Researhers at SENSEable City Lab have phone-mapped Britain to find it's regions of interconnectivity, and they discovered that Scotland was the least connected to the rest of Britain.
Good news for Wessex regionalists but bad news for Welsh and Cornish separatists?
Based on the map above, the North East of England was the only administrative region of England that has a sense of itself.
Economist article here.
Some unidentified senior EU Commission director:
It is an odd situation. England is probably the largest bulk of population in the EU that is not devolved into regions, that is governed so centrally. Remarkable, really.
It's also the largest, some would say only, nation in the EU not to have its own national parliament. Remarkable, really.
Following is a written statement from Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, issued 22nd July 2010.
In our first two months in government we have demonstrated our commitment to localism, decentralisation and rolling back regional government in England. We have announced the abolition of Regional Development Agencies, abolished the Regional Strategies, ended funding for the Regional Leaders' Boards (the successors to the Regional Assemblies) and are closing the Government Office for London.
We have taken these steps because they are right in principle and as part of a fundamental transfer of power from central Government down to local councils and down further to local communities. We have done so to reduce spending on bureaucracy and protect front-line services against the backdrop of an unsustainable budget deficit and national debt.
We do not believe the arbitrary government regions to be a tier of administration that is efficient, effective or popular. Citizens across England identify with their county, their city, their town, their borough and their neighbourhood. We should recognise that the case for elected regional government was overwhelmingly rejected by the people in the 2004 North East Referendum. Unelected regional government equally lacks democratic legitimacy, and its continuing existence has created a democratic deficit.
In the Coalition's Programme for Government we said we would consider the case for abolition of the eight remaining Government Offices.
I am announcing today the Government's intention in principle to abolish the remaining eight Government Offices, subject to the satisfactory resolution of consequential issues through the Spending Review.
The final decisions on the future of the Government Offices, including arrangements for closure and for the transfer of on-going functions, will be made at the end of the Spending Review in the autumn.
The Government Offices are not a legal entity. They act on behalf of 13 Government Departments and are staffed by Civil Servants from these Departments. Communities and Local Government is the biggest contributor to Government Offices providing 41 per cent and 33 per cent of funds and staff respectively in 2010/11. The Home Office; Departments for Education; Business, Innovation and Skills; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Transport are also employers of Government Office staff.
We are making good progress with our programme of radical reform to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on local authorities and businesses, including removing the inflated local government performance regime and doing away with the unnecessary regional tier. Consequently many of the functions Government Offices undertook are no longer necessary. By announcing our intention in principle now, we will further progress our programme of reform, allow staff, councils and departments to take account of this, and make an earlier start in the Spending Review on securing savings for the public purse.
I believe that the original intentions behind the establishment of the Government Offices for the Regions (to join up different Departmental teams outside London into a 'one stop shop) have been lost. Such functions are no longer necessary in an internet age and given the Coalition Government's commitment to genuine decentralisation and devolution of power.
There are, however, some Government Office functions, such as arrangements for resilience and civil contingencies, which will need to continue. The Spending Review process will be used to test which activities currently carried out by the Government Offices should continue, and to decide the most cost-effective on-going arrangements.
The Spending Review will also consider arrangements for the redeployment or release of Government Office staff, and for sharing as appropriate the savings, costs, assets and liabilities arising from the decision.
We should be clear: the Government Offices are not voices of the region in Whitehall. They have become agents of Whitehall to intervene and interfere in localities, and are a fundamental part of the 'command and control' apparatus of England's over-centralised state.
The new look BBC website predictably regionalises England into arbitrary and artificial regions.
But what's interesting is the fact that the BBC has ditched the Government and EU's arbitrary regions in favour of it's own arbitrary regions. More sensibly London is now a part of the South East and Oxfordshire has been ejected. Oxfordshire never really had any real relationship with counties like Sussex, Essex and Kent; Oxfordshire sits far more comfortably with the likes of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, at least to those of us with any sense of place and appreciation of English landscape and culture. But surprisingly the BBC have chosen to lump Oxfordshire in with Dorset and Hampshire.
What would make real sense would be for the BBC to forget about regions altogether and just use English counties. If Northern Ireland (population 1,775,000) can have its own BBC, then why can't Kent (population 1,406,600) or Yorkshire (3,978,484) or Sussex (population 1,392,737)? I don't have any objection to counties being lumped together where there's a good marriage (East & West Sussex, Hereford and Worcester, Norfolk and Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall), but I fail to see the point or purpose of these fake regions, whether governmental or BBC.
