 February.
“Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the Government’s plans to level up and unite our country.
The White Paper we are publishing today sets out our detailed strategy to make opportunity more equal and to shift wealth and power decisively towards working people and their families. After two long years of Covid, we need to get this country moving at top speed again. We need faster growth, quicker public services and higher wages, and we need to allow overlooked and undervalued communities to take back control of their destiny.
While talent is spread equally across the United Kingdom, opportunity is not. Our country is an unparalleled success story, but not everyone shares in it. The further a person is from one of our great capitals—whether it is London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast—the tougher life can be. For every local success, there is a story of scarring and stagnation elsewhere, and that must change. We need to tackle and reverse the inequality that is limiting so many horizons and that also harms our economy. The gap between much of the south-east and the rest of the country in productivity, in health outcomes, in wages, in school results and in job opportunities must be closed. This is not about slowing down London or the south-east, or damping down animal spirits, but rather about turbocharging the potential of every part of the UK. This country will not achieve its full potential until every individual and community achieves everything of which they are capable. Our economy has been like a jet propelled by only one engine, now we need to fire up every resource that we have.
The economic prize from levelling up is potentially enormous. If underperforming places were levelled up towards the UK average, unlocking their full potential, this could boost aggregate UK GDP by tens of billions of pounds each year. So, how do we achieve success? First, we do so by backing business. The economic growth that we want to see across the UK will be generated by the private sector, by businesses and entrepreneurs investing, innovating, taking risks and opening new markets. We will support them every step of the way, by cutting through the red tape, by making it easier to secure investment and, as our White Paper today outlines, by creating the right environment on the ground for business.
As the Chancellor laid out in The Plan for Growth, we need to invest in science and innovation, improve infrastructure and connectivity, and extend educational opportunity to underpin economic success. This White Paper makes clear our commitment to improve education, investment and connectivity fastest in those parts of the country that have not had the support that they needed in the past. We have set out clear, ambitious missions, underpinned by metrics by which we can be held to account to drive the change that we need.
On productivity, science and innovation, our mission 1 is that, by 2030, we pledge that pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city; closing the gap between top performing areas and the rest. Mission 2 will see a massive increase in domestic public investment in research and development outside the greater south-east, increasing by at least a third in the next three years, and we will use the shift in resources to leverage private sector investment in the areas that need it most.
On infrastructure and connectivity, we will have better local transport, bringing the rest of the country closer to the standards of London’s transport system. We will also improve digital connectivity, with billions of pounds of investment, bringing nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage to the whole UK, and we will expand 5G coverage to the overwhelming majority of the population.
On education and skills, we will effectively eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy, with investment in the most underperforming areas of the country. There will be 55 new education investment areas in England alone, driving school improvement in the local authorities where attainment is weakest. Our sixth mission is to have new, high-quality skills training, targeted at the lowest-skilled areas, with 200,000 more people completing high-quality skills training annually.
We know that, to achieve these missions, we will need smart, targeted government investment. That is why we are investing more than £20 billion in research and development to create a science and technology superpower. Today, we are allocating £100 million specifically to three new innovation accelerators in the West Midlands, Glasgow and Greater Manchester. It is also why we are investing £5 billion in bus services and active travel, with new bus investment today in all our mayoral combined authorities and the green light for bus projects in Stoke-on-Trent, Derbyshire, Warrington and across the country. It is also why we are investing in new academies, new free schools and new institutes of technology. Today, we are establishing a new digital UK national academy—just as the UK established the Open University to bring higher education to everyone, we are making available to every school student in the country high-quality online teaching, so geography is no barrier to opportunity.
We will also use the freedoms that we now have outside the EU to reform government procurement rules to ensure that the money that we spend on goods and services is spent on British firms and British jobs. We will unashamedly put British workers first in the global race for investment. Economic opportunity, spread more equally across the country, is at the heart of levelling up, but levelling up is also about community as well. It is about repairing the social fabric of our broken heartlands, so that they can reflect the pride we feel in the places we love. That is why we are investing in 20 new urban regeneration projects, starting in Wolverhampton and Sheffield and spreading across the Midlands and the north, with £1.8 billion invested in new housing infrastructure to turn brownfield land into projects across the country like Stratford and King’s Cross in London.
By regenerating the great cities and towns of the north, we can relieve the pressure on green fields and public services in the south. A more productive, even prouder and faster-growing north helps improve quality of life and well-being in the south, which is why we are refocusing housing investment towards the north and Midlands.
