HC Deb 21 June 1995 vol 262 cc344-5
15. Mr. Day

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about regional government in the north-west. [28041]

Mr. Gummer

I have received no representations in favour of regional government in the north-west and I doubt whether anybody ever will.

Mr. Day

My right hon. Friend will know that in my eight years as Member of Parliament for Cheadle I have received no such representations from business men in my constituency or within the region and further, and that in my eight years as a vice-president of Stockport chamber of commerce I have received no such representations from businesses in Stockport requiring regional assemblies. Does he agree that the north-west is a powerhouse for exporters, high-tech industry and aerospace and is doing great stuff for Britain? Will he ensure that that remains so and never even consider the Labour party's ridiculous proposal for regional assemblies? What would they do other than get in the way of private industry?

Mr. Gummer

But I am sure that my hon. Friend recognises that we have had no requests from the Labour leader of Manchester council or from the Labour leadership in Lancashire for a regional assembly. Nobody wants a regional assembly, not even the Opposition, but they have to support it because it is the only way of ensuring that Scottish Members of Parliament can vote on English issues, while English Members of Parliament cannot vote on Scottish issues. We all know perfectly well why the Labour party is so silent, with the single exception of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts), who is busy wanting regional authorities to make up for his very sad past. Labour Members are keeping quiet because they know that it has nothing to do with the governance of Britain, but concerns the Labour party's determination to fix the electorate.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

In so as far as many decisions relating to my constituency and the constituency of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) are actually taken in the north of England—they are taken in Preston, Manchester and, in my case, Newcastle—surely there already is a regional tier of government?

Mr. Gummer

No. Ministers are, perfectly properly, advised by civil servants, but Ministers take the decisions and are accountable to the House. The Opposition want not only Ministers responsible to the House but five tiers of government. The hon. Gentleman would not put up with it for a moment. He would insist that he had powers in the House. He should speak out in his own party against the silly devolution plans that it is putting forward.

Mr. Elletson

Will my right hon. Friend give the House his latest estimate of the cost to the taxpayer of an extra tier of local government in the north-west? Will he tell us how much more tax the people of Lancashire would have to pay for the privilege of being governed from Manchester?

Mr. Gummer

Now that we have the Labour party's scheme for the south-west we are applying it to the whole country and working out what it will cost. We will then be able to give my hon. Friend a much more detailed breakdown. I hope that my hon. Friend has noticed that, at the same time as advocating an extra tier of government that would increase costs for businesses, the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) is attacking the British tourist industry and making people afraid to go on holiday in Britain—because she does not even care about putting party political profit ahead of the people of Blackpool.

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