Elliot Bulmer and Eva Dominguez have written a "Model Constitution", brought to my attention by Elliot's post on Our Kingdom. Don't get me wrong, Elliot's constitution has some good points, but this bit is not one of them:
Article 75 – Regional Authorities
1. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as the Regions of England, shall possess autonomous legislative, executive and fiscal powers, acting through an elected Regional Assembly and a Regional Executive, in accordance with the terms of this Constitution:
(i) The Regional Assembly for Scotland shall be the Scottish Parliament, as created by the Scotland Act, 1998.
(ii) The Regional Assembly for Wales shall be the Welsh National Assembly, as created by the Government of Wales Acts, 1998 and 2006.
(iii) The Regional Assembly for Northern Ireland shall be the Northern Ireland Assembly, as created by the Northern Ireland Act, 1998.
(iv) The Regional Assembly for Greater London shall be the London Assembly, as created by the Greater London Authority Act, 1999.
(v) The Regional Assemblies for all other Regions of England shall be created by Acts of Parliament, to be passed within six months after ratification of this Constitution. Each such Assembly shall consist of not less than fifty and not more than one hundred members, chosen by the people, by the Mixed Member Proportional system, for a four-year term.
2. The Regional institutions established under the aforesaid laws shall not be limited, restricted or abolished by any subsequent Acts of Parliament, nor shall the provisions of any Act relating to the establishment or operation any Regional Assembly be amended or repealed, but on the proposal of, or with the consent of, the Regional Assembly concerned.
3. Each Regional Assembly (except for the Greater London Assembly) shall operate as a parliamentary system. The Assembly shall nominate one of its members as First Minister or Premier, who shall be formally appointed by the King (or Queen), to lead the regional executive; the First Minister or Premier shall be responsible to the Regional Assembly.
Elliot states that this "offers Scotland secure autonomy within a federalised UK".
But in offering Scotland 'secure autonomy' the authors have succeed in offering the exact opposite to England. Under their plan England is subjected to perpetual balkanisation, and has no national voice whatsoever.
It would be fair to say that this is a typically Scottish solution, one that Gordon Brown himself would approve of.
I have a proposal for Elliot. Let's split Scotland into two federal units, both with autonomous legislative, executive and fiscal powers - and then we'll have a vote on ratifying your constitution.
On Sunday Kenny Farquharson had an article in Scotland on Sunday in which he made a very valid point about the Calman Commission:
And why is Calman trying to wear such a bewildering array of hats? Why is he taking the position of the Englishman who is concerned about the high level of public spending north of the border? Or pondering the dilemma faced by UK Government ministers on how to give different parts of Britain a fair share of public spending? Surely these are matters beyond Calman's competence? Doesn't this risk a very real backlash from south of the border as the English express their resentment at 14 Scots deciding what is best for them?
Yes, there probably will be a backlash. But most probably because Calman has, for the most part, ignored representations from England. If the Scottish Parliament wanted a Commission without input from the English then it should have been funded by Scottish money. But since we English financed it, or at least most of it, the report should have included far far more of the English perspective.
Farquharson's suggestion that the constitutional debate needed to include "voices from the English regions" drew predictable objections along the lines of "England is a country, and no more a collections of so-called 'regions' than is Scotland." Surprisingly, and to his credit, Farquharson responded:
Very interested in the comments about the English regions. Yes, I accept the move towards regional assemblies in England is dead in the water.
I spent some time in Newcastle during the campaign leading up to the referendum that was held in the North-East, and the opposition was overwhelming.
But the posts that insist England has one single tier of government are wrong - it has a dozen or so regions, each run by an unelected civil servant who acts like a US-style Governor.
They are anononymous, but extremely powerful. And each of these Governors has a budget from the Treasury.
Whether or not this tier of government is brought under democratic control, there is still a debate to be had about how each regions' share of UK public spending is allocated.
I imagine this will happen in tandem with deciding a funding mechanism for Scotland.
The Barnett Formula doesn't allocate money to "regions", it allocates money to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a percentage of what is spent in England. Extending the Barnett Formula to cover English regional spending might suit the centralising instincts of the UK Government, but it's no equitable or transparent way of going about matters.
When asked to deconstruct the suggestion that the Calman Commission threatens to undermine Scottish "values and beliefs" Farquharson came back with this:
Scotland is more collectivist than England, and it has a greater adherence to the idea of the Welfare State.
Those were the values I was talking about.
I don't believe at all that Scotland is morally superior to England.
I believe, for example, that England - in general - is a far more tolerant country than Scotland, with a greater belief in the idea of fairness.
Spot on. Which is why it's ridiculous to bind Scotland to English spending commitments, and why it's also ridiculous for English taxpayers to contribute more to Scottish welfare than they would spend on their own.
