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- We’ve left the EU as a matter of law: now we need to leave it in practice
- New Report - Peterloo200: The path to Proportional Representation
- English Democrats: The Busiest Party in England -Fighting to secure YOUR democratic rights!
We need an English parliament
so that England can be recognised politically and constitutionally
to rebalance the Union!
to ensure the future existence of England
to ensure an equal voice in Westminster
to ensure an equal voice internationally
to ensure all citizens of the UK have equal representation and enfranchisement
to represent us when laws are imposed upon us
to ensure the accountability of MPs
to assure equality of funding
to assure equitable taxation
to allow us to control our own assets
to deliver government for England that is appropriate for England and of equal value to that of the rest of the UK
to support and protect English culture
to prevent the submersion of England into Britain and to separate an English identity from a British identity
to prevent conflict and to discourage discrimination on the grounds of nationhood.
because the people of England want it
because other proposals for England’s future do not answer all the questions arising from the current imbalance
From disunion to union
Before the Roman conquest the British Isles consisted of tribal units loosely united by cultural links. These tribes were named by the Romans and their links across the Channel acknowledged by the use of the same name as in the case of the Belgae. The Romans instituted state governance for most of Great Britain except for the north of Britain, which they divided off by the Antonine Wall and later Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian’s Wall created a major division in Great Britain, which, after the colonisation in the west of north Britain by the Scotti from Northern Ireland, became known in the west as Scotland ruled by the King of the Scots. Scotland was not fully united until the late 15th Century when first the tribes of the Picts were incorporated and later the lands previously colonised by the Viking Lords of the Isles.
After the Romans the Anglo-Saxons created 7 major kingdoms in England and the Mercian King Offa delineated his kingdom from the western tribal lands by the building of his dyke, still known as Offa’s dyke. That boundary marked the limit of the principality of Wales. The union of England was envisaged in the first century AD and although hampered by various Norse Viking invasions, England was finally united in that century before the Norman Conquest. These Viking invasions were also experienced by Ireland and the city of Dublin was built by them.
The Norman conquest included all of England, the southern part of Wales and the parts of Ireland that were inhabited by the descendants of the Norsemen, from whom the Normans were also derived.
An underlying theme or agenda for all subsequent monarchs of the greater part of the British Isles, namely England, was for a union of these Isles under their control. Indeed the concept of a High King or Overlord already existed in Ireland and in England as the Bretwalda. This ambition and concept prompted the actions of the Angevin King Edward I of the House of Anjou. He was approached by the Scots to decide who the King of the Scots should be. His chosen candidate subsequently snubbed him and he invaded Scotland and was called the Hammer of the Scots. He also invaded Wales and having killed their Prince gave them a new Prince of Wales, his son.
The union with Wales was legalised in the 16th Century by the Welsh derived Tudor monarchy under Henry VIII. Union with Scotland was initiated with the death of the last Tudor Monarch, Elizabeth I, who bequeathed England to the Stuart King of Scots, James VI, in 1603. James removed himself from Scotland and set up in London styling himself King of Great Britain. His descendant Anne Stuart negotiated the Treaty or Act of Union with the Scottish nobles and it came into force in 1707. Union with Ireland was enacted in the early 19th Century but lasted only a century.
Thus, various acts and Acts of the rulers and governments of England, Scotland and Great Britain had resulted in the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland represented by one Government. In the last decade this unity has been weakened by the Devolution Acts, which have given the countries of Scotland and Wales and the province of Northern Ireland their own governments with certain autonomy in internal affairs. The power to allow or repeal this autonomy or any expression of it remains with the British Government but is unlikely ever to be wielded.
From Union to Devolution
Britain is a political construct. The Act or Treaty of Union in 1707 created the politically powerful and economically successful British State. That Act suspended both the pre-existing English and Scottish Parliaments. Article III states “That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be styled the Parliament of Great Britain”.
At the time of the Irish Home Rule debates Prime Minister Gladstone toyed with the idea of home rule all round but this was not followed through. However the debate was continued by the British Labour administration in the 1970s and further pursued by the Scots, who had always maintained separate legal and educational institutions from the rest of Great Britain. In 1989 the Scottish Constitutional Convention adopted a declaration, which was signed by all its members. This was a Claim of Right and the text: was:
We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount. We further declare and pledge that our actions and deliberations shall be directed
to the following ends:
• To agree a scheme for an Assembly or Parliament for Scotland;
• To mobilise Scottish opinion and ensure the approval of the Scottish people for that scheme; and
• To assert the right of the Scottish people to secure the implementation of that scheme.
This declaration was signed by all the then Scottish Labour MPs, saving Tam Dalyell. In 1997, with the advent of the Labour Government of the UK, nearly one third of that initial cabinet (7 out of 24) had signed that claim and were thus pivotal in influencing the British Labour Government, which issued the white paper, the Scotland Devolution Bill 1998.
Referenda in Scotland and Wales which asked the questions “I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly” or “I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly” were used to give credence to the will of these nations for internal self government. However the percentage of the populations voting for national government were 44% in Scotland (represented as “the settled will of the Scottish people”) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/politics97/devolution/scotland/briefing/scotbrief2.shtml) and 25% in Wales. The Northern Ireland Assembly was established following the signing of the Belfast Agreement (also known as the ‘Good Friday’ Agreement) on 10 April 1998. The electorate of Northern Ireland endorsed the Belfast Agreement in a referendum held on 22 May 1998.
Thus, in 1998 the Scottish Parliament, together with recognition of the Scottish nation, its separate history and culture, was restored. Wales also gained that recognition and both are now legal, political and constitutional entities. The Northern Ireland Assembly was also restored having been originally created in 1973. England has received no such recognition. Our Parliament, the mother of Parliaments, remains suspended and our country has no legal, political or constitutional existence.
The matters devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are as follows:
the National Health Service;
schools and teacher training;
further and higher education;
local government finance and taxation;
land-use planning and building control;
passenger and road transport;
economic development and financial assistance to industry;
civil and criminal courts;
police and fire services;
certain areas of agriculture and fisheries;
These are an extensive range of issues. Clearly the policies and action taken where these matters are involved most closely affect the lives of individual citizens. And, as has been endorsed for Scotland, Wales and |Northern Ireland the policy decisions and spending on these issues should be decided by administrations that are closer to the people.
The main matters reserved to the British Parliament at Westminster are those that relate to:
the UK constitution;
social security policy and administration;
transport safety and regulation.
The Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly have powers of primary legislation, which is the power to make laws which are Acts. They require royal assent but are not revised or scrutinised by a second chamber as the House of Lords does for the Acts passed by the British government, the majority of which are for England. (http://www.parliament.uk/devolved/devolved.cfm). The Welsh Assembly has powers of secondary legislation, which means it can make changes to the law using powers conferred by an Act of the British Parliament. (http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills_and_legislation/secondary_legislation/statutory_instruments.cfm). The Government of Wales Act 2006 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060032_en_1) also conferred powers to make primary legislation by Orders in Council. In spite of this autonomy Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still retain their own Secretaries of State, who sit in the cabinet of the British Government and can exert their influence on decisions taken regarding these devolved territories and England. There is no similar position to pursue English interests.
The Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservative and UKiP parties issue separate manifestos for Scotland and Wales but do not do so for England. The manifestos available in England address, or refer to Britain or the UK. The effect of the current devolutionary settlements in the UK is to marginalise England, constitutionally, politically, financially, economically and culturally.
Devolution issues sometimes get confused with the EU goal of a Europe of the regions. Devolution in Great Britain was granted to Scotland and Wales on the basis of their nations and not as regions of the EU. It should be remembered when comparing the regions of other European nations that they have a historical basis, such as the French Departements, the German länder and the Spanish regions such as Catalonia. However they still retain their national governments.
WHY DO WE NEED AN ENGLISH PARLIAMENT?
1. We need an English parliament so that England can be recognised politically and constitutionally
The Devolution Acts have had a profound effect on the constitution of the UK and the experience of government by all UK citizens, 85% of whom live in England. Constitutionally there are three questions to be answered; the West Lothian (WLQ), the Upper West Lothian (UWLQ) and the English (EQ).
The first asks: Why should Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs in the British Parliament be barred from taking part in, and voting on, matters internal to their territories that affect their constituents, but still be able to influence internal matters in England? No MP of an English constituency now has reciprocal rights in those territories.
The second asks: Why should members of the House of Lords from other countries in the UK and abroad, unaccountable to the English electorate, be able to revise and modify laws that only apply to England, when they do not do so for Scotland and Northern Ireland?
The third asks: Why should British MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland be able to have ministerial portfolios for internal matters in England, be members of Cabinet, which decides policy for England, and also be a Prime Minister with power over internal English affairs, which account for the majority of British Parliamentary business when their constituents are not affected and who are thus non-representative?
2. We need an English Parliament to rebalance the Union!
With the national/internal interests of Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland addressed by devolution it has become apparent that these same legitimate interests of England have been ignored. Moreover the disparity in provision constitutionally, economically, financially and culturally is more and more glaringly obvious. It is instructive to note the requirements of the 1707 Act of Union Article IV: That all the subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain shall have full communication of all other rights, privileges, and advantages which do or may belong to the subjects of either kingdom and Article VI: That all parts of the United Kingdom shall have the same allowances, encouragements and drawbacks. One might be forgiven for supposing not only that Article III (“That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be styled the Parliament of Great Britain”) had been breached but also these provisions.
In the last decade we have seen increasing differences in the internal governance of the UK. Striking examples are free prescriptions in Wales and soon in Scotland, but increased charges in England; a policy of free personal care for the old and incapacitated in Scotland; life preserving drugs available on the NHS in Scotland and Wales, but not in England. This has led to the discriminatory situation where in the same hospital in England English patients are denied these expensive drugs whereas Welsh patients are treated. (Hansard, Daniel Kawczynski, House of Commons debates, Monday, 9 January 2006, Orders of the Day — Government of Wales Bill)
3. We need an English Parliament to ensure the future existence of England
Before the Devolution Acts of 1998 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consisted of the United Kingdoms of Scotland and England (Wales having been incorporated into England by the Tudor King, Henry VIII) and the province of Northern Ireland. The British Government, when elected in 1997, started referring to the nations and regions of Britain. What are we to understand by this? That Britain has nations and regions? In the first place nations are collections of people with the same culture and history and regions are geographical areas. There is no logical comparison between the two. However what we are to understand is that the countries of Scotland and Wales are inhabited by nations. So what is meant by regions in the plural? What we must now understand is that England is no longer to be regarded as a distinct country but as a collection of regions. These regions are 20th Century artefacts created for administrative reasons having no relation to England’s cultural heritage. Worse still a cursory interrogation of the internet shows us that such degradation of the status of England is all pervasive.
Indeed the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes England thus: ‘Outside the British Isles, England is often erroneously considered synonymous with the island of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and even with the entire United Kingdom. Despite the political, economic, and cultural legacy that has secured the perpetuation of its name, England no longer officially exists as a governmental or political unit—unlike Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which all have varying degrees of self-government in domestic affairs. It is rare for institutions to operate for England alone. Notable exceptions are the Church of England (Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, including Northern Ireland, have separate branches of the Anglican Communion) and sports associations for cricket, rugby, and football (soccer). In many ways England has seemingly been absorbed within the larger mass of Great Britain since the Act of Union of 1707.’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2004)
England has now been reduced within the United Kingdom (UK) to the current status of the county of Middlesex, a name only and politically non-existent. England is the only country & nation in Europe without a national government!
