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I congratulate all new Members from both sides of the House on their excellent maiden speeches. I am obviously far too young to understand what my hon. Friend James Cartlidge was talking about when he mentioned something called “Lovejoy”. To get in my own plug, people in Calder Valley refer to me as the MP for the Happy Valley after the excellent show written by Sally Wainwright—filmed in the Calder Valley and called “Happy Valley”—series 3 of which will air later this year.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this debate on devolution and growth across Britain. We all know and have experienced decisions made at grass-roots level, and devolution does make absolute sense. Who better to take decisions than those very professionals who make and deliver our services at first hand? In the recent referendum on Scotland, we saw at first hand the passion and interest that people have in their own regions and countries. It is only right in a civilised society that people have a real say in what is important to them and an opportunity to shape the long-term decision-making process in their area—local voices with local accountability.
In respect of the northern powerhouse and, more specifically, the Yorkshire powerhouse, people tell me all the time that they want more of a say in determining their own future. After all, why should Scotland have a say on its future when Yorkshire is denied the same opportunity? Our economy is similar to Scotland’s, our population is similar in size to Scotland’s and our county is as beautiful as Scotland, but, of course, Yorkshire is a better place to live than Scotland.
The fabulous Calder Valley not only contributes to the northern powerhouse, but plays a significant role in the northern powerhouse, as do many areas of Yorkshire. More than 19% of my constituents work in manufacturing and Calder Valley manufacturers punch above their weight with exports. The figures are outstanding. A further 22% of my constituents work in the financial services sector and contribute greatly to that massive national sector, which puts billions of pounds per annum into the tax coffers of the nation and pays for vital services like the NHS and education.
Devolution would allow great areas around the UK to make their own decisions and determine their own priorities, but there are also fears. We need to ensure that there is good governance around great swathes of power, and that centrally distributed funds are spent wisely and with accountability. There must be a system of governance that is open, honest and transparent, and models that are designed to be accountable. More specifically, it must be possible for people to be held to account. The elected mayoral system proposed by the Chancellor seems to be a step forward both in governance and accountability, but we have to be careful not to do things just as a knee-jerk reaction to public opinion of the day. Let us not forget that only a little over a decade ago, the people of the north-east rejected the notion of a regional assembly via the ballot box. Let us not make the same mistake and introduce a system by stealth under the guise of a quango.