England

Lord Prescott: North East devolution plan not dead

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Media captionLord Prescott was speaking on the 10th anniversary of a referendum in north-east England

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has predicted that plans for regional assemblies will be revived.

Lord Prescott, a leading supporter of English devolution, was speaking on the 10th anniversary of a referendum in north-east England.

On that occasion, it was rejected by three quarters of those who voted.

The Labour peer said he was "philosophical" over the then No vote and remained optimistic they could be revived in some form.

He cited the examples of Wales and Scotland, which eventually saw the issue of devolution revisited after the 1979 referendums.

Those saw the proponents of a Welsh Assembly soundly beaten, while those demanding a Scottish Parliament won the vote but fell short of the requirement for a 40% majority.

Lord Prescott said: "They were lost on the first occasion, but came back to it nearly 20 years later.

"And I thought, 'that's going to happen here. I've made the start. I've put out the signal.' There are regions that need the proper resources, the proper powers."

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Image caption The government has supported moves for powers over transport and job creation to be shifted from Whitehall to groups of councils

Chairman of the North East No Campaign at the time John Elliott said the regional assembly would have been a "talking shop" with no powers.

However, Professor John Tomaney, who chaired the Yes campaign, said the region would have coped better with the pressures of austerity.

The Coalition government and the Labour party have recently supported moves for powers over transport and job creation to be shifted from Whitehall to groups of councils, known as combined authorities.

One is already in operation across seven local authorities in the North East, and another is in the pipeline for Teesside.

There will be a BBC Look North special on Wednesday 5 November at 22:35 GMT asking if it is time to devolve more power to the North East - with the results of an exclusive opinion poll carried out here in the region.

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