The powers of home rule that were allocated to Scotland and Wales were on the basis of their nationhood, which has been respected. No such respect has been afforded to England, however, which was disregarded, politically marginalised and has subsequently been referred to, disrespectfully, by the British Government not by name, as would be fitting for a country united for over 1000 years, but as the “regions” of Britain.
This policy was in line with the Government’s proposal that these artificial regional divisions could be beefed up into unelected Regional Assemblies and also which could, following referenda to legitimise them as elected, then be presented to the public as the equivalent to, but clearly not equal to, the devolution granted to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All polls in the run up to and result of the referendum in the north east of England showed unequivocally that the English public did not accept this policy.
4. We need an English Parliament to ensure an equal voice in Westminster
Composition of the UK Parliament:
Not only do MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have unreciprocated powers over England (WLQ) but also those from Scotland and Wales individually represent fewer people than British MPs in England because the population of their constituencies is much smaller. Thus British MPs in England have to represent 8.000 more people than those in Scotland and 22,000 more than those in Wales. (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_population/Mid_2008_25_09_09.xls; http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/files2/stats/gros-mid-2008-population-estimates-scotland-population-estimates-by-sex-age-and-administrative-area/j1075003.htm; http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/publications/annual_reports/2008/Table2.1_2008.xls;
Representation within the UK government:
Discussions as to the disbursement of UK tax revenue take place in the British Treasury. In these discussions as with many other decision-making meetings Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish interests are pursued by representatives from their devolved administrations. There is no one there to represent English interests. If there had been perhaps the last act of Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer in clawing back £2billion from the health service in England would have been prevented. How would his constituents in Scotland have felt if he had done that to Scotland? Moreover that money had already attracted the working of the Barnett funding formula, which ensures that a percentage of expenditure allocated to England will also go to the devolved territories, and, if it were ever to be returned to England, from the British treasury, a further donation from UK taxes would be due to the other countries and Province of the UK under the current formula.
While the Barnett funding formula may be the unpopular face of asymmetric devolution the true inequality lies in the opacity and unrepresentative nature of decision making – who speaks for England, who has the express authority of the people of England to represent their interests?
The constitutional issues are of fairness and democracy.
5. We need an English Parliament to ensure we have an equal voice internationally
The European Union:
Following devolution the citizens of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have, through their devolved administrations, been given separate voices within the British Parliament to advise on formulating UK policy with regard to the EU. They also have separate advisers to the UK’s representation to the EU, which lobbies the EU on behalf of the UK. Consequently, the governments of those regions are party to the flow of information from the EU, help to shape UK-EU policy, have access to most of the decision making such as ad hoc Whitehall groupings, and, through their respective Secretaries of State, have a further channel by which to affect policy making in the British government. (Adapted from the CEP publication “Devolution in the UK –Answering the English Question”).
In addition, individually, ministers of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies can represent the UK and hence England in the European Commission. No MP from England has such power, nor would anyone representing any regional form of devolution in England. Again this runs counter to Article III of the 1707 Act of Union (“That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be styled the Parliament of Great Britain”)
This has led to the situation in 2006 whereby EU farm payments have been made in a timely manner in the devolved territories of the UK but not to English farmers. Not only does it appear that the British Government Ministry, the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), feels no urgency in making the proper payments to English farmers on time but also that it has no concern to deliver these payments at all since it lobbied the EU to be able to divert these funds from farmers to the environment. Moreover its late payment has attracted penalty fines from the EU which must be paid out of the funding to DEFRA allotted by the UK Treasury, thereby diminishing even more the funds available to support English agriculture. It is thus clear that the interests of the British government are not determined by the needs of the people of England. (www.first4farming.com/F4F/news 26th October 2007, Yorkshire Post November 2006, Neil Parish MEP; www.guengl.eu/ Newsroom » GUE/NGL in the news Voluntary Modulation Common agricultural Policy 19/2/07)
EU rules give fishing quotas to the UK, not to the individual nations but those rules can be influenced by Ministers from the Scottish Parliament who can also represent the UK in Brussels. No-one can represent English interests in Brussels. For instance from BBC News Scotland, January 2004 “Talks on EU fish catches deal: Deputy Fisheries’ Minister (in the Scottish Executive of the Scottish Parliament) Allan Wilson has said he is “pulling out all the stops” to secure a better deal for the Scottish fleet. Negotiations with the European Commission are continuing. The Scottish Executive is seeking quota changes to allow fishermen improved access to haddock stocks”. Since fish quotas are allocated to the UK as a whole, what influence should a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) have on negotiations over UK fish quotas, particularly if the areas to be fished are in question?
These issues are still ongoing and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), which represents fishermen in the rest of the UK, as Scotland has a separate organisation, response in August 2008 to the Scottish Executive’s Consultation on a Separate Quota System in Scotland states: “We have made clear that it is completely unacceptable and almost certainly illegal for the Scottish Executive to unilaterally define “Scottish quota.” Clearly this is a matter that will have to be resolved either at a high political level or in the Courts. ………..If, in the face of opposition from significant parts of the Scottish fishing industry, legal challenges and whatever position Defra eventually takes, the Scottish Executive decides to proceed with its proposals, we are in for a torrid time. As there is no question of allowing the Scottish Executive to impose its will unilaterally, we must enter difficult negotiations on the terms of the divorce”.
The British/Irish Council, otherwise known as the Council of the Isles, has representatives not only from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but even from the Bailiwicks of Jersey Guernsey and the States of the Isle of Man. Not one of the representatives to this forum represents England.
The people of England have no representation either in or through their own Parliament to promote their interests within the UK government and abroad.
6. We need an English Parliament to ensure all citizens of the UK have equal representation and enfranchisement
Citizens of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the right to elect dedicated representatives to national fora, which exist to promote the interests of those territories. England has no such dedicated representatives. MPs in the British Parliament returned from English constituencies (often incorrectly and misleadingly called English MPs) have no such remit. Moreover, all follow their party line and put the interests of the Union before the interests of England and some have declared themselves by expressing views that are positively antagonistic to England.
The Scottish Parliament has powers to create Acts, which are primary legislation, without the moderating influence of the House of Lords or any second house, such as a senate, and has tax raising powers. The Welsh Assembly has secondary legislating powers which mean that it can issue its own regulations, appropriate to needs in Wales, under Acts of the British Government. Since 2006 wales has also had limited powers of primary legislation. The Northern Ireland Assembly has legislative powers, although the precise package is different from those of the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament. However, the Assembly will have full legislative and executive power over finance and personnel, agriculture, education, health and social services, economic development and environment. (www.parlianet.com)
The British House of Lords has no function within Scotland but contains members not only from Scotland but also from across the UK and abroad who have no credentials to represent English interests, but can debate, revise and amend legislation that affects only England (UWLQ).
7. We need an English Parliament to represent us when laws are imposed upon us
Legislation without Representation:
“The Tweed Regulation Order 2007” was made by the Scottish Executive of the Scottish Parliament. Article 11 of that order creates an offence and this offence applies to the River Till, which is entirely within England. The Scottish Executive, therefore, is empowered to make laws binding on the people of England although they have no representatives there. The people affected cannot make representations to their British MPs as the British MPs of English constituencies that are affected have no say in the Scottish Parliament.
8. We need an English Parliament to ensure the accountability of MPs
Devolution has created two classes of MPs in the British House of Commons; those who can only debate, influence and vote on their own country’s domestic matters (MPs from English constituencies) and those who cannot but can debate, influence and vote on England’s. (WLQ)
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs elected to the British Parliament have no power to affect matters internal to their territories unless they have a dual mandate and sit both in the British Parliament and also their own Assembly or Parliament (At the time of writing one MP has a dual mandate in both the British and Scottish Parliaments, one Lord sits in the Welsh Assembly and the British House of Lords and 18 politicians are both British MPs and Members of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly). However they do have power over matters internal to England and most of them are assiduous in using that right. Moreover an additional number of them represent nationalist parties whose sole purpose is to protect, support and promote their own countries. It is fair here to say that British MPs of the Scottish Nationalist Party do not generally vote on matters only relevant to England except where they perceive that decisions might affect (funding to) Scotland. Unlike the Labour MP of a Scottish constituency, who was quoted as saying “We are all members of the United Kingdom parliament with full rights and we intend to exercise them” when challenged over voting to ban hunting in England.
It was the 41 whipped Labour MPs of Scottish and Welsh constituencies that swung the vote for the British government’s policy for foundation hospitals in England by a majority of 35. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3054562.stm). This proposal had already been discarded by the Scottish Executive, which consisted of MPs to the Scottish parliament (MSPs) from that very same Labour party. These votes and those of MPs from Wales were also instrumental in bringing in for England top-up tuition fees for universities (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3432767.stm) and the banning of hunting. British MPs from Northern Ireland also voted on these issues. Whether or not one agrees with these laws they should not be imposed by those whose constituents are not affected by them.
So, we have British MPs who are also members of their own national or provincial legislatures voting on laws that affect the people of England and, since “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24), they may be tempted to vote in such as way as to advantage their own national or provincial constituencies at the expense of England. Indeed one of their arguments against banning the votes of these British MPs is that what is imposed on England may affect their national interests. The only example that can be elicited to illustrate this concern is the working of the Barnett formula whereby the more money spent in England guarantees more money to be allocated to the devolved regions (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3054562.stm).
Moreover the people of England have had a Secretary of State for Health (John Reid) and another for Transport (Alistair Darling) that did not have to answer to their own constituents in Scotland for what they did in England (EQ), as health and transport are matters devolved to the Scottish parliament. This is power without responsibility and an affront to the fundamental test of democracy, which is accountability. Conversely no British MP for an English constituency can have power over these matters in Scotland.
While the situation for Wales is currently different as the British Parliament retains the power of primary legislation in devolved matters, nevertheless the principle of accountability will become more pressing as Wales moves to greater devolution (http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/2007/issue4/johnson4.html). In addition the influence of Northern Irish British MPs cannot now be ignored since the leader of the Conservative Party now has entered into an arrangement with the majority party of Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party.
9. We need an English Parliament to assure equality of funding
The funding of those parts of the UK that are not England remained largely obscure until devolution shone a light on to the situation and allowed the greater funding per head of all parts of the UK which are not England to be revealed and exposed. A differential formula was established in 1888.
“In 1888, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Goschen MP, announced in his Budget Statement the distribution of a predecessor of revenue support grant to local authorities on the basis of a formula giving 80 per cent to England and Wales, 11 per cent to Scotland, and 9 per cent to Ireland. The use of that formula was formally discontinued in 1959, in parallel with the introduction of the Plowden reforms. From 1959 until 1978, the budget of the Scottish Office was determined in the same way as that of other government departments. During the protracted proceedings on devolution in the 1970s, the then government proposed that the funding of the (proposed) devolved assemblies in Scotland and Wales should be determined by a new formula giving the Assemblies a set proportion of English expenditure (now known as the Barnett formula). That formula was to be determined, in consultation with the Assemblies, on the basis of a needs assessment, and would be reviewed, again taking account of changing relative need, from time to time (perhaps every four years) to coincide with the term of the Assemblies”.
