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Local Government: Combined Authority Orders

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

With this we shall consider the following motions:

That the draft Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

That the draft Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

That the draft West Yorkshire Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

These orders, if approved, will bring about the establishment of combined authorities in three of our major metropolitan areas: across Merseyside and Liverpool; around Sheffield and South Yorkshire; and in West Yorkshire. In each of those areas the combined authority will be responsible for economic development and regeneration, and for transport. As all the councils in each area have agreed, their combined authority will be able to recognise and exercise their functions on economic development and regeneration. Their combined authority will also have the transport functions currently exercised by the area’s integrated transport authority, and that ITA will be abolished on the establishment of the combined authority.

Central to what we are considering today are two key priorities for this coalition Government: growth and localism. Achieving economic growth is essential to the recovery of our economy and rebuilding our future after the economic failures and spiralling of debt that we inherited when we took office in May 2010. It is through achieving economic growth that jobs are created, that incomes of hard-working families can grow and that we can build sustainable prosperity for communities across the country. The policies of this coalition Government are delivering, with unemployment now at just 7.2%; with increasing numbers of people in employment; with more women in work than ever before; and, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor told the House in November, with growth then estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility at 1.4%.

An important element of our policies, as we made clear in our White Paper response to Lord Heseltine’s report on growth, is that local authorities have a vital role to play. Councils should put economic development at the heart of all that they do, collaborating with private sector partners and others across a functional economic area. A combined authority is a means for councils to undertake that collaboration, which will be the foundation of all that they do to promote economic growth. It is not surprising, therefore, that each of the proposed combined authorities has been recognised as key in the city deals that we have agreed with each area. If Parliament approves the draft orders, we expect those authorities to be equally key in any future growth deals with funding from the local growth fund.

Under our policy of localism, it is entirely up to councils whether they choose to collaborate through a combined authority or through some other arrangement. Our whole approach to combined authorities, which is reflected in the draft orders, is one of localism. When councils come forward with a proposal for a combined authority that commands wide local support, our policy is this. If we consider that the statutory conditions are met, we will invite Parliament to approve a draft order that provides for the establishment of the proposed combined authority, which will enable the councils concerned to give full effect to their ambitions for joint working.

Localism will guide our response to any proposals for changes to a combined authority after its establishment, such as if another council wishes to join the combined authority as a constituent council, or if a council that is a member of a combined authority wishes to leave. In any such case, our policy will be to seek parliamentary approval for a draft order that enables the change to be made, provided that we are clear that the change meets the statutory conditions.

The Minister is making the interesting argument that localism will be the principle that guides future decisions about the development of the combined authorities. Does that principle also apply to the devolution of further powers and responsibilities to combined authorities if they properly request such powers?

The right hon. Gentleman’s question gets to the heart of the Localism Act 2011, which was about devolving power not only to local authorities but to local communities to empower people to get things done. If local authorities have further ideas about things that they want to do, I encourage them to come and talk to us. The Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and I will be interested to talk to local authorities about what more we can do to empower them to develop economic growth and take their communities forward.

In each of the draft orders, we have considered the circumstances of the combined authority proposal that the councils have made, as the law requires, and we have concluded that it is right for us to pursue our localist policy in those cases. We have considered each proposal for a combined authority in the light of the statutory conditions set out in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, under which any combined authority is established. Those conditions are that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must consider that establishing the combined authority is likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions relating to transport in the area; improve the effectiveness and efficiency of transport in the area; improve the exercise of statutory functions relating to economic development and regeneration in the area; and improve the economic conditions in the area. We consider that those tests are unambiguously met in each case.

In short, each combined authority will bring together decision making on the closely interrelated issues of transport and economic development, and will provide for more efficient, effective, and transparent decision making by councils, with their partners, across the whole of the functional economic area they serve. We consider that it is right to establish those combined authorities, having regard, as the 2009 Act requires, to the need to reflect the identities and interests of local communities and to secure effective and convenient local government. Further, we are clear that in each of the areas, the combined authority will command wide local support.

What consideration has been given to the impact on the communities that will be left behind when a local authority decides to get into bed with one of the new combined authorities?

I appreciate the point that my hon. Friend is making, but nobody will be left behind. Other areas will be able to form their own combined authorities and develop their own economic growth, and we would encourage them to do so. I think that he is referring directly to the situation in York, which does not form part of today’s discussions; that debate will follow at a later date. There will also be a consultation process, and the people and businesses in York, as well as the local enterprise partnership, the local authorities and the Members concerned, will obviously want to feed into that process their views on the effects of the proposals on York, and on the benefits or otherwise of York being part of a combined authority. I have made it clear that we will facilitate opportunities for areas such as York to join a combined authority later. We are also ensuring that a local authority will be able to step away from such an arrangement if it feels right for it to do so.

I thank the Minister for that full response. When he and his Department consider any application by York to join the new West Yorkshire combined authority, I urge him to consider carefully the impact that that would have on constituencies such as mine in Skipton and Ripon and on other rural areas that rely on their relationship with York.

I can give my hon. Friend an assurance that we will give that matter our full consideration. One reason that the arrangements in York are not part of today’s orders is that we intend, before purdah, to lay the paperwork for a legislative reform order and to have a full consultation process, and I am sure that he and others will wish to feed into that process, offering views both for and against the proposals. Their views will be given full consideration.

We are clear that in each of these areas the combined authority would command good support from local businesses, from the local enterprise partnership, from other public bodies, from institutions such as the universities in the area and from local people and their democratically elected representatives. Accordingly, on the basis of our localist approach, we are seeking the approval of the House for these draft orders today—orders to which each of the constituent councils has consented. We are doing this on the basis of the information that we have about each proposed combined authority. That includes the governance reviews undertaken by the councils in each of the areas, as required by the 2009 Act if they are to propose a combined authority.

I welcome the orders that have been placed before the House. The Minister described them a moment ago as “draft orders”. If they are draft orders, when will we get the actual orders? He rightly said earlier that the integrated transport authorities would be abolished on the day on which the orders are made. For the sake of clarity, will he therefore tell us whether the orders that he is asking the House to approve today are draft orders or the orders that will actually do the job that he has described?

