Some 2.5 million people are economically inactive as a result of long-term illness, and half a million have left the labour market due to ill health since 2019. Does the Secretary of State accept that tackling health inequalities and improving health outcomes in deprived communities such as Birkenhead is essential to achieving equitable economic growth? Can he inform the House what conversations he has had with colleagues across the Cabinet about the need for a holistic economic strategy that recognises that health and wealth are inextricably linked?
It is important that we take into account the issues of poverty and regional variations to which the hon. Gentleman refers. They lie right at the heart of all the decisions we have taken. We have come forward in recent times with significant cost of living support measures. My hon. Friend Mims Davies will be taking through the remaining stages of the Social Security (Additional Payments) (No. 2) Bill this very afternoon to address the people to whom the hon. Gentleman refers.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend saw my article in The Times a few weeks ago, but it discussed opportunities for towns, such as Mansfield, that have specific local requirements when it comes to tackling economic inactivity, the opportunities of building bespoke local schemes with local employers and training providers, and the opportunities from those relationships on a local level as part of a wider strategy within the region. What is his stance on devolving decision-making powers in this space down to local areas?
My hon. Friend raises a significant and important point. There are areas, particularly around the Work and Health programme, where we have done exactly that. We are engaged in discussions, contingent upon or subsequent to the White Paper that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published on levelling up, and in particular with areas such as the west midlands and Greater Manchester, to make sure that we leverage the knowledge, know-how, expertise and all the resources they have at the local level to continue to bring people back into work.
It is always a joy at Question Time to hear Labour MPs supporting Labour policy, but even more so to hear Conservative MPs supporting Labour’s policy of localising our efforts to get people back to work. On that, may I ask the Secretary of State something? I have been listening to what he has said, and I know that he will not pre-empt the details of the inactivity review, but can he just confirm that one of its objectives will be to rebalance our economy, particularly in this connection between health and labour supply?
That is at the heart of our manifesto, Madam Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.] Sorry, Mr Speaker! Where did I get that from? It is a sign of the times. Right at the heart of our manifesto, and of the Government’s raison d’être, is the need to make sure that we level up communities across the United Kingdom. Of course, our action will take many forms, but one of them is most certainly the support that we will provide to make sure that, up and down the country, there is equality among those seeking work, and those who are economically inactive, and that they have the same opportunities.