Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hannan in the Telegraph

The EU's four-stage strategy to reduce Britons to servitude
By Daniel Hannan
(Filed: 26/01/2005)

The penny is finally dropping. Thirty-two years after we joined, we are at last waking up to the nature of our subjection before Brussels. It was always going to take a big issue to jolt us from our narcolepsy, and immigration is that issue.

On Monday, Michael Howard promised that a future Conservative government would introduce an upper limit to the number of immigrants, and set a separate quota for asylum seekers. Insofar as one can sense these things, the voters heartily approved. People of impeccably liberal views went along with the contention that we could not open our borders to the entire world.
Passionate Labour supporters could be heard admitting that, on this one, the Tories had got it right.

Then, from Brussels, came the noise of a mighty collective snort. You are too late, said our masters in the Commission. We have been putting together an EU asylum policy over the past eight years, and your signatures - Jack Straw's and David Blunkett's, at any rate - are on all the documents. You want to withdraw now? Tant pis!

It comes as a bit of a shock to find out that the common immigration policy already exists. After all, wasn't this one of those "red lines" that Tony Blair kept swanking about? Haven't the home affairs spokesmen of all parties - even the Lib Dems - made a big issue of keeping our border controls? Yet it now turns out that, although we may indeed keep our physical frontier checks, we have ceded the right to decide who is entitled to cross them.

This is a pattern that one sees again and again in the EU. New initiatives go from being unthinkable to being inevitable without any intervening stage. It happened with the euro and the social chapter. It is happening again with the European army.

You hadn't heard about the European army? It is small, to be sure, but it certainly exists. Uniformed EU troops have been deployed in Macedonia, the Congo and, most recently, Bosnia. They are answerable, not to any national capital or combination of national capitals, but to the EU's own politico-military structures. Yet politicians continue to speak, rather touchingly, of "the need to oppose a common EU defence policy".

So it goes on. We are making a big fuss about the EU proposal to have its own diplomatic service, but it's already up and running. I recently visited the EU embassy in Lima (or the "European Delegation" as it is still coyly known). It employed many more staff than any of the member state embassies, and with good reason: it has assumed almost all their functions.

When I asked the Euro-diplomats what was left for the national missions to do, they grinned at each other and mumbled something about promoting tourism. Yet I'll bet that, when the EU formally calls its delegations embassies, there will be howls of outrage.

The same goes for the European police force ("Europol"), the EU prosecuting magistracy ("Eurojust"), tax harmonisation, human rights questions. In each case, Euro-integrationists pursue a well-tried four-stage strategy. Stage One is mock-incredulity: "No one is proposing any such thing. It just shows what loons these sceptics are that they could even imagine it." Stage Two is bravado: "Well all right, it's being proposed, but don't worry: we have a veto and we'll use it." Stage Three is denial: "Look, we may have signed this, but it doesn't really mean what the critics are claiming." Stage Four is resignation: "No point complaining now, old man: it's all been agreed."

Part of the problem is that, 32 years on, we still have not grasped the nature of EU power. Because the Treaty of Rome is called a treaty, we imagine that it simply binds its signatory states under international law.

In reality, though, the Treaty of Rome created a new legal order, directly applicable within the jurisdictions of the member nations.

So, to return to the case in point, let us ponder what would happen if a future Tory government implemented the policy that Mr Howard adumbrated on Monday. Let us imagine that someone entered the country illegally and that, several months later, he was discovered by the immigration service and ordered to leave. Let us further conjecture that he, like many sans papiers in this situation, suddenly claimed to be the victim of political persecution in his home country.

David Davis, as home secretary, would order his repatriation on the ground that we accepted as refugees only those who had been so identified by the UNHCR. The illicit entrant would at this stage take his case to judicial review and the judge, as things stand, would uphold EU law and order that he remain in Britain pending the assessment of his case.

The judge would act in this way, not simply because judges enjoy overturning deportation orders (although they do), but because he would be obliged, under Sections 2 and 3 of the 1972 European Communities Act, to give precedent to EU rules over our own parliamentary statutes. That is why, for example, the Metric Martyrs lost their case. Although a 1985 Act of Parliament explicitly allowed traders to use either metric or imperial units, an EU directive said otherwise, and our appeal court was obliged to give precedence to the latter.
Mr Howard understands this very well. Not only is he a lawyer himself but, as home secretary, he clashed almost weekly with our judges - not least on immigration cases. He must have known that the EU would react as it did to his proposals: indeed, I suspect he was banking on it. He has said before that he wants to take powers back from Brussels but, until now, the issue on which he was planning to go into battle - the recovery of our fishing grounds - seemed rather marginal to most inland voters. Now he has found a casus belli where the country will be behind him.
It has been a besetting British vice that we ignore what is happening on the Continent until almost too late. But, when we finally rouse ourselves, our resolve can be an awesome thing. I sense that this may be such a moment.
Daniel Hannan is a Tory MEP

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Penny drops for Linford...we were right all along!