Abstracted from “the origins and role of the Barnett formula”, Aberdeen University
“Analysis shows that the Goschen proportion gave Scotland a poor deal until 1901, but an increasingly good deal thereafter. Thus when devolution in the UK reawoke in the 1970s, spending per head in Scotland and Northern Ireland was far ahead of spending per head in England and Wales.”
From The Fiscal Crisis of the United Kingdom, Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan Nuffield College Working Papers in Politics, 2002 W10
The Barnett formula was introduced By Lord Joel Barnett in the 1970s was never related to need (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldbarnett/139/9012802.htm) and is based on the relative populations at that time in England, Scotland and Wales. The Barnett formula also helps to determine the size of the Northern Ireland block (http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp98/rp98-008.pdf). Thus Scotland gets 10% and Wales 5% of all capital expenditure in England. At present, the Barnett Formula ensures higher per head funding for Scotland (117% of the UK average) and Northern Ireland (127%) than for England (97%) and Wales (111%). In 2007/08, this meant that £1,644 more was spent per head in Scotland than in England. (http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2009/07/barnett-formula-news-analysis/)
It is abundantly clear that the funding is based on country, not area or ‘region’, and that the distribution of funding in England depends on the amount available subsequent to the Barnett cut. When the funding is considered per capita it becomes glaringly obvious that the people of England have always been and remain the poorest relation when it comes to apportioning revenue (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldbarnett/139/9032715.htm). However, as a community, they have no say in how their taxes are spent. Lord Barnett himself has said recently that this formula is outdated and confirmed that the formula was never based on need, despite the frequent assertions to the contrary made by Gordon Brown and others. This funding formula ensured that in 2008 every single person in England received £2,254 less support from the British Government than those in Northern Ireland, £1,644 less than Scots and £1,042 less than the Welsh (Office for National Statistics PESA 2008).
The problem is that England has neither a national parliament in which such decisions can be made nor any representative to negotiate sufficient funding for England’s needs with the British Treasury. However, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments do have such representatives. In addition, decisions as to expenditure and distribution of funds in England can be made by British ministries which may be, and have been, led by those who themselves and their constituents are unaffected by such decisions (EQ). The bedrock of democracy is accountability.
10. We need an English Parliament to assure equitable taxation
Taxes (costs) imposed on England only.
We need an English Parliament to prevent the people of England being unfairly penalised by stealth taxes. National taxation in England continues to increase. Prescription charges have increased to £7.20 and the British government has made it possible for local taxes to increase even more. The new tax raising powers allocated by the British Government have shown how regional government by quangos is being covertly bolstered. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/4092124/Super-councils-given-power-to-impose-road-taxes.html)
The following was extracted from the Conservative Party website. (www.conservatives.com):
The small print of Government documents slipped out on 22nd August 2008 reveals that Labour Ministers are to move ahead with plans to end councils’ control over rubbish collections.
Under Government proposals, new unelected Joint Waste Authorities will take control of rubbish collections from elected local councils. The regional quangos will have powers to impose new bin taxes, bin fines and fortnightly collections. The quangos will be staffed (by) a new tier of regional officers, spin doctors and bin inspectors, all at taxpayers’ expense.
They do not say which taxpayers will be paying but the Statutory Instruments, 2009 No. 105, Environmental Protection, England, The Joint Waste Authorities (Proposals) Regulations 2009 make it clear that these stealth taxes will only apply to England
The TaxPayers’ Alliance report (http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/waste/2008/12/regional-development-agencies-having-a-ball-at-the-2008-party-conferences.html) on the economics of the effectiveness of this covert regional governance is illustrative. Their research indicated that, using detailed analysis of regional economic statistics showed, on almost every measure in almost every area, the regions did better in the seven years before Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were introduced than in the first seven years of their existence.
In addition UK tax now funds 943 representative politicians. Since devolution we have been expected to pay for 297 extra MPs’ salaries, pensions, attendant bureaucrats, their salaries and pensions, and the costs of the devolved government buildings. (297= 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 60 Welsh Assembly Members and 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland). 85% of taxpayers, ie those in England, were never consulted as to whether they wished to finance these extra 297 national politicians, their current and future expense, the concomitant layers of bureaucracy and who do not represent them.
Meanwhile national taxation in England increases since the UK government has made it possible for local taxes to increase even more with new charges for rubbish collection, congestion charging (turned down in Edinburgh by a referendum), identity cards (in 2005 MSPs voted against them) and increased council taxes. Council taxes were frozen across Scotland in 2008 (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2008/03/05152834) In England, and only in England, the British government have issued the Workplace Parking (England) Regulations Statutory Instrument 2009/2085 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/uksi_20092085_en_1) This authorises cash strapped English local authorities, which are underfunded by the British government, to require places of employment to buy licences for employees to park on their premises. Apart from the intrusion into the use of private premises for parking, clearly the costs will be passed on to the workers.
Scotland still has had no need to initiate the extra tax raising powers conferred at devolution. Indeed the Scottish Nationalist government was able to recoup previous years’ unspent funds from the UK treasury.
The people of England, as a community, have no say over how taxes shall be apportioned between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
11. We need an English Parliament to allow us to control our own assets
In October 2009 public borrowing was recorded as a record £175bn for the following year. By December 2009 Government support for Britain’s banks has reached a staggering £850bn.
Of the three banks that required support two were the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Lloyds Group, which included Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS). Lloyd’s bank was solvent until it acquired HBOS. In 2009 RBS snuffled up to £19.5 billion of the British Government’s original £50 billion recapitalisation fund for the UK banking sector and it could now receive an addition £25.5 billion, in return for shares. The taxpayer’s current 68% stake in the failed RBS bank is heading over the 90% mark as the group receives a further injection of cash.
The scale of the most recent taxpayer rescue for Lloyds Banking Group has been laid bare after the troubled lender revealed that three quarters of the “toxic” assets that caused a record £13.4bn of bad debts in the first half will be insured by the state. Some 80pc of the bad debt charge was down to lending made by HBOS, Lloyds said. Lloyds, which is now 43pc owned by the state and in which the taxpayer will have a 60pc economic interest (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/5975889/Lloyds-slumps-to-loss-as-bad-debts-spiral-to-13.4bn.html)
In order to address some of these deficits Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, and Alistair Darling, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the British Government’s intention to sell off assets to raise £16 billion. Although it has been reported that Brown has used a meeting with business leaders to fully itemise the assets, earmarking infrastructure for sale that has so far proved tricky for the government to sell off, details of these assets cannot be found at the time of writing. However the of assets that have been announced as for sale are English assets such as the Channel tunnel rail link, the bridge and tunnel crossing over the Thames at Dartford and the government’s 32% stake in the uranium processing company Urenco (in England), the student loan book (mostly needed by students from England) and the betting company Tote (located in England) (http://www.wigantoday.net/wigannews/Fears-for-650-jobs-at.3687385.jp). The constituents of these two British MPs from Scotland are unaffected by these proposed sales.
12. We need an English Parliament to deliver government for England that is appropriate for England and of equal value to that of the rest of the UK
We need an English Parliament to ensure equitable funding, economic support and financial incentives. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland each enjoy much higher levels of public spending per head of population than England even though in 2010 Scotland was reported to be the most affluent country in Britain. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6982519.ece)
These subsidies accounted for almost £49bn of annual public spending in 2009 (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/hlbarnettformula.cfm)
In primary and secondary education the British government allows larger class sizes in England than the Scottish parliament thinks is appropriate for Scottish children (The Guardian 21 June 2007 and 22 March 2008) and the amount spent on children’s meals is greater (school meals, Scotland Bill , 2001, The Guardian 15 February 2005). Thus the Scottish Executive has made sure that Scottish children are much better provided for in education than the British Government has for England.
In tertiary education student fees decided by the British Government for 2009-10 in England are £3,225 p.a. The N. Ireland Assembly has also copied this charge but The Scottish Parliament has decided that further education should be free to Scots and £1,775 to other UK students, The Welsh Assembly decision: £1,285 to the Welsh, £3,225 to other UK students. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8348365.stm). To add insult to injury EU students in Scottish further education institutions have the same advantages as Scottish students, which are denied other students from the UK. Similar discrimination is operational in Wales. Indeed the treatment of non-Welsh students in Wales appears to be contrary to the Race Relations Act. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3013272.stm) Since all UK citizens pay the same taxes this cannot be just. English students leave university with the highest debts in the UK (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8205539.stm) and these debts will be proportionately more as contributions from students who live in Scotland were abolished in February 2008. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7556441.stm). There is no English democratic representative body to fight for equal treatment.
Although the Royal Commission on Long Term Care. With respect to old age. London: Stationery Office, 1999. (Cm 4192-I.), recommended that personal care should be available after assessment, according to need and paid for from general taxation the British government is only now considering it for a limited number (280,000) of those in greatest need in England. (Personal Care at Home Bill Bill No 11 of 2009-10 RESEARCH PAPER 09/90 9 December 2009). The current allocation of funds in England varies considerably across local authorities and is perceived as unfair. (The Kings Fund briefing: Funding adult social care in England, 2009). “Here lies the solid core of ageism within the English healthcare system, which the pious protestations of the National Service Framework for older people ignore completely” BMJ 2002;324:1534-1535 ( 29 June )Editorial.
In England and Wales personal care for the incapacitated is not provided free by local authorities even when a patient has a debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, and must be paid for by the patient to the extent of all their assets having to be sold. The Scottish Parliament has ruled that local authorities are no longer able to charge for personal care provided for people aged 65 and over in their own homes. Those aged 65 and over living in care homes, who would otherwise pay their own fees, receive £153 a week towards personal care and a further £69 if nursing care is also required. People under 65 can also receive £69 towards nursing care. This funding is paid to the local authority by the Scottish Executive. (http://www.careaware.co.uk/care_funding_scotland.htm). A notice given by a State Benefits Consultant to the pensioners of a major UK Company (personal communication) states that the position for elderly Scots who move south to be nearer their families having had their care costs subsidised in Scotland was not made clear but it is definite that people moving north from England will not be entitled to the subsidy! (http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb/AdviceSupport/FinancialAdvice/CareHomeFunding/as_funding_190106_9.htm)
The cost of prescriptions imposed by the British government on English patients has increased to £7.20 but the Scottish Parliament will reduce them to £3.00 in April 2010, (http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/health-news/2010/01/07/scots-prescription-charges-to-fall-to-just-3-86908-21948277/) with a view to abolition, and the Welsh Assembly abolished them for the Welsh in 2007. Although in England prepayment reduces the cost to some extent and there is help for some families on very low income and little capital, this can represent a crippling cost to many families that have members with most chronic conditions or long term illness.
The British government introduced the National(sic) Institute of Clinical Excellence to determine what drugs should be available to patients in England and Wales. This organisation has routinely denied English and Welsh patients life saving or prolonging drugs on the grounds of cost effectiveness. These drugs have been made available in Scotland and some in Wales by their national governments. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4316070/Kidney-cancer-drugs-available-in-Wales-but-not-in-England.html) They include drugs for cancer, arthritis, eye disease and Alzheimer’s.
If you are a UK resident, you are entitled to free NHS eye and dental examinations in Scotland (Scottish government guide 2007). However, those UK taxpayers who wish to partake of the benefits of other areas of the UK are insultingly called health tourists. (BBC news April 2005 “Tighter rules are to be introduced to stop “health tourists” taking advantage of cheaper prescriptions in Wales, First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said”.)
