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Government Offices for the Regions

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2009

8. What assessment she has made of the role of Government offices for the regions in enabling people to cope with the credit crunch. (259891)

Government offices play an important role in supporting the delivery of local services, including advice on credit information and money management. The network of Government offices is also working closely, particularly at the moment, with regional development agencies on supporting local businesses, and with the Homes and Communities Agency on the supply of housing that people need.

The Minister mentioned RDAs. Does he agree that the part played by One NorthEast, my local RDA, as part of the rapid response group dealing with the loss of 1,200 jobs at Nissan, goes to show how important it is for RDAs to have our continuing support?

Nissan is important to the region, and its job cuts are going to hit the whole of the region. That is why it is important that the regional development agency has stepped in to co-ordinate the Government action that can be taken to help the workers at Nissan and those in companies affected through the supply chain. My hon. Friend makes an important point. Those who argue that we can do without regional policy or regional development agencies are wrong: without RDAs, regions such as the north-east would lose out on the jobs, investment and business support that they need, particularly during this difficult economic time.

Would not cutting out the expenditure on Government offices and unelected regional government in England be a no-brainer at a time of a massive increase in public borrowing—to the point at which every man, woman and child in this country has had £70,000 of liabilities and borrowings imposed on them by the reckless financial incompetence of this Administration?

The right hon. Gentleman is just plain wrong; he does not get it. In the past few years, the regional development agencies have brought in additional investment of more than £8 billion to deprived areas. I was the Minister responsible for floods recovery, and let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that within four days of the start of the floods that affected wide parts of Yorkshire, the Yorkshire RDA had set up a helpline and a £5 million scheme to support local businesses, the first payment from which was made within seven days. Can the right hon. Gentleman imagine Whitehall, or any single local authority, responding as quickly? That is the value of our regional development agencies, and that is the importance of their work. All that would be lost if he had his way.