I think that there is an issue around wording here. They are draft orders until the House approves them. When that happens, they become the orders. I am asking Members to vote today on the orders, but they are technically draft orders until we approve them.

I thank the Minister for that clarification. Will he therefore tell me the date on which the orders will come into force and on which the integrated transport authorities will effectively be abolished?

If the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I will come back to him on that question later this afternoon.

The Minister is probably in a better position to know about this than I am, but I think that all these arrangements come into effect on 1 April.

Yes, that is the intention. I was going to come to that in a few moments. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

As I was saying, we are doing this on the basis of the information that we have about each proposed combined authority. That also includes the results of the consultations we have undertaken for each of the proposed combined authorities—again, as required by the 2009 Act—as well as detailed proposals from each group of councils on how they wish their combined authority to operate, to take decisions and, most importantly, to be open, transparent and accountable. I know that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) and I share a view on that.

On the question of transparency and openness, I note that the explanatory memorandum states:

“The Government has now provided in the Order that it is mandatory for the Combined Authority to have an overview and scrutiny committee which can be made up of members across the parties.”

In that context, would political representation on such a committee have to be mixed, or could there be representation by just one party, even in an area with very mixed political representation?

I will touch on the make-up in a moment. It would be representative of the political representation across the combined authorities—so a mixed make-up.

Yes, proportionally.

On the draft orders, three provide for the establishment of combined authorities across Greater Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Each of the three draft orders specifies the formal legal name of the combined authority to which all the councils concerned have consented. How that authority will brand itself, including the use of any brand name, will be entirely a matter for the combined authority.

The three draft orders also make provision for the abolition of the integrated transport authority for the area. They also set out the transport and economic functions of the combined authority and its membership and constitutional arrangements. Those constitutional arrangements include a requirement for there to be at least one overview and scrutiny committee, with a membership drawn from members of the councils concerned, to hold the combined authority to account. Good governance practice will mean that such committees will be politically balanced, enabling appropriate representation of councils’ minority parties in the governance of the combined authority.

The fourth draft order simply makes amendments to transport legislation, which are applicable to all combined authorities. The draft orders will come into force the day after they are made, and the intention is for that to be 31 March.

The draft orders, if approved, will open the way for the councils in each of the functional economic areas surrounding some of our greatest cities to deepen and intensify their collaborative joint working with each other and with public and private sector partners. By doing that, they will open the way to boosting economic growth in three of our major conurbations, increasing investment, and promoting more strongly and effectively the economic prosperity of those areas, which is something that we all want to see happen in our communities. I therefore commend these draft orders to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to debate these important statutory instruments, which will help local authorities in key areas of the country to work together more effectively in the interests of their communities. It is good to see so many Members here to participate in the debate and to share local perspectives on how to ensure that the combined authority areas can succeed.

Labour is broadly supportive of the statutory instruments. We note that they have the support of the local authorities in the areas concerned. Indeed there is clear evidence of support from the public, businesses and other partners in the areas. The authorities concerned are overwhelmingly Labour. Along with Greater Manchester, they are giving a lead to all of local government, and we are proud of them. Thanks to their committed and innovative leadership, those authorities are making a real difference and showing the way forward through a cost of living crisis created by this Government.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that leadership was the reason the Labour-led York council played petty politics with the York and North Yorkshire local enterprise partnership last year—petty politics that have continued into this year? Such behaviour shows that the level of leadership in the council is really pretty depressing and low.

Well, I know petty politics when I see it, and the hon. Gentleman’s remarks sound very much like it. His remarks were inconsistent with his earlier comments about the importance of the partnership between the authorities that surround York. I will come on to the arrangements in that area of the country: I want to raise issues about York, which may interest the hon. Gentleman. Whether or not he will agree with me on them remains to be seen.

For economic success across the country, we must make the most of the strengths of different sectors across our country, and develop new skills and industries. Clearly, greater local collaboration and co-operation can produce much better results on issues such as transport, housing, employment, skills and training than can national programmes run from Whitehall. Combined authorities have a key role to play in that, as many councils believe that to deliver the best outcomes for their communities, the time has come to take current governance models to the next level, moving from informal collaboration to joint decision making on some issues.

There is an irony in the fact that the Government now recognise the value of combined authorities, which were first introduced in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, about which Government Members have been contemptuous both in opposition and in government. The Act made provision for the establishment of economic prosperity boards and for combined authorities. After some years of drift, during which the Government tore up the regional development agency structure in an act of economic vandalism at a time when our economy was beginning to recover from a global recession, Lord Heseltine’s much-trumpeted review in 2013 came up with the big idea of combined authorities. We welcome the Government’s conversion, however reluctant it is, but we regret the delay.

The new combined authorities will bring many benefits, including the strong and visible collective leadership of an area with democratic accountability and an influential and unified voice. That leadership will be able to have a single conversation with the Government, national agencies and business leaders and to align decision making and economic growth at a strategic level so that there is a single framework underpinned by a coherent strategy and investment programme. It will have the opportunity to draw together a range of funding sources, including EU funds—this has been a key issue in the recent interregnum, during which there has not been a clear strategy from central Government—and a devolved local growth fund. The combined authorities also create the opportunity for closer working across the public sector to integrate functions and services and provide innovative solutions to the challenges of reduced budgets, which particularly affect the authorities in the combined authority areas that have had an above-average cut in a deeply unfair funding settlement.

The Greater Manchester combined authority shows the benefit of the system: its achievements include the major refurbishment of Bolton and Rochdale railway stations; the revolving infrastructure fund, which is worth £30 million a year; permission for up to 7,000 new homes to be built by 2017; a programme of low-carbon measures; and overall savings of £11.7 million a year.

I recommend that all Members of the House read the excellent report recently published by Labour’s local government innovation taskforce, which includes many of the success stories of the Greater Manchester combined authority and local authority partnerships across the country. I firmly believe that the West Yorkshire combined authority, the South Yorkshire combined authority and the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral combined authority will succeed as Greater Manchester has. I also hope that the order will soon be tabled for the north-east combined authority.

