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."
Transcript of Speech by David Wildgoose to the Liberal Democrat Fringe, 2008
The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have all been granted referenda allowing them to decide how they are to relate to the British State.
We believe the English also deserve that same right.
Our aim is an English Parliament.
We don't have a policy on where the Parliament should sit - because that is not for us to decide, it is for the people of England. The people who, whatever their original origin, identify with England and have made England their home and their future. The People of England. The English.
I used the phrase "identify with England" very deliberately, because that sense of identity is crucial. Nationalism is the expression of that identity, and it is important because the nation state is the largest grouping of human beings for which there is a definable "We". People are willing to pull together in the national interest in a way they are not prepared to do in the interests of any larger, more amorphous gatherings. Wartime is probably the most obvious and extreme example, but in these more enlightened times a better example would be the lesser sacrifices that are willingly made to ensure our poor, old and infirm are taken care of. The taxes we pay to educate our children, or to maintain our transport links are paid in the national interest because they are seen to benefit us all. And it goes without saying that when our taxes are handed over to improve roads, infrastructure and so on elsewhere, for example in ...Europe..., then there is widepread resentment. They are "other", they are not "us".
This is a powerful sentiment, this idea of "We", "Us" as opposed to "Them" and "Other". It is not for nothing that "Sinn Fein" means "We Ourselves". For there to be a nation, there has to be a national identity. The people of a nation have to see themselves as "We", sharing a common purpose and a common future, together. Living in the same State, even with the same democratic rights and freedoms as the other members of that state, is simply not enough.
Here in England though, we don't even have that.
In Scotland it is the Scottish Government that decides what is taught in Scottish schools. That decides that Scottish students should not pay tuition fees. That decides that road and bridge tolls should be scrapped.
Here in England there is no English government to decide what England wants. Instead we have a British Government, headed by MPs from outside England, whose constituents are largely unaffected by their decisions. A "British" government telling us what we must do, and even over-ruling us when we, in the form of a majority of MPs from English constituencies, disagree - such as happened with Tuition Fees and also with the imposition of Foundation Hospitals.
The other Home Nations have rejected the Union Parliament in Westminster in favour of self-rule in those matters that most concern ordinary voters. They are different, and they will do things differently.
The English aren't allowed to be different though. We are being told that we are "British", and any attempt to assert an English identity is frowned upon, and actively discouraged if not even suppressed. Schools in England - only - have been instructed to teach "Britishness". And during the last world cup the Deputy Chief Constable of Wales refused to allow the English flag to be displayed, instructing his officers to order their removal. And yet a Welsh flag on the back of a car in England is considered perfectly acceptable.
There is no reason why people should be forced to choose between Britishness and Englishness/Scottishness/Welshness/Whatever. But that is what is happening now. Polls all show a steady rise in separatist attitudes across the UK, most notably in England. A sizeable percentage of the people of England are in now favour of complete Independence for England - as you've just heard Professor Curtice on my right say, around a fifth. Or at the very least, for the ejection of Scotland from the UK. This has not gone unnoticed by Alec Salmond and the SNP who have been gleefully encouraging this viewpoint, aided and abetted by the (Labour) Welsh First Minister who has openly declared that his aim is to "make the English jealous". But what matters with these attitudes amongst the English is the trend. Because ten years ago, nobody would even have thought to ask if the English would want to leave the Union. Now it is a matter of debate.
Henry McLeish, the former First Minister of Scotland, and the man who saw the Scotland Act through Westminster, has just spoken to the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution. He has said that the English need a voice, and that he doesn't think that our current assymmetrical devolution can be sustained. Furthermore, and I quote: "We must move towards some balanced framework, a quasi-federal framework, where it can make some sense rather than the English feeling aggrieved. At the end of the day, their grief and their anger spills over on to us."
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in November 2006 Tony Blair acknowledged that if people in England were asked if they wanted a Parliament like Scotland's they would overwhelmingly agree.
