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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Phil Hope): The debate should be renamed. It has not shown confusion in the Government's regional policy, but it has shown a great deal of confusion in the Opposition's regional policy. They voted against Scottish devolution, and then had to accept it; they voted against Welsh devolution, and then had to accept it; and they voted against the Mayor and the Assembly in London, and then had to accept it.

The Opposition opposed regional chambers, in which there are now 150 Conservative councillors sitting in active support. The Opposition opposed regional development agencies but now want to engage with them, although I am not sure what that means. We discovered in the debate today that although the Opposition opposed the referendums in the first place, they now insist that they take place—a damascene U-turn if ever I saw one. They do not seem to want more politicians but they oppose unitary structures. The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry)
 
30 Jun 2004 : Column 359
 
seemed to suggest that up to 2 per cent. of people in this country should become councillors. That would be about 1 million councillors—rather too many, I think.

Mr. Curry: I was merely pointing out that the United Kingdom is relatively light on elected representatives, compared with almost every other country in the European Union, so we should not be frightened by the idea that we have people to represent the citizen, rather than always assuming that the only way to go is towards fewer councils covering larger areas.

Phil Hope: Opposition Front Benchers complained throughout the debate that they do not want more politicians at regional level. The Opposition cannot have it both ways.

The Opposition's attitude to regional policy is as confused as the membership of their Front-Bench team. It is one of our favourite pastimes on the Government Front Bench to try to guess which of the eight members of the Opposition Front-Bench team will bother to turn up at various debates on regional government. I led a debate on the Northern way in the Regional Affairs Committee, at which the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) represented the Conservatives—in fact, he was the only Conservative present.

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), who is one of the sponsors of the motion, cannot be present. We understand that she is in Birmingham campaigning in the by-election. I hope she reminds people there of her commitment to reintroduce the poll tax, and the shadow Chancellor's proposals to cut £57 million from Birmingham city council's budget if the Conservatives were ever to return to power.

The Liberal Democrats have their own internal confusions, which we have heard about today, so there is no change there. More worrying is the proposal of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) that we should have a boundary review. Nothing would delay elected regional assemblies more than having a boundary review. The consultation would result in inordinate delay.

As the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin) and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton said, this debate, as highlighted by the Sheffield university report, is all about bringing economic development, democracy and accountability for public spending to the regions. It is about developing regional policy.

The first generation of regional policy was essentially the ambulance work of getting Government help to the regions in the early 1930s. The second generation, in the 1960s and 1970s, was all about large capital and tax incentives, about which we heard something this afternoon, to get people to locate in the regions. Both those approaches were inflexible and top-down. Neither did enough to close the gap between areas of high unemployment and areas of low unemployment—regional disparities, as the Sheffield university report shows, continue to grow.
 
30 Jun 2004 : Column 360
 

We are now in the third and new generation of regional economic policy measures that seek to strengthen the indigenous sources of growth in the regions.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): My hon. Friend is now on some interesting territory. He, like me, supports the Greater London authority, which is, in effect, a city region. If a city region model is appropriate for London, why should it not be appropriate for conurbations such as Merseyside and Greater Manchester?

Phil Hope: The report shows the value that the core cities give to economic regeneration in the regions, but the point about the Greater London assembly, which was made in today's debate, is that it provides the model for the regional assemblies for the north-west, north-east and Yorkshire and Humber. It has been particularly successful in standing up for London, and we want similar assemblies to stand up for the northern regions, to attract investment, to create democratic accountability and to sponsor the regional economic growth that is so important.

We are committed to a far-reaching and radical programme of constitutional change and devolution. We have been transforming this country from what it was in 1997—one of the most centralised in the western world.

A number of different points have been made about powers. I cannot go through all the details, but it was interesting how in today's debate even Front-Bench spokesmen, the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton and others on both sides of the argument were all saying that what we want is stronger devolution; we want more powers and more spending to be devolved to the regions. This is the start of that exact process. This is the opportunity for those regions to grab back central Government's power, to stand up for themselves, and to start this process, going forward into this third generation of regional economic development, which both sides of the House appear to support—even my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer), who seemed to be arguing for more discrimination for the north. This is not about discrimination; it is about handing power back so that people in the north can have the resources and the powers that they require.

Time is running out, but I assure the House that we will be introducing a Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local and Regional Government said in his opening remarks. We are on course to publish it in July once the dates for the referendums have been set, and we will ensure that those votes will be held in a postal referendum because the people deserve the opportunity to have their say, and postal voting, as we have seen from the experience in June, increases turnout. We have made the commitment not to proceed with all-postal referendums, as planned, if the Electoral Commission produces convincing evidence leading to the conclusion that it would be unsafe to do so. That is the proper reaction of a Government who are committed to encouraging participation in the democratic process, but who are equally committed to protecting the integrity of the balloting process as well.
 
30 Jun 2004 : Column 361
 

Opposition Members made a number of points about the information campaign, and we even had a quote from a QC on which the Tories wasted a lot of money. Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, has replied to the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, saying:

The Government have made a clear commitment and the regional development agencies have already achieved much in boosting the regional economies. It is time to go further. We believe that elected regional assemblies can further improve regional economies, offering democratic joined-up government and a new perspective, vision and opportunity to the regions. The Opposition's motion is incoherent and backward looking. It reflects the confusion of a party that has got it wrong in every devolution debate in the past decade and that would deny the people of the northern regions a choice.

It will be for the people of the regions to choose in a referendum whether they wish to have a regional assembly. Our policy for elected regional assemblies is about choice—a choice for the people, and a choice to provide a better future for the north.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 119, Noes 320.

Division No. 209
[4:45 pm


AYES

Amess, David
Ancram, rh Michael
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baldry, Tony
Baron, John (Billericay)
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Bellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James (Beverley)
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Stephen
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, rh Eric
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Howard, rh Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, rh Michael
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Dame Marion
Ruffley, David
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Hugh Robertson and
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


NOES

Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Byers, rh Stephen
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chidgey, David
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Lammy, David
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, rh Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Watts, David
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Gillian Merron and
Charlotte Atkins


Question accordingly negatived.


 
30 Jun 2004 : Column 364
 

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


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