Regional development agencies play an important role in supporting businesses and promoting economic development, not least here in the West Midlands.
Advantage West Midlands, our local body, can boast of success in helping create better links between the region and China, and improving skills and training.
It does not do this alone, but it has co-ordinated the work of bodies such as universities and the Learning and Skills Council, more recently bringing the regional minister into the mix.
Any examination of its work must begin with the principle that there is good work taking place which must not be lost. That does not mean that everything is rosy as it stands.
One of the challenges which have faced regional development agencies since their launch is a lack of clarity about what they are supposed to do.
As is well known, the Government originally envisaged them as the administrative arm of regional governments which would be elected to help administer regions such as the West Midlands.
When this proved to be unpopular, the idea was scrapped. But there is little evidence that ministers have seriously considered what to do instead.
Hence, Advantage West Midlands is responsible for spending about £290 million each year, with very little public accountability.
The end of the regional government plan left the door open for the creation of more flexible structures, with decisions devolved to local councils working in partnership.
Ministers are now returning to the idea of creating a form of regional government by giving the regional development agencies responsibility for planning, which moves them away from a clear focus on supporting industry.
The Conservatives, knowing they have a real chance of winning power in approximately two years, have ditched their former knee-jerk policy of simply scrapping regional development agencies.
They have launched an internal review in which the shadow Cabinet will try to hammer out their plans.
The Government is also set to announce legislation in December’s Queen’s Speech.
In the circumstances, the Commons inquiry we report on today is in a position to exert real influence over the future of economic development policy across England.
Business leaders in the West Midlands should make the most of the opportunity to submit evidence about their experience with the development agency in our region.