How Yorkshire can become a powerhouse at Parliament – John Grogan and Timothy Kirkhope

AUGUST 1 – Yorkshire Day – will see the Yorkshire Society, in collaboration with the University of Hull, publish the results of an online survey of nearly 5,000 people in the county.

What is the future of regional devolution ahead of Yorkshire Day this weekend?

Even though those surveyed were self-selected, it is striking that in excess of 80 per cent of respondents identified themselves as either more Yorkshire than English or equally Yorkshire and English.

The White Rose flag seems to be at least as strong a symbol of identity as the flag of St George. On the issue of devolution almost three quarters (73.4 per cent) agreed that Yorkshire should have more decision-making powers in the same way as Scotland, Wales. Northern Ireland and London enjoy.

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Some 40.2 per cent supported the creation of a Yorkshire Assembly to achieve this goal whilst 38.1 per cent preferred enhancing the powers of local authorities.

Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis are the metro mayors for the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions respectively.

Meanwhile, within the next two years, Yorkshire will almost certainly have four metro mayors.

All elected mayors, together with leaders of local councils, are part of the Yorkshire Leaders Board (YLB) which works with a small secretariat and pools expertise from across the region.

In recent years, the YLB has been carrying out a quiet revolution encouraging much more collaboration between local authorities, but also more widely with the private and educational sectors.

As a result, a Yorkshire and Humber Climate Change Commission was created. Next year the Board, working with Yorkshire Universities, will define what levelling up would practically mean for the county and also agree on transport priorities.

John Grogan is the former Labour MP Pfor Keighley.

A Yorkshire Reception is planned at Westminster bringing together local civic and business leaders with the county’s MPs and peers to highlight the many examples of excellence from the Broad Acres.

Yorkshire is upping its game and, at the same time, there is something that is changing in the political waters.

Politicians from all parties have noticed that, with limited resources, the Yorkshire Party achieved nearly 10 per cent of the vote in the recent West Yorkshire mayoral election. They know that they will have to respond to this change in the mood.

There is a very strong case for future Parliaments devolving much more power to Yorkshire. There is one thing that could be done immediately, however, which would give Yorkshire MPs greater powers to influence and scrutinise policy.

Timothy Kirkhope is a Tory peer.

Think back for a moment to October 29, 2009, and the splendid surroundings of the council chamber in Barnsley Town Hall where a unique event occurred in the history of our Parliament.

For the first and last time to date, the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Grand Committee of the House of Commons was called to order. The Mayor of Barnsley provided a civic greeting and put on a plate of sandwiches before a debate was held on the future of the regional economy.

Grand committees are a Parliamentary forum for all the MPs who represent a particular nation or region within the UK to meet and consider matters that relate to that nation or region. Their meetings can involve debates on topics of interest or bills, questions to Ministers, ministerial statements, and half-hour adjournment debates.

Grand committee meetings for the nations have become much less frequent since the devolution of powers to the Senedd of Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

For example, the Scottish Grand Committee initially met in 1907 and was last convened in 2003. On the other hand, Regional Grand Committees for England were established for the first time under Gordon Brown’s premiership in November 2008. The standing orders that set up these committees expired in April 2010 and the coalition Government did not seek to re-establish them.

What is missing now within our Parliament is a forum for Yorkshire’s MPs, who together represent over five million people, to specifically highlight opportunities and challenges facing the whole of God’s Own Country – regardless of party.

Now would seem to be an ideal time for the Government to revive the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Grand Committee, not least so it could debate and scrutinise the levelling up agenda and progress towards devolution as well as questioning ministers.

Grand committees could play an important role in all the regions of England in the coming years as they did previously in the nations of the United Kingdom before substantial powers were devolved to their own Parliaments.

Yorkshire and the Humber could be the pilot project that leads the way for England – and all for the price of a plate of sandwiches.

John Grogan is a former Labour MP and Lord Kirkhope is a Tory peer. They are co chairs of the One Yorkshire Committee.

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