its approach the growing importance of regions such as the North East.'
That, says Stephen Barber, director of the North of England Assembly of Local Authorities, was the message he took to yesterday's meeting
in Newcastle of the Royal Commission on the reform of the house of lords.
He said: 'As the English region which has led the drive towards
regional devolution, the North East can, I believe, make a major
contribution over the shape and role of any new second chamber to replace the house of lords.
'The initial consultation paper issued by the commission made important references to the involvement of representation from the regions and that is something with which the NEA wholeheartedly agrees.
'But it is about much more than just membership. With the clear commitment by the government to giving regions such as the North East greater influence over our destinies - and the recent creation of both the regional chamber and the regional development agency ONE NorthEast - any new second chamber in Westminster must be seen as integral part of the process and must develop close links with the emerging regional bodies.
'The assembly believes there is a great deal of talent within the regions and one of the challenges facing the commission is to ensure that the skills and knowledge of those people can be harnessed, both for the benefit of their own regions and the nation as a whole.
'For example, there is a case for the new second chamber maximising the expertise available within sectors such as local authorities in helping to frame new legislation - and it could also play an important role in bringing together those who already have a regional mandate, including, for example, MPs, MEPs and regional chamber members.
'The assembly sees the commission as a tremendous opportunity to create a new second chamber which can be seen as relevant to people throughout the country. In order to achieve that it must work with the regions and their democratic organisations - and, if it is to be truly representative, it must also work in a way which will attract all sections of the community, including young people, women and ethnic minorities.'