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BRIDGING THE ECONOMIC GAP IN THE ENGLISH REGIONS

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Regional development agencies will give the English regions a new opportunity to bridge the economic gap and play a...
Regional development agencies will give the English regions a new opportunity to bridge the economic gap and play a major part in the future economic success of the United Kingdom, regions minister, Richard Caborn, said.

Opening the second reading debate on the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) Bill, Mr Caborn said:

'The success of the United Kingdom in improving its economic performance and its competitiveness depends on the success of all of its regions. All regions must play a part in revitalising the economy and achieving sustainable development.

'We need to put all the regions in a position to perform at the level of the best in Europe. Our vision is for the English regions to grow and prosper, alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within the European Union. The Regional Development Agencies Bill is an important first step in achieving this.

'There is overwhelming support for the setting up of regional development agencies. During my recent visits to the English regions the local people have called for the regions to be given a strategic lead, with a greater focus on wealth creation in both rural and urban areas and the Bill reflects this.

'RDAs will have substantial budgets and will be fully accountable to ministers and parliament. The RDAs will also be responsive to people in the regions and will take full account of regional interests.

'Regional stakeholders, and above all, the democratically elected local authorities should influence the work of RDAs and have the right to comment on their work. In addition, RDAs will be required to give an account of themselves to regional chambers where they exist. Voluntary chambers will therefore have a tangible role in the work of RDAs, and a real stake in ensuring that their work reflects the needs of the whole region.'

Mr Caborn went on to explain that RDAs' boards, which will be business led, will include people with experience and expertise from local government and further and higher education, as well as trade unions, rural interests and the voluntary sector.

He said:

'The boards will be made up of regional people, who will have good knowledge and understanding of regional issues. I will consult with interested parties, including local authorities, representatives of business and employees in the regions, and other groups with an interest in the regional economy, before making appointments. The key criterion for membership however, will be experience relevant to the RDAs' purposes.

'This Bill provides the framework for addressing the economic deficit and demonstrates the Government's commitment to decentralisation.'

NOTES

Copies of the Bill (ISBN 0-10-310098-9), price£5.50, are available from Stationery Office Bookshops.

Copies of the White Paper 'Building Partnerships for Prosperity - Sustainable Growth, Competitiveness and Employment in the English Regions' (ISBN 0-10-138142-5), priced£10, are also available from Stationery Office Bookshops.

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