The Scottish Executive fully funds its air ambulance service, but in England this service is not funded by the British Government and must be supported by the charitable giving of English citizens (http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/researchandlibrary/2009/9809.pdf). Historically Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had higher levels of funding per capita for NHS care than England. However, research (http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/pressarea/?id=777) suggests the NHS in England spends less and has fewer doctors, nurses and managers per head of population than the health services in the devolved countries. This report indicated that waiting times were better in England but concerns remain that these figures are massaged as the British Government sets targets for waiting times and withholds funding to English Health Trusts if they are not met. There are twice as many hospital and medical available to care for patients in Scotland as there are in England. Clearly the British Government does not care to fund the English health service to the same extent as the Scottish Executive does for their own people.
On April 1st 2008 the British Government introduced funding for local entitlement for free bus travel for those 60 or over or the ‘eligible disabled’.
However the concession is for off-peak travel on local buses anywhere in England, not for nationwide travel, nor can it be used for services where most seats can be reserved. It is intended to exclude long distance intercity services, which typically are coach services, from the concession. (http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/buses/concessionary/informationlocalauthorities/eligibleservices/servicechanges)
This was presented, by the British Government to the people of England as equivalent to the Scottish government’s concession for free travel for these groups throughout Scotland, when it is clearly not.
Conversely eligible Scots can travel FREE on ANY local bus and scheduled long distance coach services in Scotland throughout the day – including the morning rush hour.
(http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/concessionarytravel). Transport Scotland is responsible for running the national concessionary travel scheme which has provided free bus travel throughout Scotland for many older and disabled people since April 2006.
The Welsh Assembly provides financial support to enable local authorities in Wales to provide free travel on registered local bus services for residents of Wales aged over 60 years and disabled of any age. The support also provides free travel on local buses by companions to disabled persons. Provision also exists to allow those persons eligible for a bus pass but unable to use a bus because of a disability, to be able to receive passes for other more accessible forms of transport. Local Authorities have discretion to issue travel tokens to enable disabled concessionary bus pass holders to use other forms of transport.
(dhttp://wales.gov.uk/topics/transport/integrated/concessionary/fares/;jsessionid=HgKjLl8TfJMxC8FctXG6ZHssNPrjp92rJsnqYVtPJ2XdMGCPL3T!1733788102?lang=en). There are also a number of concessionary travel schemes on the railways operating in Wales funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. (Http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/Concessionary_travel.aspx)
The British Government announced that it would not be supporting proposals to re-instate the Leeds Supertram scheme put forward by West Yorkshire PTE following the withdrawal of funding for the tram proposal in July 2004. In a statement, Alistair Darling, Transport Secretary and British MP for Edinburgh South West said: “I withdrew funding for Leeds Supertram in July 2004 because the costs of the scheme had escalated considerably. “It is clear that the tram scheme is still very expensive and the costs remain much higher than originally planned. “The value today is £486m – compared with the approved figure in 2001 of £355 million.”
Meanwhile together, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government realised the benefits of providing an integrated transport solution using trams and buses to cater for the future needs of Scotland’s capital city. The construction of Edinburgh Trams is well underway on the streets of Edinburgh and they will be operational in 2012. (http://www.edinburghtrams.com/index.php/story_so_far). In contrast to the British Government Minister’s announcement, in early February 2006, Scottish Parliament Ministers announced an increase, in line with indexation, of the £375m grant originally offered in March 2003, up to £500m. (http://www.edinburghtrams.com/include/uploads/story_so_far/Final_Business_Case_Edinburgh_Tram.pdf)
This scheme will greatly benefit Alistair Darling’s constituents. Clearly the Scottish Government is prepared to invest more in Scotland’s tram system than the British government’s Department of Transport when headed by that Edinburgh MP.
The expensive Crossrail link for London ensures, under the funding system, that the devolved territories of the UK get an extra subsidy, which they can use on whatever they like, but the rest of England gets nothing.
The last bridge tolls in Scotland were scrapped in August 2008 (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2008/02/11073915) meanwhile bridge tolls paid to the British Government (http://www.humbertollaction.org.uk/news.htm) in England remain and increase.. (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/bristol/somerset/7266262.stm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/humber/7246758.stm, ttp://www.newportlibdems.org.uk/news/000143/severn_bridge_tolls_set_to_increase_on_1_january_yet_again.html)
One of the particular issues with the Severn Crossing was the imposition of VAT from 1 February 2003. MPs were told that this would not affect the tolls. This was not true. The VAT is being kept by the British Chancellor and the tolls will have to be collected for a longer period to make up for the £150 million tolls that will go as VAT rather than being used to repay debt. (http://www.notolls.org.uk/wales.htm) Tolls should have ended on the Dartford Crossing in 2003 but the British Government decided to continue tolling using road charging powers in the Transport Act 2000. In 2007 the Government proposed to increase the tolls by 50%, though tolls would be removed in the middle of the night. (http://www.notolls.org.uk/dart2007response.pdf)
The prosperity of a nation rests on its business profitability and provision of jobs. For small businesses in particular the rates levied on their premises are a substantial portion of their overheads. The Scottish Parliament has recognised this and rates for businesses have been set by Scottish Ministers as a uniform poundage rate to be levied throughout Scotland for each financial year (i.e. 1 April to 31 March). The poundage rate for Scotland in 2008-09 was 45.8 pence. Larger businesses in 2008-09 (rateable value in excess of £29,000) paid a poundage supplement of 0.4 pence. (www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/local-government)
In addition the small business rate reduction for Scotland in 2008 is on a scale of 80% for rateable values below £8000 to 20% at £15000 (£300) and projected for 2009 to be on a scale of 100% and 25% respectively. (THE NON-DOMESTIC RATES (LEVYING) (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 2008 SSI/2008/85)
In England the poundage rate is higher at 46.2p and the small business rate reduction is on a scale of 50% up to £5,000 rateable value and a sliding scale up to £9,999. Properties with a Rateable Value from £10,000 up to £14,999 (outside Greater London) will not receive a percentage reduction but their rate bill will be calculated on the Small Business Non-Domestic Rating Multiplier which is 45.8p. (£6,780) (www.voa.gov.uk/Business_rates). It is clear that there is a considerable difference in business rate due at a rateable value of £15, 000 between each country.
Apart from funding from UK taxes, important funds are received from the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF), which are allocated according to objective and regions. Objective 1 funds support development in the less prosperous regions and aims particularly to “narrow the gap between the development levels of the various regions”. Objective 2 of the Structural Funds aims to revitalise all areas facing structural difficulties, whether industrial, rural, urban or dependent on fisheries.
It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the UK EU regions as to allocation of funds compared with their needs and income. However from the year 2000 until the year 2006 Scotland consistently had the fourth highest income per capita in the UK after London, the south east and east of England (www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/Product). However in those years Scotland, as well as the much higher income per capita from the UK funding formula, received the fourth highest funding from ERDF in Great Britain. Justifiably the north west of England, Wales and the Yorkshire and Humberside regions received more. By contrast, in England regions with a lower income per capita, the east and west Midlands and the south west received fewer EU funds. Notably the northeast of England, designated an EU region, had the lowest income per head (11th in the UK EU regional set up) bar Wales but was sixth in allocation of EU resources behind Scotland. Scotland is now considered to be a wealthier component of the UK but there is no move to amend the Barnett funding formula.
It is therefore illustrative to consider the strength of the teams that support and pursue EU funds.
In Europe, the Welsh Assembly maintains close links with the European Parliament and the other EU institutions. The Assembly is represented in British delegations to the Committee of the Regions, and also in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. It is also an active member of the Conference (of Presidents) of European Regional Legislative Assemblies. (www.assemblywales.org)
The Scottish Parliament also has a European and External Relations Committee. The remit of the committee is to consider and report on proposals for European Communities legislation; the implementation of European Communities legislation; any European Communities or European Union issue; the development and implementation of the Scottish Administration’s links with countries and territories outside Scotland, the European Communities (and their institutions) and other international organisations; and co-ordination of the international activities of the Scottish Administration. (www.scottish.parliament.uk)
By contrast, the Brussels office of the north east of England website has no search engine and no information about any representation in British delegations to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. Indeed it apparently only took over a regional office in Brussels in October 2007. (http://www.northeastengland.eu/page/services/european_networking.cfm). This region is the poorest in England and the second poorest in the UK (http://www.statistics.gov.uk) but clearly has little clout when it comes to the allocation of EU funds for economic development. Apparently the North East region has no Objective 1 areas. (http://www.onenortheast.co.uk/europeansupport.cfm) although it achieved EU objective 2 funding in 2009 (http://www.onenortheast.co.uk/lib/liDownload/15874/Trinity%20Vision%20supplement%20Dec%202009.pdf?CFID=8575779&CFTOKEN=75067056.)
Since England has no legislative assembly we have no representation in the Conference (of Presidents) of European Regional Legislative Assemblies
13. We need an English Parliament to support and protect English culture
In the Preface to the Scotland Devolution Bill, (http://www.parliament.uk/Commons/lib/research/rp98/RP98-001.PDF) the then Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, wrote, “Scotland is a proud, historic nation”. That sentence implies that Scotland has a recognisable history, distinct to itself and distinct from England and Wales, one that sets it apart, as much now as in the past. It states that Scotland has a history of which it can be ‘proud’, which its citizens can take pride in; and that that pride is a legitimate pride. That affirmation is what we legitimately demand for England. Thus all people, for whom England is their chosen or inherited homeland, should take pride in England’s history and make the same distinction between Britain and England as in Mr. Blair’s statement about Scotland. If that British PM, born and educated in Scotland, can encourage pride in Scotland, which he expressly did, in that white paper, but did not do so for England, then who has the authority to do it for England except an English First Minister in our own parliament?
Paragraphs 1.15 and 5.4 of the Wales Devolution White Paper entitled ‘A Voice for Wales’ exhorts the Assembly as “the forum for the nation” and instructs it to “provide leadership to re-invigorate all aspects of Welsh life and culture”. That sentiment transferred to the English context must apply to the foundational culture of the English people developed over 1500 years. Similarly England must have a voice and a forum in which these sentiments can be expressed. Equally England, both in its schools and in all other institutions and agencies, should be encouraged to promote its culture and its history precisely as the British government has acted to encourage that of Wales.
English culture is not given to ostentation. Quiet enjoyment of home, garden and community are its hallmarks. However, there is now a widely acknowledged loss of cultural identity in England. Such a lack of cohesion in the national community can be said to have led to the disaffection not only of the young but also of a majority of that community.
The culture of a country, as propounded for Wales, relates to its memory bank, its sense of self, its written records, and its roots. Ignorance of these matters leads to cultural sterility. The Scottish Executive states “Scotland’s culture sits at the heart of the nation’s life” (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Arts-Culture/19347/18411).