Our housing mission is clear: we will give renters a secure path to greater home ownership, we will drive an increase in first-time buyers and we will deliver a tough focus on decent standards in rented homes. A new £1.5 billion levelling-up homebuilding fund will give loans to small and medium-sized builders to deliver new homes, the vast majority of which will be outside London and the south-east. Our housing plans will set a decent minimum standard that all rented properties must meet.
Our White Paper this spring will include plans to cut the number of poor-quality rented homes by half, address the injustice of ‘no fault’ evictions and bear down on rogue landlords, thereby improving the life chances of children and families up and down the country.
We will also take action in law to tackle the problem of empty properties and vacant shops on our high streets. Building on the work of my honourable friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis, we will ensure that properties cannot remain unloved and unused for months, dragging down the whole high street. Instead, we will put every property to work for the benefit of the whole community.
Also central to improving quality of life for all will be further investment in sport, culture, nature and young people. That is why we are investing £230 million extra in grass-roots football and using the community ownership fund to help fans take back control of clubs such as Bury FC. It is also why every extra penny of Arts Council spending will now be allocated outside London, from celebrating ceramics in Stoke to supporting pride in British history in Bishop Auckland. There will also be another £30 million allocated to improving parks and urban green spaces, as well as plans to re-green all of our green belt.
We will also invest an additional £560 million in activities for young people, and we will invest in reversing health disparities, tackling obesity and improving life expectancy. We will also ensure that the communities in which we are investing are safer and more orderly. Fighting crime and anti-social behaviour is essential to giving communities new heart, so we will invest an additional £150 million in our safer streets fund and ensure that those who drag down our communities through vandalism, graffiti and joyriding pay back their debt to those communities. They will be set to work on improving the environment, cleaning up public spaces, clearing away the drug debris in our parks and streets and contributing to civic renewal.
Critical to the success of our missions will be giving communities not just the resources but the powers necessary to take back control. That is why our White Paper sets out how we will shift more power away from Whitehall to working people. We will give new powers to outstanding local leaders such as Andy Street and Ben Houchen—and, indeed, Dan Jarvis. We will create new mayors where people want them, we will give nine counties including Derbyshire and Durham new powers as trailblazers in a programme of county deals and we will strengthen the hand of local leaders across the country.
We will also take back control of the money that the EU used to spend on our behalf, ensuring that local areas can invest in their priorities through the new UK shared prosperity fund. With power comes responsibility, so we will also ensure that data on local government performance is published so that we can hold local leaders to account.
Central government will report back to this House on our progress against our missions and on the impact all our policies have on closing geographical inequalities. Because building long-term structures matters, we will also create the institutions, generate the incentives and supply the information necessary to drive levelling up for years ahead.
This White Paper lays out a long-term economic and social plan to make opportunity more equal. It shifts power and opportunity towards the north and Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It guarantees increased investment in overlooked and undervalued communities, in research and development, in education and skills, in transport and broadband, in urban parks and decent homes, in grass-roots sport and local culture and in fighting crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. It gives local communities the tools to tackle rogue landlords, dilapidated high streets and neglected green spaces, and it demonstrates that this people’s Government are keeping faith with the working people of this country by allowing them to take back control of their lives, their communities and their futures.
I commend this statement to the House.”
My Lords, if the Statement and the paper with it are the sum total of the Government’s ambition, their legacy will be to have held back the aspirations of towns, cities and villages across the UK. Britain is the birthplace of industry and of towns, villages and cities with huge plans for their future. But over the 11 wasted years of Conservative Britain, our country has stalled.
This paper was meant to mark a turning point, but instead, we have more of the same: no new funding, no new ideas and certainly no new plan. Instead, we have 332 pages, which show just how divorced the Government are from the ambitions of the local communities that make up this country. Above all, what we needed from the Government was a strategy to bring jobs and prosperity to the places that need them most. People should not be expected to leave their home towns to build a successful career, but there are no credible solutions to end this in the paper, only recycled slogans.
The Government need to come forward with a plan to rebuild British industry—buying, making and selling more at home and giving public contracts to UK companies, both big and small. What plans do the Government have to encourage high-skilled industries to move to the areas that the IFS has determined to have the highest net loss of graduates? And how will Ministers reverse the sharp decline in people aged 16-24 studying apprenticeships?