The Association of North East Councils tells me that establishing a combined authority for the north-east, to put into legal form what the north-east leadership board has been doing by consent for some time, is widely supported. I hope that there can be progress.

I can provide a piece of information to help the shadow Minister: that order was tabled on 13 March, so it will come to us for consideration shortly.

I thank the Minister for that clarification and we hope that the order will be before us soon. I understood that the conversation in that region between the local authorities had made substantial progress and that they were looking to move forward. The Opposition will support the establishment of the north-east combined authority when that is proposed, however it is named.

Today’s steps on combined authorities are welcome but still more can be done on additional freedoms. The Opposition are considering the case being made by organisations including the Local Government Association, the special interest group of municipal authorities, ANEC and other bodies for additional powers. We agree with them that there is a need for a clearer plan for sub-national government that, crucially, works for all areas of the country. There is a need for further consideration of what arrangements will work best in two-tier areas, for example. There needs to be further devolution of funding streams. The Opposition are committed to significant reform in that area: for example, we will give local authorities a strong role in co-commissioning the Work programme.

The new combined authorities are keen to have a dialogue with the Minister, as he is no doubt aware, about “earn back” schemes for their areas. Such a scheme has been a feature of the Greater Manchester combined authority. It will be useful to hear the Minister’s thoughts, and to hear about any progress that has been made with the three new combined authorities.

There is also the question of legal restrictions around the combined authorities’ ability to borrow for non-transport purposes. The authorities have argued that that will remove a significant barrier to the unlocking of local resources to support infrastructure and growth. That change has been strongly advocated by Greater Manchester. What is the Government’s view on that and how do they intend to respond? Are the Government prepared to consider the request for combined authorities to be able to recover VAT, as local authorities do?

In relation to York, may we have an update from the Minister on the important matter of non-contiguous boundaries affecting authorities’ ability to combine? The Minister and I have discussed that issue informally on several occasions, and there have been exchanges in the House between us and between the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State on the matter. Although those exchanges have been encouraging, there is frustration in some parts of the country about the delay. The Minister may be aware that Portsmouth and Southampton councils, for example, are keen to work more closely together but feel that they are being prevented from doing so by Hampshire county council, which does not wish to be involved in such joint arrangements. We urge the Government to consider how that issue can be dealt with in all parts of the country, but the Government may choose to make specific arrangements in individual cases.

As the Minister knows, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) has made the case for the City of York, which wishes to join the Leeds city region. The Secretary of State has agreed that that makes sense. He told my right hon. Friend on 28 October 2013:

“I am confident we can have a resolution before Christmas.”—[Official Report, 28 October 2013; Vol. 569, c. 690.]

However, in a written answer in February the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), who is in his place, said that

“we are now considering consulting before the summer on a Legislative Reform Order”—[Official Report, 24 February 2014; Vol. 576, c. 120W.]

That may be the order to which he referred earlier, which the Government hope to bring forward before the purdah period.

My right hon. Friend raised the delay at Communities and Local Government questions on 3 March. The Secretary of State said:

“I did not specify which Christmas I meant. However, I gave the right hon. Gentleman an undertaking, and it was a proper undertaking. Various legal obstacles were put in our way, but we intend to consult, and, subject to the position being legally satisfactory, there will be a resolution. Given that I gave an undertaking from the Dispatch Box to resolve the matter, I will not lightly do otherwise.”—[Official Report, 3 March 2014; Vol. 576, c. 621.]

We welcome that assurance. We have appreciated the constructive dialogue that has taken place between the Opposition and the Government. We accept that the Secretary of State’s undertaking was given in good faith, but I am sure the Minister understands that there is some disappointment that the matter is dragging on.

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify to the House why he is so eager for York to get into bed with the West Yorkshire combined authority? Will he come clean with the House and with voters in York and north Yorkshire? Why is he pushing this hobby horse?

The hon. Gentleman may wish to ask the Secretary of State why he agrees with us that the proposal makes sense. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman pushes me to say why I am keen: I am a localist. If the City of York believes that the proposal is in the interests of the community that it serves, subject to a proper process—there will be a consultation, and there will have to be compelling evidence, as there has been in the other three areas that we are considering today, that this is the right way forward—and if it is the wish of local people, of course it should go ahead. It is undemocratic of the hon. Gentleman to seek to hold back the economic development of the City of York.

What does the hon. Gentleman say about the commitment that York has made—half-in and half-out—to the York and North Yorkshire local enterprise partnership? Should he not be urging York council to play a much more vigorous part in that partnership and to stop thinking about getting over to where the grass is greener in the new West Yorkshire authority?

If the people of York and the elected local authority in York believe that it is in the interests of their community, they should have the right to make that case to the Government. If the hon. Gentleman disagrees, he can put his view forward. In the end, he will have to persuade his own side, not me. I am persuaded that if that is what the City of York wants, of course it should go forward. However, the hon. Gentleman does have an important point about the relationship between the combined authorities and the local enterprise partnerships. I shall refer to that.

We accept that the Secretary of State gave the undertaking in good faith. He said that there are legal obstacles. Is it possible to address the specific issue of the City of York and address those legal obstacles separately, or are they in effect bound up together? Perhaps the Minister could comment on that. In view of the constructive dialogue that has taken place, it would be helpful for us to have a greater understanding of the legal dimension that the Government are grappling with.

There is a wider issue about how the geography of the country and the structure of local government mean that establishing combined authorities is much more difficult in many areas of the country. The hon. Gentleman alluded to that in relation to arrangements in Yorkshire. The arrangements for LEPs around the country vary hugely, and they already reflect the complex geography. There are issues regarding LEPs that need further consideration, especially around how coherently they operate with the boundaries of combined authorities. For example, the Sheffield city region LEP includes a number of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire districts. However, given that the two county councils will not be members of the combined authority, non-South Yorkshire districts cannot be constituent members of the authority, and South Yorkshire members must always hold a majority of the vote.

