Levelling up regions key agenda for Prime Minister in Queen's Speech as he seeks to safeguard former "red wall" seats

The Prime Minister vowed yesterday to level up opportunity across the country following the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament, as well as committing that an inquiry into the pandemic will begin in the next year.

In a speech somewhat devoid of its usual pomp, the Queen set out the government’s legislative agenda over the next year in her first public appearance since the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh last month.

Key announcements included legislation to overhaul the adult education sector, and a Planning Bill to make it easier to build new homes, schools and hospitals.

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The Government also promised a “levelling-up White Paper” setting out how Mr Johnson intends to meet the promises made to voters in former Labour-voting areas.

In a speech somewhat devoid of its usual pomp, the Queen set out the government’s legislative agenda over the next year in her first public appearance since the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh last month.

Speaking after the Queen addressed MPs and members of the House of Lords, Boris Johnson said: “You will find flair and imagination and enthusiasm and genius distributed evenly across this country while opportunity is not, and we need to change that because it is not just a moral and social disgrace, it’s an economic mistake, it’s a criminal, waste of talent.”

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government’s plan “pits regions against each other in a fight for limited funding.”

The Queen, reading a speech pre-written by government, said: “My government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses, and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services.”

But campaigners and organisations yesterday said the commitments did not go far enough to secure prosperity for the regions in devolution and infrastructure.

And the new Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, hit out at the Government for failing to flesh out an Employment Bill to protect workers’ rights.

She said: “Our economic foundations were not strong enough going into the pandemic and as we thankfully emerge from it, people deserve something better than before

“We need a transformation of our economy, so all workers have not only the skills they need, but fair pay for a fair day’s work, and greater security and opportunities for the future.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “A credible plan for levelling up must focus on closing long-term barriers to productivity including connectivity, education and skills.

“Today we heard more promises across each of these priorities - now we need to see action.

“The north was promised a high-speed rail revolution and although we welcome the High Speed Bill announced today, we need clarity that both HS2 on the Eastern Leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail will be delivered in full to secure business confidence.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR director of research and engagement, said: “Promises to ‘level up’ the country are welcome, but after years of rhetoric and piecemeal announcements, people now expect to see meaningful action and more substantial devolution.”