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Exclusive: Northern Conservative MPs are pushing the government to put a “stronger voice” for the region on the front bench to accompany the implementation of the levelling-up white paper, which will be published on Wednesday.
PoliticsHome understands that Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has vowed to look at the possibility of creating new ministerial representation for the north in government after discussions with MPs this week.
A government source confirmed that the idea was being considered. “We always want more and stronger northern voices in government,” they told PoliticsHome.
Gove met with the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs (NRG) on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the publication of the highly-anticipated white paper, to discuss its content.
The group, made up of around 50 Conservative MPs including so-called ‘Red Wall’ Tories elected in 2019, has met regularly with Gove as the landmark text has been put together. Minister Neil O’Brien, who Boris Johnson handed a key role in devising levelling-up policy, was also in atrendance.
PoliticsHome revealed last month that the group was planning to grow its influence within the Tory party by hosting its very own political party-style conference in a northern town this spring.
NRG MPs, who are fronted by former minister Jake Berry, have called on Boris Johnson to ensure there is a strong voice for the region as part of its levelling-up plans. The caucus is concerned that in the past government figures have been outflanked by Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor for Greater Manchester, on northern issues.
The white paper will set out twelve “missions” that ministers want to achieve by 2030, The Times reported today, in a cross-department bid to help people live happier and longer lives.
These will include reducing the difference in life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest parts of the country, as well as regional gaps in performance. The government will also vow to increase pay, ramp up devolution, and expand 4G and 5G across the country.
Housing will also form a major part of the white paper, the report added, with the government set to unveil plans to make private landlords ensure their properties meet a national set of standards.
The white paper, which the government originally intended to release before Christmas, is central to the Prime Minister’s policy agenda having been core to his election-winning manifesto in 2019.
Downing Street will hope that its publication will put policy back on the agenda and take focus away from the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal and questions facing Johnson’s leadership.
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