HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 c556
37. Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

What plans she has to set up a Standing Committee for the English regions. [55920]

Mrs. Beckett

The Standing Orders already provide for a Standing Committee on Regional Affairs, although it has not met for many years. I am considering whether the Committee might serve a useful purpose in future and how it might be convened.

Mr. Mitchell

I am delighted to hear that. With the establishment of regional development agencies and the possibility of regional devolution, we are clearly moving in a regional direction. It would be useful if each English region—particularly Yorkshire and Humberside, which is the best of them and has a population equal to that of Scotland and problems that are, in many respects, more severe than those of Scotland—should have its own Committee to study its problems.

Mrs. Beckett

I am well aware of the strong regional loyalties in the House. As I say, I am considering whether changes can be made to improve the scrutiny of business. As we all agree, that is what we are here for.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

If such a Standing Committee were established, would its locus be to find out how regional governments can possibly be paid for without demanding extra from the taxpayer, as has been claimed? Does the right hon. Lady agree that people do not want regional governments in England? Would that not cost the taxpayer money? Is it not another example of jobs for the boys?

Mrs. Beckett

As no one has the smallest intention of forcing regional government on anybody, the hon. Gentleman's remarks are interesting but not precisely relevant.

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