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MPs back regional select committees

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Regional select committees have been given approval by MPs - despite concern about their cost.

It is hoped the new bodies, featuring just MPs, will improve the accountability of bodies such as regional development agencies (RDAs) across England.

However, many in local government had originally hoped that MPs and councillors would sit together to scrutinise regional bodies.

Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, said the bodies would scrutinise bodies including RDAs, strategic health authorities, the Learning and Skills Council and the Highways Agency.

She told MPs: “Their regional directors and chief executives are regional ‘masters of the universe’, with huge budgets. However, they are public bodies spending public money in the public interest, and it is right that they should be publicly accountable through this House to the region that they serve.

“Both in Parliament and within government it has been recognised that there is the problem of an 'accountability gap' in the regions; now we are seeking to do something about it.”

The government carried the vote to form the committees, expected to be established in the new year, by 30 votes.

Eight bodies will be set up for the English regions with a decision made about similar arrangements for London next year.

A rebel amendment was passed, prohibiting the payment of additional salaries for the chairs of the new committees.

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