British Government support for English Culture
The British Government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), controls support for culture in England and only has responsibility for it in England, but you would be forgiven for not knowing this because there is no mention of England on its website home page, instead it refers to the UK and Britain. An eloquent demonstration of the lack of esteem for English culture that the British Government has was the total expenditure of a derisory £116 by that government in celebrating England’s national saint in 2009! (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/5200639/Whitehall-department-spends-just-116-on-flag-to-mark-St-Georges-Day.html)
The former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, thought nothing of spending tens of thousands of pounds to celebrate Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day but only grudgingly offered any funds to celebrate St George’s Day after several years of a celebration in Covent Garden being funded privately. Things seem to have improved since then with similar amounts of English public funds being proposed for celebrations of both days in 2010. (www.london.gov.uk/mayor/mayor-decisions/docs/20090617-md-358-GLA-LDA-joint-funding.pdf – 2009-06-17)
The celebration of St Andrew’s Day was promoted in schools in Scotland in 2008 (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/10/28093940/0). It now has the status of a national bank holiday (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2007/asp_20070002_en_1.) In England only a private campaign exists for the same purpose. In 2009 there were only 34 signatures from British MPs, 549 of whom represent English constituencies, on an Early Day Motion to make St George’s day a bank holiday (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=38202&SESSION=899). This clearly shows how little British MPs who control England care about a national holiday for England.
Many May Day celebrations in England are very ancient (http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/CUSTOMS/questions/mayday.htm) as are celebrations at other times of the year, such as Candlemas and Michaelmas (http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Michaelmas.htm). Mummers’ plays at Christmas have their origins in mediaeval times (http://www.mummers.org.uk/whatismum.html) and more recently Guy Fawkes, who was executed in 1603, is remembered on the anniversary of the day he tried to blow up the Parliament in England of James VI of Scotland. However British government diktats and establishment attitudes make it much more difficult to celebrate these in the traditional way. Innocent celebrations Guy Fawke’s night have been attacked as anti-Catholic (http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/printable/1927/) and cancelled. (www.thisislondon.co.uk/…/article-23417739-bonfire-night-is-cancelled-in-guy-fawkes-home-town-by-health-and-safety-killjoys.do) .The time slot allowed for fireworks was made less than for other non-indigenous celebrations with fireworks (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/SI/si2004/20041836.htm). Patron Saints Days and other celebrations marking the national days of other nations are encouraged but the celebration of the English national patron Saint has been hedged about with hurdles to overcome. The British newspapers have abounded with instances where traditional events such as the Boy Scouts parade on St George’s Day have had to be cancelled for a myriad of reasons such as withdrawal of English public funds, health and safety and public order, although the Notting Hill Carnival has a long history of disorder but has never been cancelled. (www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/…/2206609.Anger_as_St_George_s_parade_cancelled/ -; news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west…/8007085.stm; www.yorkpress.co.uk/…/2192243.safety_fears_put_paid_to_st_georges_parade/ -; www.telegraph.co.uk/…/St-Georges-Day-parade-stopped-by-police-bill.html)
Public celebrations such as these are now subject to new licensing laws promulgated by the British Government for England and Wales, but not Scotland or Northern Ireland. (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/ukpga_20030017_en_1). The Licensing Act 2003 makes provision about the regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol, the provision of entertainment and the provision of late night refreshment, about offences relating to alcohol and for connected purposes. The purpose of the Act was to limit or reduce noise and nuisance related to the sale of alcohol. (http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/Licensingevaluation.pdf). However, the effect of this legislation on that aspect has been largely neutral but despite British government claims to the contrary and it seems to have had at best a neutral effect on live entertainment and in many cases a deleterious effect.
These regulations affect celebration of traditional entertainment, such as the innocent production of village plays. Live music and pub entertainment by English folk dancers and singers must now be licensed at crippling cost to the community. The licence is required by the owner of the premises where the entertainment takes place and many have not wanted to pay the fees required so that many long standing gigs have been cancelled. The internet fora of jobbing folk musicians show that there is great confusion within the profession and inconsistency among local licensing authorities. It seems to remain unclear whether licences are required for carol singing and mummers’ plays. Travelling circuses seem to have to apply at every local authority they may stop at.
While the DCMS reports that live music is thriving in its Live Music: An Analysis of the Sector Report published by the DCMS 28/1/2009 the live music forum disputes this (http://www.livemusicforum.co.uk/) and Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of UK Music agrees with the detrimental effects of the Licensing Act on live music. He states that venues such as public houses that used to play live music have stopped doing so. The British Beer and Pub Association estimate that we are currently loosing 55 local pubs per week for which this Act is partly responsible. Live music is vital to our local communities.
(http://www.culturepolitick.com/cms/2009/11/20/the-licensing-act-statistics-and-music/). The Live music Forum’s report on the impact of the licensing act (2003http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/lmf_chp3impactlicensingact.pdf). Although the report states that the effect on live music is largely neutral they do highlight occasions when the working of the Act has undermined local traditional events They note, for example, a cancelled village festival, a local folk club comprised predominately of elderly gentlemen prevented from holding their annual Day of Song, a brass band informed that they can only play songs of a “religious nature’’ and Mummers having to reduce the number of pubs they perform in at Christmas from 25 to seven. It would seem likely that the £1,000 the Mummers eventually did raise for their local Air Ambulance might have been greatly increased had they been allowed to perform in all of their traditional venues, as they have done for the 600 years prior to the introduction of the Licensing Act.
A number of articles have been written on this confusion, which can be found at Timesonline, January 13, 2006, “Is the Licensing Act killing live music?” (www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article787673.ece ) And from the (Mudcat Café Forum), (www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=86679) “DCMS is up to its usual tricks, reportedly claiming that the new law is ‘fairer’. Fairer to recorded and broadcast entertainment, yes. Jukeboxes and other sound systems already in situ were waved through on the nod, and big screen sport (or music) is exempt. But the unlicensed provision of one or two live musicians in a restaurant, even unamplified, is criminalised. DCMS also claim in a statement that ‘a significant number of pubs have applied for the new entertainment licences’. What they didn’t tell the BBC is: 1) Live music applications are not granted licences; 2) many such applications will fail, and many will be granted subject to expensive conditions (installing CCTV for example); 3) even where they are granted, only when the licence conditions are implemented will it be legal to have live music; 4) a very significant number of pubs have lost the automatic right to solo or duo gigs and will not have any live music permission on their new premises licence.”
The art of change ringing of church bells, which is quintessentially an English tradition of 500 years standing, is under threat from those who wish to silence them under environmental and European Union laws. (www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Noisy-church-bells-silenced-by-complaints.html ; www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Church-could-have-century-old-bell-chiming-silenced-by-insomniac.html; business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article4123734.ece; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/7450702.stm). Such cultural traditions must be supported by a Department of Culture dedicated to England.
Teaching English history
It is fitting for the Prime Minister of Great Britain to extol the virtues of Britishness but not to the exclusion of English values. However, the fact is that the appreciation of Britishness, to the exclusion and denial of Englishness, can and will be enjoined on schools only in England. The achievements by the English of Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus must be acknowledged as such and not as British achievements as the BBC do (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/magna_01.shtml) and the PM from Scotland has done (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/feb/27/immigrationpolicy.race) otherwise the inescapable conclusion is that there is a deliberate act of cultural destruction by denial of its existence. Indeed the BBC have a page for Scottish history (http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/) a page for Welsh history (http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/history/) but when one types in the same address for England’s history we get Error 404 – Page not found
The teaching of Scottish history is promoted in schools in Scotland. “Children and young people in Scotland should gain from formal education an overview of Scotland’s past which allows them to set their own society in context”. Scotland’s National Cultural Heritage Strategy from the website of Learning and Teaching Scotland.
“In Wales Learners aged 7–14 should be given opportunities to develop and apply their knowledge and understanding of the cultural, economic, environmental, historical and linguistic characteristics of Wales”. (National curriculum for Wales)
English history for the 1200 years prior to 1707 stands on its own and is distinct from British history. Britain politically and constitutionally did not exist until 300 years ago. Many of the foundations of our legal system, society and government were laid down before the Norman French conquered England in 1066. The foundations of our parliamentary democracy, literature, language, the common law & the jury system were subsequently laid down in England before 1707.
The people of England and their children in schools, universities and other institutions must be encouraged to learn and celebrate what Englishmen and women achieve and have achieved, individually and collectively in almost every sphere of human endeavour and derive from that knowledge a legitimate pride in this country and therefore themselves as inheritors.
Whilst Scotland and Wales have been encouraged to make sure that their children are educated in Scottish and Welsh culture, history and traditions. The British Government does no such thing for children in England. For them English history, where it is taught, is called British history, even when it relates to events before 1707. Worse still in England the teaching of English history is to be downgraded. The BBC reported an Ofsted report thus “The watchdog said the curriculum was too England-focused” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6904206.stm)
14. We need an English Parliament to prevent the submersion of England into Britain and to separate an English identity from a British identity
Unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are no dedicated English Cultural institutions. There is no national English Library, Museum of England and so on. Indeed the British Government has emasculated such institutions that did represent England alone.
Back in 1999 Derek Wyatt MP (Lab, Kent) made the following observation in Parliament: The British library is one of the six legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland, dating back to an Act of 1911. The others are Oxford, Cambridge and the national libraries of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Irish national library is in Dublin, but there is no national library of Northern Ireland, which is surely an oversight. He went on to say that: The British library needs to be redefined for the21st century. When Mr Wyatt was contacted to point out that there is no national library for England, Mr Wyatt responded: “I think this would be undue nationalism to have an English National Library”. One has to wonder why a British MP of an English constituency finds it perfectly acceptable to have a British national library, a Scottish national library, and a Welsh national library – and who believes that the lack of a Northern Irish national library is an ‘oversight’ – can describe an English national library as ‘undue nationalism’
This does not stop James Purnell, Secretary of State in the British Government’s DCMS in 2007, referring to “England’s national museums and galleries” even though their titles are not English but British.
The support of the Arts and Sport has been specifically encouraged as responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. The Scottish Cultural Review, 2006, states that Scotland’s culture sits at the heart of the nation’s life and identity. The Arts Council of Wales’ remit letter 2006 details “policies on strengthening Wales’ cultural identity”.
Both Wales and Scotland promote tourism in their countries as an effective way of supporting their cultures. (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Tourism) Visit Scotland is mainly funded by the Scottish Executive (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Tourism). (http://www.visitscotlandannualreview.com/content/pdfs/vs_accounts_full_08_09). The purpose of the former English Tourism Council was to promote tourism in England. It was abolished in 2003 and submerged into “Visit Britain”, which was set up in close consultation with the First Minister in Scotland and the First Secretary in Wales. VisitBritain was created to market Britain to the rest of the world and to promote and develop the English (and only the English) visitor economy. It is a non-departmental public body responsible to the British Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport by which it is funded. In April 2009, VisitEngland became more of a stand-alone body from VisitBritain, it is claimed to be more on a par with the devolved entities, VisitScotland and VisitWales. (http://www.visitbritain.com/en/press/press-releases/funding_announced.aspx)
The Board of visit Britain comprises the Chairman, who is appointed by the British Secretary of State in consultation with the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government. (http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/media_releases/2406.aspx /) and six other members, five of which are appointed by the British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and one by the Welsh Assembly. The Chairmen of VisitEngland and VisitScotland sit on the Board in an ex-officio capacity. The funding for VisitEngland comes from the funds allocated to VisitBritain by the British Government’s DCMS and from 1st April 2009, although the VisitEngland Executive Team remains a part of VisitBritain for funding and governance purposes, it will have its own Chief Executive who reports directly to the Chairman of the VisitEngland Board. Accountability to the Board and Chief Executive of VisitBritain will be exercised primarily by putting a Funding Agreement in place between VisitBritain and VisitEngland and a Memorandum of Understanding is being developed to record the detailed corporate governance arrangements. (http://www.visitbritain.com/en/press/press-releases/funding_announced.aspx)
Clearly, VisitEngland is a subservient organisation to the greater VisitBritain. The 2008/9 accounts show that the VisitEngland Chairman is paid half the salary of that of VisitBritain. The grants from VisitBritain to tourist organisations in England totaled £146, 000, while VisitBritain had over £1million cash in hand. Thus English tourism received a contemptuous amount from this British organisation, whereas that from the Scottish Executive to VisitScotland was £44million (www.visitscotlandannualreport.com/our…/index.html) and it is reported that a £17.4m project will launch Welsh tourism into the digital era (http://wales.gov.uk/?lang=en) .
