Regional committees are a fig leaf

Iain Dale has got it bang on over on his blog regarding the newly proposed Regional Select Committees. The idea, which is to have a Select Committee to oversee each Regional Development Agency, would certainly mean the quangos were slightly more accountable, but frankly the most democratic option would be to ditch the RDAs altogether.


Every time the regionalisation agenda has been put to the public they have rejected it overwhelmingly, most notably in the North East Assembly referendum in 2004. Instead of doing what people want and ditching the concept of artificial, top-down regional government, though, the Government have at every stage tried to weasel round public objections to the project.


2004: Directly elected assemblies sunk in North East referendum. Victory for anti-regionalisation campaigners!
...Government brazenly interprets the result as a vote of support for unelected regional government and vowed to press on with RDAs and unelected assemblies.


2007: After of bad press the Government announced that the unelected Regional Assemblies were to be scrapped. Victory for anti-regionalisation campaigners!
...Assembly powers are to be transferred to totally unaccountable Regional Development Agencies.


Now the Government is proposing both Regional Select Committees and Grand Committees of a region's MPs to whom the RDAs will have to report. Particularly given our research that shows the RDAs have had little or no benefit despite the billions of pounds they spend every year, surely it would be better to scrap them altogether. In common with so many other quangos, no-one wants them, they cost billions and they achieve hardly anything.


Creating this new set of committees would simply be an expensive and complex way of Parliament trying to compensate for a deeply undemocratic state of affairs. Why should Parliament have to bend to the unaccountable structures of the State to keep up a pretence of proper democratic control? It would be far better instead to change the structure of Government to create genuine democracy and accountability.

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