Do you want a region at all?
Jan 22 2005
By Paul Linford, The Journal

Ever since the November 4 referendum decision against establishing an elected North-East Assembly, a big unanswered question about the future of the region has hung in the air.
It concerns the fate of the regional institutions which an elected assembly was meant to democratize but which, in the wake of the No vote, now exist in an uneasy limbo.

The question is a valid one, not least because some of the bodies in question were set up by Labour as precursors of the move towards regional government now stopped dead in its tracks.

This week, the Tories confirmed that they would dismantle large parts of this regional apparatus as part of their drive to cut some £35bn of what they term "wasteful" public expenditure.
Their plans would see unelected assemblies axed altogether, while development agencies like One NorthEast and the regional Government Offices would be radically slimmed down.

In view of the referendum result, the Tories probably imagine this to be a vote-winner, although in truth it's not so very different from the policy on which they fought and lost the last election in 2001.
Detailed policy proposals from the other two main parties are still anticipated, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats still seemingly unsure of how to respond to the referendum debacle. But whoever wins in May - when the next General Election is expected to take place - it is already clear that the self-styled, unelected "North-East Assembly" in particular faces a desperate fight for survival.
So can there really be any valid argument for keeping an unelected assembly when the democratic version of it has already been rejected by the region's voters in such large numbers?
Well, let me begin by saying that the NEA would probably not be in this position now if it had not made the daft decision to call itself an "assembly" in the first place.

Initially set up by the Government as a regional "chamber," its subsequent re-branding exercise was not just a blatant piece of self-aggrandisement but also mightily confusing for the public.

The campaign to establish a "North-East Assembly" cannot possibly have been helped by the fact that something calling itself by that name already existed.

Secondly, it has to be said that the crossover between the NEA and the Association of North-East Councils, which is now to be severed, did not serve the wider interests of the region well.
The dominance exerted by local government over the NEA has at times caused it to adopt a lowest-common-denominator approach to tackling the region's problems.

Furthermore, in attempting to manage the political process leading up to the possible introduction of elected regional government, the NEA did further harm to the pro-assembly cause. The prominent role played in that process by local government figures such as Tony Flynn merely heightened the public's impression that home rule would mean the same tired old faces running things.

Thirdly, the NEA's close links with the Labour Party political establishment in the region has seriously limited its effectiveness as a lobbying organization.
A few years back, while preparing a report to take to the Government on regional funding, it was told by senior officials that any mention of the Barnett Formula would be "counter productive."

Sure enough, when the document appeared in made no reference to the infamous Treasury formula which awards Scotland and Wales much higher spending-per-head than the English regions.
But how anyone was supposed to make a coherent case for the North without mentioning the £300m funding disparity it generates was, and is, quite beyond me.

That said, however, it is hard not to sympathise with the plight of the man at the centre of the current debate, NEA director Stephen Barber.

As was first revealed in The Journal, ANEC has drawn up a secret blueprint to restructure the organization which involves making Mr Barber redundant.
Mr Barber was party to some of the decisions I have referred to above and to that extent must bear some degree of responsibility for the failings of the NEA as an organization.
But he is a good and decent man who has fought hard to bring a regional dimension to local and national policy debates and, as such, will be a loss to the region as a whole.
And it is here - in the search for a regional dimension to policy-making - that the nub of the argument about the future of the unelected assembly really lies.
On the basis of its overall track record, it scarcely deserves to survive - but as with the monarchy, the real question is what you would put in its place.

The Tories talk of "returning" the assembly's functions to local government, but this is a dangerous, and arguably disingenuous fallacy.
The kinds of governmental functions carried out at regional level - for example strategic planning, skills training and co-ordinating European funding - cannot realistically be exercised by town halls, and in truth, they never were.

What we are left with, then, is either an unsatisfactory status quo, or the atomization of the North-East into a host of competing interests - urban against rural, Tyne against Wear against Tees.

If the North-East is to be regarded as a region in any meaningful sense, it needs region-wide institutions like the assembly to bring a regional perspective to bear.

The people of the North-East decided in November that they didn't want the irregional assembly to be elected, and those of us who argued for a different outcome have to respect that.
Now, in deciding whether or not it should continue, the region has a much more fundamental question to answer - whether it wants to be a region at all.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The net is closing Mr. Barber

We have now have the response from Stephen Barber and this is the last desperate attempt to hold off the screaming hordes. The days of Mr. Barber and the Assembly are numbered and there will be desperate attempts from all others at self-preservation.
Mr. Barber's responses (or lack of responses) are highlighted in red.

