Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An English Parliament - It's Part of the Solution, Not the Problem

Peter Riddell's article in The Times this morning on English devolution criticises the Conservatives for their English Votes for English measures policy, criticises proponents of an English Parliament for being unrealistic in propising something that no one really wants, and criticises Labour for making a horlicks of regional devolution. What he doesn't do is come up with an alternative. Riddell rehashes the Robert Hazel line that an English Parliament is out of the question because England is too big. This is an argument I have never really bought. If you think of other countries which are federal unions, California dominates the USA population-wise, yet no one thinks of it calling the shots, and I suspect that New South Wales plays a similar role in Australia. If the role of an English Parliament is clearly defined right from the beginning - after a cross party English Constitutional Convention - then surely it is not beyond the wit of man to create something which is workable and does not undermine the Union? Isn't that what we pay constitutional lawyers for? Excepting Lord Falconer, of course. I think it is time to move on. We all recognise that there is a problem. We don't need to keep harping on about that. What we need to do is find a workable solution. An English Parliament would not need to reflect exactly the role and powers of its Scottish counterpart. The important thing is to make sure that it works, so that people in all parts of the United Kingdom feel that their voice is equal to the others. Surely that's not asking too much?

28 comments:

Woffle said...

Not sure what I think on an English parliament. But California doesn't dominate the US population-wise - it's about 50 million out of nearly 300 million. It's closer to Scotland than England in the UK analogy.

Iain Dale said...

Ok, the ratio is smaller, but it's by far and away the largest US State.

Anonymous said...

"woffle" is absolutely right. An "English Parliament" would contain a large majority of the United Kingdom - it is a policy of English nationalism, not Unionism.

Devolution in Scotland and Wales changed the constitutional settlement, and may have chipped away at the Union, but an English Parliament would destroy it completely.

Anonymous said...

Whereas the present situation, the "British Union" (and EU) is destroying England by balkanisation.

Sorry, its English Parliament time, even at the expense of the "Union".

English people need to to choose, its England or "Britain" because one will be abolished by the other, and if any Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish dont like the idea of an English Parliament then sorry thats tough luck.

The British Union as it stand now is untenable, and in the eyes of a growing army of English people, null and void.

Cllr David Morton said...

California has nowhere near the percentage of the US population that England has of the UK. You'll never get a seperate parliament for the whole of england through a referendum due to the expense/no more politicans argument. The only show in town is find a way to make "english votes on english issues" at westminster work.

Toque said...

I'll forward you the exchange between Peter Luff and Nick Raynsford that was in the House magazine recently.

In it Raynsford effectively admits that regions are an attempt to balkanise England.

What he fails to appreciate is that the Union is a union of nations - not of nations and English regions - and if it cannot be renegotiated on the original terms, in a manner that is acceptable to each constituent nation, then it will break-up.

Anonymous said...

English votes on English matters is a step in the right direction, but its no solution, in fact it creates many more problems.

What about if (or when) Gordon Brown is Prime Minister, he will have no say over devolved matters in his own country and constituency where he was elected, this is about 80% of all legislation passed.

He also, as Prime Minister, and as a Scot with a Scottish seat, would be unable to vote on any English matters, yet it would be him largely coming up with the legislation in the first place yet he would have no say on it being implemented, and he would be unaccountable to English voters who couldn't vote him out!, unworkable lunacy, England the cradle of Democracy deserves better and it will get better, it will get its own Parliament again, it is just a matter of when not if.

Regarding California, i think the point that was being made was the California is the largest most powerful state in the US Union and how that doesn't unsettle the US Union at all.

Rigger Mortice said...

'but an English Parliament would destroy it [the Union] completely. '
Whatever!What will destroy the Union is treating us all differently.

I'm not in favour of extra tiers of Tony's mates getting cushy jobs on good rates of pay but if the Scots and Welsh are getting it then why shouldn't we.They already receive more govt spending per capita.And if you really want to know,I don't see what's in the Union for us anymore.Honestly,what do we get out of it,except Scottish MP's passing laws for us to suffer.

Man in a shed said...

Isn't the true underlying issue for the critics that an English Parliament that it will predominately host a Conservative English government ? Leaving the socialists with only their theme parks of outstanding govt subsidy on the river Taff and Clyde to play with.

roadrunner said...

