OPINION: Bring Parliament to Sheffield to tackle North-South divide

Sheffield view over Peace Gardens
Sheffield view over Peace Gardens
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Parliament’s going to be on the move soon. The Palace of Westminster, where we meet, is in need of its first major refurbishment since it opened in 1859.

The cheapest option for the work involves finding a new home for the House of Commons and the House of Lords, while the builders get on with the job.

When a move was first suggested, I pressed the Leader of the House of Commons to bring Parliament to Sheffield.

Although it’s been settled in Westminster for six centuries, there was a time when Parliament met all over the country.

Now would be a good time to try it again. While I wasn’t surprised that my suggestion was brushed aside, I was making a serious point.

We live in increasingly divided country. There is enormous imbalance between London and the regions.

The Centre for Cities said in a major report last year that the gap between cities and towns in the south and the rest of the UK has widened over the past 10 years.

As its economy powers ahead, London is sucking jobs out of the regions.

George Osborne recognised the problem, even though there was less substance to his ‘northern powerhouse’ than he wanted people to believe. Theresa May has simply kicked the idea into touch.

We need bold action to redress the balance. A divided country is in nobody’s interests, as young people struggling to afford to live in the overheating housing market in London will testify.

We need a comprehensive industrial strategy, which focuses on sharing economic growth across the country.

Moving Parliament out of London would be a powerful statement of intent. But even if we don’t do that, we could move some of the Government departments, as I’ve argued before. And not just parts of them, but entire Departments.

Instead I’ve been fighting to keep 250 Business Department policy staff in Sheffield, when civil service mandarins wanted to take them to London.

Moving Government Departments out of London would save money and bring spending power to stimulate local economies. Just look at the impact of moving much of the BBC to Salford.

But there’s another reason. Too many decisions in our country are taken by people who live, work and bring their families up in London.

They see the world through that experience. And they make the decisions accordingly.

That needs to change. So why not bring Parliament to Sheffield?