Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West of England, promoting the idea of an English parliament within a federal UK.
Nick Clegg was on the Marr show to discuss fairness. Towards the end of the interview Andrew Marr asked him about Simon Hughes' call for an English Parliament.
Andrew Marr: "Your deputy in the party, Simon Highes, has called this morning for an English parliament. Do you agree with him?"
Nick Clegg: "No I don't agree with Simon on that. Simon has had views on this for many years."
Andrew Marr: "You don't think that the English are under-represented in the system."
Nick Clegg: "Do you know, I really think that at a time when the central argument is about the wisdon of wrenching Scotland out of the United Kingdom, let's focus on that debate and let's get the SNP to provide basis answers to some pretty basic... I mean, you would have thought that for a party whose sole purpose in life is to advocate independence, they would have been able to provide answers about what it means for defence, for taxation, for investment, for the currency, and that's what I think we should focus on."
So where's the fairness in that? Why should the English wait? Haven't we waited long enough as the rest of the United Kingdom has been asked, and asked again, about how they wish to be governed?
Nick Clegg is an odious little worm of a man. Before the election the Lib Dems (and the Tories) promised to address the Barnett Formula, but that has been kicked into the long-grass because they don't want the introduction of a fair system of funding for fear that it will lose them votes in Scotland. And let us not forget that Nick Clegg is the man with responsibility for constitutional reform, so it is Clegg who must be blamed for the West Lothian Commission and the failure of the Government to address the English Question.
In the comments Mr Rob helpfully reminds me of this quote from Nick Clegg:
“In a modern democracy it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply."
When I first published this quote I expanded upon Nick Cleggs point of principle to ask:
whether it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply. In other words, is it acceptable for MPs elected outside England to have a say in government bill relating to England; should government ministers who are elected outside England have any say in drafting English legislation; should they be sitting around the Cabinet table influencing it, potentially as ministers for departments with an English portfolio; and should they even form a part of the electoral college that determines the government that England gets?
This is another way of asking Simon Lee's Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Question, the question that Nick Clegg will studiously ignore.
This is Simon Hughes' call for an 'English Parliament' (which is actually an English grand committee, not an English parliament):
It is now clear that there will be a vote during this parliament on Scottish independence. Given the policy and election commitments of the SNP government in Scotland this is right and proper.
People of the other three main parts of the United Kingdom may oppose or support independence for Scotland - I am one of those who strongly believe that Scotland should remain part of the UK.
But people in England should see this debate and referendum as an opportunity not a threat.
We now also have an opportunity to make an important constitutional decision about the way we make laws for England in the future too.
This past week the government honoured its commitment to set up a commission to consider the West Lothian question - which is exactly this question. This commission will start work next month and report before the summer of 2013. So in this parliament we have a chance to sort out this issue that has been ducked by too many governments for too long.
Now that there has been welcome devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there needs to be devolution to England too.
In my view the easiest way to do this is for MPs elected for English seats in future to have sole responsibility for deciding on laws only affecting England.
The present system has become unjust to England and should not continue. At last we have an opportunity to correct this in this parliament - and in a way that I believe will be widely welcome across England.
We now have a chance to make a decision which will be good for lawmaking, good for parliament, good for the public and good for all four corners of the United Kingdom."
Sorting out the West Lothian question is easier said than done, though. There are three basic solutions to the problem. One is an English Parliament, within a federal structure for the United Kingdom. However, that is problematic if the goal is to maintain the Union, as so unbalanced a union (England is 85 per cent of the UK’s population) would not be stable and would probably not be sustainable. No similarly unbalanced federal system has lasted more than a few years.
Personally I don't think such an unbalanced federation has been attempted in a mature democracy like the United Kingdom, so I find this 'England is too big' defence of the Status Quo rather tiresome. Not least because even if an English parliament does destabilise the United Kingdom, that's no reason to deny the people of England their own parliament. Many people argued that a Scottish Parliament would destabilise the United Kingdom, but that didn't stop Scotland getting its parliament.
