HC Deb 12 January 1999 vol 323 cc93-4
5. Mr. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough)

When the regional development agency in Yorkshire and Humberside will be officially established. [63569]

The Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning (Mr. Richard Caborn)

Regional development agencies for the eight English regions outside London were established on 14 December 1998 when the chairmen and board members were appointed. They will take over their executive functions on 1 April 1999.

Mr. Ennis

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, which I am sure will be extremely well received by many people and organisations in Yorkshire and Humberside. Does my hon. Friend agree that the new RDA will be an excellent vehicle for driving forward the agenda of a better inward investment strategy for the region, as well as promoting better co-operation between the training and enterprise councils, both of which are critical to the future successful regeneration of Yorkshire and Humberside?

Mr. Caborn

Absolutely. The RDAs will consider matters strategically. The previous Conservative Government left my hon. Friend's sub-region of South Yorkshire, with Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, performing at around 66 per cent. of GDP per capita relative to the European regions' average. That is the dire mess in which the previous Administration left us. We are intent on tackling that in partnership with all the stakeholders in the regions. As my hon. Friend said, the TECs and inward investment will have an important role in that.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

What concrete steps does the Minister envisage to prevent subsidy warfare on inward investment among the development agencies and, notably, between them and the Scottish Executive? When will he publish the concordat which, it is alleged, sets out the rules of the game between Scotland and its Parliament and the English regions?

Mr. Caborn

Common sense already prevails within the regional development agencies: three of the northern development agencies have already come together in relation to inward investment from north America. On the wider question of the United Kingdom, we shall return to that matter in a few weeks with the concordat on inward investment that we promised the House, and we shall deliver on that in the near future.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on handling the introduction of regional development agencies with such speed. That is to the benefit of the regions. Some of the agencies in the regions were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, East and Mexborough (Mr. Ennis), but others should be working with the regional development agencies, including local authorities through their chambers. Will my hon. Friend ensure that there will be co-ordination of agencies to the best advantage of the regions, especially Yorkshire and Humberside?

Mr. Caborn

Yorkshire and Humberside region was the first to get the regional chambers up and running; indeed, there is partnership between the chambers, which are mainly in the public sector, and the regional development agencies, which are mainly in the private sector. All the signs to date are that a strong working relationship is developing for the betterment of the eight English regions. Not one English region outside London is not performing above the average of the European regions in wealth creation, in GDP per capita terms.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

Under regional development agencies, will Ministers still be able to favour their own constituencies in priorities for spending programmes? For example, how can the Department justify committing £53 million to the A1033 Hedon road improvement scheme in Kingston upon Hull ahead of so many other equally, or more, deserving schemes in other regions, such as the £41 million A63 Selby bypass, or the A3 Hindhead bypass, which is not in the Government's programme at all? Could it be that the Deputy Prime Minister is anti-car everywhere, except in his own constituency?

Mr. Caborn

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's question has to do with regional development agencies; it shows marked ignorance on his part, because the matter does not come under their remit. However, in respect of the transport part of his question—which, I have no doubt, my hon. Friends with responsibility for transport matters will answer—that point was in the list of priorities that we set before the House and, indeed, was agreed by the House.