Levelling-up Agenda

Treasury – in the House of Commons on 11th October 2022.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to fund the Government’s levelling-up agenda in the north of England.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to support levelling up.

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

It is a pleasure to answer my first question at the Dispatch Box, and to reply to Dan Jarvis, who responded to my maiden speech.

The White Paper “Levelling Up the United Kingdom” set out a clear plan to level up every corner of the UK by 2030. We are also driving growth and unlocking housing across the UK with our new investment zones, and we are continuing to invest billions in regional infrastructure. That includes £1.7 billion allocated under the levelling-up fund, of which £500 million went to the north.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

It is a pleasure to see the Minister at the Dispatch Box, and I congratulate her on her appointment.

Previous Chancellors have not delivered the level of transformative resource required for levelling up. I know that the present Chancellor understands the huge potential that exists throughout the north of England, but it seems to many of us that the levelling-up agenda is sipping in the last chance saloon. Can the Minister say what will be done differently under this new Chancellor?

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

We are absolutely committed to the levelling-up agenda. South Yorkshire received £570 million through the regional cities transport scheme, £95 million through the levelling-up fund and £46 million through the shared prosperity fund, and our ambitions for levelling up continue.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Building on Bradford’s city of culture win and in a momentous year for Rugby League, I am supporting the plan for the transformation and regeneration of the home of the Bradford Bulls, the iconic Odsal stadium, to become a world-class sports, music and culture arena. This plan would be an incubator for the ambitions of the entire Bradford district, delivering more than £1 billion of socioeconomic benefits. Following the Bank of England’s repeated interventions, can the Minister confirm that round 2 of the levelling-up fund will still be going ahead in full, and will she and the Chancellor demonstrate that by meeting me, Bradford Council, the Bradford Bulls and the Rugby Football League to discuss our catalyst for growth?

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

I can confirm that we will be going ahead with the second round of the levelling-up fund. There should be decisions by the end of the year, and I wish the hon. Lady well with her bid. An independent assessment of the bids is going on at the moment, but if that meeting is possible, we will do it. Clearly we would need to decide if that was appropriate. I congratulate her on her success in the first round of the levelling-up bids, where she got £20 million for the Squire Lane leisure centre.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

The renewable energy sector is vital to my constituency and the neighbouring area, and it has done a great deal to level up the local economy. Can the Minister give me an assurance that support for the sector will continue?

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

We are very much committed to the sector, and I would be delighted to sit down with my hon. Friend to discuss this further.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

A key part of levelling up is the creation of investment zones, and the Chancellor will be aware of the proposals for a gigafactory at Coventry airport to support UK automotive manufacturing. Does the Minister agree that the joint application by the Labour Coventry City Council and the Conservative Warwickshire County Council for an investment zone at Coventry airport should be encouraged?

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

We are encouraging all higher and local authorities to look at the investment zones and to apply. I think they are a great tool for development, so I would absolutely encourage that application.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

“Never has so much chaos been inflicted on so many by so few” will be the motto that will reverberate down the eons from this Government. Do they actually still believe in this fairy tale of levelling up? Is it not now just a matter of how far they are going to level us all down?

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

Everything we are doing is being driven by a growth agenda so that we can level up all the way across the United Kingdom.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

The Eden Project North is, as far as I am aware, the only project in the second phase of the levelling-up round that has planning permission and land allocated. I would like to know when the decisions will be made so that we can get this shovel-ready scheme going. Eden has £50 million to put on the table, and we are asking for £50 million as match funding, in effect.

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan The Exchequer Secretary

Decisions on the second phase of the levelling-up round will be made by the end of the year, and I wish my hon. Friend well.