Our town centres have the potential to once again be local hubs of growth, but since this Government came to power over a decade ago, British high streets have lost 10,000 shops, 6,000 pubs and more than 7,000 bank branches. If the Government are serious about reversing this trend, they need to completely reform and replace the system of business rates, which is burdening businesses of all sizes. The solution is not just to tackle the tax burden but to incentivise investment and provide more security to small businesses, which will themselves face the consequences of the Government’s cost of living crisis. Does the Minister accept the warning of many high street chains, which have called for the wholesale reform of business rates?
As much as the paper falls short because it lacks ambition, it also relies on the broken idea that towns and villages only exist to feed off cities. So much of the narrative still relies on the notion that investing in cities is enough to spur growth in nearby towns. For example, look at how any talk of building new transport links is about bringing people from towns into core cities, rather than connecting the towns together. Look at the focus on the largest cities in each region.
No one would doubt that cities deserve the Government’s support to grow, but towns should also be seen as distinct places with proud identities, and the Government really should respect that. Towns and villages need their own industries, jobs, culture, good quality homes and high streets. They should not be the places people are expected to leave if they are to live well. So, what assessment has the Minister made of the recent findings of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which has called for greater transparency in the awarding of levelling-up funding to towns?
Ultimately, the only way that cities, towns and villages will be able to realise their ambitions is if the Government give them the power to do so. That is why the Government need a new, place-based approach, up-ending the current settlement so that local areas have real powers and resources to make long-term investment decisions that work for their own communities.
The Statement also makes no mention of net zero, green jobs or the climate crisis, while the full White Paper dedicates just three pages exclusively to net zero—two of which are entirely picture based. The Government have failed to detail any new green economy funding beyond previous commitments. Just how serious are this Government about tackling climate change and investing in the green jobs of the future?
One theme is staggeringly absent from the Government’s paper: safety and security. People deserve to feel protected in their town, their village, their city, but the fear of violence and crime casts a shadow over millions of families. Across the UK only one in 20 crimes leads to a charge; that is half the figure since 2015. Today violent crime is at record levels, with nearly 2 million violent offences last year, and an epidemic of violence against women and girls, with only 3.3% of sexual offences leading to charges.
This is why the Government urgently need to introduce new police hubs and new neighbourhood prevention teams to tackle anti-social behaviour and put more police on the beat in local communities. Does the Minister agree that, if levelling up is to have any meaning, it must include addressing the threat of violent crime, which disproportionately impacts different areas across Britain?
I finish by drawing the Minister’s attention to the words of one of his party colleagues, the deputy leader of Shropshire Council, as reported by the BBC’s Jo Gallacher. Councillor Potter, who represents the county which witnessed the birth of the Industrial Revolution, said that the report shows that Shropshire is
“overlooked, unrecognised, taken for granted and completely undervalued”
by the Government. Those words will ring true across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, because the publication of this report shows what many already knew—that levelling up is a slogan, and behind it are only empty promises.
My Lords, I remind the House of my interests as a member of Kirklees Council, a vice-president of the Local Government Association and someone who lives in a part of west Yorkshire where there are significant areas of deprivation; I see it every day.
Nearly three years have passed since the levelling up slogan was first used. It is good at last to read some definition of what it may mean. It is good that there is a recognition that deep-seated economic and social deprivation can be tackled successfully only through long-term sustained change. Batley in west Yorkshire, has, for example, been the recipient of City Challenge and Single Regeneration Budget funding—the earlier iterations of levelling up. Yet, sadly, Batley remains an area of considerable deprivation, partly because this earlier funding failed to deal with the basic issues of a lack of well-paid jobs, poor transport links and health inequalities. Therefore, a commitment to sustained and very long-term investment for change is welcome.
However, the challenge for the Government is that of investment—or, in this case, the lack of it. Fundamental and continual gradual change such as that described in the White Paper takes many years to achieve. Without substantial additional funding, change will be imperceptible to those who live in the towns and cities described. Further, any additional funding is on the back of huge cuts to the very local services in the so-called 12 missions.
Let us take public transport. We already know that HS2 to Leeds has been axed, HS3 is a pipe dream and even basic electrification of the trans-Pennine route is to be partial. What about bus investment? Even today, mayors and council leaders in the Midlands and the north have exposed a 50% cut to improving bus services. Access to jobs and opportunities are rightly emphasised in the White Paper. Will the Minister explain how mission 3, on public transport, can be realised when the starting point is even more cuts to services?