So why haven't we been asked?
Why is this not Liberal Democrat policy?
The other devolved assemblies are all elected by Proportional Representation so as to guarantee that all opinions are properly represented. There is no reason to assume that an English Parliament would be any different. The devolved assemblies deal with the issues that most concern ordinary voters, perhaps as much as 70% of the business of Parliament. There is no reason to assume that an English Parliament would be any different.
I was a founder-member of the Liberal Democrats. If you'd asked me back in 1987 whether I would have been in favour of the matters that most affect the lives of people on a day-to-day basis being dealt with by MPs elected by Proportional Representation, thereby ensuring a strong Liberal Voice in those decisions, then of course I would have said Yes.
So the question I have to ask you is, Why are you not in favour of this?
A political party is a vehicle for like-minded people to influence the direction that society takes. There is an enormous amount to be gained for the first party prepared to stand up for the second-class citizens of the Union, the English. So I have to ask you all, Why is the party that has the most to gain from the creation of an English Parliament not actively campaigning for one?
Extract from the Liberal Democrats policy paper "For the People, By the People", Autumn 2007.
6.3 The English Question
6.3.1 During the 1980s, the Conservative Government used its majority in the House of Commons to force through highly controversial legislation that applied only to Scotland, despite the fact that Scottish support for the Tories had substantially declined. Scottish voters were effectively disenfranchised and increasingly frustrated by the government’s activities. This gave added urgency to the cause of Scottish devolution.
6.3.2 However, devolution to Scotland and Wales has resulted in a new anomaly. Scottish and, to a lesser extent, Welsh MPs can vote in Westminster on legislation that will affect only England. While sometimes the opposite applies, with English MPs voting on legislation only affecting Scotland and Wales, this is far rarer. The issue arises because of the asymmetrical devolution so far introduced in the UK, with the Scottish Parliament having significant law-making powers, the National Assembly for Wales having more control over its own law and policy (though mainly over secondary legislation) and the English having no equivalent separate body.
6.3.3 Some advocate giving powers to an English Parliament as a way of overcoming this anomaly. Others believe that while all MPs elected to the UK Parliament deal with UKwide business, it would be possible for those MPs who represent English constituencies to deal with England only business in a separate forum and as an additional responsibility. To work properly, however, both models would require a separate executive arm for England. Clearly, if a different party were to hold a majority of seats in England to that which had an overall majority in the UK, this would be politically as well as constitutionally imperative.
6.3.4 Such a change would alter significantly the role of the UK Parliament in the affairs of the UK, reducing substantially the policy areas over which it had competence. If an English assembly of some kind were to be established within Westminster, composed solely of UK MPs representing English constituencies, inevitably it would be that assembly which dealt with much of the legislative business. On the Scottish model, the new English legislature and executive would gain power over health, education and training, local government, social work, housing, economic development, many aspects of transport law and home affairs (including, the police and the emergency services), and some policy concerning the environment, agriculture, forestry and fishing, sport and the arts, as well as statistics, public registers and records.
6.3.5 Importantly though, if the English executive were to be established along these lines, UK fiscal, economic and monetary policy would remain with the UK Parliament, with UK MPs deciding the level of taxation for, and allocation of resources to, each part of the Union. It is likely that an English executive, governing a large proportion of the UK in such a wide range of areas, would argue strongly that the UK Parliament should not frustrate its policies by agreeing on a financial settlement which has the consent of the UK Parliament as a whole, but not of a majority of English MPs. We believe this problem would be particularly acute if an English executive were not coupled with the arrangements for fiscal federalism we outline in 6.4, and would still be significant even if it were. It is for these reasons that many feel that a substantial layer of English governance – based, as it would be, on such a disproportionate part of the Union – would bring into serious question the continuing role of the UK Parliament and, by extension, of the UK itself, to which Liberal Democrats in England, Scotland and Wales are firmly committed.