If LEPs are to co-exist with combined authorities and strategic counties, they cannot merely operate in the same space. There needs to be a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities. The critical point is that while LEPs can provide private sector input and insight, which is to be welcomed, they are neither statutory nor democratically accountable bodies, and in their current form they should not hold resources themselves. The Minister will no doubt fondly recall the extensive debate on the accountability of LEPs during the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, and I hope that it is something he will consider further in light of the development of combined authority arrangements. The Opposition will work closely with local authorities and talk with LEPs throughout the country about their future role, particularly through the review being undertaken by Lord Adonis.

Before I conclude, I want to comment on Total Place, which the Government have rather reluctantly taken forward in their limited approach to community budgets, whereas the Opposition see much more potential and believe that combined authorities will take a lead. As well as investing more in prevention and early intervention, it is crucial that we support councils to deliver economic growth in all areas of the country. To do that, we will extend the model of city deals throughout local government, devolving power over housing and planning, and jobs and skills, but councils and communities must come together to decide how best to use the powers, and develop arrangements that suit local needs. That is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) calls “the English deal”.

Despite the Government promising to push power down, it has taken four years for the orders to come forward. It will be left to the next Labour Government radically to reconfigure the way in which services are designed and delivered. By devolving ineffective national programmes to local areas we will give local people more power to create services that are more responsive to local conditions, build in people’s involvement in decisions more closely, and power our economies forward throughout the country in a way that is fair.

I join colleagues on both sides of the House in welcoming the Secretary of State’s creation of combined authorities. Far from stepping back and passively surrendering to the unyielding rise of London, with its increasingly dominant role in our economy during the past 30 years—which I know the Secretary of State would never do—the Government are rightly taking the necessary and vital steps to tackle the north-south divide head on.

The reality is that all major conurbations that have worked towards the combined authority status have, in their day, been global leaders in their respective field—steel production in Sheffield, shipbuilding in Newcastle and Liverpool, cotton spinning in Manchester, which was the world’s first industrialised city, and woollen textiles in Leeds, which in 1770 handled one sixth of the country’s entire export trade.

Alas, an illustrious history alone is not enough to sustain jobs in today’s fast-paced and frenetic global economy. We are, as has rightly been pointed out many times, in a global race, not just with our established rivals, such as New York, Paris and Tokyo, but with the new emerging business centres of the east, such as Dhaka in Bangladesh, Hyderabad in India and Guangzhou in China, a city of some 14 million people of which many in this country will not have heard. Providing our major northern cities with the tools they need to compete, not just against London but against everyone else in the international marketplace, is therefore essential to the future economic prosperity of the north and the rest of the country at large. Combined authorities show every sign of being successful in future, provided that the well-being of local residents and the long-term interests of the business community remain at the centre of their decision making.

While I am clearly in favour of combined authorities in principle, and although it undoubtedly makes sense for Leeds, Bradford and the surrounding west riding authorities to join together, I am not yet convinced that York’s destiny lies with the West Yorkshire combined authority. For those Members who are not aware, York is not, and has never been, part of the west riding. Although its economy is undoubtedly intertwined with that of Leeds and the surrounding region, its connections with the rest of North Yorkshire run deeper still, as I know the Secretary of State, being a fellow Yorkshireman, is well aware.

It is with North Yorkshire that York shares its police force and its fire and rescue services. Indeed, as has been touched on already, York has no boundaries with West Yorkshire whatsoever, encircled as it is by the North Yorkshire districts of Selby, Harrogate, Hambleton, Ryedale and East Riding. How, then, is York placed to benefit meaningfully from its membership of the West Yorkshire combined authority when it lies at the heart of North Yorkshire, and in more ways than one?

My hon. Friend is making some powerful points. In his summary of all the fantastic elements of York and North Yorkshire, will he pay tribute to the work of Barry Dodd and the local enterprise partnership, which has been leading the way in ensuring that we get inward investment and new businesses set up in both York and North Yorkshire?

I thank my hon. Friend for that timely intervention. He is absolutely right. The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding enterprise partnership has taken amazing strides forward, ably led by Barry Dodd, and it is doing great work. It is really important for the LEP that York plays a key role within it, and rightly so.

As York does not share contiguous boundaries with the rest of the West Yorkshire combined authority, it is now to be a non-constituent member without voting rights. The residents of York will presumably have to contribute funds to the combined authority—there is still some uncertainly over that—but they will not possess a vote on important matters. What safeguards will be put in place to stop those taxes being used to improve transport priorities in West Yorkshire, rather than in York?

Ultimately, it seems to me that we need not only a West Yorkshire combined authority, but a North and East Yorkshire combined authority, to act as an essential counterbalance and to support the rural hinterland that York sits at the centre of—geographically, culturally and economically. In essence, York is the heartbeat of that rural hinterland of North Yorkshire, and removing it could have far-reaching economic consequences.

Is not that why it is so surprising to hear the shadow Minister’s complete lack of understanding of the economic ties that bring together the highly rural areas I represent and the outskirts of York that my hon. Friend represents?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a real danger that if York is removed, the North and East Yorkshire conurbations will lack a centre. I fear that it would be very difficult for a combined authority to come forward in those circumstances. Removing York would essentially leave North and East Yorkshire alone.

The beauty of the Minister’s solution is that it will not take York out of the heart of North Yorkshire. As the hon. Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) has argued, York’s economy is intertwined with West Yorkshire’s. This is a variable geometry that allows it to be part of a combined authority for some of the strategic economic decisions that it can play a part in and benefit from while still maintaining its leading role within the wider North Yorkshire area for other purposes and services.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He might not be aware that York plays a key role in both LEPs, because it sits within not only the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP but the Leeds LEP. It is absolutely vital that the city of York plays a leading role in both LEPs. Worryingly, over the past 12 months York took a decision to leave the North Yorkshire LEP and put all its eggs into the Leeds LEP basket. Thankfully, after some strong persuasion, that situation has been reversed. However, it showed the real danger that York could, in essence, walk away from its hinterland area for completely the wrong reasons, and we have to guard against that.