Then there is the issue of enabling all children to reach their potential, especially in the crucial areas of numeracy and literacy. It is a great metric to measure, but the widespread closure of Sure Start children’s centres due to major cuts in funding, combined with schools funding falling, is hardly the backdrop to enabling school improvement. At this point I ought to bring the House’s attention to my interest as a local school governor. Does the Minister agree, and will he point to an increase in funding that would enable the skills, literacy and numeracy targets to be reached?
A key metric, which I was genuinely pleased to see, is narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy. This is such an important measure because it is linked to many key determinants of health: quality of housing, affordability of healthy food, access to skills providers and the quality of local health services and the environment. Perhaps the Minister can say how the Government will improve access to GPs for residents in my area, which has many fewer GPs per capita than the average.
Access to dental health is also vital. Yet Dentaid, a dental charity that operates in developing countries, also provides services in my area due to the lack of NHS dentists. It is shameful. Will I be able to assure those residents that the Government will provide easy access to NHS dental care for all who need it?
The creation of skilled, and thus better-paid, jobs is a basic requirement for improving the economic well-being of areas such as mine. Perhaps the Minister can explain how inward investment can be achieved and combined with providing local people with the skills to take up the higher-skilled jobs that are created. Seeing cities as the centre of development is insulting to the local towns that are supposed to be providing the jobs for these cities.
Finally, the governance issues are not highlighted but are slipped in almost under the radar. I have come to the conclusion that the Government despise local government. They want to abolish district councils and create more mayoral authorities without any evidence that reducing democratic representation and involvement leads to better decision-making and accountability.
Levelling up, however desirable, will not be effective without also levelling up funding. The shared prosperity fund, for example, shows the direction of travel the Government are going in. The north of England loses over 50% of that replacement funding for EU structural and regional funds. In total, it amounts to nearly £100 million lost money for the north. Will the Minister commit to levelling up funding through fair funding for councils, equivalent transport funding with the London area, and the shared prosperity funding for the north of England that fulfils the promises made during Brexit? Until any of that can be agreed to be a starting point, levelling up will remain a pipe dream for most of us.
My Lords, it is difficult to follow those two speeches because we have had a speech that is more balanced from the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and, I am afraid, quite a pointed speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock.
As a relatively new Minister, I understand that there are so many examples of government policy that never get published. Those who have served in government will know that there are very many areas where policy is discussed, debated and raised but never sees the light of day. The first thing I want to do is to pay tribute to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, as well as one of the most tireless, policy-heavy and thoughtful Ministers I have had the pleasure of working alongside: Neil O’Brien. Minister O’Brien has even signed my copy of the levelling-up White Paper, which, in decades to come, will be worth a lot of money.
I think it is a tremendous document with a very clear plan to level up this country. As someone who spent 20 years in local government, with some of the most deprived areas alongside some of the wealthiest, I believe in the mission to level up without levelling down. That is not to forget the technical annex of this plan, which, I have to say, I have not read yet but I am happy to say that I will be reading it, probably after this Statement.
There is no single policy or intervention that can achieve change on its own. This is a plan for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Levelling up across the United Kingdom does not mean levelling down, as I have said; it means boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector. We on this side of the House recognise the importance of the private sector and spreading opportunities and public services, especially in those places where they are weakest, and restoring that sense of community.
I am very interested that both the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Front Bench accuse this of being a White Paper without the necessary resources to level up. I did a word count of this document—that is the kind of thing I did. In first place, mentioned nearly 1,000 times—994 times—were “fund”, “funding pot” and “grant”: plenty of opportunities to channel the money that was committed in the spending review at the end of the last year into the means by which we will level up. In second place, with only 31 mentions, was “tax” or “taxation”. This is a plan with plenty of opportunities to channel that money precisely to ensure that we level up this country.
I want to deal with the two specific points around skills and an area I feel very strongly about—as a former deputy mayor for policing and crime at City Hall, serving the then mayor and our current Prime Minister—that is, ensuring that we reduce violent crime and that our cities are safe. It is fair to say that if we do not feel safe walking around and being part of our community then there is no chance for some forgotten areas to regenerate and to revive. I take very seriously that commitment around public safety.
Surely, if you have a clear mission around crime, which is safer streets by 2030—homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crimes will have fallen—focused on the worst-affected areas and you back that up with money channelled into the safer streets fund, you are doing precisely that. You are ensuring that communities that are riven by crime and violent crime have the funding they deserve on top of their existing funds to tackle the very thing that has been raised.
