Devolution: South-West

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th March 2015.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 11:30 am, 24th March 2015

What plans he has to devolve powers to Cornwall.

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

In January this year, I announced that we will devolve to Cornwall an extra £11.3 million from the local growth fund, bringing the total investment devolved to Cornwall to £60.2 million. I have made it clear that I would like to go much further and pass legislation in the next Parliament to allow the Cornish people to have a Cornish assembly with power over housing, health care and transport, if that is what the people of Cornwall want.

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives

I hope that my right hon. Friend does not think that I am damning him with faint praise when I say that he is the best party leader by far. He will therefore recognise that Cornwall will benefit a great deal from the proposed devolution-enabling Act. Does he agree that under those proposals Cornwall and places like it could redesign their planning and housing systems to put local need above speculators’ greed and the increase in second homes?

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

As my hon. Friend rightly suggests, we should push ahead with devolution and decentralisation across the United Kingdom in the next Parliament, but not to a fixed blueprint. Some areas may want to go further and faster than others. If, in Cornwall, it is felt that a Cornish assembly, born out of the existing county council—it would not be yet another talking shop for politicians, and could even cut the number of politicians if it wished to—should have powers over planning, such as those that he suggests, I would hope that we would empower it in that way.

Photo of Oliver Colvile Oliver Colvile Conservative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

The Plymouth and south-west peninsula city deal, which was announced recently along with the enterprise zone, will ensure that there is significant investment in Devon and Cornwall and that there are new jobs. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that if, by some misfortune, the Labour party got into power, the focus would no longer be on Devon and Cornwall but elsewhere?

Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Labour party has never sought to look after the interests of the south-west, nor the interests of the national economy more broadly. Without a stronger economy, it is impossible to create a fairer society in which power is distributed to all parts of the United Kingdom, including the south-west.