YORKSHIRE business leaders are set to argue the merits of a mini-parliament for the region.

Leading members of the Huddersfield-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce supported calls last week for a referendum on an elected regional assembly for Yorkshire.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott pressed the case for elected assemblies at a conference in York yesterday.

And a panel of senior business people will debate the issue at a meeting in Leeds on Thursday.

The panel meeting at the Queen's Hotel in Leeds will include regional figures from manufacturing, electronics, engineering, marketing and property.

They will include John Hartley, regional director of the Chartered Institute of Marketing; Chris Johnstone, regional director of the Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors; and Denis Kaye, deputy chairman of the Institute of Directors.

The Government has asked members of the public and a range of public, private and voluntary organisations to give their views on a referendum.

A deadline of March 3 has been set for comments.

Backing the regional assembly proposals, Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford said elected assemblies would give people in the regions "a distinct political voice and a real say over the decisions that matter to them.''

He said elected assemblies would have real powers and "block grants''  to make a difference on issues like economic development, skills, planning, housing transport, health improvement, culture and environment.

(this article is an extended version of the one that appeared in the Examiner today).