Mr Edward Davey (Shadow Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions; Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat)
Much of what the hon. Gentleman says is wrong. There are Cheshire Liberal Democrat county councillors who very much support regional devolution.
The Deputy Prime Minister's problem is that he is not enthusing the pro-devolutionists with his proposals. The pro-devolutionists in my party and his are not exactly champing at the bit over these powers. Worse than that, as my right hon. Friend Mr. Beith implied in his comment on the business communities, those people who are agnostic and non-doctrinaire about regional devolution are unconvinced. Worse still, the opponents of regional devolution are being emboldened by the strategy's weakness. The Deputy Prime Minister is in danger of giving the worst possible start to the referendums. He should move on this, and he needs to persuade his colleagues to do far more. Otherwise, we are in danger of missing a major opportunity.
What should the Deputy Prime Minister do? He began to sketch out some thoughts today, which were very helpful, and I am sure that people will want to read the record. He mentioned that the Secretary of State for Transport is beginning to think about the potential for devolution. The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned in his speech in Manchester the possibility that learning and skills councils could be devolved. He has also mentioned the three hearings that are to take place.