UK Politics

MPs demand answer to 'English question'

Lion statue and Parliament
Image caption MPs from all over the UK vote in Parliament on laws that apply only to England

The government must pre-empt a future constitutional crisis by setting up a forum to decide how England is to be governed, a committee of MPs has said.

Devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has created an "asymmetric union", the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee argued.

England should now be offered its own devolved institutions, the MPs said in a recent report.

"We believe the 'English question' needs to be addressed," they said.

An answer to this question should also involve changes to the procedure in the UK Parliament on legislation that affects England only, they suggested.

'Micro-managed'

"Of all the tectonic plates within the Union, it is England which most needs to be lubricated and adjusted to the new reality," the committee said.

"The government should now, with all urgency, create a forum... for the people of England to discuss if, and how, they wish to follow in the footsteps of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and access substantial devolved powers, clearly defined in statute, for their local communities."

The committee said "the largest nation of the Union is still micro-managed from Whitehall", predicting that this would "continue to cause tension".

It noted that the situation could not yet reasonably be described as a "constitutional crisis", but it added: "It is better to identify and analyse potential weaknesses in our constitutional framework before a crisis arises."

A future devolved administration for England could have "the tax-raising powers that Scotland possesses, and that are proposed in Wales," the committee suggested.

The MPs argued that recent years have been marked by "a huge amount of incremental constitutional change".

Thwarting the "natural desires of people to run their own affairs has been a contributory factor to antagonism towards Whitehall and Westminster", they added.

Once ministers had "swiftly" resolved the "English question", they should arrange a "UK-wide constitutional convention", the committee also suggested.

"Changes over the last 15 years have continued to alter our political and constitutional arrangements at a rapid pace," it said.

"Some believe that the time is right to step back and consider what effect these constitutional changes have had on the UK as a whole, and what the future of the Union could look like."

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