Well, to Rigger Mortice I'd say that the pretty obvious benefit England derives from the Union is a rather healthy flow of petroleum revenue tax to the British Treasury...

James said...

"Ok, the ratio is smaller, but it's by far and away the largest US State."

Oh, for pity's sake. California has around 15% of the US population, England has around 85% of the UK population. California is the UK equivalent of Scotland!

Ifan M Jones said...

What's with this 'if any Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish dont like the idea of an English Parliament then sorry thats tough luck' malarky? Those countries have wanted the UK nations to rule separately for years. Don't start pretending like this was your idea - you're hundreds of years too late. ;)

Anonymous said...

The reality is that Wales and Scotland distanced them selves from the union and England in particular when they voted to devolve,Falconer made a point
of saying they don't like English MP's over ruling them.
Fine, but Wales and Scotland see them selves as on a path to Independence in Europe.They would
ditch the UK and England the first chance they got.It is only the cussedness of the English holding everything up by refusing regional assemblies.Hence all the anti English rhetoric from the pro EU left over the last 8 years.
We'll pay them buggers back mark my word.Let Wales and Scotland pay their own subs for EU membership and be on their way.

Anonymous said...

The size of England will not change, simply because we have our own Parliament. (it will happen)
There are as many MPs at Westminster from English constituencies now, as there will be when we get devolution.
The only danger to the so-called union (LOL) is if we DON'T get an English Parliament. Civil war is a certainty in such circumstances. The English may be tolerant, but patience is fast running out

Rigger Mortice said...

'.......... healthy flow of petroleum revenue tax to the British Treasury... '

Roadrunner,it's all I ever hear from people about how we need Scotland.
The reality is that there is a net outflow from England to Scotland (and Wales) and there has been for many years.England would be better off financially if it was independant.

JohnJo said...

..."it is a policy of English nationalism, not Unionism."...

Actually, that's not necessarily true. For me it all started out as a policy of British equality.

The important men can talk about whatever they want regarding equal representation for England but while they do please take time to listen to what they are actually leaving out. Why are my prescription charges higher? Why are my education fees higher? Why do I pay more for milk in school? Why do I get to pay extra for my eye tests? Why? Why? Why?

The answer seems to be because there are too many English people for anything else to be appropriate.

Nationalism? It seems to be exactly what they are after if they continue to ignore the deficit.

Anonymous said...

An English Parliamenty is THE solution. The Union is the problem.

Please Scotsmen, do yourselves a favour and drop the "oil" thing, it's so tedious and frankly irrelevant to the argument for or against an English parliament.

Take "your oil" and vote for independence or shut-up. Thankyou.

wonkotsane said...

Argument #1: An English Parliament would be too big and powerful and dominate the rest of the UK.
Answer #1: Bulls**t. An English Parliament wouldn't be able to dominate the rest of the UK because it would only be dealing with English devolved matters, the same as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Its size is irrelevant as it would be confined to English devolved matters.

Argument #2: It will break up the union.
Answer #2: Why? England is being discriminated against, robbed, screwed over and destroyed by petty Scots and blinkered prehistoric unionists. Continue to screw over 85% of the population of the UK and the union won't last beyond the next few years.

Argument #3: It will cost too much.
Answer #3: It won't. The British government is a huge wasteful mass of corruption and bureaucracy that spends 80% of its time dealing with England. Devolution in England would enable the UK government to be shrunk to a quarter of its current size at least. Devolution in Scotland and Wales should have reduced their Westminster congtingent but as Labour heartlands that was never going to happen was it?

Argument #4: It's an extra layer of politicians.
Answer #4: See #3.

Argument #5: scotland and Wales needed protecting from English dominance in Westminster, England doesn't.
Answer #5: Utter drivel. Scottish (and to a lesser extent Welsh) MP's have been instrumental in forcing through English legislation on England, often against the will of the majority of English MP's. England certainly does need protecting from the interference of Anglophobic Scottish and Welsh MP's.

Argument #6: England is too big to govern as one country.
Answer #6: Oh give me a break! There are bigger countries than England in the world governed quite successfully as a single state. If it turns out that England is too big to be governed efficiently as one then regional government could follow but only if it answer to an English Parliament and maintains the integrity of the English nation.

