United Kingdom Internal Market Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Mary Kelly FoyMain Page: Mary Kelly Foy (Labour - City of Durham)
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(5 months ago)Commons Chamber
The debates have been robust and challenging, and I have learned so much about Scottish politics. It has been a pleasure to listen to the sibling rivalry across the House. I have learned a great deal—thank you.
This evening we will be asked to vote on a Bill that moves us towards a situation in which the Government will break their own international treaty obligations. That will make negotiating future deals even harder, at a time when the Government should be focusing on tackling covid rather than reopening Brexit battles. However, I am encouraged by the number of amendments and new clauses in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) and for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), and all those who have worked tirelessly to try to improve the Bill.
New clause 3 would place on the Government a duty to consult, monitor, report on and review parts of the Bill, including the shared prosperity fund. That is incredibly important to my constituency, which is in desperate need of levelling-up opportunities. My constituents have grown weary of glitzy marketing campaigns such as the northern powerhouse or social mobility, which have failed to deliver meaningful and widespread opportunities for them and their families. New clause 3 would militate against the shared prosperity fund going the same way, because Ministers would have to return to the House to update hon. Members. That report would allow us to examine whether the internal market will deliver desperately needed opportunities across our country. Let us not forget that the Centre for Cities called the UK
“the most geographically unequal developed economy in the world”.
The new clause would also require oversight of any cynical attempt to use the shared prosperity fund as a reward for Conservative MPs in red wall seats.
There is an urgent need to bring new jobs and development out of the south-east and into communities that have talent, people, and enthusiasm but are in need of opportunities. If we are to spread growth around the country in a consistent way, the power to do that must be in the hands of local leaders. By the time the Government report back, we should not still be debating whether the Bill strips devolved authorities of power and undermines the Union. Instead, we should be talking about how it places opportunity in the hands of local representatives—the very people who work in those communities, and know them far better than centralised Whitehall Departments ever could.
The shared prosperity fund replaces the EU structural fund, which many parts of our country benefited from. In Yorkshire and Humber, that fund was about €796 million. Currently, when drawing down resources from that fund, priorities for support funding need to be set locally and delivered by those engaged in the projects locally. The Government should deliver the fund by building on that principle of engagement, and by empowering our devolved Administrations, local authorities and elected mayors. The Government must trust our regional leaders to do what is right for their communities.
The Bill is about Britain’s reputation and position in the world. It is also about how we serve our communities better and ensure that our prosperity is shared properly across our country, on the basis of what would have been received had the referendum result been different.
A number of new clauses and amendments would improve the Bill, and I will be supporting them fully today.
Peace is not maintained by agreements on paper alone; it is maintained by the hard work of communities and, yes, politicians. For 22 years, that peace has been built. While it is a testament to all the people involved that it seems far fetched to believe that sectarian violence, unrest and instability might return, it would be a massive mistake if the Government were complacently to sweep that possibility under the carpet.