6.3.6 Liberal Democrats want to see, as far as possible, decisions made, and services delivered, as near to the people and communities concerned as possible. To this end our local government policy paper, The Power to be Different, states that local authorities should be “the basic building block of government and public service delivery in England”. However, in the case of decisions and services affecting a large number of communities, or those spread over a large area, it advocates central government handing over powers and responsibilities to regional government. We also state in that paper our support for directly elected regional government in those areas where the public want it.
6.3.7 To this end, there is a wider party and national debate to be had as to whether domestic policy for England should be determined at national level or regional level. For many, England has a distinct national identity and they argue that it would entirely justified for there to be an English Parliament or Assembly and an English executive. Others argue that to devolve power from the UK Parliament, which represents c.60 million people, to an English Parliament, representing c.50 million people, would fail to bring government closer to the people and that instead there should be devolution to the English regions or to even smaller units.
6.3.8 In light of these arguments we believe that further consideration needs to be given to the mechanics and implications of such a constitutional change, and that any proposed change would require the endorsement of the British electorate. That is why we believe that this matter should be part of the remit of the constitutional convention that this paper advocates in chapter 2. The convention’s proposals, which would include a solution to the English question, would then be put to the UK public in the referendum seeking endorsement of the wider constitutional settlement.
6.4 Financial Issues Associated with Devolution
6.4.1 A key challenge of further devolution will be changing the funding system in the UK. The current funding regime throughout the UK is based around grants from Westminster. In the case of both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly their executives have considerable freedom over the use these grants are put to, while in England much of the grants given to local government are ring-fenced and have to be spent on policies defined by central government.
6.4.2 The amount of the grant given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is decided by the Barnett formula, which was a temporary measure introduced ahead of the expected devolution to Scotland in the late 1970s. The Barnett formula does not redistribute wealth between areas of the UK. Rather it links increases or decreases in spending in England to proportional changes in the grants to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It does not decide the overall size of budget or take into account public expenditure need. Indeed it was assumed that devolution would result in the establishment of a more needs-based funding calculation, which never took place due to the no vote in the referendum on a Scottish Parliament in 1979.
6.4.3 Liberal Democrats believe that, as well as devolving political power out from Westminster, fiscal power also needs to be devolved from the Treasury if the UK is to have a genuine federal system. While others propose full fiscal autonomy for the devolved governments (where they would raise all the taxes and then remit an agreed amount to Westminster), no other industrialised country has opted for this for a number of reasons. Fiscal federalism, however, avoids the pitfalls of fiscal autonomy and should give the institutions to which power is devolved substantial control over the levers of power controlling funding. That means the devolved institutions should raise as much of their own spending as practicable, and be able to significantly influence the development of their economy. It would also mean establishing agreed rules on such things as prudential borrowing. An essential element therefore of fiscal federalism is for devolved governments to have powers of taxation. Liberal Democrats endorse the principles of fiscal federalism set out in the Steel Commission report, and believe that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly should have more powers and freedoms to level their own taxes. We are also committed to increasing the percentage of revenue that regional and local authorities in England raise.
6.4.4 How fiscal federalism would work has been considered in detail for Scotland in the Steel Commission report. The Commission concluded that fiscal federalism in Scotland would mean the Scottish Parliament is given responsibility for all taxes except for those reserved to the UK, and that this would include the right to abolish and introduce new devolved taxes. Under these proposals the Scottish Parliament would have the ability to vary the rate and tax base for each devolved tax, and the power to borrow, subject to specific criteria. Were the Steel Commission’s proposals to be extended, the funding powers devolved to each nation and region would be a matter for each to decide and should be considered alongside work on the legislative and policy powers of the directly elected assembly representing it.