E-mail received 24th December 2004


Thanks for this. My comments are as follows;

14th December, 2004

Stephen Barber
North East Assembly
Newcastle Upon Tyne

26th November 2004


There are a number of issues which are still causing concern:
the relationship between ANEC and NEA, and also the funding and liabilities of these organisations.

I am sure the public will take a very close interest at any attempt to attach any potential cost liability of an unelected assembly to the North East taxpayer, especially after rejecting the proposals for an elected assembly so emphatically.

You will be aware that across the country, and also in the North East, that many local authorities are now preparing to withdraw (and also withdraw funding) from these unelected bodies (assemblies / chambers) as they are now perceived to be nothing more than 'talking shops.'
The emphatic no vote in the North East has highlighted the existence of these organisations.
Plus, major decisions that are being made with regard to planning and housing are being done without democratic accountability.

We are receiving many calls and letters from members of the public who feel that they have been the victims of a political con trick.
However, there are some obvious and very serious implications financially and legally should the NEA/ANEC start to lose its funding, or even attempt to continue in its present form.

Therefore, I would appreciate clarification on the points below and I am sure that in the interests of transparency, especially because of the potential compromise legally of members and local authorities, there will be nothing short of full disclosure. We are quite prepared to challenge the legitimacy of the continuance of these organisations legally, but I am sure that this will not be necessary.

1.Can you confirm that the contracts with the 32 permanent members of staff (is this figure correct?) are all in the name of ANEC as the employer?
Details of staff are included on the Association and Assembly websites. With the exception of one individual on attachment and one on secondment, all staff are employed by the Association of North East Councils.

2. Is ANEC the accountable body and registered as an employers association under S122 of the TU and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ? If not, who is?
Northumberland County Council acts as the accountable body in respect of the receipt of Government funding.

3. Can you clarify what legal advice was taken by ANEC or its members prior to creating such a large number of permanent staff especially as both ANEC and NEA are 'unincorporated associations.' Has the question of personal liability of the members been highlighted and legal advice sought?
Legal advice is taken, where necessary, in respect of activities relating to the Association and the Assembly.

4. Can you please forward copies, or make available, this legal advice? ( To clarify the legal position I have provided a link to the necessary section of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 here )
In my view, it would not be appropriate to make available legal advice.

5.Can you confirm whether there are any lease agreements and contracts in the name of NEA or are they all in the name of ANEC?
If so, could you please provide copies or arrange an appointment for us or our legal representative to inspect them?
If not, whose name are they held?
Contracts have been signed on behalf of both the Association and the Assembly. I regard them as being of a commercial in confidence nature.

6.Can you please supply me with current copies of both the Constitution and Rules of Procedure for both the Association of North East Councils and the North East Assembly?
Copies are in the post to you.

7. Can you please advise me whether the members of the said organisations will be covered in any future action by legal representatives of ANEC and NEA, their local authorities (or social partner member) or their own legal representatives?
I am not clear what you mean by this question.

8. In previous correspondence you referred to an insurance policy and you made an offer to 'indemnify' local authorities from any potential liability arising from any action taken against the NEA or ANEC. Please can you please now provide a copy of this insurance policy and clarify whether the policy is held in the name of one or both of the unincorporated associations? If it was a personal indemnity from you as the Director can you tell me where the funds will be accessed to underwrite any potential financial liability?
I regard our insurance policy as a commercial in confidence document.

I am copying this to the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Ged Fitzgerald, David Jennings, District Auditor and also Sunderland Council's members of both bodies.
There are also a number of other interested and associated parties who have been copied in to this communication.
I am sure that you will personally make it available to the members and employees of both ANEC and NEA in order to make them aware of a potential compromise to their personal situations.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
North East No Campaign
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 0191 565 7143

'No Vote shake-up could cost key jobs

Jan 7th 2005
Ross Smith, The Journal

Two top posts could be axed in a shake-up of regional government in the North-East planned in the wake of the massive `no' vote in the elected assembly referendum.

Proposals are being put to the Association of North-East Councils, which represents the region's 25 local authorities, to separate it from the existing unelected regional assembly.

A confidential report seen by The Journal claims ANEC was sidelined by the assembly in the run-up to the regional referendum and the organisation should have a stronger role, lobbying for the region's interests.

The report calls for a re-structuring of the two organisations, which will involve making two of their most senior staff redundant.

