Regional select committee has red hue

The Commons last night voted to set up a select committee composed entirely of Labour MPs to cover affairs in the Tory-dominated East of England region.

The Commons last night voted to set up a select committee composed entirely of Labour MPs to cover affairs in the Tory-dominated East of England region.

The move followed a failure by the government to reach agreement with the Tories and Liberal Democrats over the composition of select committees for regions where Labour has few MPs.

With ministers insisting that all the new committees should reflect the make-up of the Commons as a whole - in keeping with the tradition for select committees - the Conserva-tives and Lib Dems decided to practise a form of boycott and refuse to nominate any of their MPs for seats on them. The upshot was a decision to establish an East of England select committee composed only of five Labour members - Norwich MPs Charles Clarke and Ian Gibson, Yarmouth's Tony Wright, Luton South MP Margaret Moran and Bedford MP Patrick Hall.

The government had proposed a committee composed of five Labour MPs, three Conservatives and one Lib Dem, even though only 13 of the eastern region's MPs are Labour and 39 are Tory.

Failure to resolve the dispute res-ulted in a Commons vote to establish Labour-only select committees for all of the eight English regions outside Greater London.

Commons deputy leader Chris Bryant asked the Tories and Lib Dems to nominate members. But the request was refused by Conservative shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan, who said 'the regional agenda of the government is in disarray and chaos'.

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North Norfolk Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said the Commons votes had left the East of England and other regions with 'inoperable and ludicrous' arrangements that would fall into disrepute and 'die a death'.

He objected to the government proposals because he thought they were 'a sop to localism' and wouldn't really devolve any power. And if the select committees were to be set up, he said, they should reflect the political character of the region.

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