New arrangements for regional
5. Since the result of the North East referendum,
a number of papers have put forward proposals for taking forward
regional government. In March 2007, the Communities and Local
Government Select Committee published its Report, Is there
a future for Regional Government? The Committee concluded
that "there should be more thorough and consistent scrutiny
of the regions at Westminster"
and its Report is cited in The Governance of Britain in
support of the proposal to establish a system of regional select
committees. The Committee
added that any new Parliamentary arrangements would not act as
"a substitute for the scrutiny carried out by the Regional
Assemblies, but as an adjunct to it, making use of the different
powers which Westminster committees hold for examining central
government activity and linking it to the realisation of policy
at the regional level". 
6. In July 2007, the Government published its
Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration
(the 'Sub-National Review' or SNR).
This consultation paper was the result of a policy review led
jointly by HM Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local
Government and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory
Reform and their predecessor departments, considering how to strengthen
economic performance in regions, cities and localities throughout
the country. The Sub-National Review proposes a number of changes
to regional scrutiny and accountability arrangements, including
abolishing Regional Assemblies and expanding the remit and powers
of RDAs by giving them strategic oversight of transport, planning
and housing matters currently dealt with by the Assemblies. Local
authorities would be encouraged to establish effective scrutiny
of regional matters, in particular the work of their RDA, and
Parliamentary accountability would be strengthened (the document
states that the Government will "work with Parliament"
to determine how this might be achieved).
The Sub-National Review suggests that these new structures will
be in place by 2010. Our evidence shows that many regions are
already implementing transitional arrangements in the expectation
that its proposals will be implemented.
7. Although the proposals for regional committees
contained in The Governance of Britain have not yet been
implemented, the Prime Minister has created ministerial posts
for the regions. The Green Paper defines their role as follows:
Regional Ministers are responsible for providing
a clear sense of strategic direction for their region. Regional
Ministers also give citizens a voice in central government, ensuring
that government policy takes account of the differing needs of
the nine English regions. Regional Ministers will make central
government more visible in the regions, helping to raise its profile
and generate awareness of the political system.
It goes on to give some examples of the functions
that Regional Ministers should undertake, including "advising
the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory
Reform on the approval of regional strategies and appointment
of RDA Chairs and Boards" and "facilitating a joined
up approach across government departments and agencies to enable
the effective delivery of the single regional strategy".
The Green Paper also notes that Regional Ministers "will
be able to take questions in Parliament on the work of regional
bodies, and on regional strategies".
This procedure has not yet been implemented, and written Questions
about the work of Regional Ministers are answered on their behalf
by other Ministers.