York, as a leading centre of innovation and wealth creation in the north, has so much to offer, but such opportunities must not be squandered by jumping on the first bus that comes along, which is what I fear is happening. In my view, that bus is also travelling in the wrong direction. York must not rush headlong into a decision. It must consider all its options, in consultation with local businesses and local residents, as the shadow Minister said, and then come to a transparent decision—I underline the word “transparent”—that reflects the views of the majority, not just the few.

I intend to support the draft statutory instruments, and I shall give my reasons for doing so.

What used to be known as Merseyside and is now known as the Liverpool city region has, over the years, underperformed in comparison with the place we are most often compared with, Greater Manchester. That might seem a strange thing for me to say, as a Merseyside MP, but I have said it publicly before. Indeed, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), has heard me do so privately and publicly. I say it because we have been very reluctant, as individual authorities rather than collectively, to decide on what was right strategically for the whole city region as opposed to what might be difficult, in the short term, to argue in St Helens, Halton or Knowsley. There has been no mechanism, and often no will, to get together and say, “This is important for the whole city region. We should all get behind it and hopefully bring it to a successful conclusion.”

I will cite an example. It is significant that my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) is here as I discuss this. Under the previous Government, there was a well-worked-up project called Merseytram line 1, which the transport authority had taken to a very late stage; it had carried out all the consultation and the project was ready to go ahead. My hon. Friend, who was the Minister responsible at the time, had to decline it because of opposition from within the Liverpool city region. In other words, some parts of the city region were unwilling to support something that did not go through their own boroughs on the grounds that there was no immediate benefit to them, even though it was of strategic importance to the wider city region. That was a very short-sighted way to behave, and I said so at the time. That is partly why I welcome these orders.

Having said that, the scheme would have been much more successful had the route gone first to the airport, which would have benefited the whole region.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but I do not agree with him. Even if he is right, is the fact that he did not agree with the specific route a reason to scupper the whole project? By saying, “If I can’t get the route I want, we won’t have a tram at all,” I think he has made the point I am trying to demonstrate. My criticism of how we have responded in the past is supported by and encapsulated in his intervention.

I thank my right hon. Friend for making some very important points. I know the history well. There is now a much greater will in the Merseyside authorities to work together and this is probably an opportune time to do this, because there is a realisation that we have to work more closely together on strategic transport and economic issues.

My hon. Friend is exactly right. That is the case I am trying make, although perhaps not as pithily as he has. I will try to develop the argument, but before I move on I want to say that I am particularly indebted to the chief executive of Knowsley borough council, Sheena Ramsey, and her staff for the briefing they have provided for this debate.

I want to make a few points about the proposals as they stand. How can I put this? The glass is half full, and I want to explain why it is not entirely full. It is important that the combined authority will have responsibility for strategic decision making on economic development, transport, housing and employment and skills. It is time that we as a city region had that focus, which we have not always had, or even been able to have, in the past. My briefing states that the combined authority will

“be focussed entirely on strategic governance to facilitate economic growth.”

As the Minister said, that is an important new departure and one that should be welcomed. Those are the potential themes and powers, and I hope that the governance system will work.

That is why I am in favour of the order and why, in the unlikely event of a Division, I would vote for it. On the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority Order 2014, paragraph 8.11 of the explanatory memorandum states:

“All of the statutory consultees, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the neighbouring local authorities all support the establishment of the Combined Authority.”

That is fine; it is even a breakthrough in terms of our history. Paragraph 8.12 goes on to say:

“However, the statutory consultees asked for the name to be changed from that which was proposed in the consultation (The Greater Merseyside Combined Authority). Their responses were in support of a name that included the word ‘Liverpool’, rather than ‘Merseyside’. The six constituent authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership stated their preference for ‘Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’. Having taken account of all of the comments made”—

this is ludicrous—

“the Government has decided the name in the Order, to which the statutory consultees have now all consented, of ‘the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority’—

a name that really rolls off the tongue. It will be instantly forgettable for anybody who hears it.

I do have a serious point to make. The Secretary of State champions the cause of localism—I have no reason to disbelieve him—as, indeed, does my party these days. For central Government, localism means being prepared to let go a little and to say, “Well, if that’s what local authorities want to do, that’s their decision, and if they get it wrong, they’ll be punished by the electorate.” That is the essence of what localism is all about. I am sure that the Minister will not confirm this, but my information is that the person who decided that the combined authority could not be called the Liverpool city region was none other than the Secretary of State. Why on earth did he want to interfere with the naming of the new combined authority and, having decided to interfere, why did he come up with a name such as the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral combined authority?

We could argue that the name is a very accurate description of the areas concerned, but I honestly believe that this is a lesson for us all, and certainly for those in government or who aspire to be in government. If we are serious about localism, we should let local authorities make the wise decisions of which they are capable, and not tell them what to call a new combined authority. It seems to me to be an utter waste and, frankly, a misapplication of the time available to the Secretary of State, who should be getting on with more important things than interfering with this name.

A slight problem that has been a source of some controversy in my part of the world in recent weeks is that, because there is a directly elected mayor in Liverpool—Joe Anderson—the governance system is potentially asymmetric. The fact that one person is directly elected as the mayor of the city of Liverpool while the other local authorities all have leaders might make the system asymmetric. There has been a bit of a spat in the local media about who will chair the combined authority, and whether the elected mayor should do so. I do not want to interfere in that discussion. I have nothing but praise to heap on the shoulders of Joe Anderson, the elected mayor of Liverpool, who is doing a good job, but the fact is that he has not been directly elected as the mayor of Knowsley, Halton, St Helens, Wirral or Sefton, which may create a bit of asymmetry in the system.

Ultimately, my solution would be to have an elected mayor for the city region in the long term. That would mean that there was a direct relationship, on such issues as transport, between the person elected by the whole city region, and the powers available to them and their accountability to a wider electorate. We cannot allow a mayor elected for one local authority to acquire by accretion—I am not saying that that is Joe Anderson’s intention, because I know that it is not—powers in areas of which they were not elected to be mayor, which is a potential problem.