6.4.5 As the UK is a diverse country in terms of wealth, income and need, raising a greater proportion of taxation locally means there would have to be an element to redistribution in the interests of national unity and if poorer areas are not forced to have punitively high tax rates or sub-standard services. We believe the Barnett formula should be replaced by a new needs-based equalisation formula – the Revenue Distribution Formula – as set out in Policy Paper 75 Fairer, Simpler, Greener. This would take into account factors such as geography, how rural an area is, health, the state of infrastructure, poverty and deprivation and the cost of delivering services. The Formula would be drawn up by a Finance Commission of the Nations and Regions (FCNR). This would be made up of representatives of the UK government and representatives from the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the London Assembly, plus those from any English regional chambers or assemblies. It would reach its conclusions by consensus and any proposals would be ratified by the respective executive bodies. As well as agreeing the equalisation formula, the FCNR would also be charged with developing work on the whole agenda of fiscal federalism.
THE UNITED Kingdom is embarking on a constitutional revolution. Virtually every aspect of how we govern ourselves is being changed, in some cases fundamentally. And yet, there is a sense that the Government, lacking as it does a logical blueprint for reform, has embarked on a constitutional journey which has all the hallmarks of a mystery tour, to a destination unknown.
The effect of the constitutional changes in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London will inevitably increase their political bargaining power with Westminster. They will lobby hard to retain or increase the proportion of tax revenues which they enjoy. The consequence for the English regions is that - without the political clout which regional government would give - they will lose out.
If we accept that there is a strong case for regional government in the English regions, what form should it take, what powers should it have, and how should it fit in with other, existing levels of government?
We must begin by accepting that the UK's Constitution, even when reformed, will owe more to Heath Robinson than to a Jefferson or Hamilton.
This Government has no coherent vision for a reformed constitution. It is almost proud of the fact. And, in a sense, it is merely following a long British tradition of patch-and-mend pragmatism rather than logical or theoretical blueprints. If we accept a rolling programme of English regional government as part of the patchwork quilt which forms the British constitution, what would regional government in England look like?
The initial powers for regional assemblies would, I suggest, have many similarities with those of the Welsh Assembly, without the powers to make secondary legislation. They would have responsibility for health, education, housing, planning, transport, economic development, sport and the arts. This list immediately raises the question of the region's relationship with local government. There is a potential danger of conflict between the two, particularly if the Government proceeds to enable local authorities to have powerful elected mayors - and recent polling evidence gives strong support to this proposal. But I see the role of the region essentially to be to set out a regional strategy in the policy areas for which it is responsible, and to take over from the unelected and barely accountable regional offices of government departments the responsibility for ensuring that government expenditure is used to best effect. This would permit greater flexibility to respond to regional needs.
A regional assembly would of course be elected, and there are the usual compelling arguments for doing this by STV [single transferable vote] in multi-member constituencies. Should the assembly have tax-raising powers? The arguments for doing so are very strong. Tax-raising power is at the heart of all political power and, if regional assemblies really are going to have some degree of independence from Whitehall, an ability to raise at least part of their revenue directly has great appeal. The range of taxes which could be deployed sensibly at regional level is, however, quite limited.
The Scottish Parliament will be up and running in six months' time. Belatedly, English parliamentarians are scurrying round trying to agree the response. The Conservatives are half proposing a separate English Parliament which would mirror the Scottish Parliament. I would strongly oppose a new English Parliament. It would run the risk of becoming a depository of chauvinistic English nationalism of the worst kind.
Equally, I do not believe that it will be acceptable to English MPs - or Lords - to have Scottish participation in debates and votes on English (or English and Welsh) legislation. The resolution of this problem is, I believe, to be found using the model which Liberal Democrats use. Each debate at conference is either a federal or an English debate. When it is a Federal debate everyone can participate. In an English debate, only English representatives can. The same procedure should be adopted at Westminster.
How do we achieve regional government? It will not come without a struggle. This Government is not committed to it, and the Tories are opposed.
