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Heseltine Review

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 25 March 2014

6. What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on the role of decentralisation in the implementation of the Heseltine Review. (903239)

I am deputy chair of the Local Growth Committee, which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister chairs and which brings together Ministers from a wide range of Departments to focus on local growth programmes, including the delivery of recommendations of the Heseltine review. Local enterprise partnerships are submitting their strategic economic plans at the end of the month, and announcements on the growth deals will be made later this year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the review that the Communities and Local Government Committee is undertaking on devolving fiscal responsibility to London and cities throughout the country? Does he agree that this gives us the ideal opportunity to put back into the hands of local authorities the power that was taken from them?

I do agree. I am looking forward to giving evidence to my hon. Friend’s Committee next week in pursuance of that. However, I do not think I am letting the cat of the bag when I say that I am strongly in favour of the direction of the inquiry. The fact that the Mayor displays his usual muscularity in forcing this on to the agenda is very much an illustration of the power of the devolution of powers that has already taken place.

The Heseltine recommendations will work only where there is proper buy-in both to the planning policies and the economic policies for a local area. What discussions is the Minister having to make sure that local authorities—combined authorities where we have them—and local enterprise partnerships are working together to ensure that the populations themselves support that co-ordinated approach?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. As a Manchester MP, he will know that the Greater Manchester combined authority is perhaps the best example of the fruits of the co-operation between local authorities. The relationship between the combined authority and the local enterprise partnership is very close, and that closeness of working has been one of the key contributors to the economic success of Greater Manchester in recent years.

The Minister will be aware that one of the recommendations of the Heseltine review emphasised the importance of businesses and others engaging with young people in colleges and schools. In Northern Ireland, the schools initiative model has made a difference in raising the electoral registration of young people to 50% more than would otherwise be the case. The Minister gets on very well with the Secretary of State for Education—better, I think, than the Deputy Prime Minister—so will he discuss with him bringing this model on to the mainland so that we can all see the benefits that Northern Ireland saw?

The House will know that I am very keen to make sure that every young person gets the chance to vote. One of the announcements that I made in recent weeks was to make £4.2 million available to every local authority in the country specifically to enable them to fund talks and exercises in schools in order to sign up young people to vote. I am glad that that has the right hon. Gentleman’s endorsement.