There is a very clear mission on skills—how we can improve skills and therefore see the productivity improvement that this nation really yearns for. I discussed this today with Rob Halfon, who is very much a champion of skills in the other place. He said it was so great to see skills front and centre in an agenda and see it with its own mission statement. Interestingly enough, when we want specific examples about how skills will be improved, we should look at the plans in Blackpool and Walsall, two of the three pathfinder areas that bring employment and skills provision together. Bringing employment and skills provision together will enable people to get into work and to get on in their lives.
Frankly, it is quite hard to stomach the idea that this is an empty vessel when there is so much detail in here. I could spend the next 45 minutes—although time eludes me—explaining point by point what levelling up means and how we can deliver those 12 missions. This is a Government who want to deliver—not over a couple of years; these missions are set to 2030. This is clearly a Prime Minister who does not want to be elected again but again and again. That is why this levelling up is precisely what this Government will achieve. It will take time but here is the mission and we will deliver it in due course.
My Lords, I hope my noble friend will sign my copy of the levelling-up White Paper. The Public Services Committee, ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, produced a report on levelling up last year and I am delighted that the Government have responded to two of its recommendations: first, that there should be clarity about what levelling up means; and, secondly, that there should be regular milestones so that we can see whether progress is being made. We also commented on transparency and I wonder whether my noble friend will recognise that under the levelling-up White Paper very substantial sums of central grants will continue to be allocated to local areas. So I ask my noble friend whether there will be total transparency about the basis of those decisions.
I always thank my noble friend for his comments and his probing in the right areas. I failed to mention in my response to the Front Bench that, of course, there will be an annual report that will measure progress on that mission to 2030 and beyond. The point that my noble friend raises is precisely right. We need to have transparency. It is important to track the money. I think a policy that was actually delivered under, I believe, the Blair Government, the Total Place agenda, is a very important one to ensure that we get the money into the right areas across the piece, whether it is funded by central government, regional government or, indeed, local government and make sure that the money gets to the people who need it most. Transparency is a key part of achieving success and we will take that point on board.
We are fed up with joyous optimism which does not have much underpinning. Can we have real attempts to tackle the things that are affecting people fundamentally? In the north-east, the difference between those who are doing well in schools and those who are not has increased over the last two years. When does the Minister expect that they will be able to get the same sorts of opportunities because of them being levelled up to what, for example, young people in Surrey Heath will be able to expect? When, on behalf of my noble colleague from Darlington, will they have the jobs that they were promised by the Treasury—300 within the next month, or six weeks, I am told? They have not arrived at all. On transparency, I urge the Minister to look at what the National Audit Office has said and then come back to the House and tell us that the Government are following the advice of the National Audit Office on transparency.
Can I respond? I listened to the noble Baroness, and I hope that she can listen to me for just a moment. I was depressed to watch the grant farmers at work, filling in forms and collecting the money—whether it was local, regional or national money—and not making a blind bit of difference. That was during the Labour years; I saw no progress at all, so I was depressed. But here we have 12 key missions, all measurable, backed up by an annual report. Admittedly, this is not the end of the programme and plan for levelling up—I would say that we are at the end of the beginning—but it is now a substantial plan, with 12 clear missions set out and milestones to get there, which will be measured in an annual report. I do not think there has been a Government who have tried to be more transparent than this one.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the enthusiasm of his presentation but also for looking forward to the rest of this decade. I also want to speak about those communities in which I have served that are the inheritors of decades of deprivation and need. I was intrigued to see in the executive summary that, even in the affluence of Sussex, where I serve, there are deep pockets of deprivation and need which are recognised. What I do not see recognised here is the vital importance of the social capital of faith groups, of which the Church is one, which make a significant contribution not only to sustaining life in those areas of deprivation but to sustaining hope for a better future.
When I was newly ordained and serving in Devonport in Plymouth back in the late 1980s, in those days, it was recognised by the statutory agencies that were our partners that funding to Church-monitored projects by the statutory agencies—such as the probation service, mental health service and social services—enabled those projects to be delivered in the most acute areas of need through a voluntary agency, the Church, which already had levels of trust that enabled the services to be more easily received than they would be from statutory agencies, for a wide range of reasons. I hope that the Minister will reassess the place of those faith and community organisations, which are part of our social capital. It has been the privilege of the Church to be a co-ordinator with other groups in that respect.