Trench recently defended his view in response to a comment I left on his blog. He bases his 'England is too big to be self-governing within the Union' theory on an analysis of Czechoslovakia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Prussia.
The English were told by those in favour of a Scottish parliament that devolution would strengthen the Union (see Labour Manifesto 1997 or Devolution has strengthened the Union) but that turned out to be a pack of lies. Quasi-federalism has in fact damaged the Union. Objecting to an English parliament on the grounds that it will destabilise a Union whose current instability must be in part attributed to its lack of an English dimension seems to me to be beyond insanity. The English deserve a pop at turning an unstable quasi-federal United Kingdom into a stable federal United Kingdom.
Is there anything worse than watching a married couple fall out in public?
Last week those purporting to act on behalf of England warned that they were to go ahead with plans to assemble a legal team to look at the possibility of kicking Scotland out of the marital home, the Palace of Westminster, that has been the couple's home since 1707.
And today the acrimony continues, with new polling which suggests that England is more keen on divorce than Scotland herself. A whopping 43% of England approves of Scottish independence, with only 32% against. In Scotland the figures are 40% in favour and 43% against. And even if the marriage can be saved it looks as though terms will need to be renegotiated. 61% in England think Scotland gets too much housekeeping money, and 49% think that England should have its own parliament compared with just 16% who are against.
If there is hope for this troubled marriage it looks as though that hope comes from Scotland, not England. The Telegraph comments:
In a similar ICM survey for The Sunday Telegraph in December 2006, voters in both England and Scotland were in favour of Scottish independence,
As well as clear support for Scottish independence, just under half of English voters (49 per cent) back the creation of an English parliament, with only 16 per cent against – a lead which is down slightly on 2006.
Although the figure in favour of an English parliament has declined since the similar poll in 2006 (down from 68% to 49%) the number opposed to an English parliament has fallen from 25% in 2006 to just 16% today. The number of 'Don't Knows' has increased from 6% in 2006 to 34% in 2012.
I really feel for the kids. Little Wales and Northern Ireland had thought that in the event of a divorce they would go and live with England but now they have to entertain the possibility that England will end the marriage and Scotland will become the successor state, leaving them in much reduced circumstances.
ICM for the Sunday Telegraph | January 2012
Question: 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?
In Favour of an English Parliament 49%
Against an English Parliament 16%
Don't Know 34%
Ipsos-Mori for British Future | January 2012
Question: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had their own parliament or assembly for some years. Members vote on some issues that affect only their respective countries, for example, on issues about health and education. Issues affecting England can be voted on by all MPs sitting in Westminster. This means that English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote on issues that are only of relevance to England. Which one of the following do you think should happen?
We should keep things as they are (Status Quo): 21%
We should set up a new English Parliament to decide on England-only issues: 52%
We should do away with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Parliaments and make all decisions in the UK Parliament at Westminster (End Devolution): 14%
Don’t know: 13%
ICM for Power2010 | April 2010
Question: England should have its own parliament with similar powers to those of the Scottish Parliament.
Strongly agree: 43%
Slightly agree: 25%
Neither agree nor disagree: 10%
Slightly disagree: 8%
Strongly disagree: 12%
YouGov for the Jury Team | September 2009
Question: Below is a list of policy ideas. Imagine each one was put to the country in a referendum. For each one please say whether you would vote in favour or against each proposal, or if you wouldn't vote at all.
PROPOSAL 11. Setting up an English Parliament to decide matters that affect only England.
I would vote YES 58%
I would vote NO 20%
Wouldn't vote 8%
Don't know 14%
Populus for the Times | April 2009
Question: Do you now support or oppose the idea of there also being an English Parliament, or if you don't have a view either way please say.
Support an English Parliament 41%
Oppose an English Parliament 15%
Don't Know 44%
ICM for the Telegraph | December 2007
Question: There is now a Scottish Parliament, and devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. Which of the following options would you prefer for England?