Farquharson also believes that devolution-max will weaken the Scottish separatist's case:
"...continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom."
Calman is reading this in a curious way.
My interpretation, which I think is the general view, is that Scotland's position within the Union will be secured only when Scotland's small-n nationalist instincts are satisfied.
Diehard Unionists seem to have a view that devolution is a zero-sum game - that every extra power given from Westminster to Holyrood weakens the Union and strengthens the SNP.
In fact the opposite is the case. Only a much stronger form of devolution can save the Union.
I happen to agree. But the problem is that devolution-max for Scotland moves power away from Westminster in a way that damages English voters. The problem becomes not Scotland's place in the union, but England's. Scottish MPs become more pointless than ever, and Westminster looks less like a Union parliament and more like an English parliament each day.
A reply from Theresa May:
Thank you for writing to me regarding the vote on regional select committees that was defeated in Parliament last Wednesday so narrowly. It was very disappointing to be beaten so narrowly but I was encouraged that it was such a close vote against a Labour party that holds such a large majority.
Concerning the West Lothian question, I firmly believe that it is wrong that many MPs are in the position of legislating for those to whom they are not accountable, while being unable to legislate for those to whom they are accountable. This is an issue that Labour has, irresponsibly and perhaps not without self-interest, been determined to avoid. In contrast, the Conservatives have been committed to addressing it ever since devolution was established in 1999. We have said that leaving the West Lothian Question unanswered not only stood in the way of fully accountable and fair government for England but also put at risk the Union that exists between, and gives considerable benefit to, all the constituent countries of the UK.
It is for these reasons that the Conservative Party asked its Democracy Taskforce to devise an answer to the West Lothian Question. The Taskforce, chaired by the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP, has now published its report. The report proposes restricting to English MPs alone, the power to vote in the stages of the legislative process in the House of Commons where the detail of the England-only Bills is worked out. This would protect England from having measures that a majority of English MPs found unacceptable being imposed upon it as a consequence of non-English votes. It is cases where this has happened that have created the resentment of devolution that exists in England. The Taskforce's proposed solution would retain the ability of the whole House of Commons to vote on the final stages of the Bill (when its detail has already been decided), in order to give the UK Government the choice of accepting any amendments made by the English MPs alone or having the Bill voted down and lost. This was recommended to ensure that we can have a functioning Government, without intolerable political instability.
I believe the Taskforce has presented a thoughtful and persuasive answer to the West Lothian Question. One which, crucially, seeks to ensure that legislation affecting England alone should have the consent of of England's representatives. The publication of the Taskforce report shows that the Conservatives are setting the agenda on this issue. The Shadow Cabinet is now examining the report as part of its consideration of the precise formulation of the answer to the West Lothian Question that we are committed to giving in our next manifesto.
Once again, thank you for writing to me.
Dear Ms May,
Thank you for your letter (18 Nov) outlining your views on the West Lothian Question.
I must disagree with you that the English are resentful of devolution. What we are resentful of is the lack of devolution to England. And unfortunately Ken Clarke's "solution" does not remedy the problem.
Under Clarke's scheme the English will be denied the affirmative expression of national identity afforded to the Scots; instead UK MPs elected in England will speak for England only negatively - by wrecking UK Government legislation at Committee Stage.
Essentially the scheme rests on the principle of two competing vetos. MPs elected in England (assumed to be acting in the interest of England, even though they are elected on a UK manifesto) can veto the legislation of the UK Government. In return the UK Parliament which selects the Government, and is comprised from MPs returned from all four corners, can at the Third Stage veto any changes that English MPs voted for at the Report Stage. In this way, if the English have transformed the bill to a manner that is acceptable to the English, the government can abort the legislation. And you think that fair?
Why should Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs be permitted to overturn the will of English MPs? Also, why should Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs have any say in the passage of any bill that pertains to England? And why should they have any input into the drafting of a Government bill; surely England has the right to its own government to seek English solutions to English problems?
You are denying the English a for-ourselves political expression, whilst the Scots and Welsh are in-and-for-themselves: In our parliament, voting on English matters; and in their own parliaments, for themselves. You may say that the WLQ stands in the way of "fully accountable and fair government for England", but the truth is that 'government' relates to the executive branch, and there cannot be any government for England whilst England lacks its own executive. Instead we will have government of England for the United Kingdom.