Finally, the focus here has been, understandably, on our towns—we have mentioned our cities and the balance between them—but I am also responsible for an area of huge rural deprivation, and looking at how levelling up in those rural areas can occur is another major need. I hope, once again, that the social capital of faith groups such as churches will be recognised.
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for bringing up two very important points, the first of which is the role of faith communities in helping us to bring about opportunity and enable and support people to get on in life. I saw that for myself as the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, where we saw the extension of a church in Hammersmith, which was particularly active in providing skills training and reaching parts of the community that, frankly, the statutory agencies never got to. We do recognise that, and it is a very important point to build on that insight.
I am told by my ministerial colleague Danny Kruger, who is a PPS in the department, that he will be looking at building on the narrative because apparently this thinking is tucked away in the technical annexe, which, as I say, unfortunately I have not yet read. Some of that needs to be brought out—the importance of working with faith groups and the wider community in helping to level up the country. Of course, poverty does not happen just in cities and towns but in rural areas. That point is well made, and that is why we need to ensure that the levelling-up agenda embraces those rural communities as well.
My Lords, I first declare an interest: I used to be the convenor of One Yorkshire. At the last general election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats committed themselves to bringing in One Yorkshire, if elected. The Conservatives were slightly equivocal. In the light of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up saying that we need mayors of the type that we have in London, and, given that the need that quickly comes up is to have one for the whole of Yorkshire because of its economy, people and geography, will the Minister give the House his further thoughts on One Yorkshire, because it is still committed to that dream and ideal?
Secondly, the Prime Minister has told us that the pandemic has been the biggest challenge we have faced since the Second World War. At the end of the war, there was a huge social impact on the people of the United Kingdom. Most noble Lords will remember that it was the Beveridge report that began the work of transforming this great nation. Beveridge said there was want, caused by poverty; ignorance, caused by the lack of education; squalor, caused by poor housing; idleness, caused by a lack of jobs or inability to gain employment; and disease, caused by inadequate healthcare provision, which resulted in the National Health Service and social welfare. I read the whole report. What are the giants that the Minister thinks need to be slain so that we can get to where we ended up at the end of the Second World War, when the Beveridge report led to real transformation?
Finally, the greatest thing that has been bedevilling a lot of people who feel left behind is the great gulf of income inequality, but I did not hear or read it—maybe I have missed it, but I did not see it in the report. Will the Government continue to pursue the whole question of income inequality? If that is not dealt with, I am afraid you may level up some people, but you will leave a lot in poverty. Maybe I could give the Government the motto of Barnsley to become the motto for levelling up. It is in Latin, but I will give noble Lords the translation in English: spectemur agendo—let us be judged by our actions. That is what we are looking for in levelling up, not big words.
The noble and right reverend Lord raised three principal points. The first is whether, as part of levelling up, there is still enthusiasm for One Yorkshire. My name is Greenhalgh, a Lancastrian name, and when I look at the map, Lancashire seems to have almost disappeared; it has disappeared to Cheshire and Greater Manchester, and there is a little county called Lancashire. Meanwhile, Yorkshire on a map looks absolutely humongous. I am not sure that creating a humongous entity called “One Yorkshire” will necessarily accelerate the levelling up. Maybe it will ensure the independence of Yorkshire from the rest of the country, but I am not sure that it will help us in any way.
However, there is a huge commitment to help mayors who represent functional economic areas. We have the mayor of South Yorkshire, Dan Jarvis, who is part of the education investment areas; there is regeneration of one of the 20 places in Sheffield. We are extending brownfield and bus transformation funding, exploring further flexibilities to raise CA funding thorough business rates, and looking at further and deeper devolution. There are also measures in West Yorkshire with Tracy Brabin, who is far keener on this levelling-up White Paper than the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who managed to dredge up some person I have never heard of in the Conservative Party—an individual in Shropshire. Tracy Brabin welcomed it. She is receiving education investment areas, extended brownfield funding, support for family allocations and bus transformation funding—all of it seems to be going into West Yorkshire. There is a commitment to, at least, parts of Yorkshire that shows a true commitment.
I am not going to say that this is the Beveridge report—even though it is a signed copy—but it is a substantial document with technical annexes, and only time will tell whether we deliver against our missions.
