It is great to have a Yorkshire woman MP in the Chair for this debate. Devolved decision making over the past 20 years has been like a game of snakes and ladders; we have been up ladders and down snakes. We have had Yorkshire Forward and the Yorkshire Assembly, as part of the regional settlement; it is worth noting that only two of the Government regions in England which are still in use for a number of functions are not points on a compass and reflect a geographic area. The first is London, which has had its devolution settlement with the Mayor and Assembly since 1999, and the second is Yorkshire. After the regional development agencies were abolished, Government policy moved on to the local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities, and now Government policy is for metro mayors and city regions.
In Yorkshire these structures are still opaque and confusing for most people. People in many of our towns and cities would not recognise themselves as being part of a city region, but they understand the idea of Yorkshire. Yorkshire people are proud of being part of Yorkshire, and it is time that our identity and regional uniqueness were acknowledged, and not dismissed by this Government. If our region could speak with a single voice, it would be a player on the world stage, rather than on the national stage. As my hon. Friend John Grogan said, both industry and the unions have backed the One Yorkshire model. They want to develop region-wide hubs around IT, tourism, food and advanced manufacturing, including low-carbon and renewable energy, helping to create 21st-century jobs and 21st-century solutions which can be the envy of the world and start to rebalance our economy away from London. That is the most important goal for our region and others.
Yorkshire’s cultural achievements are legion: the world’s first ever film was filmed in 1888 in Roundhay; the first ever football club, Sheffield FC, was founded in 1874; and, as hon. Members might recall, in the London 2012 Olympics if Yorkshire had been a country it would have finished 12th in the medals table. Obviously, that is not forgetting this weekend’s eighth super league grand final win by Leeds Rhinos from my constituency. Yorkshire pudding is an integral part of our national dish, the Sunday roast.
Our whole character is based on our regional cultural establishment. This year, we have had the UK city of culture in Hull, which has been a platform not just for Hull, great as it was, but for the whole of Yorkshire. Leeds is bidding to be the European capital of culture in 2023. How good would it be to be part of a One Yorkshire authority where we could all amplify that achievement globally? Furthermore, Yorkshire’s interconnectivity and transport issues need a single voice.