Assembly chair John McCormack, who met with the minister for
the regions, Richard Caborn, during his visit to the north last week,
welcomed what he described as the government's 'continuing commitment to regional government' and said that a chamber, representing all sections of the community, would play a vital role in 'giving the North real influence over its future.'
the minister was that the government is firm in its commitment to
establishing regional government in England - and that there is a real
opportunity for us to provide the lead in the north.
'Richard Caborn has quite rightly identified the need to tackle what he has described as the 'economic deficit and the democratic deficit' in the English regions. As he said this week, the development agencies address the economic issues - and the creation of a regional chamber will mark the start of the process towards establishing democratic accountability.
'As the minister has made clear, the timetable for creating the development agencies will move ahead rapidly - with the shadow boards in place by the autumn and the agencies fully operational by April 1999.
'We have always recognised that the development agencies will be
business-led and this is reflected in the government's proposals for half of the the board members to be appointed from the business community, with the remainder from local authorities and other sections of the community.
'If the development agency is to succeed it is vital that, as well as being run for the north by people from the north, it is genuinely accountable to the north - and that is why we believe it is so important that, as a first step, a regional chamber is created - representing all sectors of the community and working with the agency.
'In its recent White Paper the government made clear that it would
encourage the creation of regional chambers as first step towards the
eventual establishment of directly-elected regional government - and that development agencies would be required to take account of the views of chambers where they were set up.
'In the north we have been at the forefront of the campaign for regional government for many years and now, with the proposals which we have been developing with our partners in the region - and which will be considered by the NEA within the next few weeks - we have the chance to lead the way in developing both a strong Development Agency and an effective - and accountable - chamber.'