UK Politics

MPs to probe devolution in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Graham Allen
Image caption Graham Allen is a longstanding campaigner for decentralisation

MPs in Westminster are poised to launch an inquiry into devolving more powers to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Political and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee will examine extending some of the powers granted to Scotland - in the event of a No vote - to the rest of the UK.

Chair Graham Allen said: "Now is the chance to to discuss devolution.

"If it's good enough for Scotland it's good enough for England, Wales and Northern Ireland."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was inevitable that greater devolution in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would follow if greater powers were handed to the Scottish Parliament if Scotland votes no to independence.

Speaking to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, chaired by Mr Allen, Mr Clegg predicted that the next Parliament would be "of huge constitutional significance".

He told the MPs: "I don't think anyone should imagine that we can embark upon a new chapter of very significant devolution of further powers to Scotland without having a wider debate about how we decentralise power more generally across the United Kingdom."

'Federal '

Mr Clegg predicted a "much wider re-wiring of the governance and constitutional arrangements" across the UK, particularly in England.

Image caption Nick Clegg believes more devolution is on its way

He said there were already plans for more devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland, but "the big missing bit of that jigsaw is to explore how we can decentralise the British state within England".

He rejected Mr Allen's calls for the three main party leaders to appear together in public, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the devolution of power to the English regions, Wales and Northern Ireland, saying it was important not to distract from the Scottish referendum debate at this stage.

But he said "change is on its way" and the coalition had already devolved more power to English cities, by handing more control over how money raised by business rates is spent.

The debate comes amid mounting concern about the constitutional implications for the rest of the UK over the hand-over of additional fiscal and welfare powers to Scotland.

There have been long-standing calls for more powers for English MPs to decide England only issues.

Now, however, there are demands for the English regions to have similar powers to those being considered in Scotland.

Mr Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham, said: "We want the Westminster Parliament to be a federal parliament and push the powers down to the nations and localities in the rest of the union.

"After all, why should Whitehall tell Nottingham how many times a fortnight it should empty its waste bins?"

'No collective voice?'

Arguing that a chunk of national income tax already goes directly to the Scottish and Welsh executives, Mr Allen said: "I see no reason why the balance of that shouldn't go to England so that I, in Nottingham, can be really clear about how much money is coming to my locality."

"We have got to apply devolution to all the nations of the union if we're to be credible.... devolution isn't just for Scotland.

"This week I'd like to see Miliband, Clegg and Cameron issue a statement saying very clearly we're in favour of both union and devolution."

But Eddie Bone, campaign director for the Campaign for an English Parliament, said he "fundamentally disagreed" with Mr Allen's approach to the issue.

"My concern is he's put no thought into keeping England together as a collective voice," he said. "How would you stop regions competing against each other?

"I fully understand the principle of devolving power to the people who live locally - I think that's a laudable approach - but the first stage has got to be an English government speaking on behalf of all the people of England."

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