That point is very important. Most people would recognise the need for and be sympathetic to having the kind of transport and economic strategy that could be developed by the combined authority in a city region, but they clearly do not want the individual local authorities that they elect to lose powers to a wider body. There is certainly no support for that in my constituency.

Frankly, there would be no support for that in Knowsley, St Helens or Wirral. The public do not want the powers that their local authority has to be passed on to some other body. That is not what is proposed. They would also not want those powers to be passed on to a mayor who has been elected by one area, but not by the wider city region. I repeat that I mean no criticism of the individual concerned, who is doing a good job. It is just that there are two systems operating within the one city region.

I think that we will eventually reach the answer that I have put forward. In fact, as the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells will confirm, we could have gone down that route on this occasion, but that was not the decision that the local authorities made. At one memorable meeting, I predicted that that would be the case, based on past form. However, those problems can be confronted in the fullness of time and are not barriers to going ahead with the order.

I am happy to support the order and to wish the new, inelegantly titled city region all the best for the future. I hope that it will do the job that it is billed to do, because we desperately need that in our city region.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth). We have talked about these subjects many times in private and public settings. However, I do not share his enthusiasm for city region mayors.

The orders will be passed in any case, but I want to point out four distinct problems as quickly as I can. The first is the problem of peripheries. Although we talk much about communities, the orders are about councils. Councils and communities are not quite the same thing. Communities that are on the periphery of council areas, such as my town of Southport, often feel overlooked in such arrangements. I am sure that the Minister, as a representative of a seaside town, will understand that seaside towns have a special and distinct offer to make in respect of tourism, which might be lost in a city region picture.

The second problem, which we must all acknowledge honestly, is that the authorities to be combined are not of equal size. There is always the problem of the big player, whether it be Liverpool, Manchester or possibly Leeds. Manchester has dealt with the problem extraordinarily well. The combined authority is not chaired by Manchester. The system thrives in Manchester because the personnel work very well together. We cannot guarantee that that will happen everywhere.

The third problem is that of spare-part authorities. I will use the example of west Lancashire, which adjoins the Liverpool city region—I will call it that to save time. We have to accept that local authority boundaries are often the result more of gerrymandering than of intelligent design. West Lancs is very much part of many aspects of the Liverpool city region. For example, the Merseyrail transport system runs right through west Lancs. It is part of a two-tier system and at some point that anomaly will be recognised. I would like the Minister to say how that will be dealt with and how we can have not just variable geometry, but variable geography.

Lastly, I would like the Minister to say a few more words about proper scrutiny. At times, the political culture in some city regions can be somewhat monolithic—it has been recently. Its tradition is certainly adversarial. I am sure that some political players in the regions would be perfectly happy to meet in private and to strike deals away from the public and opposition members, and probably away from MPs as well. It is therefore necessary to hardwire proper scrutiny arrangements into the system. That is essential not just because it is a good thing, but because there has to be public confidence in the system. There will not be public confidence unless there is transparency and proper scrutiny. I hope that the Minister will address that issue, along with the issue of boundaries.

It is good to follow the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh), who reminded the House just how complex any system or blueprint can be if the objective is to make it universal. That is why the Government are right to help groups of local authorities find a way to come together when that reflects a desire in their local communities. It is a question of responding to demand.

The Minister rightly told the House that he is ready to make the membership of the combined authorities as flexible as possible, according to the decisions of local people and local authorities. I hope that the Government and local authorities will not take a commitment to a combined authority lightly and simply walk away if decisions start to go against them or the political leadership of a local authority changes.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is exactly what City of York council did last year? It walked away from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding economic partnership. That example of walking away from a commitment that it had made was pretty shocking.

I am not entirely convinced that the two situations are comparable. We are talking today about a legislative commitment that binds authorities into exercising statutory powers. Participation in a local enterprise partnership is of a totally different order. I do not know the details of the judgment that City of York Council took about that LEP’s performance and its contribution to the jobs and wealth of people in the city—it would have to explain that.

I am pleased to speak after my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who is a very good friend. He made the important point that the change is a good first step, with the potential for our areas—South Yorkshire in my case, Merseyside in his—to go a great deal further, as long as the Government are prepared to back them to do so and to devolve essential powers and funding decisions that are better taken at that level. I will return to that point.

I also agree with my right hon. Friend that the South Yorkshire combined authority could and should be called that. Instead, we are asked to approve the Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield combined authority. I hope that the Minister will prove as flexible about name changes as he has promised to be about membership changes.

The Minister nods, so I will take that as a good sign. Perhaps the new combined authorities will make a forceful case for a name that properly reflects not just the geography but the identity of the area, which is what really counts for the people for whom the new combined authority will work.

I am really pleased by the active involvement of the hon. Members for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) and for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) in the debate and by the arguments that they have made. That signifies to me that there is a good Conservative case, and good Conservative support, for the innovation and wealth creation potential of areas outside London and the south-east. The hon. Member for York Outer reminded us of the great contribution that many of our northern and midlands cities have made in the past and can make again. I hope that both hon. Members have made strong representations to the Chancellor on that point, and that tomorrow he will provide significant policy freedoms and funding that could give life to the arguments that they have made. I am not holding my breath, but I will be delighted if they have succeeded in arguing that case with the Chancellor.

The Minister opened the debate with the obligatory page of the Chancellor’s spin sheet. The platitudes about racing economic recovery simply do not ring true in most areas of South Yorkshire. The recovery has not reached Rotherham or Barnsley. People there feel, and are, worse off under the current Government, because incomes have not kept pace with the cost of living—in fact, they have fallen behind it. The average family in my area are at least £2,000 worse off than when the Government came into power. In a year’s time, when the Government leave power, families face the prospect of being worse off at the end of a Government’s five-year period than they were at the beginning of it, for the first time.

