Downing Street ‘plans to make York Britain’s second city’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire
11 Jul 2020 @ 9.55 am
| Politics

York is being lined up as a potential second seat of government, it was reported today (Saturday).

The city has already been earmarked as a possible site for a relocated House of Lords. But Downing Street doesn’t want to stop there.

According to a report in The Times, ministers are intent on creating regional hubs of civil servants around the UK.

And York is at the forefront of their plans.

The paper reports: “The idea to move the House of Lords to York was first mooted in January to some bemusement. Senior figures said it was still ‘very much on the agenda’ and that the city could also see a significant Whitehall presence to complement parliament’s second chamber.

“‘The Lords is a major thing. But there could be lots of stuff. You could put the Home Office there. The step change will be to move everything other than the secretary of state and private office or an entire directorate,’ a source familiar with the discussions said.

“The Treasury is also looking at a new base on Teesside, which, together with York, would create a northern hub for policymakers.”

‘PM is really keen’

The House of Lords chamber in London. Photograph © House of Lords 2018 / Annabel Moeller

One government official told The Times: “The PM is genuinely really, really keen on this and it’s not just York. The question is how quickly you do it.”

York is seen as attractive because it lies between London and Edinburgh, with good communication links, the report says, adding: “When HS2 is built it will be less than an hour and a half from London by train.” 

In January the PM sent a team to York to scout out potential locations for the House of Lords.

This included Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, Sir Eddie Lister. A redeveloped York Central had been mentioned as a possible site.

Some officials are keen to move out of London, The Times reports.

It reported one source saying: “It’s not just the House of Lords. Senior civil servants who are close to decision-making are already looking at Rightmove to see what they can buy for the cost of a terraced house in East Dulwich.

“And they like it. They are looking at substantial Edwardian villas in Harrogate.”