Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Support for an English Parliament Grows

Yesterday, Communities Secretary John Denham made a speech on the need to celebrate 'Englishness'. If it wasn't so tragic, you'd want to laugh. This is a government that seems determined to stamp out Englishness at every opportunity it gets.

To coincide with the speech, the IPPR has published a report which shows that support for an English Parliament is growing as voters increasingly resent the way public spending is allocated in the UK. Forty per cent of people in England feel that Scotland receives more than its fair share - an increase from 22% in 2003. Just under half of those asked believe England's laws should continue to be made at Westminster and 29% now back a new parliament for England.

Professor John Curtice, who wrote the report, said: "It is too strong to speak as yet of a widespread English backlash but the research does suggest there has been a marked growth in resentment about the level of funding that Scotland enjoys. Moreover, this seems in part at least to be generating increased support for the idea that England should have its own parliament. If these trends continue, then politicians may no longer be able safely to assume that England can be ignored in the devolution debate."

Amen to that.

Interestingly, the poll shows that support for some sort of an English Parliament hasincreased from 18% to 29% in 10 years. Support was strongest among those who described themselves as English rather than British.

I really think this issue is going to move up the political agenda over the coming years, and if nationally elected politicians want to avoid the 'backlash' which the IPPR speak of, they need to address it rather than pay it lip service.

The whole question of an English Parliament is surrounded my myth. It certainly doesn't need to have another layer of politicians or a new building, or indeed a huge tranche of new civil servants. It could be formed of English MPs, debate in the Palace of Westminster and if it had formal Executive powers, they would be implemented by existing civil servants.

I'd like to see a proper national debate on this issue, followed by a referendum, so the English people themselves can decide.

37 comments:

Witterings From Witney said...

Iain,

What is the point of an English Parliament when it would be in the same position as the present one - originating just 20% of our laws? At present all an English Parliament would do is to assist the EU in the regionalisation of the UK.

Lets get the hell out of the EU first, then by all means hae separate parliaments.

Stepney said...

We've had quite enough of legislation which affects only the English being forced through by Scottish MPs.

Anything that pertains only to English law and process must ONLY be decided by English MPs. When such a bill or reading comes up - chuck the other buggers out of the chamber.

If the great socialist brains can't get round that concept then they are truly the enemies of democracy.

George said...

Perhaps we should be better placed to seek the return of Parliamentary powers to Westminster first. We should all be made aware of the loss of power to Brussels, without the people assenting to this change. Indeed, we need to look at the legitimacy of Gordo signing the Lisbon Treaty, in a darkened room all by himself, wasn't that brave of the little boy, which seeks to bind successor goverments. Now, my understanding is that Parliamentary rules/laws do not allow for this.

SO Iain, I think we should all be looking for the restitution of powers to Westminster before we start thinking about going our separate ways. Nigel Farage was so right, just who is Rumpy-Pumpy that he thinks he can rule over us.

DespairingLiberal said...

Yes, but it would also be an opportunity to break the stranglehold of the London civil servants and mejah types who currently tell "us" what to do - with a thinly-veiled facade of "nationally elected" (well, er, appointed by small numbers of constituency apparatchiks anyway) MPs to provide cover for their operations.

I refer of course to the relocation of Parliament to somewhere more central in the country. Places that come to mind are York, Milton Keynes, Tamworth (ancient capital of Mercia - you can't get more central than that!), Crewe (good rail links), Scunthorpe (authentic), Hull (good fish and chips) or Carlisle (nice climate).

We would also need a cut in "national" MPs to 100 seats and a huge reduction in the overburden of civil service and Quango jobs, starting with a savage cull of overpaid senior managers.

Nice ideas for your scrapbooks. Enjoy the moment - it will come to pass!

strapworld said...

witterings from witney! The EU is detremined to close down England. The English Channel is renamed the Channel Sea. Whilst Wales, Scotland and Ireland retain their identity England is lost in 'regions'

Iain is right, for Denham and this government to talk, now, about Englishness is just as opportunist as they are talking about restricting immigration. Brown has labelled us all under the mongrel title Britons!

Mind you it has to be said that David Cameron will not agree to an English Parliament.