On the third point, on income inequality, I do not think that is an end point. I do not think we are all equal; I believe that the starting line needs to be equal. Everyone needs an opportunity and we need to equalise opportunity, but some of us will take that opportunity and go further in life, and that is why I am a Conservative.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the president of the National Association of Local Councils. It is good to see a recognition of the role of parish and town councils in developing improvements in their localities and creating a better quality of life, but is the Minister aware that most of the funds that have emerged from the shared prosperity fund are not available for parish and town councils to bid for, even though they are delivering the services? Will he undertake to have another look at that, so that they can really do a good job instead of having to recreate structures especially for bidding purposes?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for raising that on behalf of parish and town councils. I think she is saying that they are excluded from the UK shared prosperity fund, as things stand. The UK shared prosperity fund money has not yet been spent. There has been the community renewal fund, which is like a pathfinder. I will take that away, go back to my department and understand some of the thinking; it is a fair point. Another fair point is that we need to make it easy for people to apply. We do not want to see a lot of money spent on the bureaucracy of grant applications; we want to help people back into work and to get on with their lives.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a non-exec at Ofsted. I am far less depressed than the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, although I was on her committee. I was delighted to see education as a mission in the Statement. That key stage 2 ambition is highly ambitious, and so it should be. What I cannot quite see is how early years fits into that and how the foundation years have been addressed. Given that they are quite literally the foundation years, can my noble friend please say a bit more about that?
My Lords, I first pay tribute to my current boss, the Secretary of State, for his role in building on the substantial achievement of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I served in local government when the noble Lord pioneered the academy programme, and I worked very hard to open up the first academy in my council, which transformed the lives of people in Hammersmith. Then the free school programme, like a lot of government policy, built on that thinking. We know that schools are the engines of opportunity, and in this White Paper we see a real commitment to continuing that programme of introducing more academies and more free schools.
My noble friend is quite right: it is far harder to achieve success if you do not have that strong foundation in early years. People’s potential is often almost set for them. If you do not get—
Sorry, I just heard a bit of chuntering. I am not sure it was adding very much.
The noble Lord is throwing out words such as “Sure Start”. That was an example of how not to govern: to throw loads of money in an incontinent way, set things up and then see it slowly withdrawn. That is not the way to transform people’s lives.
I will respond to my noble friend in writing on how we deal with the issue, because it obviously involves DfE and others.
My Lords, 2030 will be 20 years since Michael Gove became Secretary of State for Education. Two-thirds of pupils currently achieve the expected standards in literacy and numeracy at the end of primary, which the noble Baroness, Lady Wyld, just referred to. Mission five of the White Paper anticipates this jumping magically to 90% by 2030. The child who takes those SATs in 2030 starts reception this September. What is going to change for that child’s journey through primary school? The Minister talked about the details earlier. Let us have the details on the transformation of primary school that is coming.
Okay, test the Minister’s knowledge on the details of a policy area he is not Minister for—I am not sure that is very constructive. It is important to measure progress; that is a start point. I remember schools in my part of London at which 50% did not meet the minimum standards of employability, so we start in a better place and are setting a mission to be in a far better place by 2030. As I said, the commitment in this White Paper—and I am sure there are many other commitments—is to continue ensuring that there are schools of choice in local areas to which parents want to send their kids to give them the best possible start in life.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for taking questions on this Statement, and in so doing declare my interest as chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research. I welcome the focus on health and extending healthy life expectancy as part of this levelling-up agenda. Are the Minister and Her Majesty’s Government content that the opportunities afforded by the passage of the current Health and Care Bill through your Lordships’ House and this Parliament are being fully exploited and addressed in terms of the levelling-up agenda for health, with particular reference to the co-ordination between local government and institutions providing healthcare with regard to addressing the disparities that drive inequalities in health outcomes and the research agenda at a local level, which needs to be addressed to achieve these objectives?
My Lords, it is an incredibly good question from someone who actually knows what he is talking about. I thank the noble Lord for raising this. I declare an interest as the son of a vascular surgeon who ran his service for more than 30 years in our local hospital. One of the great frustrations, of course, is the Berlin Wall between health and social care, which this Bill is trying to address. As someone who spent 20 years without becoming a vice-president of the Local Government Association—it did not give that to me, so I cannot declare that interest—I can say that it is important to address that. The systems need to come together, which is the commitment, to ensure that we do not have that friction between the two and that we get the care organised in the most efficient way possible to give people the best possible start and a healthy lifestyle so that they can reach their potential.