Clarke's scheme is a convoluted and crude technical device that attempts to right the democratic deficit brought about by the absence of English government. It attempts to solve the West Lothian Question whilst leaving the English Question completely unanswered. And there's a good reason for that. The only people that can answer the English Question are the people of England, and it is us, not Ken Clarke or the Conservative Party, that should decide how we wish England to be governed. Ken Clarke believes that the English Question and the West Lothian Question are in essence the same, and by mitigating the WLQ he will dissipate the EQ.
It doesn't work like that, England deserves no less than Scotland, and you will be doing England a great disservice by supporting Clarke's solution.
Robert Hazell in a speech to the Constitution Unit:
The fundamental difficulty is the sheer size of England by comparison with the rest of the UK . England with four fifths of the population would be hugely dominant. On most domestic matters the English parliament would be more important than the Westminster parliament. No federation has operated successfully where one of the units is so dominant. In the post-war German federal constitution of 1949, Prussia was deliberately broken up into five or six different states to prevent it being disproportionately large and dominating the new Germany . Although all federations have some units much larger than others, as a general rule no federal unit is greater than around one third of the whole, to avoid it dominating the rest. If this logic were accepted, England would need to be broken up into smaller units for a federal solution to work – something which is anathema to the Campaign for an English Parliament.
You'd have a hard time finding a more honest appraisal of the rationale behind regionalism.
The CEP got it wrong when they claimed that the votes of 33 Scottish MPs, including Gordon Brown, had imposed regional committees on England. Gordon Brown didn't vote. He rarely does. And according to my sums Division 319 had 22 non-English constituency MPs voting against it (Irish 5, Scots 10, Welsh 7) and 47 non-English constituency MPs voting to impose regional committees on England (Welsh 25, Scots 22).
The motion was won by 30 votes, so the votes of foreigners did not prove decisive.
However, Theresa May tabled a wrecking amendment (Division 317) to force the House to vote on whether to remove the sections from the Government’s motion which related to regional select committees, so that the motion would only indicate approval for regional grand committees. The House divided 233 in favour of the motion and 250 against. The amendment was therefore not carried. But on this amendment the votes on non-English MPs did prove decisive.
Every single Scottish Labour MP that voted cast their vote against Ms May's amendment, as did all the Welsh Labour MPs bar one (Paul Flynn, Newport).
The Scottish and Welsh Lib Dems, the Ulster Unionists, the Scottish and Welsh Tories and Plaid MPs voted for the amendment.
This was pure gerrymandering by Labour. And these Scottish and Welsh MPs that voted against scuppering undemocratic English regional select committees, will now - in theory - be allowed to sit on them, proving just how undemocratic they are.
Below is a table that shows the votes on non-English constituency MPs (Bold shows no votes, Labour in Red).
|Gregory Campbell||East Londonderry||DUP||aye||NI|
|Nigel Dodds||Belfast North||DUP||aye||NI|
|William McCrea||South Antrim||DUP||aye||NI|
|Peter Robinson||Belfast East||DUP||aye||NI|
|David Simpson||Upper Bann||DUP||aye||NI|
|Sammy Wilson||East Antrim||DUP||aye||NI|
|David Mundell||Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale||Con (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Danny Alexander||Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|John Barrett||Edinburgh West||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Menzies Campbell||Fife North East||LDem||aye||Scot|
|Charles Kennedy||Ross, Skye & Lochaber||LDem||aye||Scot|
|Michael Moore||Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Alan Reid||Argyll & Bute||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Willie Rennie||Dunfermline & Fife West||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Jo Swinson||East Dunbartonshire||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|John Thurso||Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross||LDem (front bench)||aye||Scot|
|Douglas Alexander||Paisley & Renfrewshire South||Lab (minister)||no||Scot|
|Gordon Banks||Ochil & Perthshire South||Lab (PPS)||no||Scot|
|Russell Brown||Dumfries & Galloway||Lab||no||Scot|
|Katy Clark||Ayrshire North & Arran||Lab||no||Scot|
|Michael Connarty||Linlithgow & Falkirk East||Lab||no||Scot|
|Alistair Darling||Edinburgh South West||Lab (minister)||no||Scot|
|Ian Davidson||Glasgow South West||Lab||no||Scot|
|Nigel Griffiths||Edinburgh South||Lab||no||Scot|
|Jimmy Hood||Lanark & Hamilton East||Lab||no||Scot|
|Mark Lazarowicz||Edinburgh North & Leith||Lab||no||Scot|
|Thomas McAvoy||Rutherglen & Hamilton West||Lab (minister)||no||Scot|