Hythlodaeus said...

Nice to see a Tory pressing for the policies and increased nationalism that will hasten the break-up of the UK. The sooner we're all out of the bunfight and on our own way, the better.

Toque said...

The British Social Attitudes figures contained in the IPPR report underestimate demand for an English parliament in my opinion.

It's also worth noting that the BSA's 25th report revealed that 61% thought that it was wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on English laws, so the 49% in England who apparently favour the Status Quo probably only do so on the proviso that Scottish MPs are banned from voting on English legislation at Westminster (interesting that support for the Status Quo has fallen below half for the first time ever).

Desperate Dan said...

I've been astounded by the BBC's applause for Canadian patriotism during the Winter olympics. At the least sniff of patriotism in this country they entire BBC-LabourParty-Guardian stands up and screams RACISM.

stephengash said...

The best way to improve Tory electoral fortunes and increase their standings in the polls, is for them to back an English Parliament.

Cameron has seemingly unitlaterally dumped English Votes on English Laws, that most of his MPs supports.

Maybe he realises that EVoEL is a dead duck not worthy of housing, and an English Parliament is the way forward and is waiting his moment.

We can but hope. The Tories would not exist without the English vote.

stephengash said...

The best way to improve Tory electoral fortunes and increase their standings in the polls, is for them to back an English Parliament.

Cameron has seemingly unitlaterally dumped English Votes on English Laws, that most of his MPs supports.

Maybe he realises that EVoEL is a dead duck not worthy of housing, and an English Parliament is the way forward and is waiting his moment.

We can but hope. The Tories would not exist without the English vote.

steveal said...

God forbid ANOTHER layer of 'Rulers'.

Steve

Hawkeye said...

Simply change the law so that an MP can only vote on legislation affecting his own country. That way scottish, welsh and NI MPs cannot vote on purely english matters.

Something which affects the whole UK (like income tax) would obviously be voted on by all MP as it affects all countries.

No need to have separate parliments, assemblies or "grand committees".

It's simple, effective and cost-effective, so Labour will never do it. Will the tories?

Tom Long said...

This forthcoming election the Scots in Kirkcaldy will be laughing all the way to the ballot box to vote for fellow Scot Broon to continue making laws for the English but not for the Scots - democracy, more like jokeocracy.

The English should be asked if they would like their Parliament BACK at its traditional home of Westminster. The Commons will do, the Lords could be a British / Upper chamber.

And why should the people of England suffer higher income tax so that this 'British' Government can spend more on the Scots, Welsh and NI than it does on the English.

If public spending in all four countries was set at English levels the basic rate of income tax would fall to 13% !

Alan Douglas said...

The chief way Scotland benefits over English tax=payers is through the "Barnett Formula".

Barnett, who devised this mess, says that he never intended it to carry on as long as it has. It should be abolished.

Alan Douglas

Tony_E said...

I agree with others that it would be simple to legislate that laws pertaining to England (ie in areas where the Scots have devolved power over their own affairs) must be clearly stated on the preamble to the bill.

Then it is easy to exclude Scots MPs from the lobby come the vote, and easier to stop them talking a bill out of time in the house as they would be entitled to attend but not to speak.

It is fair and very simple, and as such I think should be part of the Conservative manifesto.

stephengash said...

Steveal quote: "God forbid ANOTHER layer of 'Rulers'."
That particular chesnut has been well and truly roasted.
The only reason British MPs presently infesting and corrupting the British Parliament oppose an English Parliament is because it would make them all pointless, just as they are totally pointless in Scotland because of the Scottish parliament.
An English Parliament would necessitate a radically reduced British Parliament.
This British Parliament could be funded by the devolved parliaments and employed to look after defence and UK foreign policy.

It is insulting to the English to be told they must remain as third class people in the UK because "it is another layer of politicians", "the vast majority of MPs in the House of Commons are MPs in England" (not necessarily English though) and "England is too large for a federal UK", only then to be told that England needs domestically insignificant Scotland and Wales to "punch above its weight" internationally.
If the United Kingdom cannot survive England having an English Parliament to focus on English needs without expensive distractions like Scotland, then the United Kingdom is not worth saving.