It recommends deleting the posts of the bodies' director, Stephen Barber, 55, and the head of the North-East of England Office in Brussels, Stephen Howell, 57.

An evaluation by Regional Employers Organisation boss Mick Brodie says the two redundancies will cost up to £350,662. Mr Barber currently earns £81,248, while Mr Howell is paid £48,282.

A new director would be appointed for each organisation, and their joint policy staff would be separated.

The new-look ANEC could make formal links with the Local Government Association, the national lobbying organisation for councils, to beef up its lobbying weight.

Members - many of whom are leaders of councils in the North-East - could also be given cabinet roles on ANEC to focus on specific policy areas for the region.

But one senior local government figure said: "We're being presented with this as a fait accompli, but I'm not sure how happy people will be. There's a role for us to work together, but I don't know if we have a mandate to beef up the organisation."

Anti-assembly campaigner Neil Herron said the abolition of the regional assembly would be the logical next step, saying: "We can't complain about the Association of North-East Councils working together, but this proves the people have created the pressure to remove this regional body." And North Tyneside Mayor Linda Arkley insisted the assembly should be scrapped completely.

She said: "ANEC has always been the vehicle by which councils have dealt with cross-cutting issues.

"But the public gave a resounding `no' to an assembly, so why are we still going on about it?"
The plans have been put forward after a review by a consultant, Paul Wilding, into how the structures should change after the referendum. They are due to be implemented in June, if agreed by the organisations.

The report says: "There is general recognition that the director has played a significant part in moving both organisations forward and that the establishment of the assembly has been a major achievement.

"There is also, however, a recognition that the creation of two new organisations heralds a new era, and this signals the need for new leadership."

A spokesman for both bodies said: "The recommendations flowing from this review will be pertinent to how both organisations move forward to ensure that there is greater distinction between the assembly and association in terms of their role, remit and functions."

ANEC and the assembly would continue to share administrative staff, but the changes would increase annual costs by £18,000.

The groups, which currently share 32 staff, are funded by a combination of government grants and local authority subscriptions.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

"Ball's in your Court"

