Local Government Reform: Greater London — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:02 am on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Jim McMahon Jim McMahon Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Devolution) 10:02 am, 17th October 2018

I agree with that point. If the assumption is devolution, the bar to sending something up to a higher level should be high. There should be a proper and rigorous test in place. A danger in the development of new structures or institutions of local government in city regions—perhaps this is more of a danger outside London than in it—is that if real power is not devolved from Westminster and Whitehall to those regions, they will, by the nature of government and politics, take up power to justify their existence.

To me, the responsibility for that lies with local politicians who must ensure that they are absolutely clear about what a devolved settlement looks like for their neighbourhoods and communities. There is, however, also pressure on the Government to prove that they can really devolve power and responsibility down. In a lot of the country, people do not believe that the Government are listening to what they say. I shall not stray from the subject of the debate, but anyone who speaks to people in Lancashire at the moment will find that they are massively frustrated that their local decision to reject fracking was overturned by a Government hundreds of miles away. If we are serious about devolving power, it has to be the power that people are asking for: the power to determine what type of place they want to live in and their families to grow up in.

That is different from identity and people’s sense of belonging. I feel strongly that that is a complex debate—we could have a debate for an hour and a half on what identity is and means, because it is complex. Devolution so far has not been about trying to rewrite people’s historical and rooted identity, or about changing the entrance signs to places where people live to names that they do not recognise. That is very different from the 1974 reorganisation outside London, which tried to do just that.