So there is no dedicated English organisation to promote tourism in England. The organization that exists is British with input from Scotland and Wales that additionally have their own separate tourism organizations. Visit Scotland is also funded by the Scottish Parliament and similarly Visit Wales. The British Government sets the total budget for tourism in Britain. The English element has to compete for funds with the other interests of VisitBritain. Tourism is a major industry within England. It provides many jobs and whole areas can be revitalised by a successful tourism industry.
The same fate has befallen “Sport England”, which is now subsumed into the UK Sport. Sport England is the brand name for the English Sports Council and is a non-departmental public body under the British Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The funding it distributes comes from both the Treasury and the National Lottery. The reported grant-in-aid in their annual report for 2008/9 from the British government was £130 million, the rest was made up by national lottery funding. (http://www.sportengland.org/about_us/annual_report_2008-2009.aspx) Compare this with the funding for sport in Wales by the Welsh Assembly government of £110million for a nation a fraction the size of England. (http://wales.gov.uk/funding/fundgrantareas/culturesportfund/?lang=en). £41 million was invested by the Scottish Executive in Sport Scotland in 2008/9 twice as much spending per head of population than the British Government is prepared to do for England. (http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/55AB23F6-90CF-4269-B6D9-3620C000727F/0/AnnReview0809web.pdf)
National and cultural identity
Not only does England not have its own national institutions such as a national library as illustrated by the Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004 but we are now experiencing a denial of cultural and national identity.
Because England is the largest country in the United Kingdom it suffers from having its identity submerged into a “British” identity. Where that is intentional it could be called cultural destruction or cleansing. This was a policy of the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Soviets who destroyed memorials and airbrushed out of history those, the memory of whom, they wished to eliminate. In Latin this destruction was called damnatio memoriae . Indeed conflation of England and Britain is common not only abroad but here. So much so that the BBC has issued guidance to presenters that they should be sensitive to the difference. (PRODUCERS GUIDLINES. STYLE & LANGUAGE. Be careful when using the word British and English. They are not interchangeable. Say British when you mean British and English when you mean English). However that “sensitivity” does not appear to be respected when it comes to conflating English and British and ensured for instance that Dr. David Starkey’s series based on his book the Monarchs of England was billed as a series on British monarchs! When were the monarchs, Macbeth, Malcolm and the James of Scotland ever called British?
This bias is all pervasive. It is illustrative here to remember how the athletes that represented the UK at the Beijing Olympics were treated. Those that represented Scotland and Wales were referred to in the media as Scottish or Welsh but not British and were welcomed back to the capitals or their homelands. No such respect was afforded to those from England who represented the UK. They were always referred to as British and were only welcomed into London, the capital city of England, as part of the British contingent.
The presenter of a BBC programme on famous composers called Thomas Tallis and other mediaeval English composers British when they were unequivocally English. A further example is that supermarkets routinely use the national flags of Scotland and Wales but not England to mark their wares. English produce, where it is advertised, is marked with the British flag.
The deliberate or ignorant conflation of England and Britain and English and British is as insulting to England as it is to Scotland, Wales or any other part of the UK.
There are numerous other examples of the suppression of England and the conditioning of people either to confuse or conflate England and Britain, or to use the terms interchangeably so as to submerge and or merge the two identities. Not least of these is the policy of all three unionist parties, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative, that have in the last two general elections issued three manifestos, one for Scotland, one for Wales and one for Britain/UK, none for England. The man in the street in England would be forgiven for thinking that the one relevant to Britain/UK was relevant to the whole of Britain/UK and not that these unionist parties were offering different policies to different parts of the UK.
In addition there is the false and insulting accusation that the English flag is racist. This has led to gross infringements of liberty by those in authority, such as the policeman who required a motorist in Wiltshire to remove the flag from his parcel shelf on pain of a £30 fine, (http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/news/2288512.motorist_told_flag_could_be_racist/) the binman in Lancashire who was told to remove it from his bandana (http://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/bajan-brit-banned-from-wearing-george-cross-bandana-at-work-might-offend-racist/). It is of note that the avowedly racist BNP logo uses the British flag and they have offices in all the countries of Britain and most recently, in 2009, stood a candidate in the Glasgow North East by election, but the British flag is not treated to this opprobrium. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8355282.stm). These are just a few of the examples of intimidation and harassment experienced when the English flag is displayed. There are no reports of such harassment when flags of other nations are raised.
This leaves an undeniable impression in England that there is a covert and unspoken agenda to merge or submerge England into Britain thereby to suppress or deny the unique and ancient culture and achievement of generations and the current population. While this might have been acceptable when all the people of the UK were assimilated into a British culture and identity now that distinct national cultures and identities are encouraged, not least by dedicated fora in which they can be expressed, to deny the people of England the same right implies cultural prejudice.
15. We need an English Parliament to prevent conflict and to discourage discrimination on the grounds of nationhood.
The inevitable consequences of this unequal treatment has been “a rising English national consciousness” (D Blunkett, March 2005), which the British political parties, with a perversity second to none, represent as a threat to the Union. Scottish and Welsh nationalism can be expressed in their national institutions and especially in their national governments. There is no collective political representation for England that allows for an expression of political will and many or most of our civic and cultural institutions have been appropriated for Britain, such as the British Museum and the British Library.
English nationalism, as valid as any other nationalism, has no outlet but in sporting tribalism. This is wrong. The English flag should fly above the English National Library, the English national Museum the English Portrait Gallery and the English Parliament. The National flags of Scotland and Wales fly above their respective National Libraries and Museums and all other edifices devoted to their history and culture. Where does the English flag fly to denote English culture?
Moreover to liken English nationalism to racism, as many well known commentators have done, is to fan the flames of simmering resentment. However instead of listening and addressing the problem the British Government and Establishment is determined to ignore it. At a Fabian Society conference on the “Values of Britishness” in November 2005 speakers for Scotland and Wales were well in Evidence. No–one spoke on behalf of England, the country that constitutes 85% of the UK!
Lord Neil Kinnock, who sits in the British House of Lords which has the power to revise and amend legislation for England, made a notable quote at that conference. It was “I am totally for Britain”, he announced from the platform, “I support the British Lions every time they take to the field. I support Wales in every sport and I support any and every team that plays against England.” Unfortunately he is not alone among public figures in feeling free to express such insensitive and negative sentiments. This includes Jack McConnell, Scotland’s first Minister in 2006, who declined to support the only British team, England’s, left in the football World Cup. No one should be surprised if such negativity is being returned.
16. We need an English parliament because the people of England want it
Since the Devolution Acts, 12 out of 14 polls have consistently shown that the people of England are dissatisfied with the status quo and wish for their country to be treated as a whole in equality with Scotland and Wales and to have some form of national self government. These polls have been ignored and it thus appears that the British government believes in self government for all, but not the people of England. Objections to these polls include the accusation that they are biased. However when like is compared with like and the question the same as that posed by the British Government in the referenda for Scotland and Wales it can be seen that the overwhelming answer is that the people of England do want the same measure of self government offered to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Polling on the Question of an English Parliament.
Except where indicated these polls were undertaken throughout the UK. A fairer contrast with the questions asked in the devolution referenda would be to poll in England only and pose the alternatives “I agree that there should be an English Parliament” or “I do not agree that there should be an English Parliament” (Http://www.bbc.co.uk/politics97/devolution/wales/live/index.shtml)
NB 44% of Scots voted for the Scottish Parliament (“the settled will of the Scottish people”)and
25% of the Welsh voted for a Welsh Assembly in answer to the equivalent question in their referenda
ICM for the Telegraph | December 2007
By telephone: Base adults over 18: 1010 UK 867 England
WHICH WOULD YOU PREFER FOR ENGLAND? UK England
Laws made by the Commons with all MPs voting 32% 32%
Laws made by the Commons but only English MPs voting 24% 25%
English Parliament within the Union 21% 20%
Independence from Scotland and Wales 16% 15%
Comment: 60% of UK and English citizens polled are dissatisfied with the current situation
Sky News online poll | December 2007
Base: 4,316 GB respondents (self selecting)
Should Scottish MPs get a vote on English matters?
ICM for the Campaign for an English Parliament | April 2007
Base: 1006 GB adults
You may have seen or heard that a separate Scottish parliament, a Welsh assembly and a Northern Ireland Assembly have been established.
Do you think that England should or should not have its own parliament or assembly?
For an English Parliament 67%
Against an English Parliament 25%
Don’t Know 7%
YouGov for the Sunday Times | April 2007
Base: 2218 GB adults
Thinking about the way England is governed in the light of devolution to
Scotland and Wales, which of the following would be your preferred option:
A separate English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish Parliament 21%
Stopping MPs from Scottish and Welsh seats from voting on matters that affect
Only England 51%
Keeping the current arrangements as they are 12%
None of the above 4%
Don’t know 12%
Comment: 72-74% of UK citizens polled dissatisfied with the current situation
Newsnight Poll | January 2007
Base: 883 in England
SHOULD ENGLAND HAVE ITS OWN PARLIAMENT?
In 1998 the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly gave these countries certain powers that were previously held by the UK parliament in Westminster. Do you think that an English Parliament should now be established?
yes no undecided/neutral
England 61% 32% 7%
Scotland 51% 35% 13%
Wales 48% 40% 11%
Daily Mail / ICM Poll | January 2007
Base: 883 polled in England
Q5. There is now a Scottish Parliament and a devolved Assembly in Wales and Northern Ireland. Do you think there should or shouldn’t be a parliament for England only?
England 51%should 41%should not 7% don’t know
Scotland 58%should 30%should not 12% don’t know
ICM for the Sunday Telegraph | November 2006
Base 869 in England
Q. Would you be in favour or against the establishment of an English Parliament within the UK, with similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament?
For an English Parliament 68%
Against an English Parliament 25%
Don’t Know 6%
British Social Attitudes Survey, 2006 (http://nesstar.esds.ac.uk)
Base: 1077 in GB
With all the changes going on in the way the different parts of Great Britain are run, which of the following do you think would be best for England… for England to be governed as it is now, with laws made by the UK parliament, for each region of England to have its own elected assembly that makes decisions about the region’s economy, planning and housing, or, for England as a whole to have its own new parliament with lawmaking powers?
UK parliament as now 558 51.8%
Regional assembly 189 17.5%
New parliament for England 249 23.1%
(None of these) 38 3.5%
Don’t know 43 4.0%
Not answered 0 0.0%
23% in the UK voted for an English Parliament (figures for England not found) more than for regional devolution
NB National devolution was granted to Wales on the basis of 25% of the electorate voting for a Welsh national assembly
IPSOS MORI for the English Constitutional Convention | June 2006
Base: not found
With all the constitutional changes going on in the way different parts of the UK are run, which are creating national Parliaments for Scotland and Wales, which of the following do you think would be best for England for England?
