YORKSHIRE should take its lead from Germany, with a separate parliament for the North, if the region is to avoid being caught in an economic pincer movement between a booming London and a resurgent Scotland.
A political think-tank believes this approach would be preferable to the “city deals” that Ministers recently signed off for Leeds and Sheffield.
They give unprecedented transport and youth training responsibilities to local councils to help to counteract the devolved powers enjoyed by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It comes after the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, set up in memory of the one-time suffragette and Labour campaigner in the North, held a special conference to debate devolution policy.
“What emerged was a consensus that the North of England needs its own devolved government with powers comparable to those currently enjoyed by the people of London, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,” said Foundation chairman Barry Winter.
“We only have to look at post-war West Germany to see how successful regional government has been in creating an economic and political super-power. As long as England remains so centralised and London-focused, the North’s economy will never reach its full potential. A parliament for the North must work in a way that is open, democratic and inclusive. It’s about building a new kind of politics.”
The Yorkshire Post’s Fair Deal campaign continues to press the Government to implement a number of infrastructure, transport, energy and tourism policies which are pivotal to the region’s future after development agencies, like Yorkshire Forward, were wound up.
However Foundation members expressed strong opposition to calls for an English Parliament.
“An English Parliament would be a London Parliament,” said Professor Paul Salveson, the campaign group’s general secretary.
“It would marginalise the North even more and enshrine the economic and political power of the South East to the detriment of all other parts of England.”
Prof Salveson says the key is striking the balance between a smaller government in Westminster, an effective Parliament for the North and reinvigorated local authorities.
“The logic of devolution is a much smaller central government apparatus,” he added.
“That means a smaller civil service and far fewer MPs. Many of the powers currently exercised by Westminster and Whitehall would transfer to the regions.”