Labour prepares to set out its vision for the future of devolution

Katie Neame
© 360b/Shutterstock.com
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Hot on the heels of Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI conference in Birmingham, Rachel Reeves will today address the Great Northern Conference in Manchester – an annual event that focuses on how to grow the North of England’s economy. The Shadow Chancellor is expected to tell attendees that the UK has been “far too timid about economic devolution” and promise that a future Labour government would give communities “more control over their future”. Reeves will tell attendees that the devolution of economic powers is a “critical ingredient” to developing industry across the north and pledge that Labour in power would “ensure that economic devolution is both deeper and broader”.

The content of Reeves’ speech has been informed by the work of Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy and by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s commission on the UK’s future. Brown’s commission – which was launched by Starmer in 2020 with the aim of spreading “power, wealth and opportunity” outside Westminster – will reportedly be published in early December. On its launch, the Labour leader said the commission would be the “boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation”, explaining: “It will consider all parts of the UK and it will focus on delivering real – and lasting – economic and political devolution across our towns, our communities and to people across the country.”

Brown’s report – which has been shared with shadow cabinet ministers – is expected to set out a series of recommendations including giving mayors more powers over local spending on education and training, increasing local authorities’ control over their budgets and abolishing the House of Lords in favour of an upper house of nations and regions. In addition to considering how power is distributed in the UK, Brown has also reportedly proposed measures to improve standards in central government, including banning MPs from taking second jobs and creating an ‘integrity and ethics commission’, which would see juries of ordinary citizens ruling on complaints against politicians.

Last week, the Labour leader reiterated his support for House of Lords reform – which was one of the ten pledges he made during his leadership campaign. In a meeting with Labour peers, Starmer set out “some very clear principles” for reform, including that members should be elected by voters rather than appointed by politicians. He also stressed that the new chamber should be “truly representative” of the UK’s nations and regions. Starmer told peers that he sees Lords reform as a central part of his plan for “promoting inclusive growth and restoring trust in politics”.

On LabourList this morning, we have a piece from Marie Rimmer MP on the persecution of Christians abroad to mark Red Wednesday, a day that remembers those around the world suffering for practicing their Christian faith. Rimmer writes: “Combating Christian persecution and all forms of attacks on religious freedoms should be at the forefront of our country’s future development, trade and foreign policy. We must not turn our backs to the suffering of our fellow human beings.”

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