Robert said...

The Conservative Party doesn't do referenda.

English nationalism, the love that dare not speak its name.

Roger Thornhill said...

" It certainly doesn't need to have another layer of politicians or a new building, or indeed a huge tranche of new civil servants. It could be formed of English MPs, debate in the Palace of Westminster and if it had formal Executive powers, they would be implemented by existing civil servants."

This I totally agree with with one alteration- I go further and extend the theory to Scotland, NI and Wales. Have MSPs/MA's and MPs stand against each other to see which one remains and GET RID of the duplication.

Holyrood can be leased out and earn money instead of being a cost to the Nation.

Further I agree with @Witterings, that the English Parliament angle, especially one with a new "layer" will play right into the hands of the Regionalisation concept.

skynine said...

Why can't we have English, Welsh, Scottish and N Irish parliaments with them all meeting in a UK parliament for non devolved issues?

I really can't see why we have the MP for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath lecturing the English on policing like he did on Monday when he has no influence on policing in K&C.

It would be nice if the BBC asked him.

robin said...

Hmm interesting concept Iain the "English" people can decide?

Who qualifies as an "English people" Iain, is it me - I have lived in Surrey for 25 years,paid my tax,paid my NI been a model citizen, my Father died at 51 years old from illness carried from fighting in the Burmese jungle for four years, both my grandfathers were gassed in the first world war and both were 18 years old at the time.

However I am originally from Edinburgh -

or is it the family of six from Sudan who just moved in to a house nearby they dont work, they don't contribute to our community but my wife tells me they have British passports are these the English people you mean Iain?

Sean Haffey said...

It's about time people in the UK realised there is just one nation here. That's why we have one seat at the UN.

The Scottish, Welsh and Irish congregations are simply a conceit.

We already have too many levels of government: EU, national, pseudo-national, Partnership Boards, counties, district and borough councils and parish councils. That's at least two levels of bureaucracy too many.

Ian said...

Are there no English people in Scotland, Robin? Presumably if resident in Scotland and on the electoral register they would bave voted in Scotland's referendum. It is the people of England, presumably including you, who would vote on a referendum in England - in the unlikely event that one were held. It is fair enough to call them 'the English' even if some of us hail from elswhere just as some 'Scots' may also have come from somewhere else.

Salmondnet said...

Robin@ 2.44. People registered to vote in England can decide, just as people registered to vote in Scotland decided on the Scottish Parliament and now vote on who is represented there. No doubt it should more properly be described as a Parliament for England, not an English Parliament. I can live with that, just so long as we get it.

Douglas said...

Whilst I disagree with the UK=England comment by Sean Haffey (I am Scottish and proud of it but not a short-bread tin, sepia tinted glasses wearing Nat), the English Question (i.e. the Barnett Formula and Scottish votes on English issues) does need to be addressed.

In the same conversation through questions about Tory lack of support for Scotland to have more fiscal responsibility need to be asked. Also, expenditure on things like London Underground routes and the Olympics (in London again) need to be taken into account when looking at public expenditure.

It would be good to have a mature debate asking why Tom Harris can vote on English schools but not those in his own area. But that debate must recognise the desire for Scotland to have its Parliament and the option to vote on more powers.

The problem is that many Tories in Scotland are like Sean Haffey which means that Scots see no reason to loose the Margaret Thatcher chip on our shoulders.

Mrs Rigby said...

"It certainly doesn't need to have another layer of politicians or a new building, or indeed a huge tranche of new civil servants."

No, it doesn't, and nor was there a real 'need' to set up the regional agencies and assemblies the EU said we had to have, and that have been provided with buildings etc., especially as nobody really knows what they do.

Why couldn't one of those be used as a base, perhaps the one in East Midlands which is closer to the airport than the West Midlands Assembly in Birmingham.

Thomas Ash said...

Are you familiar with the history of this issue in the Power2010 campaign? There's been a long debate out it over on OurKingdom:

Gareth Young

David Rickard

Peter Facey

Jimmy said...

I don't see how you have an English legislature without an English executive.

trevorsden said...