Every objection that can be put forward by Anglophobes and scared career politicians can be easily countered with simple facts. Labour won't willingly give England a parliament because they only wield power over the English while they have Scottish and Welsh collaborators prepared to sh*t on England on demand. English MP's are loath to support an English Parliament because they are more concerned about what will happen to their seat and career.

Paul Linford said...

Agree Wonko. The idea that an English Parliament would somehow "dominate" the UK Parliament, put about by Charlie Falconer last week and since echoed by others, is nonsense so long as central taxation and resource allocation remains in the hands of the UK Parliament as at present. Who is talking about an English Parliament controlling UK taxation? No-one. Those of us who support an English Parliament want it by and large to have the same powers as the devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales, ie control of education, health, local government, the emergency services, economic development and transport. The UK Parliament would retain responsibility for central taxation, overall public spending, defence, foreign affairs, the English and Welsh legal system, and social security. Because it would retain the financial whip-hand, and because it would be responsible for Britain's relations with the outside world, the UK Parliament would remain by far the more politically-important body - which is exactly as it should be if the Union is to be maintained.

MatGB said...

All this 'balkanisation' talk is to completely ignore other models to look at. Spain has historic regions analogous to Scotland/Wales/NI, but also has historic Castillian Spain. Yet the Spanish Autonomous Communities are reasonably succesful and little more than lines drawn on maps. Same in Germany; sone of the Lander (ie Bavaria) have historic roots, others are mergeers of a few traditional areas, some completely new.

I see no reason why English 'provinces' (gods I hate the word 'region') couldn't be drawn up, with maybe a monthly national meeting (Westminster Hall?), based around old traditional links (Yorkshire, The Westcountry, etc). Each could have powers analogous to the Welsh Assembly, but actually be closer and more responsive.

English element, but at the same time genuine devolution to a level close enough to be responsive to local needs. I'm fed up with Whitehall bureacrats who don't know the needs of my part of the world; Foot and Mouth showed how damaging that is.

Hazel's argument is a good one. His studies are, even if you accept a bias, strong. 80%+ within one unit of a federation is unsustainable for the long term health of the federation.

If you want to break up the Union, fine; be honest. If you don't, stop trying to pretend it wouldn't cause a problem to the larger unit, it palpably would.

James is correct in this, the California analogy is inncaruate. Besides, there are currently movements campaigning to sub-divide both Cali and Texas into smaller states, the large size and lack of Senate representation is seen as damaging for their residents.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

There is a possible solution to the whole situation that is not only frequently overlooked but has been tried before and proven to work.

When Northern Ireland had a Parliament of its own, nobody ever compalined about the "North Belfast Question". Nobody ever talked about Northern Irish MPs only voting on restricted matters, or having two categories. The reason was that a compromise was reached whereby Northern Ireland was cut from twenty-nine to thirteen MPs (later twelve when the University seats were scrapped) who could vote on everything. The reduced voice/equal status MPs arrangement worked at Westminster for fifty years.

Cut Scotland to forty MPs (cue squealing from Labour & Lib Dem MPs as a third face political extinction) and allow them to vote on all matters. Sure there will be a few occasions when anomalies still arise, but it's a much better solution than trying to create two parliaments in one or electing yet another parliament, one that hardly anyone wants.

Anonymous said...

What all those arguing against an English Parliament fail to understand or even acknowledge, is that the method of English Devolution should be a vote by the people of England. Regions or a parliament should be the choice of the English People. If we live in a democracy, let the English have the same vote given to Scotland and Wales then the argument will be settled.

Simple really - oh and by the way Scots get £12 Billion EXTRA from England in the shape of the Barnett Formula and Oil revenues are barely half of that - so Scotland take your oil revenues and take a hike!

Toque said...

>>>Why do I pay more for milk in school?

Does your teacher know about all your extra-curricular blogging JohnJo?

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Scotsman, wouldn't a much more sensible solution be just to scrap the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly and go back to the very good system of Government we had prior to devolution. After all, less than half of the Scots or half of the Welsh electorate actually voted for these acursed things in the first place, and both institutions have squandered any goodwill they might have had when they were set up anyway. I'm sure there could be some support to be had for this policy in the Celtic regions.

The danger is, of course, that the left-wing media would try and portray the party as 'anti-Scottish' or 'ant-Welsh', but if you want to make real political change happen then you're obviously going to run into serious opposition from vested interests.

The sad thing is that the devolution bills were passed by a majority of English MPs, holding a majority of English seats, and elected by a majority of the English electorate back in 1997. This problem of uneven representation in favour of the devolved nations is not a new one - it was first raised back in the 1970s, by a Scottish MP no less. It is clear that there is a problem with unequal representation and funding and the union has to be maintained on a different basis for this reason. If the Lib Dem and Labour parties who traditionally do better in the Celtic areas then that is a matter for the electorate and the Conservative Party has a chance to capitalise on this by putting forward helpful policies to resolve this anomoly. It is a matter for the party, then ultimately the electorate, to decide on whether that should be an English Parliament, devolved local assemblies, a review of the Barnett formula, abolition of devolved parliaments or no change at all. If there are some people who want to see English independence or an English Parliament then good luck to you, but let's try and state a rational, reasoned case. Comments like "England should declare war on Scotland", "take you oil and shove it" and "I hope Ming Campbell becomes leader so we can whip up anti-scottish nationalism" are unhelpful and actually do detract from what is otherwise a very entertaining and infomative blog. Most of these comments are aimed specifically at Scots, not the Welsh or Irish (despite the fact that they were blowing up and murdering Britons for decades), which suggests these contributers dislike Scottish people per se, rather than the current constitutional settlement.

Anonymous said...

Please can we drop the Barnett Formula thing, it's just sooo tedious - after all the Scots (always cleverer, always one step ahead) are now arguing for fiscal autonomy, which will be the only way the Formula is "reformed" (by Scotland's say-so)

You take your Barnett Formula, we'll take our oil and what's left of it (£12bn this year thankyou - more next year). After all if it weren't for Scotland's oil in the 1970's England would have a GNP ranking somewhere just above Somalia, and Mrs T wouldn't have had the resources to finance the dole money she paid out to all the luddites she sacked during her tenure, the propping up of nuclear weapons capabilities...... or the building of the M25. However when we see Norway, a small northern European nation - an oil producer like Scotland, that has invested all of its oil revenue to create a handy nest-egg to finance itself for when the oil does run out - we see what Scotland has lost out on (or been vindictively robbed of...)

When you think about it we Scots really are quite magnanimous we allow you to spend the proceeds of our natural resources (a hefty subsidy) and yet come back for more. I think that's just fabulous :-)

Anonymous said...

The post above isn't really helping either. Of course, as a Scotsman, I accept the Barnett formula needs re-written, and the problem of unfair representation for England needs to be changed. That's because I'm a Unionist and believe in one United Kingdom. But this Scots versus English thing is just stupid and it's not very responsible of this blog's author to try whip up anti-Scottish hatred on the issue (and again, very little is said by the English nationalists about the Welsh or Northern Irish). Let's get elected as a Conservative Government because our policies are right and fair, not because of the nationality of the opposing Prime Minister to be!!

Anonymous said...

The thing that makes me smile is the "it's oor oil" thing. Some of the oil is in English waters! Yet I've heard a rumour that the Scottish Raj has been tinkering with the historic maritime boundary between England and Scotland to change all that. If true, this shows the true nature of our rulers.

Whatever, it all boils down to the UK being run for the benefit of an elite of about eight million people - the people of Scotland and Wales. The fifty million people in England in the meantime being treated like rubbish.

It's creepy.

Either we go back to the old Union - not a prospect I relish, or head for a federal system or the break up of the so-called UK.

The UK no longer matters to me. The Scottish Raj are using England for their own country's long term financial security and to give themselves a bigger voice on the world stage.

They are not here to look after our interests.

Scotland could be a fine little EU region in its own right (I don't think that the EU deals in "nations"!).

Scotland's politicians should stop abusing the UK/British thing. If the old Unitary system was flawed, then this is bonkers!

The only democratic course is to give the people of England the right to decide how they are governed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the time has come for an English parliament. Then England can keep the English resources and Scotland will keep the scottish resources (oil, gas, whisky exports etc).

England needs Scotland more than Scotland needs England.

PS: Also, the continent want Scottish beef not english beef.