MPs say England needs to come to the devolution party


Why should the Celts have all the committees of the great and the good?

A committee of MPs has recommended the setting up of a UK-wide constitutional convention to try to answer the question: "What do we want the UK to look like in 10 or 20 years time?"

The convention, an idea previously suggested by the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, would involve all the nations of the UK. MPs on the political and constitutional reform select committee say it should not be seen merely as a reaction to the Scottish referendum next year.

Their report says: "Regardless of the results of the 2014 referendum on Scotland's independence, there is in our view, a need to consider both how the increasingly devolved parts of the Union interact with each other, and what we, as residents of the UK, want the union to look like going forward.

"This would create a national conversation about what we want a settled 21st-century United Kingdom democracy to look like. Such a conversation is sorely needed. It should begin immediately."

The MPs say the priority should be to answer what they call "the English Question", a task they would assign to a "preconvention". Their report defines it as "the fact that England, unlike the other parts of the Union, is still governed centrally, and, outside London, does not have its own devolved settlement".

It warns: "The failure to answer the English question, and the reality that the largest nation in the Union is still micromanaged from Whitehall, has and will continue to cause tension with the rest of the union. The devolution of power from Westminster to other parts of the Union is a principle, and not simply a political expedient.

"Some have argued that if devolved powers were extended to England, this would, in part, address the asymmetry of the current devolution settlement, and allow UK to move forward and embrace the future as a quasi-federal union."

The report looks at some of the phraseology involved in constitutional debate. "Asymmetric devolution" is redefined as "bespoke devolution" (suits you, sir?). The MPs also try to explain the difference between a commission and a convention, which is handy for those of us who sometimes confuse the two.

A previous report by the committee suggested that local government in England could become the vehicle for devolution. Today's report says: "Of all the tectonic plates within the union, it is England which most needs to be lubricated and adjusted to the new reality of an effective union, within a key framework of national competences.

"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".

Tony Blair's Labour government did, of course, consider English devolution beyond London, but the idea did not survive an overwhelmingly hostile vote in the north east.

But committee chair Graham Allen said: "A little well intention tinkering with Westminster Parliamentary procedure [McKay] is not enough. England needs to come to the devolution party too and as we approach the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015 there couldn't be a better time to generate public interest throughout the Union not just in our constitutional heritage but in settling the democratic future of the United Kingdom."

Plenty there for MPs - and hacks - to think about as we disappear for the parliamentary recess.

I'll be back after the break. Happy Easter.

David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Hopefully England will then feel they can have the government they vote for " I want to vote for a government in Wales that says "The costs of Welsh Language fanatics have increased, are increasing, and ought to be diminishedd" What party can I vote for?? How can I have the government that I vote for in Wales ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    100.John Tyler

    "It's much simpler being British"

    Not when being British means being consistently denied the government you vote for. That is not democracy.

    An independent Scotland will get the government it votes for.

    Hopefully England will then feel they can have the government they vote for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    It's much simpler being British .........


  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    ... #97, the choice of Scot to debate is a choice for the "Better Together" cabal, I haven't heard Darling called such a demeaning name, he must have a thick skin.

    The unions are an important part of this particular conversation, they will have calculated the job loses, sure the Scottish government will have needs, but not the numbers that currently service 60 million population.


  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    ... #95, Scottish independence will be acrimonious, much bad feeling, particularly when jobs flow south, and they will, London will see to that, Scotland will lower taxes and subsidise the effect with oil revenues.

    There will be companies moving head offices north to take advantage of lower taxes, that will result in sales taxes so that revenue is not lost, its not going to be a happy time.


Comments 5 of 102



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