We need funding to make the North East grow - not more local structures, says Newcastle MP Nick Brown

Newcastle MP Nick Brown warned that debates about devolution risked were missing the point when the region needs investment

Nick Brown MP
Nick Brown MP, a former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

The North East needs better funding to create jobs and improve transport infrastructure - not new forms of local or regional government, an MP has warned.

Newcastle MP Nick Brown, the former Minister for the North East, said that “Balkanisation” of the United Kingdom could do more harm than good.

As David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Labour leader Ed Miliband continued to argue over how to respond to the Scottish independence referendum, Mr Brown said it was essential “not to take our eye off the ball” by arguing about new structures.

He said the North East needed a fair share of funding from the United Kingdom government based on the region’s needs.

However, breaking up the country by introducing regional administrations, each potentially with their own tax-raising powers, would make it harder to tackle poverty and under-investment in poorer regions such as the North East.

The question of how to share power between the nations and regions of the United Kingdom is likely to be a major subject of debate at Labour’s conference, which is underway in Manchester.

Mr Cameron has said he plans to introduce “English votes for English laws. It’s not yet clear what this means in practice but the most likely option would be to hold sessions in the House of Commons which only MPs representing English constituencies could take part in.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg appears to support similar arrangements.

Mr Miliband has announced a constitutional convention to consider the options, but is unlikely to back Mr Camerons’ plan and instead supports reform of the House of Lords to create a “senate” with representatives of ever region.

At the same time, all three parties are promising to beef up the role of local councils by devolving more power to “city regions” or combined authorities.

Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown
Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown
 

Mr Brown said the North East needed better funding above anything else.

He said: “There are issues that need addressing, in particular the case for the English regions. I don’t agree with the enhanced local government solution. What is needed is to get a formula that fairly distributes resources to the English regions.

“Our key need is economic development and infrastructure investment. But we don’t get that at the moment.”

He added: “We don’t want to be Balkanised and pushed to one side and given enhanced local government, we want something that addresses the problems the region faces in a way that is integrated into the workings of the rest of the government of our country.”

Mr Brown condemned the idea of holding “England only” days in the House of Commons, saying: “They would in fact be Tory days.”

The Prime Minister will host a summit on Monday at his country residence Chequers to discuss his plans for “English votes for English laws” with Tories, including Stockton South MP James Wharton.

Speaking on the BBC One Andrew Marr programme, Mr Miliband said he backed greater “scrutiny” of England-only legislation by English MPs but stopped short of a pledge on votes.

The Labour leader said: “This was about how Scotland is governed and how the UK is governed but more than that it is about how this country works - does it work for an elite few or does it work for most working people? Unless the establishment recognises this wake up call about how our country is run, how our economy is run, we are not going to address discontent.

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