Sunday, September 12, 2004

More Outrageous claims by Prescott

Prescott rejects 'fake' charge
Sep 11 2004
Sandy Mckenzie, Evening Gazette

An elected regional assembly for the North-East was slammed as "fake devolution" at a major debate held by the Evening Gazette last night.

But the attack by Bernard Jenkin, Conservative Shadow Spokesman for the Regions, was shouted down by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who urged Teesside to back an elected assembly in the November 4 referendum.

The audience of nearly 250 was evenly split between the 'Yes' and 'No' camps in a show of hands at the end of the lively two-hour debate on the issue.

Mr Prescott had played the leading role for 'Yes' campaigners at the event held in front of TV cameras at Teesside University's Innovation lecture theatre, with Mr Jenkin leading the 'No' campaign's panel. Mr Prescott was in bullish form as he said: "We want a 'Yes' vote in this referendum because the status quo is unacceptable.
"Although there's been some progress in recent years, the differentials still continue and we are disadvantaged compared to the South."
He said that when people looked at the arguments there was only one option to make a real difference for a more prosperous future - a 'Yes' vote.
"'Yes' for more jobs, 'Yes' for more growth, 'Yes' for a stronger voice for the North-east, 'Yes' for change, 'Yes' for a better future for all its people," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

But Mr Jenkin slammed the regional assembly proposals and said: "This is fake devolution - not the real thing.
"The pro-assembly hype is not matched by what is actually set out in the draft Bill and there would be no extra money for the North-east."
He added: "More professional politicians and bureaucrats, more of the same old faces, would be a drag on the North-east economy.
"This referendum is a chance to send a message to all politicians - this deal is not nearly good enough."

Also on the panel for the 'Yes' campaign were Professor John Tomaney, chairman of the Yes4theNorthEast campaign, and Teesside professional opera singer and ambassador for Middlesbrough Suzannah Clarke.

Joining Mr Jenkin on the 'No' side were businessman John Elliott, chairman of the No campaign, and Newcastle University's professor of education policy James Tooley.

Evening Gazette editor Steve Dyson chaired the event with Gerry Foley, Tyne Tees TV's political editor.

Mr Dyson said today: "Issues about the proposed elected assembly were given a thorough airing and it helped enormously to give people more information about issues surrounding what will be a crucial vote for the region."

A selection of composite questions from scores submitted by Evening Gazette readers were put to the panel.

They covered issues ranging from the cost of an assembly and where it would be based, to what powers it would have and if Tyneside would dominate such an assembly.

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