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22 February 2019

Spotlight Leader: Parliament should move to the North

By the middle of the next decade, 650 MPs, their advisors and support staff will need to move out of the Palace of Westminster because, among other maintenance issues, it catches fire six times a year.

By Spotlight

In June 2015 the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, announced a plan his party called Bedre Balance (better balance), in which thousands of government jobs would move out of the capital city and into 38 different towns. Last year, a second wave of relocations was announced. In all, around 4,000 government jobs will have moved in a few years.

Partly the intention is to move government decision-makers into places where they can actually see the effects of their decisions – so, the maritime authority has moved to the port of Korsør and the nature agency has moved to the smaller city of Randbøl, which is surrounded by national parks. But the move is also intended to offer the social and economic stimulus offered to smaller towns and cities by moving large numbers of well-paid, well-educated people to somewhere other than the capital city.

The UK has an even greater need of decentralised government than Denmark. The Prime Minister, Chancellor, and the Foreign, Transport, Business and Environment Secretaries all represent constituencies within 30 miles of central London, as do the Labour leader, the Shadow Chancellor and the Shadow Home, Foreign, Brexit and Trade Secretaries. The civil service is overwhelmingly Londonbased. The government department responsible for the Northern Powerhouse is almost entirely in London.

It also has a greater opportunity. By the middle of the next decade, 650 MPs, their advisors and support staff will need to move out of the Palace of Westminster because, among other maintenance issues, it catches fire six times a year. The UK’s legislature can move itself anywhere in the country, bringing with it massive public and private sector employment – consider how many jobs in the media, technology and infrastructure would follow – while offering a new commitment to listening to and investing in the 57 million British people who live outside the M25. Moving our Parliament north would not fix the UK’s divisions, but it would be a powerful start.

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