Some commentators are coming round. Jeremy Paxman, in his book on the English, concludes: "New nationalism is less likely to be based on flags and anthems. It is modest, individualistic, ironic, concerned with cities and regions as with counties and countries. In an age of decaying nation states it might be the nationalism of the future." But then, Jeremy Paxman is a Yorkshireman!
Lord Dick Newby warns on the dangers of the English (Independent, Tuesday, 5 January 1999)
The South West Wiltshire Liberal Democrats report:
The Campaign to Re-open Trowbridge Driving Test Centre has written to the Equalities Commission alleging that the government's closure of Test Centres in England whilst at the same time intervening to save a couple of Test Centres in Scotland constitutes discrimination.
The campaign says that the criteria used by the Driving Standards Agency to close centres should apply in the same way in England and Scotland, and that the reprieve for the Scottish centres is based on a desire to appease Scottish MPs whilst English MPs and other activists fighting to save test centres have been ignored.
"It strongly appears the Scots are being given favourable treatment over the English in this issue," said campaign leader Gary Fossey. The SNP's Mike Weir was able to get a change of policy after putting in a question to the Prime Minister. Years of campaigning in Trowbridge and other parts of England have met with no positive response from ministers, despite the case for averting closure being stronger than in Scotland.
No, your eyes do not deceive you, that's the South West Wiltshire Liberal Democrats.
Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams has secured a debate on making St David's Day a public holiday in Wales, to take place the day before Wales votes in a referendum on whether to have a law-making parliament.
In 2000, the National Assembly voted in favour of making March 1 a public holiday, but the idea was blocked by Westminster.
The debate will now take place on March 2 after being secured by Ceredigion Lib Dem MP Mark Williams.
He said: “St David’s Day has massive cultural and historical significance in Wales and there have been calls for a public holiday for many years, so it is a real honour to make the case to the Government.
“A St David’s Day holiday would be a great opportunity to showcase our culture and heritage and could provide a boost to tourism.
Why not vote for a law-making parliament and make St David's Day a public holiday whether Westminster likes it or not?
An English Liberal Democrat MP is busy securing a debate on a St George's Day holiday as I type.
And in other news, a cow jumped over the moon.
The Scottish Lib Dems claim credit for having ensured in the early years of devolution that up-front tuition fees were abolished in Scotland. More recently they provided the SNP with the votes needed to axe the graduate endowment.
But universities in England were amongst the big losers yesterday. The coalition made it clear that as and when students in England start to pay higher fees, so the grant from Whitehall to universities will be cut, more or less pound for pound. Thanks to the Barnett formula that cut will be reflected in the money Holyrood receives too.
This leaves Scottish Lib Dems with a tough choice. Do they announce that, in tandem with their colleagues down south, they have abandoned their commitment to one of the icons of devolution, free university tuition? Or do they argue that Scotland should find the now even greater sum required to sustain free tuition by taking an even bigger hit than England somewhere else in the extremely tight Holyrood budget? Neither choice seems likely to be politically palatable.
The more politically palatable alternative would be for the Scottish Lib Dems to stick to their principles and argue for the system of fiscal federalism outlined in the Steel Commission. The impact of English budget cuts on the Scottish university sector should provide the Scottish Lib Dems with a great example with which to advance the arguments in favour of fiscal federalism, but do they have the balls to do so?
Scottish MP Charles Kennedy is doing a Braveheart, leading the revolt against the planned tuition fee hike in England, in defence of Scotland's interests.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy appeared to be leading the revolt last night against the coalition government’s plans to lift the cap on university fees in England.
The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber acted as student leaders warned that Scottish universities could suffer if the radical plans proposed by former BP boss Lord Browne are backed.
Do I detect a certain schadenfreude among the English that 'English reforms' may have a devastating effect on the Scottish university sector?
...as I am aware no equivalent in Gaelic, or for that matter in English, to the word schadenfreude, a useful German expression meaning to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. But it is not an emotion exclusive to the Germans.
