On the 30th October 2018 the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle, spoke in support of the Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland Combined Authority (Establishment and Functions) Order 2018.
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I welcome this proposal for a North of Tyne combined authority. I was present when the minded-to agreement was signed and there was a real sense of purposeful energy around the room. I agree with my noble friends Lord Beecham and Lord Shipley who talked about the level of investment that this combined authority will pull in; it is good, but very modest. I hope that nobody, including the Minister, will feel that this is anything like a sufficient answer to the critical lack of investment in the north-east. This development is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a proper level of investment in the north-east economy.
I hope, however, that I can offer some encouragement in the face of undoubted disappointment that we are looking at three authorities joining together in this combined authority, not seven. Most people would absolutely have preferred it to be seven. The governance review decided that there is an economic coherence between the three authorities that have been brought together; I agree with that. I share a bit of hope that, beyond economic coherence, there is also social and cultural coherence.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Church of England and Parliament looked at the structure of Church of England dioceses to see whether they were fit for purpose for the development of new areas of industrial and manufacturing population. In 1878, an Act of Parliament created two new dioceses in the north of England—Liverpool and Newcastle dioceses.
The area of the proposed combined authority was at that time part of Durham diocese. The diocese of Newcastle, which came into being in 1882, is almost exactly coterminous with the proposed combined authority. When my diocese came into being, St Nicholas Parish Church in Newcastle became Newcastle Cathedral; Queen Victoria then granted a royal charter and Newcastle became a city, so there is a real coherence.
In the life of the diocese, which has existed since 1882, we have found that, when it works, it works because there is a real sense of identity in these three areas. It works only when we recognise a degree of mutual dependence and support, one for the other.When we look to our own interests in either Newcastle, North Tyneside or Northumberland, we are not served – but in the sense of belonging together there is enormous strength, far greater than any of the three areas have separately.
I am well aware of the degree of political risk in this proposal. I commend the real commitment from all sides of the political spectrum to accept that risk but to set it aside and come together around that everybody believes will be to the benefit of the communities in the new proposed combined authority. I want to honour those who have shown such political leadership. I hope the Minister will assure us that the Government too will honour this genuine commitment to flourishing, which, in the region, is a sign of hope for us.
Lord Beith (LD): My Lords, I admire the optimism of the right reverend Prelate, which she has brought to her work; she is a welcome arrival in the Newcastle diocese…
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: ..I thank the right reverend Prelate for her contribution. It is always good to hear from someone with her experience and knowledge of the challenges in the north-east. I thank her for the encouragement that she has given and agree that it is important that we seek to make this a success by working together for the good of the area in facing the challenges that there are. I had not appreciated the history of the diocese and it was extremely interesting to hear about Newcastle. As I recall, a similar thing happened with the university: Newcastle University was initially an offshoot of Durham and is now very much a proud university in its own right.