Andy Burnham gives evidence on Brexit and devolution

11 June 2018

On 4th June, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, was called to give evidence at a select committee hearing on Devolution and Exiting the EU. Below is an extract from the minutes – read the full version here.

If you look back in time, if you take issues like industry, when the north needed help with manufacturing, all the focus down here [in Westminster] was on the service economy. When you look at education, all the focus has been on the university route, when we wanted more focus on technical education. If you take housing, all the focus has been on owner occupation, when we needed more focus on other forms of tenure. This is the problem that we have had in our country and I think the seeds of the referendum result are in there. There is a sense that in England particularly, the interests of some places predominate over those of others. I think that is a big part of our problem.

We have not, in some ways, tested where power really lies. We are beginning to. Transport is a case in point. We have a very live issue today around rail and the management of the rail franchises. I have a very clear view, which I have expressed, about transport for the north, which is: partnership with the Department for Transport on the management of the franchises. The open bit of it is I do not know what they think about what should happen to Northern Rail, and if there is a disagreement, how do we resolve it? Could this partnership approach that we have with the Department actually work?

The same will be true in health service policy. There will be issues at some point that will test the level of Whitehall commitment to devolution. If we genuinely want to do something differently that is a substantial departure from policy here, will that be allowed?

In other areas, I think you could argue that we already have significant devolution—over transport and to some degree over policing. It is a mixture between the different Government Departments. Where we have more of a partnership arrangement, I think the extent to which Whitehall has truly let go is an open question.