Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The English Question Answered

Sooner or later someone is going to have to grasp the nettle and sort out the 'English Question'. What kind of democratic representation should we have in the 21st century?

The present system has been described by Labour MP, Frank Field, as "one of the festering sores in English politics", with English voters becoming increasingly resentful of the present system that allows a range of "fiscal discriminations". 

And the Conservative's Ken Clarke, is looking at the same issue. 

The New Labour government is being, not surprisingly given the Scottish grip on the Party, rather quiet on this vexed issue. 

But this shouldn't be about nationalism. It should be about democratic structures and representation. Yes, it creates resentment, anger (and a headache) but that doesn't mean it can be hidden away. Sooner or later it will come to head. 

The problem is the simple democratic legacy. England doesn’t have a parliament. And whatever solution is put forward, this lack of an English parliament has to be settled once and for all. 

And the fact that Labour MPs, representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies, can vote through laws for England that do not effect their own constituents, is causing a growing backlash among English MPs and voters. 

An actual structure is becoming clear. Westminster, the Mother of all Parliaments, represent the United Kingdom - and that remains sacrosanct. MPs from all over the UK sit at Westminster.

But that UK parliament should only deal with matters which have not been devolved to the four nations. 

What has to be made clear is exactly what powers are devolved to the national parliaments and assemblies and what must remain for the UK as a whole to decide. Defence is obvious. So too must be national security, strategic transport, immigration policy, national taxation and the NHS. 

The Scottish parliament should be given more devolved powers. The Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies should move faster towards their own parliamentary status and the London Assembly must be considered as part of this devolution. 

But in the end, it is the UK parliament which should decide which powers are devolved.

And it would be an English assembly first, then parliament later, which also sits at Westminster, but clearly separate from the UK parliament, to decide English matters. 

That's the structure. Pretty clear and straightforward. Such a structure is inevitable anyway. 

The real problem isn't this structure or the cost. The problem is over the representation to the parliaments and assemblies which have evolved piecemeal over time. 

There's no way round this. England will have to produce another tier of government in the form of English members of parliament (EMPs) - similar to those in Scotland. 

But there's no reason why a present UK MP for an English constituency, sitting in the UK parliament, cannot be the same person as the English parliament MP.

It has to happen soon. Before it all turns nasty.


Anonymous said...

welcome to the Witan, yes it will turn nasty eventually,I have my brick ready. At pens in vitriol others prefer the pen to the sword.

Anonymous said...

The answer to the English Question is, of course, English Independence, which will swiftly follow Scottish Independence once negotiations on a settlement are finalised after the 2010 Referendum. Two fine countries with their own traditions, history and culture. Two nations proud of their past, but ready to embrace the future and ready to once again stand as sovereign nation states in a modern Europe. It's Time.