6th January 2005
Article for the Conservative Way Forward

"The People Have Spoken...Politicians beware!"
by Neil Herron

In the early hours of the morning of the 5th November 2004 the enormity of the verdict delivered by the people of the North East had visibly shaken the Deputy Prime Minister. An emphatic and overwhelming 78% had voted 'No' in the referendum on whether the North East should have an elected regional assembly. We at the No Campaign had predicted the landslide from the outset. How could Prescott and the stunned Yes Campaign have got it so wrong? The answer is quite simple. They were not listening to the people, but simply listening to what they wanted to hear. A lot of this came from vested interest 'stakeholder' groups, the BBC and the press and media who, in an attempt to appear impartial and create a balance failed to accurately report the true mood on the streets.
The North East electorate bought and understood the No Campaign's message, and they emphatically rejected this ill-conceived, ill-thought out political con trick.
A con trick that in the end saw the Government, and Prescott in particular resort to desperate measures.
A con trick in which the BBC and also the Electoral Commission were complicit.
A con trick because the North East Assembly still exists in an unelected form on the Quayside in Newcastle. These unelected Assemblies remain in place across the country representing the artificial 'Euro-Regions.' Many Conservative councillors continue to sit on these unaccountable bodies which are partly funded by 'voluntary' contributions from local authorities totalling many tens of thousands of pounds. Money which could be better spent in the local authority areas where there is true democratic accountability. These conservative councillors must be challenged to stand down on principle from these expensive, unwanted, toothless illegitimate bodies which are no more than expensive talking shops. It stinks of crass hypocrisy from some who have responded and said that they must continue to sit on these bodies to ensure are not as bad as what they could be. Resigning on block across the country as a party and it will bring these bodies crashing down and gain respect from the public who admire principle and can see through hypocritical weasel words.
No doubt political analysts will scrutinise the result and the reasons in the NE for many years to come, but there is no doubt that this was the biggest political upset in recent history and will be a major turning point… a new dawn politically where people woke up to the power that they hold.
The turnout was 47.7%. The result cannot be ignored.
The actual result was: YES 197,310 (22%) NO 696,519 (78%)The overwhelming landslide does not come as a surprise to us (as Ladbrokes will confirm) and both Colin Moran (Strategy Director) and myself predicted this result a long time ago. It is somewhat satisfying that we appeared to know more than the political commentators and even the Deputy Prime Minister. Our winnings from the bookmakers were shared with a couple of local charities. How did we know and the politicos didn't?Well, after over 50 public debates with the Yes Campaigners over the last two years, including those with Government Ministers, massive press and media coverage throughout the campaign of all the People's No Campaign's activities, we saw behind, and also exposed the spin and deceit.
The BBC Poll in 2002 which said that 72% of the people in the North East were in favour of an elected assembly was contemptible and a mass distortion, and produced before the White Paper and before anyone knew the powers an assembly would have.
But it was the White Paper, which gave the game away and gave the Yes Campaign the hardest task of all. All they could sell was a dream and a promise of jam tomorrow, and up here we don't buy bottled fog from snake oil salesmen. The public in the end not only rejected an assembly they stuck two fingers up to an arrogant and patronising political elite and this was, as the referendum on the European Constitution will also be, a chance for the electorate to indulge themselves.
The White Paper brought 38 responses from the North East...hardly the will of the people. Yet Prescott’s agenda continued regardless.
He then conducted 'Soundings Exercises' to determine the level of interest in the regions not for an elected assembly, but to see whether we wanted a referendum! Less than a thousand people out of 2,600,000 in the North East responded, despite massive efforts and consultations by the local authorities and other bodies, but Prescott still drove the agenda on regardless.
The deceit continued and the public money continued to be spent on the propaganda campaign, billed as 'information.' So outrageous were the claims in the 'Have Your Say' Information leaflet that we attempted to challenge it in court only to be threatened with a massive cost order. The Government admitted the errors and they were later corrected but not in the 1,900,000 leaflets that had already gone out.
The decision by the Electoral Commission to give 'official' status, and £100,000 to another 'No' campaign (NESNO), which was only formed in July of 2004, was bizarre to say the least. It went against all logic, not to mention the track record of the two campaigns, aroused deep suspicions not just amongst the public but the press and media as well. In our view and many others around the country, an unforgivable act to marginalise a campaign run by the people, for the people. But, when it was clear that this other campaign was a Conservative construct then the Electoral Commission’s decision was crystal clear. Prescott and the Yes Campaign immediately polarised the debate into a party political one. Why another campaign group saw fit to challenge the effective People's Campaign will become clearer in time but the Electoral Commission's handling of the whole affair and the monitoring of the referendum has been incompetent and possibly corrupt, to say the least. There is no transparency with regard to their decision and a veil of secrecy has been drawn over the decision. It is likely that only legal action will uncover the truth.
The Government threw everything towards the North East towards the end when they knew they faced a potential upset, and we have never seen so many Ministers in the region. All this did however, was to reinforce the public's cynicism. The purdah period (where 28 days prior to the referendum Government is prevented from campaigning) was blatantly abused and totally ignored by the Ministers and the Electoral Commission were spineless, useless and nowhere to be seen.
In the end it made no difference and actually helped the result. It made no difference that the Yes Campaign had more celebrities or money than you could shake a stick at. People were being asked to buy into a dream...but it was Prescott's Dream and the dream ticket was for the politician's and their apparatchik on an expensive gravy train and not the people. They were the ones who would simply have to pay for it.
So at 1am on Friday the 5th November Prescott's Dream had turned into a Nightmare of Elm Street proportions. For a man who used over £10m of public money to fund his personal ambition, and one, which, was so emphatically rejected, he has been humiliated and severely embarrassed. Elected assemblies are dead in the water. Our attention must now focus on the unelected bodies, funded indirectly and unknowingly by the ratepayers, and force them to disband.
November 5th will perhaps now be remembered for the day that there was a successful attempt by the people to bring the political elite to their knees.The people of the North East have sent the loudest message to the politicians. We have found our voice and this is just the beginning. Next stop…the European Constitution and here's the prediction...the landslide will be even bigger. Off to find a bookies to take the bet.

Prescott's assemblies 'disappointing'

Thursday January 6th 2005, Edward Davie, Epolitix

John Prescott's regional assembly plan has been attacked by MPs as "disappointing, lacking ambition and failing to devolve enough power".

The deputy prime minister's vision of devolved regional government in England already seems to have been sunk by the overwhelming No vote in the North East referendum last November.

Now an ODPM select committee report originally designed to improve the legislation has criticised the proposals for not planning bodies that could "make a real difference".

Accepting the bill will almost certainly not proceed, the committee recommends that any future legislation needs to be "more ambitious than the draft bill proposed last summer so that regional bodies would be created that can make a real difference".

The backbenchers say their report "puts down some markers for the government to consider should it consider it appropriate to return to the question of introducing elected regional assemblies".


Despite the embarrassment of seeing his flagship policy so forcefully rejected by voters in what was thought to be the most likely region to vote Yes, Prescott has promised not to give up on his dream.

Committee chairman Andrew Bennett said: "The scope of the powers and responsibilities which the government was prepared to give to assemblies was disappointing and would limit their effectiveness.