I do not wish to make any more political points because this is an important debate and there is a broad measure of support for what the Government are proposing. On behalf of the four South Yorkshire local authorities, I pay tribute to the Minister’s decision to lay these orders before the House, and to his very able civil servants who have worked with our authorities to frame these provisions. Certainly from my point of view, and I think that of other Labour Members, he will receive support.

Authorities and areas such as Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster in South Yorkshire have a long history of working together well over the years, which reflects our natural economic geography and sense of identity in the wider county. The introduction of local enterprise partnerships, underpowered as they are, have reinforced that joint working over the past couple of years, and in some respects the combined authority will help to hardwire the private and public partnership working that we have established in South Yorkshire.

This is legislation for what has been collaboration by consent up to this point, and in future joint decision making will be more formal, have a legislative underpinning, and be part of a statutory entity. Those words do not mean much outside Whitehall, but I say to the Minister, and to the Minister of State, who has left his place, that I am prepared to take at face value the assertions given to the House that both Ministers are willing to consider and argue the case for greater devolution of powers, funding and responsibilities from central Government.

The problem, however, is that their arguments have not cut enough ice with colleagues in the Government and they have not made enough headway. Establishing the combined authorities removes one of the alibis that the Minister will often have found in Whitehall against devolution: “But Minister, we don’t know with any certainty who we’re devolving to.” Now that argument, that pretext for hanging on to powers at the centre, is gone. A statutory body, properly constituted with a governance arrangement and a degree of democratic accountability will, I hope, reinforce the Minister’s hand in the final 12 to 14 months that he and his Government have in office.

I hope that this will be not just the first example of bringing strategic economic development powers under the new combined authorities, working alongside LEPs, or of the powers and responsibilities of the current integrated transport authorities in our areas, but the start of a much more significant programme of devolution from the centre to our new combined authorities.

I make a plea for two steps for the Minister and his colleagues to argue with the Treasury. Will he argue to ensure that the combined authorities will, like the local authorities that constitute their membership, be able to reclaim VAT? That will make them more efficient with the use of public money, and reinforce their capacity to make a real economic difference to our area. Secondly, will he make the case, and will the Government concede for the new combined authorities the same borrowing powers that integrated transport authorities and local authorities now have—in other words, the well-established prudential regime, which is proven since the mid-2000s to have worked well for local government? Will he allow the combined authorities to borrow in order to invest beyond simply the transport field? I offer those remarks to the Minister perhaps as a very late Budget representation for Budget 2014. If I am too late for that, however, may I offer them as the first Budget representation for Budget 2015?

The shadow Minister and other Labour Members commented on the Government’s ability to localise, but I struggle to listen to them on devolution and localisation. As a council leader under the previous Labour Government, I did not see very much devolution or localisation and neither did other council leaders. I gently point out that after 13 years in government the number of combined authorities the Labour Government put in place was zero, while this Government have managed to introduce them in just three years.

We have taken a lead on combined authorities in a short time and I am glad that we have the support of Opposition Members. I remind them, particularly the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford), that the Localism Act 2011 saw a massive change in how we devolve powers to local communities, not just to local government. It is probably a large part of why the well-respected Richard Leese said that there had been more devolution in three years of this coalition Government than in 13 years under Labour. Labour Members might want to bear that in mind before trying to give us lessons on how to localise.

On a more positive note, we have had an interesting debate on what will be—if Parliament approves the orders and it is clear from what has been said that the House will support them—an important development in each of the three areas under consideration. It is an important development for the economic success of the three major conurbations, centred on the cities of Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. It is a development that epitomises localism, being in each area founded on, and driven by, the initiative of the councils and their partners. The combined authorities will have a central role in taking forward the city deals in each of these areas. The combined authorities will be able to provide stable, efficient and accountable governance to drive forward the projects and investment needed to deliver the outcomes envisaged in those city deals. Likewise, the combined authorities will be able to provide the governance needed for any future growth deals, with resources being provided from the local growth fund.

Important points were raised by hon. Members from all parts of the House. The hon. Member for Corby raised a number of issues, not least on the local government finance settlement. He and I have had that debate on a number occasions and I can only remind him that the settlement made it clear that authorities with the highest demand for services continue to receive substantially more funding than others and have higher spending power.

The hon. Gentleman asked how the counties and districts will operate in South Yorkshire. The Sheffield city region local enterprise partnership has a strong board, and the intention is for it to work alongside the combined authority. We also understand now that the chief executives of the counties and constituent authorities have come together in agreement with the councils to have clear structures for joint working, and that gives us confidence.

The hon. Gentleman rightly raised, as he has before, the question of why York cannot now be part of the order for West Yorkshire. I am happy to deal with that point. The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 requires that combined authorities consist of whole local authority areas that share the same boundaries. We are committed to reviewing the legislation as soon as possible and we will consult on how to change it and facilitate that change at the earliest opportunity. We intend to consult in the next few weeks.

The hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) raised the question of VAT. I am pleased to be able to give them some reassurance. I confirm that the Government will open a consultation shortly on a proposal to add Greater Manchester and the combined authorities to the existing VAT refund scheme for local authorities, and to do that through secondary legislation.

That is an extremely welcome statement, which will be warmly welcomed in Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield. Will he give the House an indication of the value of that move for the funding available to the combined authorities?

Not at this stage, but I will happily look into it and write to the right hon. Gentleman.

My hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) highlighted concern that York could walk away from North Yorkshire. As the Secretary of State and I said to him when we discussed this matter recently, we appreciate the circumstances. It will be important for York to continue to maintain a constructive partnership with North Yorkshire while it pursues its ambition for calibration with the neighbouring West Yorkshire councils, its natural economic partners. I understand that York is committed to that. However, my hon. Friend also raised the interesting possibility of a combined authority of a different construction. No doubt he will be putting forward that proposal soon.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to ensuring that North Yorkshire does not lose out. May I urge him also to ensure that this attempt by York is transparent and open for consultation, and is not a gerrymandering deal as well as a city deal?

