Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick all but snuffed out the prospect of a One Yorkshire devolution deal as he was told it sounded like he was “putting the idea to bed”.
At the first meeting of the Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire All-Party Parliamentary Group since the election yesterday, Mr Jenrick heralded the agreement of a South Yorkshire deal last month, and assured MPs and local leaders a West Yorkshire and Leeds City deal was on its way.
But when asked by Yorkshire Liberal Democrat peer Lord David Shutt about the future of a devolution deal for the whole of the region, Mr Jenrick distanced the Government from the plans.
Lord Shutt asked: “What is the fear of One Yorkshire? Are you scared it’s going to be bigger than Scotland and have more might?”
He added: “It seems to strange that early on in this new Government it seems to be swept under the carpet.”
While Dame Rosie Winterton, Labour MP for Doncaster Central, urged Mr Jenrick to have “a bit more of an open mind moving forward”.
She said: “I was the Yorkshire Minister just after the financial crash and I must say it did feel the right approach, to have all of Yorkshire pulling together, at that time.
“And the economic thinking behind that was that the population base was what made sense in terms of economic area.”
But Mr Jenrick said the Government was more focused on smaller deals.
“This is a bit of a Groundhog Day, going back to the same debate, again and again,” he said.
“We took the view in the last Parliament, and we’ve been very clear, we want devolution built around functioning economic geographies.
“There might be differences of opinion whether Yorkshire as a whole - the historic county of Yorkshire - is one economic geography, our view has been that it isn’t.
“There isn’t a great deal in common, economically, between people on the cusp of my constituency in Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, where you just get into South Yorkshire, and farmers in the north of North Yorkshire.
“Now you might disagree with that but that’s always been our view, and we think that's backed up by most economists and independent analysis.”
Mr Jenrick also said he hoped to get another Yorkshire devolution deal over the line before the Budget on March 11.
“We’ve had very productive conversations in Leeds and West Yorkshire and we've now opened formal negotiations with them to create a mayoral combined authority with devolution there.
“That's one of the big missing links of our current devolution settlement, it’s such an important city and region with so many economic assets, great universities and businesses that it really is crying out for a full devolution settlement.”
He added: “We’ve also had discussions with other areas, with York and North Yorkshire, with Cumbria, and with Hull and the East Riding, they're slightly more early stage but, again, we will work with them as quickly as we can.”