A: Laws for England should be made by the House of Commons, and all MPs from all of the UK should be able to vote on them, as now
B: Laws for England should be made by the House of Commons, but only English MPs should be able to vote on them
C: England should have its own parliament, while remaining part of the United Kingdom
D: England should become independent, separate from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
E: None of these
F: Don't know
Status Quo (SQ) 32%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 25%
English Parliament [within the Union] (EP) 20%
England should become Independent (Ind) 15%
Don't know (DK) 6%
None of these (None) 2%
ICM for the Campaign for an English Parliament | April 2007
Question: 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?
Should be an English parliament 67.32%
Should Not be an English parliament (SN) 24.25%
Don't Know (DN) 8.43%
YouGov for the Sunday Times | April 2007
Question: 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: A separate English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish Parliament
B: Stopping MPs from Scottish and Welsh seats from voting on matters that affect only England
C: Keeping the current arrangements as they are
D: None of the above
E: Don't know
English parliament (EP) 21%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 51%
Status Quo (SQ) 12%
None of the above (None) 4%
Don't know (DK) 12%
Further information: Data
Opinion Research Business for BBC Newsnight | January 2007
Question: 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 – should have an English Parliament 61%
No – should not have an English Parliament 32%
Don't mind either way (Other) 1%
Don't know enough about it (Other) 2%
No opinion (Other) 2%
Don’t Know (Other) 2%
ICM for the Daily Mail | January 2007
Question: There is now a Scottish Parliament, and devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. Do you think there should or should not be a parliament for England only?
Should be an English parliament 51.42%
Should Not be an English parliament (SN) 41.22%
Don't Know (DN) 7.36%
ICM for the Sunday Telegraph | November 2006
Question: 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?
In Favour of an English Parliament 68.43%
Against an English Parliament 25.35%
Don't Know 6.22%
IPSOS MORI for the English Constitutional Convention | June 2006
Question: 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...
A: 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
B: For England to be divided into Regions with each having its own Assembly
C: For England as a whole to have its own national Parliament with similar law-making powers to the Scottish Parliament
E: Don't Know
Status Quo (SQ) 32%
Regional Assemblies (RA) 14%
English Parliament (EP) 41%
Don't know (DK) 9%
YouGov for the English Democrats | Feb 2004
Question: Which of the following options do you prefer?
A: 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
B: 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
C: Scottish and Welsh members of the UK Parliament having their voting rights restricted to prevent them from voting on England-only issues
D: Continue with the status quo
E: Don't know
Result: (figures on graph slightly out due to rounding error in data)
Regional Assemblies (RA) 11%
English Parliament (EP) 24%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 47%
Status Quo (SQ) 12%
Don't know (DK) 7%
Further information: Data
NOP for the Campaign for an English Parliament | April 2002
Question: At the moment as well as the Parliament in 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 English 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?
A. England should have its own English Parliament
B. England should be made up of nine Regional Assemblies (RA)
C. Don’t Know
English Parliament (EP) 47%
Regional Assemblies (RA) 28%
Don't Knows 25%.
Further information: Data
66% of us feel a strong connection to Britain but we feel a greater sense of belonging to our home nations. In England, surprisingly perhaps, 62% of ethnic minorities (including 69% of Asians) feel strongly English, which leads the authors to muse that Englishness is now considered a civic rather than an ethnically defined identity. The poll suggests that there is little conflict between English and British identities, with respondents who feel that they belong to Britain and to their local areas demonstrating a strong sense of English identity too. A strong sense of English identity fell to 27% among those who claimed to have no strong sense of being British. This mutually reinforcing link between English and British identity was reflected in the data from the North East of England where a whopping 40% of people claimed to have no strong sense of belonging to England:
Only 49% of people in the north east feel strongly British, much lower than the 67% who feel strongly British across England as a whole. While 62% of Welsh people and 60% of Scots feel strongly British, with 37% and 40% disagreeing.
Despite its low affinity with England the North East was the area that demonstrated the greatest support for the establishment of an English parliament (58%), which is perhaps a reflection of concerns over the Barnett Formula or simply due to a greater awareness of devolution to Scotland.