"Any initiative to promote effective elected regional assemblies has to have the commitment of all government departments which was clearly not the case."

The report suggests that for elected regional assemblies to be effective, the government needs to devolve decisions about how funds are spent on promoting economic development and skills.

It urges that they should be able to develop and implement their own regional training and skills development policies and programmes. As in London, the assemblies should act as transport authorities, deciding on the distribution of funding currently allocated by Whitehall for local transport plans, say the MPs.


The MPs found that only the ODPM and to a lesser extent the DTI were prepared to devolve powers and that responsibility with local government overlapped.

They also argued a clearer case is needed for elected regional assemblies in terms of value for money for the electorate.

The report concludes voters in the North East were not convinced elected assemblies were worth the money.

"They were unable to see in the modest powers of assemblies sufficient prospects of concrete improvements in their daily lives to vote for their introduction."

Despite the embarrassment of seeing his flagship policy so forcefully rejected by voters in what was thought to be the most likely region to vote Yes Prescott has promised not to give up on his dream.

Further assembly blow for Prescott

William Green, Political Correspondent,
Thursday, January 06, Yorkshire Today

JOHN Prescott's stillborn plans for regional mini-parliaments in Yorkshire and across England were yesterday savaged by an influential group of MPs.

The Deputy Prime Minister had already been humiliated when voters in the North East derailed his proposals by overwhelmingly rejecting an elected regional assembly last November.

But the Hull East MP yesterday faced further embarrassment when the Commons Select Committee scrutinising his Government department published a highly critical report.

The committee, which includes Labour MPs, said powers the Government was prepared to give to assemblies were "disappointing and would limit their effectiveness".

The MPs also issued an implicit criticism of Whitehall in terms of handing over real power to the mini-parliaments and expressed concern that responsibilities would instead be taken from local government.

"Any initiative to promote effective elected regional assemblies has to have the commitment of all Government departments. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and to a lesser extent the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) were the only Government departments prepared to devolve powers to the assemblies," said their report.

The committee warned the general power proposed for assemblies could "overlap" with local councils, while their role in helping steer the operation of elected mini-parliaments needed clarifying.

It added the Government needed to devolve decisions about how funds are spent on promoting economic development and skills, with assemblies able to develop their own programmes and targets.

The MPs also said: "A clearer case is needed for elected regional assemblies in terms of value for money for the electorate. Voters in the North East were not convinced about the "cost-benefit" calculation in regard to elected assemblies."They were unable to see in the modest powers of assemblies sufficient prospects of concrete improvements in their daily lives..."The MPs added assemblies should act as transport authorities, as in London, in deciding distribution of funding now allocated by Whitehall for local projects.

And they warned the Government's proposal to establish regional fire and rescue services as functional bodies of elected regional assemblies could result in them losing their community focus.

The committee also called for a simple system to elect assembly members and said the proposed membership of between 25 and 35 was too restrictive.

But the MPs, who were looking at the draft Regional Assemblies Bill, warned English devolution needed addressing, with a "democratic deficit" due to unaccountable regional bodies.

"Further legislation needs to be more ambitious than the draft Bill to create regional bodies that are fit for purpose," said their report.

The ODPM said it accepted the North East vote and that the Government was not proceeding with the Regional Assemblies Bill but promised to study the Select Committee's report.A spokesman added that unelected regional assemblies, regional development agencies and the Government's offices in the English regions would continue to carry out "necessary strategic leadership at regional level".

Regional Assembly Plans 'Need Powers Boost'

By Andrew Woodcock, PA Political Correspondent
Thursday, January 06, Scotsman

Government plans for regional assemblies have failed to fire the imagination of the general public because the powers of the proposed bodies were too limited, a report by a committee of MPs said today.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s regional government project has been on the backburner since the overwhelming rejection of an elected assembly by voters in the North-East in a referendum last November.

Today’s report, by the House of Commons committee which scrutinises Mr Prescott’s department, insisted that any attempt to revive it should involve assemblies with more powers over issues like transport, skills training and economic development and a greater ability to raise their own funds and decide how they spend them.

But a controversial proposal for the assemblies to be allowed to issue their own separate council tax bill split the committee. Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs backed the report, but the sole Conservative member Sir Paul Beresford voted against it.

The Labour and Lib Dem members argued that having a separate bill would make regional assemblies more accountable, by making it clear to voters how much they cost. County, district and unitary councils had previously complained that having a single bill would mean they would be blamed for any tax hikes to cover the cost of a regional assembly.

But Tories said the other parties were trying to impose a new regional tax.

