LORD Adonis denied his proposals were viewed as a damp squib in the North-East – insisting only “two MPs” opposed him.

Last month, The Northern Echo revealed a revolt among Labour MPs who fear the blueprint will repeat the Coalition’s blunders and fail to deliver power and money.

Nick Brown (Newcastle East) and Kevan Jones (North Durham) urged Mr Miliband to bring back a slimmed-down development agency, with a hotline to a powerful minister.

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Otherwise, councils would simply be “asking for money” and dependent on a cost-cutting Whitehall, they argued – insisting other MPs shared their concerns.

But Lord Adonis rejected the criticism, arguing past attempts to close the North-South economic divide had been a “failure” for a generation.

The peer said combined authorities – as “bottom-up” institutions – would be more “enduring” than the axed regional development agencies had proved.

And, asked about the criticism, he said: “It’s two North-East MPs as it happens. In general, North-East MPs supported it, as did all the council leaders I worked with closely – so let’s get this in context.

“I don’t understand this characterisation of a begging bowl. Having control over your own resources, in my view, gives you much more leverage locally

“Growth comes from new businesses and businesses growing. Giving local economic, business and political leaders a strong incentive to attract businesses into their areas must be a positive step forward.

“The crucial thing about the regional development agencies is that it was possible to abolish them over a weekend.

“The idea that they were strong and developed a lasting consensus is clearly wrong – otherwise they wouldn’t have gone so fast.”

Lord Adonis added that it was perfectly possible to have a regional minister as well as stronger local institutions, that it was not an “ether/or” situation.