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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The government's spreading of ministerial responsibilities for regional matters was criticsed by Michael Fallon, Conservative MP for Sevenoaks.

He asked trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt if she could explain why she and a junior DTI minister were responsible for regional development agencies while, in the cabinet office, the deputy prime minister John Prescott and another junior minister were responsible for the government offices of the regions and the regional co-ordination unit. In addition, the department for transport, local government and the regions had three more ministers responsible directly for the regions.

He asked: 'Therefore, does she not accept that having three departments of state and seven ministers with direct responsibility for the regions looks much more like jammed-up government than joined-up government?'

Ms Hewitt said regional policy went considerably wider than the DTI's economic responsibilities. Mr Prescott was leading the work being done for the white paper on regional government, and DTRL secretary Stephen Byers was responsible for regional policy overall.

'The position is quite clear', she added.

Ms Hewitt said she was pleased that, since the general election, regional development agencies were now among the DTI's responsibilities. It was working closely with the RDAs and with colleagues in government to ensure the strong effective regional policy that was needed throughout the country.

Hansard 1 Nov: Column 1000-1001

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