Do I detect a certain schadenfreude among Scots at the apparent current turmoil among the English over their sense of national identity? If so, it is given extra savour because that crisis of identity is provoked at least in part by the creation of the Parliament in Scotland and the Assembly in Wales. Suddenly it is Scotland which is forging ahead in a grand constitutional experiment, and England which is poring over its national navel and asking: who are we ... and why?
Charles Kennedy: Lecture to the Scottish Council Foundation, 30 June, 1999
Ah yes, there was a time when asymmetric devolution appeared to have no downside for Charles Kennedy:
Scotland has a Parliament.
Wales an Assembly.
Northern Ireland, soon I hope, a working Assembly too.
In England, regionalism is growing as never before.
Calling into question, as it happens, the idea of England itself.
In the process of devolution, we are creating throughout Britain, a new way of doing things.
Just look at what I can’t talk to you about today.
In the past, a Federal leader could come to Scottish conference and wax lyrical about all the dreadful things that were being done to our education system in Westminster.
MSPs, in a Scottish government, in a Scottish Parliament, answerable only to the people of Scotland, decide our education policy.
So you’ll not hear anything from me today on that subject.
And that’s as it should be.
Charles Kennedy: Speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, Dunfermline, 16th October, 1999
Yes, that is the way it should be, so piss off Charlie.
The following press release was put out by the Lib Dems on their website yesterday. I've highlighted a few words in red.
£1 Billion fund to help regional business Tue, 29 Jun 2010
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today launched a £1 Billion Regional Growth Fund to help areas and communities at risk of being particularly affected by public spending cuts. The fund, which will operate in 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 will help areas most dependent on public sector employment as the country makes the transition to private sector-led growth and prosperity. Both private bodies and public-private partnerships will be able to bid for funding by demonstrating that their proposal will bring in private investment and support sustainable increases in private sector jobs and growth in their area.
Speaking in Bradford after the first Coalition Cabinet meeting outside of London today, Nick Clegg said:
"While we sort out the nation's finances we can also help to foster a thriving and more balanced economy so that no region or community gets left behind.
"The Regional Growth Fund will create the conditions for growth and enterprise in the regions by stimulating investment and create sustainable private sector jobs.
"Alongside our commitment to waive some employment taxes for new businesses starting up in targeted regions of the country, this fund can make a real difference to companies during difficult times."
Nick Clegg also set out plans for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that will bring together councils and business on an equal footing with one voice, replacing the current Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). In a joint letter sent to councils and business leaders today, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles have asked them to consider forming new Local Enterprise Partnerships that can provide strategic leadership in their local areas and create the right environment for business success and economic growth.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary said:
"We are determined to rebalance the economy towards the private sector, so it's important we create a more effective structure to drive economic growth and development across the country."
All very interesting, as I think you'll agree. But I have some questions: The areas, communities and regions of where; to which nation - England or the United Kingdom - is this press release applicable?
Call me suspicious, but the absence of any named territory in this press release, along with use of the ambiguous 'the country', leads me to conclude that it is most probably a press release that is applicable to England alone.
I emailed the English Liberal Democrats to ask what their position was on St George's Day.
Dear English Liberal Democrats,
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are working to ensure that St Davids Day is made a national holiday in Wales. Could you tell me if the English Liberal Democrats have a policy on St George's Day or whether the English Lib Dems are working to ensure that St George's Day is made a national holiday in England?
Sadly the reply was entirely predictable.
I have asked Geoff Payne for an answer on this. He is the English Party's elected representative on the Federal Policy Committee.
This is his reply :
"The English Liberal Democrats confer its policy making functions on the Federal Party. Therefore, the policy of the party in England is made by the Federal Conference. Some motions have federal applicability whilst others are marked 'England only'. I know of no policy that deals with St. George's Day that has been passed by conference and I have to say that I know of no campaign either."