Devolution call for ‘damaged’ North

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THE “damaged” North of England needs a system of regional government to take control of its destiny and stop local talent “draining away” to London, a group of backbench MPs believe.

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation, a left-wing lobbying group set up by some of Yorkshire’s Labour MPs in conjunction with party colleagues from across the North, is calling for a regional government to be established so that northern England benefits from similar powers to those enjoyed by the capital.

President Linda Riordan, the MP for Halifax, said the North has been “squeezed” between a newly -empowered, devolved Scotland and the more prosperous South.

“We’re not anti-South, we’d just like our fair share – particularly in employment, jobs, environmental issues,” she said yesterday. “We are losing out.”

Regional assemblies were set up by the previous Labour government, but had few real powers. A plan put forward by John Prescott to create more powerful elected assemblies collapsed in 2004 when voters in the North East rejected it in a referendum.

Regional government was dismantled by the coalition when it came to power in 2010.

But Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell said devolved government remained the best way forward for the North.

“We are an area that’s been damaged by the death of the great industries,” he said.

“We are dependent, and I think there is a higher destiny for local government than sitting on over-priced trains ferrying begging bowls up and down to London to whinge for money from our lords and masters.

“The country is dominated by London. It is draining everything from the rest of the country – the jobs and the young people.

“We need power to control our own destiny and our own policies and our own fate. That can only come from devolution.”