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GOVERNMENT ADMITS FAILING TO MAKE PROGRESS ON 'HOME RULE'

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The government has admitted failing to keep its promises on home rule for English regions in its annual report, pub...
The government has admitted failing to keep its promises on home rule for English regions in its annual report, published today.

The Journal reports that the publication sets out the government's successes and failures over the past 12 months. It reveals that Labour has so far delivered 90 of its 177 manifesto commitments, with another 85 pledges on course to be met.

But it admits to having made no progress on its promise to allow the English regions to hold referendums on whether they want directly-elected assemblies.

Under regional government it states: 'No yet timetabled. The government remains committed to its undertaking.'

This admission comes amid intense speculation about the future of Richard Caborn, minister for the regions, who is described as the leading advocate of home rule within the government.

He has pressed for a referendum on the issue in the next parliament - but has been blocked. Now Mr Caborn, a close ally of John Prescott, the envionment secretary, could be moved in this week's reshuffle.

But campaigners feat that his departure could set back the cause of regional government even further. Ian Mears, chairman of the Campaign for a Northern Assembly, said: 'The government's failure to make progress on this issue is no reflection on Dick Caborn. From our prospective it would be a great shame if he was to be moved.'

Last night, Hilary Armstrong, the local government minister, defended the government's record on home rule and other areas where its performance has come in for criticism.

'It was a commitment that made it clear it would take time to get there because we've got other things to do,' she said. She said that more work needed to be done to win public support for home rule and that people in the region were currently more concerned about other issues.

'The public throughout the region are yet to be convinced. This is a diversion from what people in my constituency are really worried about,' she added.

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