Across Great Britain (not the UK, Northern Ireland was not included in this poll) 51% of people support the establishment of an English parliament, rising to 52% in England alone. There is little support for the Status Quo (though it is noticeable that Scotland, which has the greatest degree of autonomy, is more supportive of the Status Quo than the rest of Great Britain) and even less for ending devolution by abolishing the national parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Opponents of an English parliament will doubtless argue that whilst it may be true that polls such as this show demonstrable support for the establishment of an English parliament it is not a salient or high priority issue, as demonstrated by the lack of signatures for that cause on the Government's petition site. Nevertheless, given that the three main parties, and until recently UKIP, have been fiercely opposed to an English parliament, it will concern the British political classes that they are out of step with public opinion and there remains the potential in England for an assertive English nationalism during their battle with the Scottish nationalists.
The spirit of British fraternity that is evident in support for an English parliament is also evident when it comes to Scottish independence. Opposition to Scotland leaving the Union is similar in all three home nations, with - the authors say - the main difference being a lower proportion of don’t knows in Scotland. Though the headline for nat-bashers like Alan Cochrane must surely read 'Scots are more supportive of Scotland remaining a part of the UK than either the English or the Welsh'.
Support for Scottish independence was highest in the South West of England, where 34% would like Scotland to become independent compared with 40% who would like Scotland to remain a part of the UK.
UKIP are now a party for England and for the Union. At 10:50 in this video is Nigel Farage's announcement that UKIP now support an English parliament.
Well done to Stuart Parr, Eddie Bone, Scilla Cullen, and others from the CEP, who have helped bring this about. I hope that disaffected Tories, Conservatives who have been lied to by Cameron over the EU and English Votes on English Laws, will now switch to UKIP.
The Guardian has questioned David Davis over his stance on an English Parliament.
Q: On the blog that I posted inviting readers to suggest questions, some people asked about an English parliament. Someone who may be a constituent of yours [tyke1] said that you made a speech in favour of one in 1997, but that you haven't spoken about it since.
A: He's quite right. I did make a speech in 1997, and dear old William Hague has probably never forgiven me for it because it took over the Tory conference that year, virtually.
What I was saying at the time is that we were going through all this process of creating Scottish and Welsh autonomy, the Irish have their level of autonomy, and the people forgotten in all this are the English.
There is a real serious issue when you have got ministers – the home secretary, for example – in charge of policing in England whose actions do not have any impact in his own constituency. For example, retaining DNA. When John Reid was home secretary, this was done to English people, but not to Scots people. So I think there's a quirk there.
Q: Do you still think there's a case for an English parliament?
A: I'm moderately comfortable. This is a very difficult constitutional area because of the problems of federalism in a state when you've got a huge state and a number of smaller states. What happened immediately after that speech, and largely as a result of that speech, was a Tory policy on English votes, English votes for English business.
Q: Which has now disappeared into the long grass ... [The government is setting up a commission on the West Lothian question later this year]
A: I would certainly try that first. I'm not a radical when it comes to constitutional reform, with one exception. Generally I'm an incrementalist because it's so easy to get it wrong and get unintended consequences.
It's quite some way from his principled and unequivocable stance in 2001.
The people of England deserve no less than the same choice as the peoples of Wales and Scotland last September: a referendum on whether they want a parliament of their own. In their own words, Labour should trust the people - in this case the people of England. An English parliament, on the same basis as the Scottish one, will be the minimum that the English people are likely to be satisfied with.
Which is why people don't like or trust politicians.
Jimmy Young writes in support of an English Parliament.
ST GEORGE’S DAY got me thinking that England has had a pretty rough deal in recent years.
In 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, Ross Parker and Hugh Charles wrote one of England’s most patriotic songs.
They called it There’ll Always Be An England and its message couldn’t be clearer: “There’ll always be an England, and England shall be free, if England means as much to you as England means to me.”
But it won’t be free if the anti-England brigade has its way.
I got to know Ross after the war when I began to make my own way in the music business.
He meant every word of his anthem for England but it wasn’t long before the undermining of England began.
Ted Heath did his bit by signing Britain up to the so-called Common Market even though he knew that was actually the first step towards creating a United States of Europe.
We are now governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
But the specific downgrading and humiliation of England is a nasty, vindictive act committed by our Labour Government.
