Devolution for English regions call by MP Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy Paul Murphy said English regions could see the benefits of the Welsh assembly

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The former Welsh and Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy says devolution for the English regions could protect the interests of people across the UK.

Mr Murphy's comments come amid fresh debate about the British political map in the event of Scottish independence.

"People see the Welsh assembly and Welsh government work very well in protecting Welsh interests," he said.

"I think people might want that to happen in their own English regions as well."

Mr Murphy, Labour MP for Torfaen, was discussing the implications for the future of the United Kingdom given the prospect of a Scottish referendum on independence in 2013 or 2014.

He told BBC Radio Wales that he didn't believe the people of Scotland would vote for independence, but that devolution had already raised questions about relations between the four nations of the UK.

'Different time'

The former minister said that whatever Scotland decided, the English dominance at Westminster had to be addressed, given proposals to reduce the number of Welsh MPs by a quarter.

Start Quote

People see the Welsh assembly and Welsh government work very well in protecting Welsh interests and I think people might want that to happen in their own English regions as well”

End Quote Paul Murphy MP Former Welsh and NI Secretary

"In effect it is an English parliament in the sense that they've got in England far more members of parliament than Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales put together," he said.

"That's why we were arguing very strongly about the number of Welsh members of parliament, to keep our voice up.

"Despite that, there are ways and means, it seems to me, we need to examine how the English regions might react to further development.

"Although it didn't work before when we had a referendum in the north east of England, I'm not quite so sure these days that English devolution within in the regions is off the map.

"People should consider now having regional government in England as a means by which we progress constitutionally."

Mr Murphy, who led a Commons debate on the issue last March, admitted that the previous Labour government had failed in its attempt to introduce devolution to the English regions in 2004, saying it was a "different time".

"What was on offer in the north east was really not very strong," he said.

"It seems to me that people see the Welsh assembly and Welsh government work very well in protecting Welsh interests and I think people might want that to happen in their own English regions as well."

On Friday, Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones proposed a new upper house similar to the US Senate with equal representation for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the event of Scottish independence.

However, he told the British-Irish Council in Dublin he would very much regret seeing Scotland leave the union.

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