To be governed as it is now, with laws made by the UK Parliament even though this means that Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on English-only issues 32%
For England to be divided into Regions with each having its own Assembly 14%
For England as a whole to have its own national Parliament with similar law-making powers to the Scottish Parliament 41%
Don’t know 13%
BBC Online Vote | March 2006
3401 UK (self selecting)
Should there be an English Parliament
YouGov for the English Democrats | Feb 2004
Base: 2364 GB adults
Which of the following options do you prefer?
The division of England into nine Regions, each having their own elected assemblies, which will have power to take some decisions but not to create new laws 11 %
A Parliament for England with the power to allow it to develop and implement policies which reflect the particular needs of the people of England 24 %
Scottish and Welsh members of the UK Parliament having their voting rights restricted to prevent them from voting on England-only issues 47 %
Continue with the status quo 12 %
Don’t know 7 %
Comment: 71% want a national solution. Fewer want regional assemblies than the status quo
NOP for the Campaign for an English Parliament, April 2002
Base: UK 999 adults aged 15+
Q. At the moment, as well as the Parliament at Westminster, Scotland has its own Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own Assemblies. England, however, does not have either. It has been suggested that England should have either its own Parliament, along with the Westminster Parliament, or have nine English Regional Assemblies. Which of these statements, if any, best sums up your opinion about this?
England should have its own English Parliament 47%
England should be made up of nine Regional Assemblies 28%
Don’t know 25%
2002 The Jimmy Young show (St George’s day) telephone poll of 14,556 people showed 94% in favour
2001 – UK Government MORI (http://nesstar.esds.ac.uk)
Base: 1761 correspondents in UK
With all the changes going on in the way the different parts of Great Britain are run, which of the following do you think would be best for England… for England to be governed as it is now, with laws made by the UK parliament, for each region of England to have its own assembly that runs services like health, or, for England as a whole to have its own new parliament with law-making powers?
as it is now 1569 56.8%
regional assemblies 611 22.1%
England its own parliament 443 16.0%
(None of these) 35 1.3%
Don’t know 103 3.7%
Not Answered 0 0.0%
23% in England voted for an English Parliament (16% in UK)
NB National devolution was granted to Wales on the basis of 25% of the electorate voting for a Welsh national assembly
16. We need an English Parliament because other proposals for England’s future do not answer all the questions arising from the current imbalance.
The Division of England into ‘regions’
English society has always been based on the local community. Self help has characterised the close knit farming and village communities and the industrially based mutual societies. Local government is understood to mean Parish and local Councils responsible to the Shire and County Councils. The Shires, created in Anglo Saxon times, and the Counties from the French Comte are the natural, indigenous regional divisions of national government. These ancient communities are threatened by an unsympathetic and insensitive drive to divide England into unnatural and artificial divisions that will destroy England’s ancient unity without an overall national English Parliament to decide the most appropriate form of local government.
The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP), being a single issue organisation, has no opinion on the European Union. However it is a false comparison when the unnatural and artificial regions of England are compared with the historic and traditional ones of France, Germany and Spain. Not only are the regions of these countries rooted in their history but they still have their own national governments unlike this proposal for England.
Attempts by the British Government to pass off these regional divisions and their Regional Development Agencies, morphing into Regional Assemblies, as devolution for England failed spectacularly in 2004 when the people of the North East overwhelmingly – by 78% to 22% – dismissed the British Government’s plans for that regional assembly and threw into disarray the British Government’s plans for elected regional assemblies in England.
Although the people of London had voted for a London mayor with an assembly, which they later discovered was to be designated as a Regional Assembly, the people of the north east of England were not fooled into believing that such assemblies would or could have the primary or even secondary legislative powers of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments. Moreover, such regional administrative areas have no basis in England’s culture or traditions as they are 20th Century artefacts created for the convenience of administrators. Indeed in 1973 the Kilbrandon Commission concluded that “there is no public demand for English regional assemblies with legislative powers, whether under a federal system or otherwise”.
Nevertheless regionalisation in England persists in British Government thinking. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s 63 page white paper on the governance of Britain (http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7170/7170.pdf) contained but 1½ sides devoted to England. These referred to the imposed regional quangos and appointed regional Ministers, but outlined in the vaguest terms the duties and responsibilities of those Ministers. Indeed they were somewhat contradictory in that these Ministers are both expected to represent regional interests and those of the British Government. The assumption being that the interests of both are the same. However experience has shown that their actual function is to pursue the British Government’s agenda and over-rule local decision making. The analysis to the responses to the British Government’s South East Plan (September/October 2005) reported that some objected to the whole process of the housing growth being imposed by Government. (www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan/)
Since that white paper the UK Government has appointed Select Committees for these ‘regions’. These committees do not reflect the representative political structure of the regions but of the British Government and thus represent central British government and not the local areas. During the summer of 2009 there were a number of ‘regional’ committees that were supposed to be composed of all the local British MPs and to discuss matters of local interest. Most of these never took place, those that did were not quorate as may British MPs did not bother to turn up. These Committees are Gordon Brown’s latest effort to undermine the unity of England. They have been proved to be an expensive farce paid for by the English taxpayer. The cost of running them throughout the parliamentary summer recess has been estimated at £2 million. (http://www.dodonline.co.uk/?showPage=article&ID=4046) .Most of them, including that in Bedford, were not attended by enough British MPs to be able address their agenda and so were a complete waste of time and our money.
Such committees either as a committee of the regions or as an English Grand Committee cannot be compared with a national forum of representatives chosen by the people in dedicated elections. Detailed objections to those proposed assemblies, which also apply to any other form of local government presented as devolution for England, can be found in the CEP publication “The Constitutional Case for an English Parliament”.
English Votes on English Matters
Constitutionally there are three questions to be answered; the West Lothian, Upper west Lothian and the English. The first asks: Why should Scottish MPs in the British Parliament at Westminster be barred from voting on matters internal to Scotland that affect their constituents, but still be able to influence internal matters in England? No English MP has reciprocal rights in Scotland. The second asks: Why should laws for England be scrutinized and amended by an unrepresentative House of Lords composed of members from all countries of the UK and abroad. The third asks: Why should MPs from Scotland, whose constituents are not affected and who are thus non-representative, have ministerial portfolios for internal matters in England, be cabinet ministers or Prime Minister when the majority of government business deals with English matters?
The Conservative party recognise and attempt to answer only the first question. Initially they advocated English votes for English measures (EVoEM). However there were glaring constitutional faults in their approach, which can be summarised as follows: It is a procedural device, without the force of legislation, which can be reversed at any time without the formality of repealing an Act of Parliament. English laws will still be proposed by a British Government and scrutinised by a House of Lords, containing members from across the UK and abroad. There is no administration devoted to English affairs and Britsh MPs will still vote on British party lines. It does not provide a workable solution for the eventuality of a Government being in power with an overall majority but without a majority of English seats.
More recently even this device has been watered down by Kenneth Clark’s recommendation that consideration by British MPs of English constituencies of proposed legislation for England should only take place clause by clause in the committee sessions but that the law for England should still be voted on by all British MPs regardless of whether they represent English constituencies. This leaves us with the prospect of a lot of time and taxpayers’ money taken up with deliberation only for the final product to be rejected on the votes of unrepresentative British MPs. Detailed objections to these proposals can be found in the CEP publication Devolution for England, A Critique of the Conservative Party Policy “English Votes on English Matters”.
British MPs of English constituencies all belong to unionist parties and although they claim to represent the interests of their constituents, they are not there to promote or further English interests. Experience tells us that they pursue the policies of their unionist parties and put the interests of the Union before the interests of England. Some have even declared themselves by expressing views that are positively antagonistic to England.
English Parliament lite
Some commentators have suggested a restricted form of English Parliament. The British MP John Redwood has suggested that British MPs should debate domestic issues in their homelands on certain days of the week and UK policies on other days of the week. Presumably this would entail the dissolution of all the devolved administrations and all 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament, the 60 Welsh Assembly Members and the 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland being dismissed. It is unlikely to find favour in those regions that now enjoy a degree of autonomy and who have nationalist parties.
Others such a Lord Strathclyde have suggested that the House of Lords become the British Parliament with Scottish and Welsh Committees to scrutinise Scottish and Welsh legislation and the House of Commons an English Parliament. As above the dissolution of the devolved administrations and dismissal of their members is unlikely to find favour in those territories. Moreover, The problem with both these suggestions is the question of where British MPs’ sympathies lie with their unionist parties, the UK, or with their respective homelands? Indeed British MPs of nationalist parties have, by definition, the interests of their homelands at heart.
The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) seeks to redress the balance of the UK by lobbying for an English Parliament, which includes an English Executive (government). However, opponents accuse us of trying to break up or unbalance the Union. The Union was always unbalanced and made more so by asymmetrical devolution, which, in itself, is fracturing the Union further. The people of England were not consulted in the devolution referenda and must not be held responsible for its consequences.
An English Parliament would decide the most appropriate form of local government for England and there is scope within each of the devolved policy areas to make government more accountable to the wishes of the people. For example, if control over planning and land development becomes an entirely devolved matter, it will be possible to completely transform the present system and halt the uglification of English towns and the invasion of the English countryside by new urban settlements to its permanent destruction.
An example of a benefit to be had from control over education is that it would be possible to teach the history of England and the English language to children in English schools. A knowledge of those things would provide a thread of continuity from the past to the present and help pupils appreciate that what we do today affects tomorrow. It would also help separate an English identity from the burden of a British identity and better enable them to explore their own roots and culture.
By having tourism under the control of an English Parliament policy, and funding, will become straightforward, clear and focussed. The same is true for the other matters that have lost their English focus.
An English Parliament could, in addition, create new bodies should it believe that there is a strong need to achieve a specific social or economic objective.
Support of the Arts and Sport has been specifically encouraged as responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. An English Parliament, likewise, would ensure that the Arts, Sport and Heritage would be supported in England.
In summary an English Parliament will establish:-
National Identity – An English parliament could help create a more inclusive, civic, sense of English identity and national purpose. It would provide a partial realisation of the right to self government to which the people of all countries aspire;
Equity – If an English parliament is what the people want, then an English parliament is what the people should get. A referendum would extend to England the principle of popular sovereignty.
Parliamentary Time – An English parliament would allow for proper parliamentary time to be allotted for the debate of English matters and scrutiny of English legislation (and also free up time in the British Parliament for proper scrutiny – which is something lacking now).
Democratic Accountability – An English Parliament would put to bed the infamous West Lothian Question and the English Question. It would strengthen democratic control and make government more accountable to the people of England;
Ministerial Accountability – An English parliament would ensure that ministers were directly politically accountable to the nation that their department serves.
Executive Accountability – An English Parliament would ensure that legislation affecting England was proposed and implemented by MPs accountable to the English electorate.
Prime Ministerial Accountability – An English parliament would give England political leadership.
Financial Transparency – An English parliament would end the inequity of the Barnett Formula. It would enable the people of England to express their own priorities and direct spending where it is most needed;
An International Voice – An English parliament would give England political representation in the international arena. It would, for the first time, give England a voice in the European Union;
Internal Governance – An English parliament would spell an end to the unwanted regionalism imposed upon England by the British Government and allow England to organise its own internal governance. It would guarantee to the people of England protection of their ancient and hard fought for freedoms, liberty and rights and protect England’s heritage, culture and local traditions
The Preservation of Britain – Counter intuitively an English parliament will help preserve the union because it gives Scotland and Wales equal ownership of British institutions instead of the continual conflation of “English” and “British”.