Personally I do not want the extra bureaucracy and cost of an extra parliament. Scotland and Wales are so small and England so big that simply using THE Parliament to have English MPs pass English laws would be best.

I accept that this might mean that the the govt of the day might not have a majority in England to pass its English only laws, but this is where the logic lies. If we had an English Parliament handling say the English NHS and English Legal System like Scotland - just what would the national parliament have to do?

Unsworth said...

"I'd like to see a proper national debate on this issue, followed by a referendum, so the English people themselves can decide."

If by 'national' you mean English then the result of any such referendum is a foregone conclusion, never mind what Curtice believes as a result of his (historical) data. And each week that passes with the Tartan Mafia occupying Downing Street and Whitehall that public view is reinforced.

Why does this Government believe it acceptable to promote regional identity and democracy only on the other side of the Scottish and Welsh (and Northern Irish) borders?

Jimmy said...

"Why does this Government believe it acceptable to promote regional identity and democracy only on the other side of the Scottish and Welsh (and Northern Irish) borders?"

Utter bilge. It's the only government that ever has tried to promote regional identity in England. There were no takers.

M said...

There is a very simple answer to the issue of funding for the devolved administrations and that is to grant them full fiscal autonomy as the SNP have been asking for years.

Also for the record the SNP MP's have NEVER voted on England only affairs - only the Labour and LIB Dem MP's do that.

Sean Haffey said...

> Douglas

I suspect that either I did not explain myself properly or you misunderstood me.

I certainly do not believe that UK=England.

The correct equation is

UK=England+Northern Ireland+Scotland+Wales.

None of the four on the right hand side of this equation are countries; they are parts of the UK.

Nor is this a disguised rant against any of these four parts. Indeed every year my wife and I attend at least one Burns Night, which we thoroughly enjoy.

Unsworth said...

@ Jimmy

I must have missed it. When did this government make any effort towards setting up an English Assembly or Parliament?

Or are you talking about the deliberate attempts to fragment England into various 'regions', thereby destroying any form of cohesive English identity?

The Labour Party has shown itself to be virulently anti-English. When the Scottish Brown refers to himself as being 'North British' that merely confirms his, and his party's, position.

Little Black Sambo said...

"Holyrood can be leased out."

What as?

Douglas said...

@Sean

I disagree. Scotland, England, Wales and NI are indeed countries. They are not sovereign states but by pretty much any definition they are countries.

I would also say that any attempt at English only representation is not a conceit.

Mind you, at least we can agree on the glory that is haggis!

John said...

The United Kingdom has only ever been a glorified Yugoslavia. A vastly more successful union than Yugoslavia was but essentially the same thing. I feel England is now seriously disadvantaged and retarded by this endless harping on about "Britain" and we need either to get shot of it or put it at one remove. Particularly as the British are happy to allow Scotland and Wales their own identities but forbid it for England.
The British are best regarded as an occupying force of England. They are emphatically not to be confused with the English.

There is a ghastly confusion over whether Westminster is a British parliament or a warped English one. For me it is British and therefore cannot be English and cannot represent the English. It contains MP's from three foriegn countries for God's sake!, whose pronciple aim is to keep extracting money from the English.

England needs a completely separate ENGLISH parliament, preferably located away from London and preferably in the centre of England eg near Birmingham.
It needn't be expensive. That part of the British civil service that "serves" England would simply e rededicated to England.

I would go along with an overarching British body to concern itself with specifically pan British matters. it should keep its nose out of English things though. Cameron has already partly accepted this argument by signalling a reduction in the size of the British parliament by 10%. If we have a separate English parliament then that can be a lot more eg to 250 Mp's only.

Richard Gadsden said...

Iain, your proposals take away most of the attractions of the English Parliament for me.

The big arguments for an English Parliament are:

1. A separate election so we can separate the actual national issues (foreign policy, defence, economy) from countrywide issues (health, defence).

2. Breaking the excessive power of London by running England from somewhere else - anywhere else, but I'd pick Manchester or Birmingham as having the best transport links.

3. Separate ministers and two separate Prime Ministers (preferably of different parties) would break the concept that the media has that all power and all questions should go to one person.