Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 200 - 219)

TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001

RT HON NICK RAYNSFORD, MP

  200. When you say that the DTI have the lead role, how does that react with DTLR's responsibility on funding?
  (Mr Raynsford) There are different funding streams which go into the regions from different government departments, in the same way that there are different funding streams that go into local government from the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Health and other government departments as well as DTLR and we work together to ensure an appropriate collective responsibility.

  201. What assessment have you made on the progress of regional assemblies and regional chambers as they are at the moment? Who is responsible for making that assessment?
  (Mr Raynsford) The current framework, as you know, was set up during the last parliament and it was felt right that, in the absence of directly elected regional assemblies, there should be chambers, which are sometimes called assemblies, which should have a monitoring role in relation to regional development agencies and that is the framework which currently exists. We will be publishing, as I have already mentioned, a White Paper setting out our proposals for allowing those regions which wish to elect—

  202. Could you answer the question. Who at this moment is responsible for assessing the progress of the regional chambers as they exist now?
  (Mr Raynsford) We are overall responsible for the policy in relation to —

  203. Who is assessing the progress of those chambers?
  (Mr Raynsford) The chambers have only recently come into existence. We have been responsible for giving them a—

  204. Two years—who is responsible for assessing their progress?
  (Mr Raynsford) We have been responsible for providing initial funding for the regions—

  205. No, who is responsible for assessing the progress?
  (Mr Raynsford) We are assessing their progress.

  206. So you are responsible for assessing the progress of the chambers?
  (Mr Raynsford) Indeed but, as I pointed out earlier, there are issues relating to regional development which will also be the concern of other government departments and I would expect, very obviously, the DTI to take a particular interest in relation to economic development problems.

Mrs Dunwoody

  207. So the Deputy Prime Minister calls all these ministers together in special groups and says, "Because we have joint responsibility, this is how we are going to proceed"?
  (Mr Raynsford) The Deputy Prime Minister has overall responsibility for the development of the new policy framework.

  208. And he has done that?
  (Mr Raynsford) He is doing this.

  209. And he calls them together, all of them across the board, in order to assess what is happening?
  (Mr Raynsford) The Deputy Prime Minister obviously operates in the way that he chooses to operate.

  210. In other words he has not.
  (Mr Raynsford) I have met regularly with the Deputy Prime Minister to discuss the way that we are handling our approach to the regions.

  211. That is not what I asked.
  (Mr Raynsford) I honestly do not think that I am in a position to answer that question.

Chairman

  212. On the question of assessing, can you tell us which ones are doing well and which ones you are disappointed with?
  (Mr Raynsford) As I said in response to the question, these are very early stages. We have just made awards of £0.5 million to each of the chambers or assemblies to enable them to set up appropriate machinery to monitor the work of the RDAs, to liaise with other bodies in the region and to enable them to fulfill their functions. It would be premature for me to give a snapshot judgment on the performance of bodies that are only in a very, very early stage of their development.

Mrs Ellman

  213. Does that mean that nobody has actually made an assessment of their progress to date?
  (Mr Raynsford) As I was saying, I think it would be premature to try and produce an over-definitive view of the performance of bodies which are just coming into existence.

  214. Has any assessment been made as to the progress of those chambers to date?
  (Mr Raynsford) We have looked at the work that they are doing and we have assessed that in the course of preparing the grants that we have issued to those bodies, but I would not pretend for a moment that that was a rigorous and definitive assessment for the reasons I have explained.

Sir Paul Beresford

  215. Is that the only source of finance? What is the total annual cost?
  (Mr Raynsford) I would have to seek further advice on the detailed total annual cost but the main source of funding is from our department, yes.

  216. Is that possible?
  (Mr Raynsford) Of course. I will write to you.

Mrs Ellman

  217. When will the White Paper on elected assemblies be issued?
  (Mr Raynsford) As I have already said, we hope to publish early in the new year.

Chairman

  218. Can you define "early" a little more precisely?
  (Mr Raynsford) I cannot.

Mrs Ellman

  219. Could you tell us what will be in that White Paper.
  (Mr Raynsford) I can certainly outline the broad thrust of the White Paper. It will give effect to our Manifesto commitment to allow those regions which express, through a referendum, a wish to have an elected regional assembly the opportunity to do so, so it will clearly set out the way in which the approach to that referendum takes place. In other words, what triggers it and how the referendum will be conducted. It will then go on to spell out the type of body, how it would be elected, the electoral system, the representation on the body, and the total numbers and arrangements for involving social and economic partners. It would also obviously define the powers and remit and the funding—


 
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