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Mr. Gill: Does my hon. Friend accept that, for the governance of this country and for respect for the law, all the people must acquiesce in the law-making process and in the laws that are made? Are not the circumstances in which the Government have chosen to make laws for the regions of this country, without the acquiesence of the vast majority of the people who live in England, destined to lead to the tensions that he is describing?

Mr. Luff: My hon. Friend is entirely right. In fact he probably understates the position. Popular support and enthusiasm--not just sullen acquiescence--for these institutions are essential if they are to flourish in our democracy.

The problem is that these issues are not understood by the Government--a Government dominated by Scots and Welsh Members. I have no complaint about that. I like Scots and Welsh representation in this place. I welcome it. I would rather have it maintained on its current basis than changed.

The Government are also dominated by northerners. Again, I have no objection to that, as this is the Government whom the people voted for. However,

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even within those areas, matters are not as clear cut as the Government would have us believe. Highlanders in Scotland take a rather different view from lowlanders. The people of north and south Wales--indeed those on the borders of England--all take a rather different view about the Welsh Assembly. Cumbria has precious little in common with Liverpool or Newcastle, and--coming further south--Cornwall certainly has nothing to do with Bournemouth, into whose regional assembly it will be placed.

In the rest of the country, where English Tory Members of Parliament are still the norm, there is no sense of region at all. None of my constituents thinks of himself for one moment as a west midlander. Many of them work in Birmingham, in the black country. Some were born there. The hon. Member for Dudley, North represents a constituency that was part of Worcestershire, but now, sadly, it is divorced from it through earlier, misguided change. We would like to have Dudley back some day--perhaps we could discuss it after this debate--if only for the beer.

We are deeply suspicious of the west midlands conurbation, and with good reason: the regional executive of the national health service delayed, for more than 30 years, a new hospital for Worcester. The executive is based in Birmingham and is preoccupied with the problems of Birmingham. Worcester has been denied its hospital. That will be the price of regional assemblies and RDAs on issue after issue.

We are proud of being Worcestershire men and women. We are proud of being English, of being British. I write my nationality in hotel registers as British, not English. My house in Worcestershire is in middle England. I have a view across the Malverns, which were the inspiration of Elgar, who wrote, of course, "Land of Hope and Glory". The English civil wars began and ended in Worcestershire. The creator of parliamentary democracy, Simon de Montfort, died in my constituency, at Evesham, 700 years ago, at the battle of Evesham. Bad King John, reluctant signatory to the Magna Carta, lies buried in Worcester cathedral. We are at the heart of English history, and we associate with both our county and our country, and also with our kingdom. We are proud of all of them.

Westminster is about to change. Quite soon, all parts of the kingdom will be able to take decisions that affect only England.

Mr. Mackinlay: Two kingdoms.

Mr. Luff: Indeed. There will effectively be two kingdoms.

Soon we will not be able to influence the same important decisions in other parts of the United Kingdom. They will be able to vote on our business, while we may not vote on theirs. They will expect to have more of their money, while we will have no say on how it is spent. It will not do, and nor will the Government's regional assemblies.

There are two solutions: the first is the subject of the Bill; the second is, perhaps, less radical and more quickly deliverable. We on the Opposition Benches are not imposing an English Parliament on reluctant people.

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We are asking, "Do you want one?" On the basis of the Welsh referendum result, I would have said that the Welsh do not want their assembly, and would not have proceeded with that legislation. The same result for an English Parliament would tell me that people do not want an English Parliament either, and that we should give up and go home. That would be the result of such a pathetic turnout and ridiculously small majority.

Understandably--and perfectly reasonably--the Bill is silent on the precise functions, responsibilities and even location of the new English Parliament proposed in it. However, before putting the question to the vote, we must be clearer--as, to be fair, the Government were--about the precise shape of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. What would it resemble more: the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly? The question answers itself. Given the size of this country, it would have to be more like the Scottish Parliament, with similar powers and responsibilities. What would Northern Ireland and Wales say about that? What would they say about the over-representation within the kingdom of England, as they would, I think legitimately, see it?

