The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, has said it is a “bogus argument” to suggest there is no new money going into his flagship levelling-up agenda.
Gove defended long-awaited plans to close the gap between rich and poor parts of England in the face of accusations they contain no new money and little fresh thinking.
Responding to claims there is no new money for the wide-ranging plans, Gove told Sky News: “I think that’s a bogus argument because the chancellor gave us a huge cheque in the spending review and now we are spending it.
“We’re making sure in Wolverhampton, in Sheffield and in other areas that we put our money where our mouth is. And that we make sure that money which in the past was spent too much in London and the south-east is now spent in the north and the Midlands where it’s needed.”
Later on BBC Breakfast, he said: “The key thing about the spending review is that it gave me and other government departments a significant amount in the bank and now we’re cashing those cheques and the money is getting out.”
He told the programme the government had “12 big missions” for levelling up, adding the pledges “commit us to ensure that research and development spending, the sort of rocket fuel that will help our economy grow, is spread more equally and also that we tackle some of the other underlying inequalities in health and education and housing”.
People in the north of England and Midlands had been “overlooked and undervalued for years” by politicians, he said.
Gove declined an offer to appear on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, prompting the presenters to “empty chair” the minister – broadcasting an image of a vacant seat in which he would have appeared had he accepted the invitation.
'This empty chair represents empty policies.'
On the day that the long-awaited levelling up report is published, Michael Gove has decided to leave our chair empty.@susannareid100 and @adilray extend the invite for @michaelgove to come on the show and explain the report. pic.twitter.com/Xei02dVoM9
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) February 2, 2022
“The Brexit referendum was a wake-up call,” Gove told Sky News. “As well as a clear commandment to leave the European Union it was also a way of saying to people in SW1, people like me: ‘Look, it’s vital that you change the economic model of this country. It’s all very well if people are in London and the south-east in financial services and others do well, we don’t begrudge that. But you’ve got to listen to us.’”
Gove said mistakes had been made by “parties of both colours” and that “one of the things in the past is there have been sincere and committed attempts by politicians left and right to deal with this”.
“But nothing as comprehensive or as long-term as the plan that we’re setting out today,” he said.
He again raised the prospect of the House of Lords moving out of London as an example of levelling up.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve got our friends in the House of Lords who will have to move out of their current building, at the moment, because of the renovation of the Palace of Westminster.
“I think it’d be a really good thing if the House of Lords were to meet for at least part of the time in Glasgow or in York. I think it would do us all good.”