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EU Structural Funds: Least Developed Regions — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:47 pm, 26th June 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate Paul Blomfield on proposing and securing the debate. I put him on notice that I intend to finish early to give him the customary ability to say that he disagrees with most of what I say. I will let him think about that while I am talking—he may surprise himself.

Many hon. Members have spoken in the debate, and I was most encouraged by the heartfelt speeches by the Opposition spokespeople, the hon. Members for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) and for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods), about the importance of this issue. It really demonstrated to me the passion there is across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to achieve and drive a local community. As a proud Unionist, I was reminded of the awesome foursome of our United Kingdom, which we should hold preciously in our hearts. When the UK shared prosperity fund comes forward, I hope it will demonstrate our commitment to create growth in every single part of the UK, wherever it may be.

We have had a wide-ranging debate. As well as talking about the shared prosperity fund, the hon. Member for Sheffield Central, the proposer of the debate, took the opportunity to make his fundamental point that the Government have not supported the regions. I fundamentally disagree. This is the Government who created the northern powerhouse, and we are investing hundreds of millions—in fact, billions—of pounds directly into the northern economy. We did not see that under the last Labour Government. If the hon. Gentleman wants proof that the northern powerhouse is real, he has only to look to Dan Jarvis, the proud Mayor of the Sheffield city region, who is sitting a few seats down from him, and to his four mayoral colleagues across the north of England.

We heard from many hon. Members about our being such a centralised country. For the first time in a generation in England, this Government have taken power, money and influence away from London and returned it to our regions. Surely that is a good thing. I am sure it is widely supported by Members across the Chamber. Those of us who want to see all areas of our country thrive should welcome that decentralisation and return of powers to mayors and regions.