Therefore, I advocate a more radical approach: not the federal Europe which is offered implicitly in regional assemblies but--I use the word "federal" hesitatingly and reluctantly--a true federal United Kingdom. It is not my ideal, it is not what I want--I prefer what we have had for hundreds of years--but I believe that that is the only course along which I can be driven by the logic, or illogic, of what the Government are doing.

Mr. Gill: Does my hon. Friend accept that there might be an argument for this very radical Government in their approach to constitutional affairs to go the whole hog: to abolish the House of Lords entirely, install a British Parliament in the other place and dedicate this Chamber to the English Parliament?

Mr. Luff: That is an interesting idea. I cannot respond off the cuff to such an imaginative, radical and creative idea, but at least it is fresh thinking, and I promise my hon. Friend to give it serious consideration. That is the type of issue that we should be debating, because the constitution of this country will and must change, and it must do so in the best interests of all of us.

However, my suggestion is that we should have an English Parliament, with similar powers to those of the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Let the component parts of the kingdom have equal devolution of decision making. Each country should have a Parliament with exactly the same devolved responsibilities. The kingdom would have a Parliament, too, to deal with those issues that the kingdom Parliament reserves to it--probably along the lines of the Scottish break-up of powers between the Westminster Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, reserving to the kingdom Parliament defence, foreign policy, macro-economic policy and so on.

We could either have separate membership of those two Parliaments, with two Members of Parliament for each constituency, one for the national Parliament and one for the kingdom parliament, or, as I would prefer, one Member of Parliament could represent each constituency in both Parliaments. In the latter case, the members from the component parts of the kingdom would have to bear in mind constantly the interests of the whole kingdom during their term of office, so I would advocate that alternative very strongly.

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There may be obstacles that I have not considered, but I believe that that is a stable, long-term solution to the dilemma that the Government have posed so recklessly to our kingdom; a solution that would avoid the jealousies and lunacies of regional assemblies.

We do not have much time--I am talking not about this debate, but about the progress of constitutional change in our country. The ugly ogre of English nationalism, which I detest, will begin to march soon unless it is forestalled. The Government have lit a camp fire of concern in England, which will soon burn into a forest fire unless we address it speedily. As G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1915,

and they will speak soon.

I have something else in mind: an alternative short-term strategy, which may be the stable long-term solution. Provision exists in the Standing Orders of the House for the establishment of a Standing Committee on Regional Affairs

Standing Order No. 117(2) states:

    "All members sitting for constituencies in England shall be members of the standing committee, together with not more than five other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection."

The Committee was established in 1975 by the previous Labour Government and for two years it was used extensively. There were debates on economic affairs in East Anglia, the north-west, the south-east, Yorkshire and Humberside. Griffith and Ryle say in their textbook, "Parliament":

    "there were sometimes divisions in the committee which, although largely meaningless, could be embarrassing for the government. As any English Member could attend, the task of the whips on either side was not easy. It may be that this was one of the reasons that these debates, although they appear to have been popular with the back-bench members who took part, did not flourish. A debate on plans for the South-East in 1977-78 was the last use of the procedure."

If that is the best objection that the Government can offer--I also look at my hon. Friends at this point--I hope that they will think again. England needs a voice and a mechanism is readily available to us. The Committee was popular. More than 60 hon. Members attended that last debate, in July 1978. Several of them are still with us in the House and some recently retired. I spoke to one yesterday and reminded him of his words, and he was relieved to find that he still agreed with himself.

We may need to amend Standing Orders to change parts of the way in which the Committee works, but the principle is sound. Perhaps that is the way forward, but I regret that I am driven to it by a Government who are playing fast and loose with our constitution.

It may be strange for me to end with a quote from a socialist, but George Orwell in "Homage to Catalonia", exactly 60 years ago, said something about English complacency that deserves to be repeated today. He wrote:

It is not the bombs that we should fear now--or not quite--but the time bomb of unthought-through constitutional change that threatens great disturbance to

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this realm of England. I hope that the Bill and this debate do something to wake the English people from that sleep before it is too late. The English people should, at the very least, be given the chance to choose.

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