Boris Johnson has promised East Lancashire Tory MP Jake Berry he will seek to drive forward the government's 'levelling up' agenda from the backbenches.

The former Northern Powerhouse minister and Rossendale and Darwen MP tackled the deposed Conservative leader on the issue at his last Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Mr Berry told Mr Johnson: "I congratulate you on his work to tackle regional inequality in this country through your levelling-up agenda.

"As you rightly reflect with pride this summer on the work of both yourself and your government, will you urge all candidates in the leadership election and all colleagues in the House further to drive forward the levelling-up agenda to tackle inequality wherever it is found in the United Kingdom?"

Mr Johnson said: "I heartily agree with you.

"It is not just inequality; it is inequality of opportunity, and that is what levelling up addresses."

Lancashire Telegraph: Boris Johnson replies to Jake BerryBoris Johnson replies to Jake Berry

Mr Berry said afterwards: "I was delighted to get to ask a question in the Prime Minister's last ever PMQs.

"The Prime Minister became a bastion of hope for people in areas like ours with the levelling up agenda being a truly revolutionary plan to get the north the support it needs and deserves.

"I'm delighted the Prime Minister, like me, has urged candidates to ensure this policy stays as one of the core principles of the government."

In his capacity as chairman of the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, including those from the 'Red Wall' seats won from Labour at the 2019 General Election, Mr Berry wrote to all candidates for the Tory leadership on the issue.

His letter said: "The 50 members of the Northern Research Group are calling on leadership candidates to support the Northern Agenda - these pledges demonstrate our commitment to the levelling up agenda and to the northern voters who, in part delivered our 80 seat majority.

"Our four pledges are:

  • A minister for the north with direct responsibility for local growth and levelling up who has a seat at the cabinet table;
  • 'Voxbridge': two brand new vocational institutions in the north of England which will be the national vocation equivalents of Oxford and Cambridge with a high-skilled economic development corridor between them;
  • Devolution: a right to devolution for all areas of the United Kingdom; and
  • A levelling up formula to equalise and level up government spending around our UK to ensure areas which have for too long been forgotten about by Whitehall are no longer left behind."