Letter: Whitehall's role in regional decline

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article ('England's regional identity problem', 4 November) draws attention to the conspicuous absence of regional government in Britain. It is not identity that is lacking, but representation. Today the Government announced that ministers will assume a regional brief in addition to their departmental duties. Apart from the inevitable clash of interests, the undemocratic relationship between minister and region will prevent any devolution of decision-making or any claim to representation.

Power will remain firmly in Whitehall. This is not subsidiarity in either the British or European sense.

The lack of regional political institutions is matched by the ineffectiveness of those that exist to serve the national interest. This has been highlighted by the passage of the Railways Privatisation Bill. The House of Lords would have precipitated a 'full-scale constitutional crisis' ('Peers obstruct BR sell-off', 4 November) had it continued to do the job it is there for.

Our recent study of ways to reform the House of Lords concludes that the only way to strengthen its contribution to the legislative process is to 'legitimise' its membership. Were the second chamber to be elected by regional constituencies, bills could be properly amended and improved, and the Government would not need to allocate regional responsibilities among ministers in this arbitrary fashion.

Yours faithfully,

ANNE DAVIES

Research Fellow

Institute for Public Policy

Research

London, WC2

4 November

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