Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Metcalfe quizzes Clegg on devolving power to Essex

SOUTH BASILDON and East Thurrock MP. Stephen Metcalfe rose on the floor of the House of Commons to quiz the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg on devolving powers out to the county.

Stephen Metcalfe

“What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on devolving power from Westminster and Whitehall?”

Jonathan Lord (Woking, Conservative)

What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on devolving power from Westminster and Whitehall.

Nicholas Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council; Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)

I regularly meet ministerial colleagues to discuss the Government’s work to devolve power to the most appropriate level, and we are achieving that through local enterprise partnerships, local government finance reforms, giving local authorities a general power of competence, and city deals. We have also accepted in full or in part 81 of Lord Heseltine’s 89 recommendations, which build on that work to decentralise power and drive growth. We have delivered a referendum in Wales, which resulted in the Assembly assuming primary law-making powers, and we established the Silk commission. In addition, the UK and Scottish Governments are working together to ensure the smooth implementation of the Scotland Act 2012, which represents the greatest devolution of fiscal powers from London in 300 years.

Stephen Metcalfe 

Although I recognise the importance of the city deal in delivering opportunities for growth, does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that devolving power to our county councils, such as Essex, can have an equally effective impact on developing local growth?

Nicholas Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council; Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)

Devolution at all levels is a virtuous thing. The more we can devolve power and control over money and decision making from Whitehall to the town hall, and from the town hall to local areas, the better. One of the exciting insights of the Heseltine report, which we are determined to act on, is precisely to give local areas, led—not entirely, but in part—by the local enterprise partnerships in each area, a real opportunity to draw down powers and resources from Whitehall, which have been hoarded at the centre for so long.

Jonathan Lord (Woking, Conservative)

I welcome what the Deputy Prime Minister has to say about devolving power to local government and the progress made to date. Does he agree that in the medium term we should be looking to local government to be self-financing—not only keeping and setting council tax, but keeping business rates as well? That would be the way towards real power and accountability.

Nicholas Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council; Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)

As my hon. Friend knows, the coalition Government are introducing the biggest devolution of control over business rate revenues in a generation. Of course we cannot completely devolve it because that would mean that those areas that had the wealth locally to sustain themselves would be fine, and those that did not would not, so we need some kind of mechanism to make sure there is fairness in the system. However, the reforms, particularly of business rate revenues, that we have presided over are the biggest act of fiscal devolution in a very long time.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest

More articles