I am here to support the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose). I am all too aware that my constituency does not qualify for money from the levelling-up fund and we have only a small chance of getting any money from the community renewal fund, but I am here to give my support for two reasons: first, the generic, and secondly, the specific.
On the generic case, too often in our country, as many of us will attest from our time in Parliament, areas of deprivation that happen to be in the same district or constituency as areas of relative affluence can disappear in the data. The sensitivity and specificity of the data can mean that they do not show up at all. That is certainly the case with the town of Weston-super-Mare, where, as my hon. Friend has said, the data is very clear. However, if we add the data of the rest of the parliamentary constituency, we see that it is not at all clear, and if we then add the data from the rest of the North Somerset district—which, as he has said, includes my constituency, one of the most affluent in the country—it can all but disappear.
When we consider the differences in Weston-super-Mare itself, we find that the unemployment rate is twice that of my constituency next door. The health profile of my constituency is much better than that of Weston-super-Mare. Income is higher and the quality of jobs is better.
Lest anyone thinks that this is a case of pure altruism, let me turn to the specifics. Given that Weston-super-Mare is the biggest town in our district, its status matters. It gets many more tourists than places such as Clevedon, which is a very well-kept, upmarket Victorian tourist town in my constituency. Most visitors, however, go to Weston-super-Mare, and the quality of the services they receive is important to the status of the district as a whole.
It is also very important that, just because someone lives in a relatively poor part of a wealthy area, they must not be disregarded. I have often felt that the two things that nobody in this country wants to be is poor in a rich area or sick in a healthy area, because when it comes to services, they tend to be not ignored but not seen by those who plan public provision. Therefore, this debate is important for all the reasons that my hon. Friend has set out today and for the purposes to which the money could be put. Although my constituents recognise that they would not benefit directly from the money, they would benefit indirectly by the improved status that Weston-super-Mare could enjoy.
In conclusion, given that this is being done on a constituency basis, one of my councillors asked, “Why won’t our constituency get levelling-up money?” I had to point out to him that it is the status of our constituency, as demonstrated by many of the indicators, that people are levelling up to. It is not something to level up from. I can therefore say, with the greatest sincerity, that we are completely as one—including our council, whose leadership does not share our political views—in believing that this would benefit all of the people in North Somerset, whether they be direct recipients of the money or indirect recipients of the benefits it would achieve. I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that the bids to both the levelling-up fund and the community renewal fund are entirely cross-district bids, for all the reasons set out so eloquently by my constituency neighbour. I hope that the Minister will take fully into account the point that deficiencies in the sensitivity and specificity of data should not mean that, just because someone happens to be poor in a wealthy area, they are not seen by this Government.