Other Constitutional Reforms – An English Parliament provides an opportunity to usher in a new electoral system and a more consensual politics. The debate over what to do with the House of Lords could include a role in scrutinising the national parliaments or some other federal role, it could even become the British parliament.
A Detailed discussion can be found in the CEP publication “Devolution in the United Kingdom-Answering the English Question”.
Objections to an English Parliament Answered
Before devolution the citizens of England, Scotland and Wales stood in equality with each other, governed by a single central British government as required by the 1707 Act of Union. However the Scots and the Welsh were concerned that the much larger preponderance of voters in England foisted upon them governments for which they had not voted. This was a misconception (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geraldwarner/100016787/when-the-scottish-labour-tail-wagged-the-english-tory-dog-the-concrete-facts/) as was the malevolent imposition in Scotland of the poll tax by Margaret Thatcher before imposing it in the rest of Britain. In fact it was at the urging of four Scottish MPs in her cabinet. (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2009/05/david-torrance-debunking-the-myths-about-margaret-thatcher-and-scotland.html) Now the same feeling of misgovernment is apparent in England with the raising of the English question and unaccountable British MPs debating and voting on policy for England only.
Some say that The British Parliament is already dominated by British MPs from England, who make up over 80% of members, so the influence of Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh MPs is marginal as it is.
• We have shown that the influence of Scottish MPs such as Gordon Brown is anything but marginal.
It is sometimes said that there is no need to campaign for an English Parliament because with the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, the British Parliament is in effect an English Parliament. In addition, some people also argue that British MPs from England can represent the interests of England within the British Parliament, and others, like the British MP George Howarth, (Hansard, 16 January 1998) go further to argue that “The Government as a whole speak for England”.
• That is a mistaken view. The British Parliament continues to be the Parliament of the United Kingdom and continues to contain MPs from throughout the UK and be charged with pursuing the internal and external interests of the whole UK. It is under no obligation to pursue specific interests relating to the whole of England and there is no body through which those interests can be voiced. In reality the House of Commons splits along party lines, not along national lines. Moreover, a Union parliament should not encourage ‘English MPs’ – who are actually British MPs who happen to be elected in England – to be nationalistic and act in England’s interest. The British Government, and the electoral college that sustains it, should put the interests of the UK above the interests of any of the constituent nations. Neither the Union parliament, nor the British Government, can or should be encouraged to ‘speak for England’. Only a parliament and government elected by, and accountable solely to, the English people can speak for England.
Some objections to an English Parliament suggest that it would be almost as big as the British Parliament.
• That demonstrates a fundamental and unnecessary assumption that the British Parliament would need to be of the same size as it is now. That assumption ignores or denies that the work of the British Parliament would be very substantially reduced and thus a much smaller Parliament would be capable of representing the constituent parts of the Union. We already have the anomaly of the number of British MPs from areas outside England, who cannot initiate, debate or vote on domestic matters that affect them and their constituents, yet they are being paid the same salary as British MPs from English constituencies. Indeed the Scots, themselves, are asking why they, as British tax payers, are paying for British Government MPs who have no responsibility in the domestic matters that most concern them as voters.
Some claim that the 83% of the UK population in England would dominate any federal union and that a federal or confederal system where there is such disparity in size of the members has never been shown to work. This might lead the smaller nations of the UK to feel that their concerns aren’t represented at a federal level generating resentment and potentially leading to the break up of the UK.
• In reality, the 83% of the UK population that lives in England dominates under any system. There is less chance of non-English concerns being heard under the present system in which the British parliament doubles as the English parliament and concerns itself with predominately English domestic matters. Federalism separates English domestic matters from pan-UK matters and allows the smaller nations of the UK equal ownership of British institutions of governance. Moreover, a federal or confederal system where there is such disparity in size of the members has never been shown not to work
Devolving power from a body that represents 60 million people to a body that represents 51 million people would do very little to bring power closer to the people.
• A parliament is about national governance and a restoration of democracy more than it is about devolution. An English parliament does not prevent power from being devolved within England, in fact an English parliament could even incorporate a committee system that brings local politicians and civic leaders into parliament
It could potentially mean creating another Parliament building with a whole new set of politicians. This would impose an added cost on the taxpayer.
• It would create a new layer of politicians but not necessarily a new parliament building. Savings could be made by abolishing regionalism and reducing the number of British MPs, and possibly abolishing the House of Lords in favour of a federal parliament. This line would, nevertheless, engender more respect if those politicians that promote it intended to abolish the 297 extra politicians that 85% of the electorate have been, without their consent or even consultation, expected to support since 1998. Moreover, these costs were clearly not a reason considered very important when granting devolution to the rest of the UK. Why then should the argument that we must not have more MPs be used selectively against English aspirations? Of course, it hardly needs to be said that the cost of setting up an English parliament and government is, on a per capita basis, far less than the cost of setting up the equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Others say that there is no demand.
• Clearly, until a proper referendum, based on those of Scotland and Wales, takes place that assertion cannot be demonstrated. However, 12 of 14 polls of every description since 2001 indicate that the majority of the people of England might vote for an English Parliament if asked the same referendum question as that for Scotland and Wales.
As there is no English Parliament, the people of England are under the direct rule of the British Parliament that is designed to serve UK interests. The people of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their interests focused and represented but the people of England are not able to speak with one voice. An English Parliament will enable England to deal with other parts of the UK on equal terms.
Devolution can be seen as a process (http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/2007/issue4/johnson4.html) and it is clear that the 2009 Scottish government wishes to continue that process by claiming further rights and powers from the British government and, in particular, to redraw the maritime border. The history of the maritime border between England and Scotland is a complex one. Suffice it to say that there is considerable debate about its appropriate alignment. Such considerations are now important as further powers are likely to include access to North Sea revenues, fisheries and other assets located in UK waters.
Another case in point is the ownership of Ministry of Defence (MOD) land and facilities. These have been given to the Northern Ireland Assembly. MOD facilities have been developed with UK taxes to which the major contributor is England with 85% of the taxpayers. Clearly giving up these assets impacts on England but who is to represent England’s interests in any such negotiations?
Another illustrative case was the opportunity to purchase the two Titian paintings owned by the Duke of Sutherland and displayed in Edinburgh. The proposal was that both Scottish and UK funds would be used. Are those paintings now appropriated for Scotland even though taxpayers from across the UK have funded the purchase?
How will responsibility for the British national debt be apportioned?
Wales too is moving towards greater devolution. The Government of Wales Act 2006
(http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060032_en_1) is designed to revise fundamentally the Government of Wales Act 1998. Critics at the time predicted that executive devolution would be unlikely to be stable and would lead to “catch up” devolution with more privileged nations such as Scotland. Hence the second phase of Welsh devolution in which a Westminster model of Government is introduced as well as enhanced legislative powers for the National Assembly for Wales, including powers for the Assembly to be given legislative competence by Order in Council to make law in certain of the devolved fields, as an interim stage towards achieving full legislative devolution following a referendum. (http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/2007/issue4/johnson4.html)
What will be the verdict of history on the independence in any negotiations and the impartiality of those that undertake such negotiations, when there is no-one to represent the interests of England?
The effects of the changes brought about by asymmetric devolution on the people of England were never considered and their opinion was never canvassed. Although now that they are beginning to make their voice heard it is they and our campaign that are accused of trying to destroy the Union! People are taking notice.
The CEP makes the same assertion of the rights of the people of England as were accepted for Scotland in particular but also for Wales and Northern Ireland, not only enshrined in the UN charter but for the general principle of representative equality that all democracies claim. Equality of treatment was also a fundamental part of the 1707 Act of Union with Scotland. We look to a future of equal nations in equality of relationship to each other and to the British government and the House of Lords. Only in that way can the Union be maintained. The alternative is an increasing clamour for independence from countries that already have some measure of self government and a runaway devolution process as the British Government endeavours to appease their nationalistic sentiments.
The 1988 Claim of Right for Scotland, which was formulated by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, is as relevant to England as it was to Scotland. England has the same right to its own Parliament and to determine the form of government best suited to its needs. However, when we in England make such a claim we are variously accused of being fascist English nationalists or worse or at the very least as “little Englanders” or that our arguments are “sterile” and “negative”
Why is it that the Scottish and Welsh nationalism that engenders, within the UK, their own fora in which to support their national aspirations is accepted but those who seek to speak on behalf of England are mocked and vilified? Indeed, any expression of similar English nationalism is treated with great opprobrium to the extent that the British Establishment often identify English nationalism with racism. This is abhorrent and grossly unfair, especially as Scottish and Welsh nationalism has ensured, within the UK, their own fora in which to support their national aspirations.
It is not “anti” any nation to raise these issues of disparity within the UK as some have claimed. It is not the CEP’s purpose to deny any other country or province of the UK, their right to the devolutionary process but rather to claim the same right for the “proud and ancient” people of England and to have a forum for the people to “invigorate the national culture”.
An English Parliament will solve the West Lothian question and the English Question. Reform of the British Constitution could solve the Upper West Lothian Question. It will end the injustice whereby British Parliament MPs who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, are able to debate and vote on issues that affect only the people of England, while MPs elected to English constituencies are unable to debate or vote on similar matters affecting the people of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. An English Parliament will bring greater fairness, equality and balance to a devolved United Kingdom.
Devolved power to England in the same relationship to the British Parliament as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have no more power over reserved matters than MPs of English constituencies currently have. Indeed reducing the size of the British Parliament, which would be dealing only with reserved matters, would be the opportunity to reduce such disparity.
An English Parliament, if funded equitably, could spend the money on its own priorities and end the resentment caused by comparisons with the more generous funding of the other devolved territories.
The affirmations of national identity that the devolved administrations of the other countries of Britain support are what we require for England. Equally England must have a forum in which to express such sentiments and to promote in its schools and other institutions, its culture and history precisely as the British Government has acted to encourage that of Wales and Scotland. Thus all people, for whom England is their chosen or inherited homeland, should be encouraged to take pride in England’s history and culture and make the same distinction between England and Britain as in Tony Blair’s statement about Scotland. English history for nearly 1000 years prior to union with the rest of the UK to form the British State in 1707, stands on its own and is no more British history or its monarchs British monarchs than the history and monarchs of Scotland.
The people of England have an identity separate from a British identity and they need a parliament and constitutional arrangement which recognises that identity and serves their special interests.
The British government has power over the people of England without a specific mandate from them and it has set their interests aside. They have been given no opportunity to choose what form of devolutionary government is appropriate to their needs. They are ruled by a government that has not been elected to address their specific needs and they must pay it whatever it demands.
The objections to an English Parliament are facile and it seems that antipathy to an English Parliament is not based on logic and reason but sentiment and self interest. Where there might have been a British nation before 1998 there are now de facto if not yet de jure three distinct nations in Britain, only two of which are politically and constitutionally recognised.
Let a British Parliament deal with British matters and the national governments with national matters! The people of England should be in control of their own destiny. The 1707 Act of Union in which England represented the far greater power lasted for 300 years. Clearly then it must be possible to devise and develop a new 21st Century Union in which all citizens are equally treated and enfranchised as they were when there was the one Parliament in the UK as required by the 1707 Treaty.
The only equitable answer is, indeed, to treat England equitably.
Chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament