Grahame Morris MP spoke in the Report Stage of the Internal Markets Bill this afternoon.
Speech in full:
“Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker, and it’s a pleasure to follow the Honourable Member for Wealden and I wish to speak to New Clause 3 and, in particular, towards progress towards drawing up the shared prosperity fund. The English regions, and in particular communities like mine, are in urgent need of investment so I want to focus my remarks in the original Bill on clauses 46 and 47 of the Internal Market Bill, and New Clause 3, and this relates to the replacement of EU structural funds with a UK shared prosperity fund. Indeed Madam Deputy Speaker, the shared prosperity fund is a mechanism by which the Government can deliver their levelling up and building back better agenda and, with all due respect to Hon and Rt Hon Members from Northern Ireland, from Scotland and from Wales, this is an issue not just for the devolved nations and regions, it’s a huge issue for many of us in left-behind former industrial areas. It is somewhat disappointing that, three months until the end of the transition period, details of the scheme are still very sparse. These structural funds, Madam Deputy Speaker, to promote economic growth and deliver infrastructure, have never been more important. The divisions and inequalities that have been highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic are deeper and wider today, but they did exist previously. As we’ve learned from previous crises, the global financial crash in 2008, it’s the weaker regional economies that are hit first, and hit hardest, by any economic shock. We need devolution, not only for the nations of the United Kingdom, but for the English regions, that are to a large degree disadvantaged by central Government. The ideal place to start is the shared prosperity fund. If it is to work properly and effectively,, and in a timely fashion, it needs to be in the hands of town halls rather than Whitehall. In the little bit of time I’ve got, I want to give one practical example Madam Deputy Speaker to illustrate the point, and it’s housing in my constituency in Horden. In 2015, housing association Accent Housing abandoned their responsibilities, and with the consent of Ministers and the former Homes and Communities Agency, the properties in Horden were auctioned off in a fire sale – some for as little as £10,000, and it led to an influx and a plethora of private absentee landlords that have blighted this village and many others. Five years later, the numbered streets in Horden have the highest concentration of crime in County Durham, as well as some of the worst housing conditions in the North East. Durham County Council have consulted extensively and produced a plan which has been presented to Government time and time again, but there are practical difficulties discussing regeneration at a national level when the issues encompass several Government departments; Treasury, Communities, Housing & Local Government, Business, Energy and the Home Office, and I did raise it again this morning but it’s vital we have cross-departmental working on these issues. I’m confident that, if the resources were made available through the shared prosperity fund then the regeneration plan like the one that we’ve developed for Horden, would be given the green light. Brexit must mean something different for the left-behind areas of the United Kingdom. It can’t be a continuation of bad policy. Otherwise, the slogan ‘take back control’, used frequently by the Prime Minister, will be nothing more than empty rhetoric, a broken promise, and lost opportunities for communities like the ones I represent.”