So let’s go a bit further; let’s move most of the machinery of Government to other parts of the country. Let’s move both Houses of Parliament to the north east (Middlesbrough in particular) and civil servants (for example the Ministry of Defence) to Cornwall.
There are many obvious positives to this. Middlesbrough came in first place in the recent Experian credit agency poverty data in terms of biggest risk of poverty and 14th for child poverty (out of 326 local authorities). It also comes third in terms of benefit claimant count percentage. Other surrounding council areas are also high up on the unwanted top table of deprivation.
No-one is arguing that having highly paid government ministers resident on Teesside is going to lead to much of a trickle down of wealth in the economy (Parmos not duck houses are a Teesside speciality). However, it’s a little more likely that our representatives’ eyes will be opened to the reality of the modern UK economy outside of the City of London.
Manufacturing, for example, long ignored by governments of all parties, is still important in the north east. From the highly successful Nissan plan in Sunderland to the recently reopened SSI Steel Plant in Redcar, manufacturing can be an engine for growth but requires capital investment support, educational backing and decent infrastructure. Vince Cable visited the remaining steel facilities near Middlesbrough prior to their restart and his surprise at the scope and range products indicated a worrying ignorance of the sector that is probably not evident in his views on the finance sector in the south east.
The north east as a whole also suffers from a woeful lack of government investment in capital spending on infrastructure. London and the south east are to receive 84% of such funding compared to 0.04% for the north east under George Osborne’s current plans.
Having the seat of government in Middlesbrough would alert Government to the urgent need for better infrastructure in the wider region in other ways – when ministers are stuck on slow=moving trains or enjoying the delights of the non-dualled sections of the A1 Great North Road. We could hope for change, just as ministers do not blink when putting £16 billion into Crossrail after experiencing the everyday travel problems in London.
Middlesbrough also has a ready supply of available land for our legislators following developers’ reneging on commitments to the Middlehaven site. This area, surrounding Middlesbrough football club’s stadium and lies next to the River Tees, has huge potential for a new parliament with dockside apartments, restaurants and shops. Although some development has started, the developers, BioRegional Quintain, have decided to focus on London given the inexorable rise of property prices there and the relatively negative property outlook for much of the rest of the country, especially the north east.
The good new continues, as the land is not surrounded by the crowded muddle of Westminister and not going to see the kind of £235m price tag attached to the building of Portcullis House for MPs offices in London. Building from scratch will ensure purpose=built offices, properly secure and with suitable multi-media links to the other civil service offices as these spread throughout the country.
Of course, Middlesbrough does not have a monopoly on social deprivation and industrial decline. Luckily, there are plenty of other government-related jobs to relocate. Back in 2009 the total was estimated at over 200,000 direct civil service and ‘arms length’ jobs still housed in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Not only would moving them bring much-needed economic stimulus to the regions; it would also be likely to save the taxpayer money An inquiry by Sir Michael Lyons in 2007 found that workers in the capital were typically paid 27% more than those outside.
What does this mean for London (outside of a likely daily assault on Middlesbrough by the Daily Mail as Salford has learned to shrug off)? What of our existing Gothic masterpiece that is the Palace of Westminister? Let it become an official museum as well as an actual one, London’s number one tourist attraction and a net earner for the rest of us at last.
Where to House the House of Lords?
Following Lord Adonis’ comments this week remarking the House of Lords should move to Manchester, our readers shared their ideas on whether the chamber could move up north – and where they might reside.
And if the Commons was in Leeds (House of Leeds?) we could have the wars of the roses over again…
Seriously, it’s worth a try. It would also be a chance to break away from the linear confrontation arrangement and try the more mature semi-circle everyone else uses.
A decentralised, even peregrinating, chamber would be educative through accessibility to schools and might restore some faith in democratic politics – oh hang on….
Anyway, it would just be nice if some of them declined to be titled Lord and Lady which confuses seniority and experience with class and privilege.
Not Leeds. In a regional sense Leeds is already a centre of finance and media, so adding politics gets back to the same London is NewYorkLAWashington problem. Besides, Sheffield would mutiny.
It’s got to be York.
I live in York. We don’t want them here
Actually, I’d oppose York because it’s not at all a representative city; it really is tiny (I genuinely don’t know how we’d fit them in, though there’s plenty of graduates who’d be clamouring for the jobs) the economy is built almost entirely on tourism, and it’s a bit of a middle-class and ethnically homogeneous bubble in itself. If the point of moving the Lords is to show them the world outside London, York is just too sanitised. Lovely for those who live there, but not the eye-opener we want for our politicians.
Leeds would be a good option, though; not a massive metropolis, but an average-sized city with close links with places like York and Harrogate, but also less well-off places, as well as good transport links to other Northern cities.
It’s a nice idea, but I think Birmingham is a far more sensible choice than Manchester. Much bigger city. Geographically more central. HS2 soon to give rapid connection to London.
Central Government is a large interconnected operation. We want joined-up government not divided government. The two chambers need to be close to each other and to the senior civil service. The whole lot should be moved out of London. This would be tens of thousands of jobs so it will be a big undertaking.
Not to Manchester/Salford. We would just be replacing one bubble with another. Liverpool, Sheffield or Newcastle would be my choices. Possibly Gateshead as they could do with it more than the other side of the Tyne.
The benefits are huge. London would become affordable. The recipient city and its hinterland would enjoy a prolonged boom. People across the country would feel better represented. The construction programme could be funded from the sale of Westminster and Whitehall. The economy would be rebalanced. London can hold its own without Parliament.
Of course it won’t happen as there are too many people who gain too much from being in the London bubble. They wield power for their benefit not the nation’s. A more realistic prospect is that of greater power being returned to local Government. Let our cities set their own agendas. Let them set their own priorities.
I think this is an excellent idea. Perhaps move both Houses to Salford, and make the Lords elected, as well.
Britain is one of the few countries in the world that packs all resources into one city / region to such a massive extent. We need to share resources out round the country, e.g. moving government depts to Birmingham or Newcastle, etc.
A good idea, and I suggest either Liverpool, Kendal or Carlisle. Manchester is too much in danger of becoming just a Westminster satelite bubble. Better still would be for House of Commons and House of Lords to rotate around the country, spending each year of the incumbent government sitting in a different area eg London, Truro, Birmingham, Kendal… That would ensure every area of the country got access to power and the developmental benefits of having a large government operation in their area. A better idea still would be to get rid of the unelected House of Lords and replace it with an elected Senate of 100 people made up of 50% civil society reps from the public, business and charitable sectors and 50% civic representatives from the general public of that area chosen as per jury duty.
Like all those posh pants would let it happen to the grim north!? All the fuss from stroppy BBC employees to go to Manchester and they’re not even as foofy as the lords. I think York is too small and already too pricey. Get a large gov contigent and all who work with them and rents and propery prices would go even further through the roof and make life a misery for those who already have a tough time there. What about Hull? I hear they could use a boost Somewhere that could use the investment and gov jobs more than a place already on the higher end of the scale. though they would never agree to it!
Unthinkable? Moving parliament
The Commons is so-called because it represents the UK’s communities, so why not let it move between them?