Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The 'dark' secrets of devolution?

A Freedom of Information request, which had been made for publication of the minutes of the Cabinet Ministerial Committee of Devolution to Scotland and Wales and the English Regions, dating from 1997 and 1998, has been turned down by Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General on the grounds that release would not be in the public interest to release the papers because it would undermine the operation of Government. Digressing slightly, it appears that there is now a move to charge for FOI requests; a report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice has been submitted to the Justice Select Committee found that the number of requests had risen by 25% each year and are being seen as a drain on resources. This rather makes a mockery of the promise contained in the Coalition Programme for Government (page 11):

"We will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency".

It is necessary to return to the days of the Brown Government and the year 2007, when on 28th June Gordon Brown appointed Regional Ministers. When the Coalition was formed the Prime Minister's Spokesman was asked on 17 May 2010 if Regional Ministers had been scrapped. He said that the process of completing appointments to the Government was continuing, and that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, "had been very clear on the importance of devolution". On 4 June 2010 the Evening Standard reported that the post of Minister for London had been scrapped. No formal announcements were made in relation to regional ministers, but I believe it correct to say there has been no announcements of any similar appointments by region. However Greg Clark was appointed as a Minister of Cities in July and according to the report on Conservative Home Clark will initially focus on the so-called 'Core Cities' outside of London; Birmingham (West Midlands - UKG), Bristol (South West - UKK), Leeds, Sheffield (Yorkshire and the Humber - UKE), Liverpool, Manchester (North West - UKD), Newcastle (North East - UKC) and Nottingham (East Midlands - UKF). That takes care of 6 of the 9 English regions, those omitted being London (UKI), the South East (UKJ) and East of England (UKH). (Note that I have added the Eurostat NUTS nomenclature for each region at Level 1).

Leading up to point of this post it is necessary that we consider two further links; the Committee of the Regions - from which we learn their raison d'être - and a most illuminating post from Ian Parker-Joseph (IPJonPolitics) to which I linked here.

With the appointment of Greg Clark it is obvious that the regionalisation of England is still 'alive and kicking' - it is also obvious, I maintain, that the reason for Grieve to veto the release of the papers in question is due to the fact it would show too much of the 'elephant in the room', which would be a surprise - not.

Needless to say Grieve can negate my accusation by releasing the damn papers - no?

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