Why can’t Parliament move to the Northern Powerhouse area?

Houses of Parliament. Photo credit: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
Houses of Parliament. Photo credit: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
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Walking the talk is a much over-used phrase. It usually means, in a business context, that management are pretending to do something that they want everyone else to do, without doing it themselves.

Perhaps there is a real example of where politicians could really do some walking in order to support a powerful initiative.

The Northern Powerhouse is a compelling and essential initiative to rebalance our economy.

The Chancellor’s recent Autumn Statement had some positive news about improving infrastructure across the UK and this is an important ingredient in fostering growth in all regions of the UK. But it strikes me that there is a bigger opportunity for politicians to show they support this project. And I am not the first to suggest it.

Why when we need to spend some £7bn or so on repairing the Houses of Parliament do we look to keep our political masters in London? Travel and modern communications mean that it is not difficult to be based outside the capital city.

Government departments have been gradually moved out of London with HMRC and the Royal Mint just a couple of examples. The Government has a commitment to create a public sector that reflects the diverse nature of the UK. They should walk this talk.

So to rebalance our economy and political bias I think serious consideration should be given to the Northern Powerhouse hosting Parliament. And there is historical precedent. It was quite common in the 14th century, for example, for Parliament to meet in the North, often at York, but also in Carlisle, Nottingham, or other places. Until around 1547 the House of Commons had no permanent meeting place.

So we have precedent for parliament proceeding around England (and we must not forget other parts of the UK) in order to get closer to the people.

There are also contemporary examples of where political and financial centres are based in different cities such as Washington and New York, Canberra and Sydney.

And isn’t this partly what Brexit is all about? There seemed to be a general wish to give the political elite based in London a good kicking. But have they really taken any notice?

A competition to build a new Parliament outside London would generate a huge amount of interest.

It would be a major statement from Government. We have competitions to host the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, so why not Parliament? It would encourage more infrastructure projects and create more jobs. It would inspire everyone to look closely at how our Parliament operates.

Just as importantly it would enable politicians to live up to their name; the word politics is said to come from the Greek word politika which translates as “the affairs of cities”.

TIM WARD is chief executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance, an independent membership organisation that champions the interests of small to mid-size quoted companies.

Their individual market capitalisations tend to be below £500m.

There are nearly 2,000 small and mid-size quoted companies in the UK, representing 85 per cent of all quoted companies. They employ 4.6 million people, representing nearly 17 per cent of private sector employment in the UK.

The QCA aims to identify the issues that matter to its members, keep them informed and use its influence to benefit members.

Mr Ward’s past roles include head of issuer services at London Stock Exchange and finance director at FTSE International.