Devolution: Yorkshire

Part of Adjournment (February, Easter, May Day and Whitsun) – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 10th October 2017.

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Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Keighley 8:45 pm, 10th October 2017

I am slightly disappointed, as I was hoping that my hon. Friend would announce his candidature for Sheffield city mayor, but I will give way if he decides to make such an announcement tonight. The plain fact of the matter for my hon. Friend and for the Government is whether they are seriously going to impose an expensive mayoral election on the people of South Yorkshire when two of the four authorities are opposed to it. Are they seriously going to do that for a mayor who will have no powers and no money?

I am all in favour of all-party talks and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East has been working closely with the Government on this, but I would ask him, the Government and John Mothersole, who is the chief executive of South Yorkshire and a distinguished public servant, but perhaps a little too associated with one deal, whether we could try another plan—the best chief executives always have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C and a plan D—which I will suggest in a spirit of compromise. Members of all parties at a local and national level have been ringing me up over the past few days. Some have suggested a staged approach if there was a commitment to all-Yorkshire devolution. My hon. Friend has said himself that he would not rule that out in the future. Our good colleague, and former MP, Richard Caborn, has said the same. He would not rule that out. Could we not do it now? We could bring it in very rapidly. Perhaps we could have that staged approach with a mayoral election in South Yorkshire followed by an all-Yorkshire election a couple of years later. Those are possibilities.

I have one more suggestion to make to the Minister in a moment, but I just want to look briefly at one other factor. I said yesterday that an idea is serious once people start betting on it, and I noted today that a book has been opened on the first Yorkshire mayor. I was rather surprised that I was at 4-1. I am not sure whether anybody, even a member of my family, has put a bet on today, but I am ruling myself out. Various other hon. Members are on the list, but I will not embarrass them. I will say only that Jessica Ennis-Hill is at 33-1 and it surprises me that she is the first woman on that list, because there are many, many strong candidates. I can think of four women council leaders in Yorkshire off the top of my head, and it would be something if Yorkshire were to have the first female major metropolitan mayor.