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I understand that the noble Lord has a deep-seated opposition to what we are doing. However, our proposals are widely supported by those whose job it is both to anticipate and to manage the future in practical ways. That came out in the consultation with a strong degree of consensus across the private and public sectors. The joint statement from the chief executives from the RDAs and the LGA, which was published last year, welcomed the strengthened role for local government in economic development and the introduction of a single regional strategy. As we have debated on a previous amendment, we do not want regional strategies that promote economic growth at all costs without full and proper regard and testing of whether they follow sustainable development principles.
I understand that we will probably not agree on the need for a regional dimension for policy. However, we genuinely believe that a single integrated strategy is more crucial given our economic circumstances and how we will have to plan for the future. It will provide a better mechanism to address the challenges and opportunities facing all our regions and will put in place important preconditions for recovery in a sustainable way.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer. It was quite long and I could give as long a reply with detailed arguments on all her points. I agree with virtually everything that she said towards the end, but I totally disagree that a regional strategy delivers it. Instead, we need a strategy worked out by authorities working together with a common aim and purpose.
In the south-east, where the authorities have no common identity and the distances are so great, this would be unworkable. Most regions in Europe have about 1.5 million people. We have established artificial regions in this country, but European regions are historical and there are some very small ones. There are some big ones in Germany and Spain, but generally regions throughout Europe are much smaller and therefore people in them have a greater ability to work
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After many years, what we want is some system that will work. To answer the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, one would not want to go back to the position pre-2004. A development from that would be bottom-up and one would not have the same type of plans that one had in 2004. On the sorts of arguments that we have all been making about how you take the local government frameworks through to a county level and then through to a sub-regional level, you would get some results on both economic and planning strategies. However, there will be no results from this new legislation.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the noble Lord says that we would not quite go back to where I think we would go back to if his amendment were carried. Can he explain to the House how we would get to this utopia without more than just this amendment?
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I agree. Certainly, if the noble Baroness would like, we can table a whole series of amendments that would make this work. The pre-2004 position would need rethinking because the world has changed a lot, but it was much more local. I would like to see the development of a much more bottom-up approach. We did not table a lot more amendments, because we did not want to detain the House for a long while. If anyone wanted a lot more detail about what might happen if there were ever a Conservative Government, they could read the Conservative Green Paper on local government.
Let us get back to this issue. I accept the noble Baronesss integrity on this and I think that she really believes it will work. It might work in some places, but it will not work in a lot of places. We are creating a piece of legislation, like we did four years ago, which someone will have to redo in two or three years time, because it will not work on the scale that has been suggested. I do not think that we will get very far today, but I should test the opinion of the House to make certain that it is on the record.
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