I can assure my hon. Friend of that. There will be a full process including consultation and, as has happened today, the input of Members here in the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for York Outer also asked whether the non-constituent authorities would have to contribute to the costs of the combined authorities. I can tell him that they are not required to do that. They will have to contribute only if and when they become constituent members. Funding will be based on an agreement between the constituent authorities themselves and I stress the word “constituent”—or on a default agreement relating to the populations of the constituent authorities.

The right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) asked about the name of his combined authority. The names of the authorities have been agreed on and consented to by all the statutory consultees, but let me say in response to an issue that others have also raised that this is localism at its absolute purest. The authorities can choose whatever name they want, work under that name, brand it and “logo” it, and I wish them all the luck in the world.

I think it would be more accurate to say that the authorities agreed to the new name reluctantly on the understanding that they would never have to use it, which rather makes my point. What was the point of the Secretary of State’s intervening in the first place?

Coming up with a name on which every member of every combined authority agrees to be the one and only name—and a legal name—is not always that straightforward. Under the powers that we have introduced, combined authorities can now choose the brand name that they want to use, whatever it may be, and use it strongly and effectively to represent themselves.

I do not want to labour the point, but the fact is that all the authorities had previously agreed to the name “Liverpool city region”. It was only because the Secretary of State intervened that they eventually decided to give in rather than prolong things, by calling it what they had decided rather than what he had decided.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that we have given authorities the power to do what they like, to brand their names, and to use them as they wish. I am sure that they will do so very successfully. I also noted what he said about what he thinks will be the future development of the process and the establishment of a non-elected mayor for the entire area. That touches on a point that he made about this being a first step for local authorities. I am happy to state clearly from the Dispatch Box that I agree that local government is evolving and changing, as it always does over time. That is one of the strengths and beauties of the way in which local government in our country works. I have no doubt that it will evolve and change further in many other ways, and the right hon. Gentleman has described one potential change in his own area.

The hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) mentioned seaside towns, and I share the experience that he described. He was right to point out that such towns felt left behind in the past, which is one of the reasons for the coalition Government’s introduction of the coastal communities fund. I was delighted to announce the round 2 funding a couple of weeks ago, along with the opening of round 3, which will make much more money available to help seaside towns with their economic regeneration. New criteria will make it easier for them to grow their economic futures while protecting their coastlines from erosion.

The hon. Gentleman also raised an issue related to governance. I will give him more details in writing, but I can tell him that each constituent council will appoint at least one of its elected members to be a member of the combined authority. As I said earlier, we intend them also to have non-voting members and members representing minority parties.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the potential for dominance by the big players. The orders have specified the voting arrangements based on the scheme developed by the councils concerned and each member does have one vote and no member has a casting vote. That is why it is important that the scrutiny is run efficiently and effectively.

The hon. Gentleman also touched on West Lancashire. In response to the Government’s consultation, West Lancashire stated its support for the combined authority because of the expected improvements in transport and economic growth.

The right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne, in asking about VAT, also mentioned the powers to borrow. The combined authorities’ borrowing powers are limited to their transport function. They will inherit the levy-raising power of the integrated transport authority, hence the revenue-raising power exists only in relation to transport. The right hon. Gentleman also commented on my opening remarks.

The Minister is being generous in giving way and in responding to some of the arguments today. He is stating the obvious fact that the borrowing powers in relation to transport derive from the levy-raising powers of the integrated transport authority from which the functions will be taken. However, what is the principled case for these properly constituted, legally established combined authorities not being able to borrow within the general prudential borrowing regime for local government?

We believe the bodies that have the powers to raise revenue, or precepting bodies, should have directly elected members and be directly answerable to the electorate, and that is not possible for combined authorities. Indeed, to make it possible would require changes to primary legislation. However, I can see that the right hon. Gentleman may want to take up this issue, but, as I said earlier—and I know the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) takes the same view—if areas have ideas on how they want to move forward and what they want to develop, they can make the case. We will certainly give them the airtime to look at that, but I would say there is a concern around them and the point about elected accountability.

I understand why the right hon. Gentleman referred to my opening remarks about economic prosperity and the desire to see more of it in parts of the country. I am sure he will want to join me in apologising to the people of his area for the problems they have faced over the last few years as a direct result of the economic mess left by the last Labour Government.

In 2007 people in my area of Barnsley and Rotherham had seen 10 years of stable economic growth, unemployment fall, employment rise, and inflation and interest rates at a stable level. Then the global financial crisis hit, and this country faced enormous economic problems, but I am proud to say the Labour Government played a part in co-ordinating the international response that dealt with that.

The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I do not entirely agree with his description. He seems to forget that from 2007 to 2010 not only was there the issue with the banks, but that since 2010 this Government have been having to deal with the bad economic decisions of the previous Government. We are having to deal with the fact that they spent money the country simply did not have. Nobody should be doing that; certainly we know from our own credit card bills that that is not a good way to move forward. This coalition Government are dealing with that mess and are making the difficult decisions required to develop a good long-term economic plan. The outcomes of that are now starting to be seen, with growth coming back while interest rates are being held down and with more people in work and unemployment falling. That is a good thing for our country and I commend that to the House in the same way that I will commend these combined authority orders.

Establishing these combined authorities is what the areas themselves want to see. They want them because of their commitment to delivering growth and prosperity for their areas and this Government have given them the power to do that. It is a priority that should be at the heart of everything that councils across our country are working to do. It is a commitment that business and other partners in each of these areas rightly share. It is also a commitment this coalition Government share, as demonstrated through the city deals we have agreed with these areas and others. Let us be clear about the importance of this: the first wave of deals alone is expected to create 175,000 jobs and 37,000 new apprentices —that is in addition to the almost 1.5 million new jobs in the private sector under this Government. It is a commitment I am confident this House shares, and I commend the orders to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Combined Authorities (Consequential Amendments) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

With the leave of the House, I will put the Questions on the three remaining motions together.


That the draft Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

That the draft Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.

That the draft West Yorkshire Combined Authority Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 10 March, be approved.—(Brandon Lewis.)