Regional Economic Inequalities

Treasury – in the House of Commons at on 19 March 2024.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Labour, Manchester, Gorton

What recent fiscal steps he has taken to help reduce regional economic inequalities.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

What recent fiscal steps he has taken to help reduce the level of economic inequality between the north and south of England.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

The Government continue to tackle regional economic inequalities and level up the United Kingdom. The Government are empowering local leaders through a range of devolution deals, regenerating places across the country and investing in vital infrastructure.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Labour, Manchester, Gorton

In response to this month’s Budget, the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research North has said that

“This Budget is the government’s admission that it has given up on levelling up this parliament, despite there being much left to do.”

Delivering on the Government’s levelling-up commitments would mean that my constituents would benefit from reduced social welfare dependency, increased earnings potential, and improved health and wellbeing. Does the Minister not think that my constituents and all citizens outside London and the south-east deserve the benefits that come with economic prosperity?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

We are committed to levelling up, and are delivering on it across the country. Median pay growth has been higher in every region outside London and the south-east under this Government, and the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is receiving £19 million from round 1 of the levelling-up fund and £20 million from round 3. We have announced a Greater Manchester trailblazer devolution deal and a Greater Manchester investment zone, which will bring more jobs and prosperity for all of his constituents.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

I have heard what Ministers have said this morning, and I must be living in an alternative universe. Liverpool has some of the most deprived wards in the country, which have experienced poverty and destitution over the past 14 years as a result of austerity. Some 300,000 people have accessed the household support fund, and while we are a resilient city and will continue to support those households, can the Minister explain what safety net will be put in place to support those in poverty and destitution when the household support fund ends in six months’ time?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the fact that we have extended the household support fund for the most vulnerable. That is on the back of £96 billion of support during the energy crisis and nearly £400 billion of support through the global pandemic. I would just point out to the hon. Lady that the fundamental difference between Conservative Members and Labour Members is that we believe the best route out of poverty is through work, and our party is increasing employment.

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

Across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, most jobs are supplied by very small businesses, many of which fall below the VAT threshold. Given the economic inequalities around the region, the increase of the VAT threshold to £90,000 is very welcome, but the threshold being that low and the cliff-edge effect of going from zero to 20% have a chilling impact on growing small businesses and providing all-year-round jobs. Will the Minister consider introducing some sort of taper for that £90,000 threshold, and increasing the VAT threshold further—maybe in the region of £120,000?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

My hon. Friend is right: we increased the VAT threshold for small businesses, which will benefit 28,000 businesses across the country. We feel that the £90,000 threshold strikes the right balance between managing public finances sustainably and supporting businesses, but as my hon. Friend knows, we keep these things under review.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

The port of Milford Haven in my constituency has been right out in front, taking a lead in investing in decarbonisation and showing how it can boost the economy of Wales and reduce inequality. Yesterday, it was told that its bid to the Government’s floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme—its port funding scheme—had been rejected out of hand. Will my hon. Friend ask his good friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet me to talk about the important work being done at the UK’s leading oil and gas port, and about how the UK Government can support those efforts financially?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies The Exchequer Secretary

FLOWMIS is an incredibly important scheme in improving and enhancing our ability to expand floating offshore wind. We are a huge supporter of my right hon. Friend’s constituents and of the whole of Wales. If the Chancellor cannot meet him, I would be very happy to do so.