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Localism

Volume 543: debated on Monday 30 April 2012

I warmly welcome the public debate that the hon. Gentleman has led with the Local Government Association. He and I share a strong view that we must disperse power in our society. The Localism Act 2011 is an important step in that direction, but I regard it as a point of departure rather than a destination, and I encourage every council to respond to his report.

The Minister will know that there is a strong and growing all-party campaign in the House and outside for statutorily defined independent local government. Does he think there is something in the DNA of the British people that means that, unlike the Italians, Germans, Americans, Canadians and everyone else in a western democracy, they are incapable of deciding how to run their own affairs locally and need Whitehall to tell them how to do it?

Like the hon. Gentleman, I think that exactly the opposite is the case and that our towns, cities and communities across the country will prosper when they have the opportunity—and, indeed, the right—to do things their way, rather than the way Whitehall dictates.

The Minister’s determination to devolve political decision making to the lowest possible level is extremely welcome. Can he, for example, think of any circumstances under which he would dictate to a local city or local authority what flag to fly outside the town hall?

I cannot imagine such a thing. How a community chooses to represent itself and with what images and emblems seems to me the epitome of local choice.