“Higher council tax just to pay for more politicians and bureaucrats is exactly what people in the North East rejected so decisively last year,” said regional affairs spokesman Bernard Jenkin.

“Isn’t it time Labour and the Liberal Democrats started listening to people instead of dictating to them?

“Under Tony Blair, council tax has shot up by 70%, and looks set to soar even further in any third Labour term through the introduction of new, higher council tax bands and revaluation next year used to increase the tax take. Now we find out that Labour and the Lib Dems are in favour of even more tax burdens being heaped on hard-working people.

”Today’s report said that any future legislation to create regional assemblies would have to be “more ambitious” than the draft Bill put forward by Mr Prescott.

“The scope of the powers and responsibilities which the Government was prepared to give to assemblies was disappointing and would limit their effectiveness,” said the report.

It proposed an increase in the maximum size of an assembly from 35 to 50 members, and suggested that members should receive full-time salaries, in order to ensure that people of working age were attracted to stand for election.

Under Mr Prescott’s proposals, too many of the assemblies’ powers would be taken from local council and too few devolved down from Whitehall.

The 78%-22% vote against a North-East assembly showed that voters had not been convinced it would offer value for money, said the report.

Prescott's regional plans in ruins

By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent, Telegraph

MPs delivered a damning verdict yesterday on John Prescott's failed attempt to create regional assemblies across England.

The Deputy Prime Minister's dream of creating directly elected assemblies in the English regions ended in ruins when North-East voters rejected the idea by more than three to one last November.

The failure in the North-East. together with abandoned plans for referendums in Yorkshire and the North-West, is estimated to have cost more than £10 million.

Yesterday, the Labour-dominated Commons regions committee blamed the North-East result on the proposed assemblies' lack of real powers, "talking-shop" reputation and uncertainty over how much they would cost to set up.

In a report, the MPs accused Mr Prescott's Cabinet colleagues of failing to get behind the devolution drive, which left the assembly blueprint without enough real powers to interest voters. Mr Prescott, who drew up a Draft Bill setting out the assemblies' powers, is known to have been frustrated at a lack of co-operation from other ministers.

MPs complained yesterday that the overall cost, including potential savings from cutting the number of local councils where assemblies were created, was too vague.

"We find it odd that the Government had done so little detailed planning of the costs and benefits of setting up [an assembly]," said the report.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Weasel words and phrases.

Thanks to Gill Swanson for this. Next time you listen to a lecture by regional assembly factotums or supporters or europhiles and the apparatchik just play weasel word bingo and the rubbish they spout will seem even more ridiculous.
If you start to expose these weasel words in the press then the more foolish those using them will look.
Please feel free to circulate.

Let’s Cut the jargon and get back to direct representation

Weasel, words and phrases.

“Centres of excellence” (establishment-approved set-ups).

“Best practice” (establishment-approved ways of doing things)

“Stakeholders” (carefully chosen special-interest groups courted and flattered into the belief that they are helping the powerful to shape policy).

“Civil society” (members of any special interest groups considered important/amenable enough to be “stakeholders”)

“Governance" (the replacement of representative government with techniques that steer tame “stakeholders” along pre-determined paths towards a desired outcome).

“Consultation” (the process by which “stakeholders” are fooled into believing that they actually wanted to go down those paths anyway).

“Facilitator” (the stooge trained in-group dynamics who makes sure the “consultation process” doesn’t go astray).

“Consensus” (the apparent unanimity resulting from the elimination of opposition by a skilled “facilitator”)

"Participatory democracy” (the sidelining and ostracism of dissenting majorities and minorities by systematically excluding them from participation in “civil society” and “the consultation process”)

"Networking" (collusion among “stakeholders” in pursuit of their own interests, without regards for those barred from participation in “participatory democracy”)

“Opinion-formers” (the supra-national political and academic establishment, plus influential “stakeholders” who have achieved “consensus” via corruption or the “consultation process”)

“Law-makers” (an up-and-coming term, increasingly used as a synonym for representatives, heaven help us).

Let’s cut the jargon and the “governance” and gets back to the direct representatives, heaven help us).

Let’s cut the jargon and the “governance” and get back to the direct representation of individuals and their families and communities at grass-roots level.

Gillian Swanson
Whitley Bay

The Majority isn’t always right –Something for reflection

Wednesday 5th January 2005
The Journal - Voice of the North

Neil Herron is a committed and effective campaigner.

But his criticism of what he calls "the political class" (Voice of the North, December 31) would carry more weight had he not so recently tried to join it.

As readers may recall he stood to become a member of the European Parliament last June.

He is on safer ground in claiming to be in the majority on the issue of Europe – but the majority isn’t always right, something Neil might reflect on, having received just 6pc of the vote when he stood.

