Devolution: A Decade On - Justice Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by The English Democrats Party's

    —  The people of England constitute 85% of the population of the United Kingdom. The "debates" and deliberations regarding UK devolution undertaken by the Labour government have consistently ignored England, thus, excluding 85% of the population of Britain from any meaningful dialogue on the question of devolution, its ramifications, constitutional effects and any consequent democratic anomalies.

    A public dialogue, in which the three main parties made varying accommodations with nationalism and nationalist parties, culminating in a referendum in Scotland and Wales, resulted in the establishment of Scottish and Welsh National devolution. No such publicly funded debate or opportunity for a national referendum has been offered to the people of England. The failure to provide a comparable debate and democratic referendum in England is unacceptable and undemocratic, especially in view of the fact that the different treatment afforded to England can be considered to be discriminatory and flies in the face of the fundamental Act of Union obligation to treat all the member Nations of the Union "equally".

    —  The Labour government has proceeded with its preferred solution for English devolution, viz: Regionalisation. This model has not been debated publicly (except in the North East—see below), but has been applied stealthily by the government by reorganising or attempting to reorganise health services, ambulance services and police authorities and the quango state, etc into a Regional format.

    —  It is clear that without public support for Regional government the Labour administration will run a huge risk of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers money, to establish institutions which are not wanted by the English people.

    —  We have not seen any significant polling evidence to see any demonstrative case for establishing Regional Government. The typical level of support hovers around 10%. Support for an English Parliament is between 60-68% (without a wide-scale public debate and campaign in its favour, as occurred in Scotland and Wales). Indeed the one referendum offered to determine whether or not a representative regional body should be established in the North East, was rejected by 79% of voters. This devastating rejection by the voters of the North East should have been a sufficient warning that Regional government was a non starter, but instead the Labour government withdrew all future referendums and carried on with the Regional agenda regardless. We believe that when the English public understand that removing our traditional counties will be a consequence of enforced Regionalisation, without either consent or public debate there will be significant unrest within the country.

    —  The Scottish Constitutional Convention made a compelling case for a Scottish Parliament. The essence of the case hinged on the fact that Scotland was a sovereign nation in its own right and as such deserved a Parliament to make democratic decisions on devolved matters on behalf of its citizens. The protracted public debates and the final agreement, that a Scottish Parliament was the right solution for Scottish democracy, applies in equal measure to the people of England. If it is right for the people of Scotland, it is also right for the people of England.

    —  The failure of the Labour Government to have properly and carefully considered the implications of the now famous West Lothian Question has been a glaring misjudgement and needs to be urgently rectified. The people of England have been treated in an inferior manner and discriminated against compared to those living in Wales and Scotland; their wishes have not only been ignored they have been dismissed, all of which is completely unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to be subject to the following:

    —  50 Million people in England are denied an English First Minister. The Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) is the de facto English First Minister but no one in England will have voted for him;

    —  50 million people are denied a dedicated Political Executive, however five million Scots and three million Welsh citizens do have such an executive;

    —  English MPs are unable to vote on Scottish/Welsh matters;

    —  however, MPs with no electoral mandate from the people of England are able to vote on legislation which affects only England;

    —  the use of non English MPs to drive through legislation that is detrimental to the people of England yet beneficial to themselves (student top up fees being a case in point);

    —  glaring differences in the provision of life saving drugs, elderly care, public sector pay settlements, cultural investment etc. The Barnett Formula which contributes to Welsh and Scottish expenditure was not fairly reassessed as a result of devolution and leaves the people of England as majority tax contributors with amongst some of the poorest services in comparison to the rest of the UK. This situation is grossly unfair and unacceptable;

    —  a Parliament for Scotland is deemed to be right for the people of Scotland but the equivalent is considered unacceptable for the people of England—no adequate explanation is forthcoming and no political party is willing to allow the people of England to decide their own future.

    —  The English Democrats along with the Campaign for an English Parliament established the English Constitutional Convention to debate this issue and to encourage a public forum where the various ideas for devolution could be put to the people. No political party has taken up the offer to have a sensible open debate and to many this is regarded as bad faith and an evident wish to stifle democracy, again something that is unacceptable.

  The English Democrats were largely created because of the manifest unfairness and mishandling of UK devolution. We consider it to be necessary to create a new political force to have the basic democratic rights of the people of England properly respected.

  It has been a shock to many of us to see how easy it is for basic democratic rights of a proud nation state like England to be side-lined by an unrepresentative Labour administration, using the very anomalies to which we object, to justify their undemocratic behaviour.

  This Labour Government had less than 23% of the popular vote in the UK, and with this tiny vote they are intent on breaking England into Regions and denying 50 million people the right to speak and the right to vote on the subject.

  The Committee is asked to carefully consider our submission and help to galvanise the debate to ensure that the people of England are not discriminated against and to ensure national referendum on devolution that has already been given to Wales and Scotland—anything less will be a travesty of democracy!

February 2008





 
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