|John McFall||West Dunbartonshire||Lab||no||Scot|
|James McGovern||Dundee West||Lab (PPS)||no||Scot|
|Ann McKechin||Glasgow North||Lab (minister)||no||Scot|
|Rosemary McKenna||Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East||Lab||no||Scot|
|Anne Moffat||East Lothian||Lab||no||Scot|
|John Robertson||Glasgow North West||Lab||no||Scot|
|Frank Roy||Motherwell & Wishaw||Lab (minister)||no||Scot|
|Mohammad Sarwar||Glasgow Central||Lab||no||Scot|
|Jim Sheridan||Paisley & Renfrewshire North||Lab||no||Scot|
|Gavin Strang||Edinburgh East||Lab||no||Scot|
|Stephen Crabb||Preseli Pembrokeshire||Con||aye||Wales|
|David Jones||Clwyd West||Con (front bench)||aye||Wales|
|Paul Flynn||Newport West||Lab||aye||Wales|
|Roger Williams||Brecon & Radnorshire||LDem (front bench)||aye||Wales|
|Jennifer Willott||Cardiff Central||LDem (front bench)||aye||Wales|
|Elfyn Llwyd||Meirionnydd Nant Conwy||PC (front bench)||aye||Wales|
|Adam Price||Carmarthen East & Dinefwr||PC (front bench)||aye||Wales|
|Dai Davies||Blaenau Gwent||Ind||no||Wales|
|Nick Ainger||Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire||Lab||no||Wales|
|Chris Bryant||Rhondda||Lab (PPS)||no||Wales|
|Wayne David||Caerphilly||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|Nia Griffith||Llanelli||Lab (PPS)||no||Wales|
|David Hanson||Delyn||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|Huw Irranca-Davies||Ogmore||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|Siân James||Swansea East||Lab||no||Wales|
|Ian Lucas||Wrexham||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|Alun Michael||Cardiff South & Penarth||Lab||no||Wales|
|Madeleine Moon||Bridgend||Lab (PPS)||no||Wales|
|Julie Morgan||Cardiff North||Lab||no||Wales|
|Paul Murphy||Torfaen||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|Albert Owen||Ynys Môn||Lab||no||Wales|
|Mark Tami||Alyn & Deeside||Lab (minister)||no||Wales|
|John Smith||Vale of Glamorgan||Lab||no||Wales|
Theresa May explained her opposition to the regional select committees:
To plug the regional accountability gap, we need go no further than setting up regional Grand Committees, which would give every Member in a region the opportunity to make their views known about what was being done by bodies in their region. Every part of a region would be represented, and we would avoid the position that could arise with the regional Select Committees, whereby people from outside the region may be included to maintain the Government’s majority. The Grand Committees would not need to meet so often, and their running costs would be significantly lower than those of the regional Select Committees.
Why did Scottish and Welsh Labour members object to that? And what right do they have to object to it?
For more on this see Regional Accountability at Westminster (pdf)
UPDATE: Oh yes, and do remember that if you vote against a select committee you can't sit on it.
As reported by the Mail, the taxpayer is going to be landed with a £1.5M bill to pay for eight new regional committees to oversee Labour's unwanted regional quangocracy. Our money will be hived off to pay for an increase in 'Elite MPs' wages, extra bureaucrats and their expense accounts.
The vote on whether this should go ahead will happen today, and Iain Dale has a cunning plan:
The Conservatives have already said they will abolish the undemocratic regional assemblies. If they are being consistent they will not only commit to abolishing these regional select committees, they will refuse to serve on them in the first place.
It sounds good in theory but the Conservatives had previously offered, and then failed to withdraw, their patronage of unelected regional assemblies, so I see no reason why they will act any differently in this case. Instead Cameron will put party interests ahead of the interests of England and instruct his MPs to take Gordon's shilling.
Wankers the lot of them.
Without any manifesto authorisation and any public consultation [Gordon Brown] is setting up ‘regional committees of MPs’ for England, each with 9 MPs, each representing the 9 EU regional divisions of England, which have no roots in England’s local government history. They are 20th century EU artefacts. The real local government history of England is its historic counties and its great cities.
Gordon Brown’s purpose is both to invent a pseudo solution to the West Lothian Question and to terminate the historic national unity and identity of the English nation.
The CEP isn't entirely correct because there are no plans for London to have a regional committee given that it already has a 'devolved' assembly, a fact that has sparked 'outrage' amongst Labour MPs now that the England's capital is in Tory hands:
MPs point out that the GLA has no powers over health, education or economic policy and the capital will have no way to hold Minister for London Tony McNulty to account.
What a fucking asymmetric piecemeal-reform-on-the-back-of-an-envelope mess. Why do we allow these cretinous shits to balkanise England in this way? When are we, the English, going to be asked how we wish our country to be governed?