Coun Ron Beadle
Lib Dem Prospective Candidate,
Newcastle North

Regions plan finds few to support it

Dec 22 2004
By Zoe Hughes, The Journal

A grand committee of MPs should be created to represent the North-East if the government is to stay true to its word of devolving power to local people, MPs say.

After the overwhelming rejection of an elected regional assembly last month, two MPs have urged ministers to back the idea of a Commons grand committee for the region - and the chance for politicians to have their own question time in the chamber.

The idea, from Lancashire MPs, tabled in a motion last night, demands new committees for each of the English regions, together with a Commons question time so "ministers become more accountable to the region".

It is just one suggestion on how the North-East can move on following the November 4 vote, however it has already been attacked by one regional MP who said it would be little more than another talking shop.

Tory Peter Atkinson, chairman of the Scottish and Northern Ireland grand committees before devolution, said MPs would not be able to question ministers thoroughly and would not have the power to haul local business and political leaders before them to explain their actions.

He recommended instead regional select committees, whereby MPs could invite council, business and community leaders to answer questions about specific issues and where MPs could report on problems in the North-East.

The Hexham MP said: "If we had a select committee we would, for example, deal with the Northumberland schools reorganisation issue and have a facility where we call the director of education in for questioning." Gateshead MP Joyce Quin, an advocate of regional assemblies, said of the grand committees plan: "Overall the idea is good because you do need to have structures in the Commons which better reflect the needs of the English regions.

"It would give you an opportunity to raise issues specific to the region."
In reality, though, it would be left to the existing unelected regional assembly, businesses, councils and voluntary organisations to work together to deal with issues in the North-East, she said.

"I do feel the referendum result was nothing short of a tragedy for the region, given the fact that I believe we did have a unique opportunity to create something which would make the region stand out, but it was not accepted and we have to look at every other possible angle to deal with issues that arise."


Hull and East Riding
09:30 - 01 January 2005

The University of Salford evaluation of the "operation and effectiveness of elected regional assemblies" - £979,274

Review of studies promoting regional growth - £255,320

Evaluation of the Role and Impact of Regional Chambers - £216,129

Identifying the flow of expenditure into regions - £176,520

British Social Attitudes Survey Module on Regional Governance - £16,800

Can Competitive Regions Promote Sustainability research - £17,300

Reflecting Diversity in Governing the Regions - £16,200

Research on cost of government reorganisation £127,590

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Even on Prescott's Home Turf...Money Wasted

Hull Daily Mail
09:30 - 01 January 2005
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been accused of wasting almost £2m of taxpayer's money on research related to his failed dream of a regional assembly. It means the total spend on the east Hull MP's bid to introduce regional assemblies in the north-east and Yorkshire and the Humber could have cost the public a total of £12m.

New details revealed Mr Prescott's department spent cash on a variety of regional assembly research projects.The most expensive was carried out by the University of Salford to evaluate the "operation and effectiveness of elected regional assemblies".The research cost £979,274 and came out in July 2003, 16 months before the regional referendum in the north-east took place.

Now Tories claim that despite the "no" vote in the north-east last month, and the winding down of the campaign for elected regional assemblies, some of the projects will continue to cost money as one is not due to report back until 2011.

Shadow regions secretary Bernard Jenkin said: "Labour has created countless unaccountable and unelected regional quangos but has no idea what they're actually doing."It is amazing that John Prescott needs to waste millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to tell him what he should already know."His department is out of control and heading in the wrong direction."News of the additional funds being spent will come as a fresh blow to Mr Prescott, who has already come under a barrage of criticism for the phenomenal amount the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has spent on his regional assembly dream.

According to official figures, the cost of staging the north-east referendum is expected to be about £3.1m.Mr Prescott's office has also reportedly spent another £3.2m on an information campaign.Embarrassingly, a £25,000 advertising campaign promoting a voting date in Yorkshire was already under way in July when ministers decided to postpone the referendum across the region.

In addition, Mr Prescott's own regional campaigning cost £184,143.

John Watson, chairman of the Yorkshire Says No campaign, said: "An awful lot of money has been wasted going through this whole process. I am just glad the referendum in Yorkshire is now dead and buried, otherwise there would have been more costs to bear."

Last night, a spokesman for ODPM said: "The Government remains committed to improving economic performance and equality of life across all regions."To achieve this we will continue local government reform and an active policy to decentralise power and strengthen the regions."Research plays a key role in forming that policy."The Mail opposed plans for a Yorkshire and Humber assembly on the grounds it would be an extra level of bureaucracy that would result in decisions being taken

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