Tory MPs block release of Teesside redevelopment investigation documents

The UK government has halted the release of documents that would reveal the decision-making process behind the contentious investigation into the redevelopment of Teesside. Conservative MPs voted against a Labour measure in the House of Commons, with a result of 272 to 166. This decision followed the announcement by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove of a three-person panel that will examine the Teesworks site.

The dispute arose after Labour MPs requested a statutory inquiry into the North East project, which the government refused to authorise. Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald previously expressed concerns about the Teesworks scheme, alleging “truly shocking, industrial-scale corruption”. However, rather than commissioning the National Audit Office to investigate Teesworks, Gove assembled “an independent assurance review” in an unconventional move.

Teesworks is the project responsible for redeveloping the Teesside industrial site, including the former Redcar steelworks. Controversy has surrounded the project’s management, particularly the transfer of a significant portion of the ownership of a company developing the site from the publicly run Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to private hands.

Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, has faced scrutiny as the leader of the TVCA and chair of the South Tees Development Company, which is now 90% privately held, instead of a 50-50 split with the public. Houchen has been among those calling for a full inquiry and claims to have nothing to hide.

The panel responsible for the investigation includes Angie Ridgwell, chief executive of Lancashire County Council; Quentin Baker, the director of law and governance at Hertfordshire County Council; and Richard Paver, the first treasurer of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

After the parliamentary vote, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Having rejected cross-party calls, including from the Conservative Mayor, for a National Audit Office investigation, ministers need to clarify that the review they have set up will have all the same powers as the NAO would have had to review the accounts and assess the decisions that have been made in relation to Teesworks.”

Nandy accused Gove of initiating “an investigation on his own terms, hand-picking a panel to investigate an issue where accountability has totally broken down”. In response, Houchen stated: “I look forward to the outcome, in due course, and will be making no further comment until the independent review has been completed, so to allow the independent body to carry out their work without influence or favour. My officers stand ready to provide any and all information requested by the independent review.”

Levelling up minister Lee Rowley urged MPs to respect the government’s chosen course of action.

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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