To secure electoral victory, the votes of Scotland and Wales are essential to Labour.
So, hoping to cement Labour’s popularity in those countries, our Scottish Prime Minister set off down the road to devolution.
Scotland was granted its own Parliament and Wales and Northern Ireland got assemblies.
But, despite making up 85 per cent of the UK population, England got nothing. Indeed, in a further act of spite against the English, Labour tried to chop up England into self-governing regions.
They failed only because a referendum in the North-east rejected the idea.
FOLLOWING devolution we now have the bizarre and unbalanced situation whereby 50 million English are governed by a parliament in which Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on issues that concern only England, even though they cannot vote on the same issues in their own constituencies.
For how much longer will the English put up with being treated as second-class citizens by Labour?
Whenever we discussed this on my radio programme the demand from listeners was for the establishment of an English parliament.
The United Kingdom parliament would deal with UK issues. The English parliament would deal with issues affecting only England.
Labour hates the idea because it would inevitably be weakened. However, the Conservatives have set up a Democracy Task Force to look at the problem. If it recommends the creation of an English Parliament, Labour
will claim that that would break up the Union.
David Cameron should ignore such claims.
Gordon Brown broke up the Union when he pushed through devolution.
An English parliament would reflect the views of the English 85 per cent of the UK population and would balance the existence of the Scottish parliament and the assemblies of Wales and Northern Ireland.
An English Parliament: A Proposal for Fairness & Transparency in a New Constitutional Settlement for Britain
An English Parliament. A Proposal for Fairness & Transparency in a New Constitutional Settlement for Britain
By Jocelyn Ormond
Published by the Bow Group 1999
Some Extracts selected by Don Beadle
3.4.6. Resolving conflicts between parliaments
Federalism would destroy the overall sovereignty of the British Parliament because each legislature in a federal system has to be legally autonomous, sovereign and independent from the others. The practical results of this would be:
- To politicise the judiciary since they would have to determine the competence of each legislature. The result will already, to a lesser extent, be the result of Scottish devolution. Under a federal solution, however, Parliament would have abrogated its right which would be available to it in theory under the existing structure to overturn a judgement which undermined its powers. The judges would have a whip-hand
- To codify the constitution since the judiciary would need to have a clear set of rules and principles to follow in making decisions about where each legislature’s sovereignty should begin and end. In a particular set of circumstances. At present the constitution consists of a variety of laws, conventions and customs, which are widely recognised to form the basis of our constitution. Our constitution has evolved over the course of our history as a result of particular circumstances prevailing at different periods. Any attempt to write down the British constitution in a single document would, however, almost certainly precipitate an attempt by the Left secure radical rewriting of the constitution. Such radical rewriting is, for instance, the core agenda of the political pressure group Charter 88. The question of how the new constitution should be worded would become the subject of fierce political debate, as political parties and other parties argued about which rights and obligations of the ordinary citizen were self-evident. Codification of the constitution would also, as the distinguished nineteenth century jurist Dicey argued, produce a system lacking in the flexibility, which he so admired in the British constitution.
As has been illustrated in the last chapter, proposals for structural reform of Parliament and for devolution to England’s regions fail to meet some or all of our basic criteria, particularly the need to treat the English fairly. Federalism solves the West Lothian question and is fair to the English, but would mean the end to parliamentary sovereignty and politicise the judiciary. What is needed is a solution which retains the basic idea of devolving legislative powers to English and Welsh assemblies but which works with the grain of the existing constitution by retaining parliamentary sovereignty. The answer is to use Scottish devolution as a template to devolution for England and Wales; Britain’s parliament should legislate to create full-scale English and Welsh parliaments.
4.5 The Implications for Overseas Territories.
We have looked at how a comprehensive devolution settlement as proposed in this paper could safeguard the interest of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is worth remembering at this point that the UK has important bonds with the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and those former colonies, which are now dependent territories. Many of the same arguments which apply to the different parts of mainland Britain should apply equally to these islands: the fact that they are geographically removed does not reduce the moral and political force of the principles which this paper has already laid out.