Memorandum by Mr Peter Martin-Kaye (RG
The ODPM experiment with regional assemblies
1999 to 2004 attendance of the South West Regional
Assembly and its committee meetings show that about 20 persons
have dominated the proceedings throughout those years. The full
Assembly only convenes on three days per year with little pretence
at debate. The meetings at the ODPM of the Assembly liaison bodythe
English Regions Network (ERN)reveal that many of the representatives
on these key occasions are in fact officials of the Assemblies.
As found by the Aulakh, Snape, Mawson study (2005) for the ERN
assemblymen recognise that the places are run by small cadres
of people. Virtually all decisions are taken in or, even commonly,
outside the committees.
The populace feels no connection with the Assemblies,
and Assemblymen none with the populace. These institutions have
regrettably served to increase the general disrepute in which
politics, politicians and public servants are held.
Whilst there are rather few genuinely regional
issues, there are some, as for example fisheries in the SW, although
oddly this has not attracted the SWRA's attention although global
warming has. But there is no question that the regions should
have good representation. One of the main problems with the ODPM
solution is that it undermines parliament and perhaps is intended
to do so. We cannot afford for parliament to be weakened in any
way. This is the place that encapsulates our national status and
aspirations and must be of stature and working capability that
attracts the best people to it.
A system is required that not only improves
regional representation but, contrary to the present arrangement,
strengthens parliament. It badly needs it.
This is readily achieved by giving sitting MPs
regional responsibility as well as constituency duties. This would
not add an extra layer of governance. It would retain our long
heritage of county structure. Nor would it be expensive. We already
elect MPs and pay them. Regional issues bear on their constituents
so they have to know about them. Yet if MPs are told that they
have no role in them, they will neglect these issues which will
thereupon receive less national attention than they will often
need. MPs cannot claim overwork since they have already surrendered
so many of their duties to Brussels. Without executive or legislative
power the MP assemblies could nevertheless work over regional
problems better to bring matured consensus to the House of Commons.
With modest secretariat they could sit perhaps half a dozen times
per year at various venues throughout the region, bringing much
needed and improved opportunity for the public to see parliamentary
process in action.