Levelling up is a UK-wide project. That is why we have delivered city and growth deals across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; why we have launched our investment zones programme, including zones in the north-east of Scotland and Glasgow; and why we are investing £4.8 billion through the levelling-up fund in projects ranging from the transformation of Burnley’s historic mills to the development of a cultural quarter in Peterhead.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. However, as he develops these policies further, will he remember that even in apparently affluent areas, there are pockets that would benefit significantly from levelling-up investment, especially across Basildon and Thurrock? Will he therefore tell the House what plans he has to include those areas in the next round of investment?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and in particular, it is vital to make sure that we level up that community in Thurrock. Our plans to extend the economic development of Docklands east to make the Thames estuary a powerhouse for economic growth have been inspired by my hon. Friend’s work and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price).
Three important points. First, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that there are things we need to do to tackle the housing market, in particular the second homes issue. It is complex, as she understands, but there is more that needs to be done. Secondly, I hope she will support the proposed mayoral deal for York and North Yorkshire, which I think will give some of the powers necessary to deal with the problems she mentioned. Thirdly, the House of Lords in York, or for that matter Glasgow, would be a great thing.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, as we look forward, levelling up applies to need not geography, and that the most deprived areas in Basildon and Thurrock will see the benefits to allow south Essex to reach its full potential?
Yes, absolutely. We need to target need. We need to recognise that, in the south-east, London, Oxford and Cambridge are the three crown jewels generating wealth, but that there are communities that do not share in that prosperity. I should point out that one of the poorest areas, if not the poorest, in the country is Jaywick in the borough of Tendring, represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling). It is critically important that we work with local government leaders to address poverty wherever we find it.
The proposals that the hon. Member enjoins on me are the ones that we are seeking to bring forward. However, in fairness to the hon. Member, for whom I have a great deal of respect—he is a courageous and doughty campaigner—I can understand a degree of cynicism and/or scepticism, given some of the missteps we have had in the past. If we manage to make progress along the lines that he has outlined, I hope that he will be in a position then to say that his worst fears were not realised. I think it is perfectly legitimate for him, at this stage, to want to see the colour of other people’s money.
Morello Quarter in my constituency has issues not only with cladding but with other building defects such as the apparent lack of firebreaks. Will my right hon. Friend include those in the scope of the measures, or should I go back to my residents and tell them to pursue legal action against the developers, who do not want to engage with me or with them, to try to get a resolution and certainty?
It is our intention to ensure that those who are ultimately responsible—the ultimate owners of the freehold or the real owners of the building—pay in order to make it safe, but I will look specifically at the example that my hon. Friend raises to ensure that we can do everything we can to provide his constituents with the reassurance they deserve.
I have not had the opportunity to read all the evidence that was given yesterday, and indeed the Speaker has enjoined brevity on me, but I think that the public inquiry that we have been discussing is the right place to review all the evidence from every individual.
Everyone, no matter where they grow up, should have access to the same opportunities in life. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that a key part of the levelling-up agenda will be to improve teaching and provide support for schools and skills programmes in disadvantaged areas, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential?
The hon. Lady raises two important questions. The first is with respect to schools. The Minister for School Standards, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb), will be writing to local authorities and schools today, alongside Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to outline how schools can be used in a safe and appropriate way, but we are also making funding available to local authorities so that alternative venues other than schools can be used where appropriate.
The hon. Lady’s second point, relating to unfairness as a result of different restrictions perhaps occurring in different local government areas, is an important one, and one that we are taking into account as we plan for these local elections.
Yes of course. I have found that the Road Haulage Association, valuable organisation though it may be, has not always necessarily been the most constructive partner at every stage in the conversations that we needed to have. Nevertheless, I think it is the case that we are having conversations with it and others to ensure that these and the other IT systems that we need for the end of the transition period are in place.
The Government’s campaign to ensure that businesses are ready for the opportunities and to meet and master the challenges that come at the end of the transition period has seen an uptick in the preparedness of UK business, but there is much more that needs to be done. We published our reasonable worst case scenario last week to demonstrate the consequences if we do not all work together to ensure that we are ready for 1 January.
The hon. Lady asks about two very important matters. On the first, the inquiry is quite properly independent, and Ministers such as myself have no role or oversight. It is the case that the deputy Cabinet Secretary, the Director General for Propriety and Ethics, with the help of the Prime Minister’s external adviser on the Ministerial Code, will be conducting the conversations required. I am afraid I can say no more, because I know no more.
On the second question, the Intelligence and Security Committee’s membership was chosen by this House and an election has appropriately taken place, but whipping matters are quite properly matters for the respective Whips Offices of our parties and not for those who, like myself, exercise a different constitutional role.
Over 73% of my constituents voted to leave the EU and four years later we are finally going to have control of our own destiny. What can my right hon. Friend do to ensure that businesses and citizens are not only ready for the end of the transition period, but ready to embrace the new relationship with the rest of the world with hope, optimism and determination to succeed in the same way as my constituents?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It is important that we all work together. That is why throughout this week I have been talking to businesses large and small about the changes, challenges and opportunities as we leave the transition period at the end of this year. The Government’s information campaign should provide all businesses with the details they need in order to get going. If more needs to be done, this Government stand ready.