Wales politics

English devolution 'could save UK', MP David Davies says

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Media captionDavid Davies fears English taxpayers will one day 'wake up' to the unfairness of devolution

Failure to devolve power to England could threaten the future of the UK, two senior MPs say.

Monmouth Tory MP David Davies, chair of the Welsh Affairs select committee, said English taxpayers may "wake up" to the unfairness of the situation.

Labour MP Graham Allen, whose select committee oversees constitutional reform, fears it could boost UKIP.

Their warnings come as the UK government considers giving Wales major borrowing and taxation powers.

The recommendation was made in a report by the Silk Commission into scope for further devolution for Wales.

Scotland, which already has tax varying powers, could also get additional financial powers regardless of the result of next year's referendum on independence.

Both developments would leave England without devolved powers which has prompted the concern of the two MPs.

'Grossly unfair'

Mr Davies told the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme: "I can vote for higher student fees in England while supporting a situation where students don't pay those fees in Wales.

"This is grossly unfair and the reason why people in Wales and Scotland should care about it, at least those who are unionists should care about it, is because that basic unfairness is likely to fracture the union.

"One of these days, people in England, taxpayers in England, are going to wake up, realise that this is happening, say it's absolutely outrageous and we're not having it any more, you know, let them [the UK nations] go their own separate ways."

Nottingham North MP Graham Allen, who chairs the select committee on political and constitutional reform, said the main political parties had to get a grip of the issue.

He said: "If they don't, the conventional political parties are going to leave the field free to other organisations like UKIP, who frankly don't have many policies at the moment, who might seize that opportunity and be the party of English devolution.

"That I think would be a very bad thing for the conventional parties and a very bad thing for the people in England.

"If you have those two key principles together, devolution and union, I think we'll put nationalism back in the box."

Running scared

Mr Allen said devolution had been a success in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and he would like to see it applied to councils in England. Failure to do so will increase discontent, he believes.

Kevin Mahoney, a UKIP councillor in Wales, believes it is clear the traditional parties are running scared.

"They assumed the votes of the people and now they're just waking up to the fact of how disliked, despised or whatever they are, and they see UKIP coming up on the rails," he said.

"Yes, they are reacting and to a certain degree UKIP are now setting the agenda for these parties as we've seen in so many decisions."

Labour had planned to devolve powers from Westminster to regional assemblies in England but that was stopped after the North East delivered an emphatic "no" vote almost a decade ago.

Prime Minister David Cameron went to Scotland on Friday to tell his party conference that 2014 would be the year in which to save the union as a referendum is held on the issue of independence.

He said a future Conservative government would deliver "strong alternatives" to keep the UK together.

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