My contribution to the debate on the Ukraine, Middle East, North Africa and Security

We should talk more and bomb less. I say that as someone who wants us to have strong defences. I want our country to play a leading role in the world and to be available, with the UN and allies, or if necessary on our own, to reinforce our values. I accept that there are occasions when we have to fight a just war. We were right to liberate Kuwait with our allies, and we were right to liberate the Falklands, but we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about some of the military interventions we have made under Governments of both parties in recent years.

I am glad that the Government accept that we can go to war only if the House approves such action, which I think has always been the case, and I am glad that they recognise that that is the most serious thing we can do. We have the power, collectively, to authorise our troops to go to kill other people in a foreign country. That is a very serious thing to do, and it should be done only after full debate and, if necessary, on a vote of the House to show that it has at least majority approval—it is even better when there is consensus.

To guide the Government, whether we are approaching such a position again or not, they should ask themselves these questions. First, are they sure that diplomacy and politics have broken down completely and that there is no further scope for diplomacy and politics to carry the problem forward and try to make it better? War is not a good answer. It is what happens when politics and diplomacy fail.

Secondly, after we win a war—even if we have had a great victory, as the allies had in 1918—we need to go back to politics and diplomacy and get it right. Otherwise, we might find that we have created a worse monster that requires yet more conflict, as we are in danger of proving in the middle east. The west has the power to get rid of a regime it does not like, but it does not necessarily have the power to support and create a democratic regime in its place that has the acceptance of enough people in the country to keep it together and make it a better place. It is not a win if we get rid of a nasty dictator and replace them with warring bands who kill even more people.

We need to get the Government to ask whether diplomacy has failed and whether the situation is one in which the use of force, if successful, is likely to make the situation better. If we are going to use force, can we please have a diplomatic and political strategy for the aftermath of successful military engagement? We need to know what military success looks like, but more importantly, we need to know how military success leads to a happier country, democratic values, tolerance and toleration, and all the things we believe in. When we inject more weapons and fighting into a situation, we normally make people not more tolerant, but more intolerant. We make them not happier, but more resentful.

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England arise – England could be the winner on Thursday

Whatever the Scots decide to do there is a winner. England.

I always thought of myself as British. My country was the UK. I now also think of myself as English, and my country is England. Years of listening to devolutionists and nationalists from other parts of the UK have persuaded me to change my approach. I now feel English as well as British.  My British identity is being threatened and undermined from elsewhere in the Union. My English identity is the future.

If Scotland votes to leave, England is the winner. My fellow countrymen and women will become English as well, divorced by the Scots from our old country. We will soon see what a great future England can enjoy.

The 8% of UK output accounted for by Scotland will be replaced by just three years economic growth in the rest of the UK after they have gone. More contentiously, the 5 million people will be replaced by new people from  inwards migration in just 20 years if we carry on at past rates, though many would like us to change  that.

If Scotland votes to stay they will do so with beefed up devolution. It will be different. We will know for sure that around  half the Scots want to leave us immediately and many of the  other half want to sup with us only with a very long spoon. The very least we should insist on is the same devolution of government to England within the residual union that Scotland will enjoy.

If they do vote to stay, as many of us hope and expect, it will be on new terms. Anything that Scotland wants England should be given as well. I welcome the new spirit in Scotland for an equal partnership. That  means an English Parliament for us. That means fair burden sharing when it comes to taxes and benefits from the Union.We must make sure this time England’s voice is heard. England expects….

Scotland wants to have the government they voted for. In the Scottish Parliament for devolved matters they do. England voted Conservative in 2010 but got a Coalition government. It’s high time England also got the government it voted for, at least for all devolved matters.

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Don’t break up England just because some want to break up the UK

 

The reaction of some in the Lib Dems and Labour to the moves in Scotland to leave us or to loosen the Union ties is to seek to demolish England at the same time. In proposing this they gravely misjudge the mood of the English people.

Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for the idea that Scottish MPs should no longer vote on English matters. What part of that do Labour MPs from Scotland not understand? If they want their party to have a chance to do well in England they should withdraw from English votes, just as the Scottish Nationalists have done.

A majority of proposals for elected Mayors have been voted down by English electorates. There is no sign of  huge pent up demands for more powerful elected local government. If it is wanted that will remain possible with an English Parliament, just as it has been on offer from the UK Parliament. Mr Clegg will have to come up with a better idea than more powerful cities. And why in Mr Clegg’s world of unfair and lopsided devolution do cities deserve better than suburbs or rural areas? Why should Sheffield have more devolution than Wokingham?

The old idea of elected regional governments was even less popular than elected Mayors. In Labour’s  favourite place to try it, in the North East with traditional strong Labour support and as far away from London as possible, an overwhelming majority said No to regional government in a referendum. What part of that did people  not understand? Why do some think they can revive this idea? Do they not see that England, a Eurosceptic country, has no wish to be broken up into Euro regions.

Liverpool does not want to be placed under Manchester control in the North West. Sunderland and Newcastle have made their views known on the North East. Cornwall does not fancy being governed by either Exeter or Bristol, and Exeter and Plymouth would be suspicious of Bristol claims to be the heart of the South West. My part of the country is in  several regions that we do not recognise and do not  wish to govern us – Thames Valley, rest of the South-east and the south.

If the problem is the potential break up of the UK, the answer is not to break up England. It is time for England to have her voice and her own unity.

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You can epetition for an English Parliament

I discover there is a live petition for the English Parliament to emerge at Westminster with English votes for English issues. It is available on epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/68744. Those of you who support the idea might like to sign it.

(It is not something I tabled or asked to be tabled and is not in my name. )

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Scotland and England’s marriage problems

Dramatis Personae

 

Scotland   a wife who feels she is taken for granted by an unsympathetic husband who does not understand her

England  a hen pecked husband who thinks he can now never do or say the right thing  as his wife  demands more and more freedom from their marriage

The personal monologues;

 

Scotland    “I have been trying to tell my husband for years that I am unhappy in this marriage. He only ever listens when I threaten to divorce him. This time he’s back at the last minute making promises all over again. How can I believe him? I have heard it all before yet it still the same old marriage. He does not understand me. He does not sympathise with my wishes and views. If you marry a feisty  socialist you should expect a bit of fire and passion for equality”

England: “I can’t understand what’s bugging my wife again. I gave her an expensive new Parliament a few years ago. She said that would make her happy. Now she says it’s not a good enough Parliament. Apparently some of the neighbours have got more powerful ones. We’ve never seen eye to eye over socialism. She knew that when she married me. Most couples keep off the topic of politics. Why can’t we? I have told her again I will give her Parliament more powers, so why does she keep going on about it?Why this permanent threat of divorce hanging over us?”

Scotland ” It’s just typical of him that he can’t see or wont see we do not spend enough on the family. I don’t know what he gets up to with those fancy friends of his in London. He tells me he’s not seeing some other woman, but he does spend a lot of time in the bright lights. He tells me he needs to keep our money with those bankers in London, and that we do not have enough to spend more on homes and welfare for our family. He looks rich enough to me. I think he’s being mean”

England “She doesn’t seem to accept I love her. I have been paying the bills and also keeping some savings for our old age. Now apparently that’s all wrong and I should be more generous. I am only trying to be careful so we don’t run out of cash. I can’t see what’s wrong with the decisions we’ve been making together in London. It always used to be just fine. The last thing I’m going to do is get involved with some other woman when I get so much trouble  from the one I married. I have to keep in with the moneymen in the City as they look after our investments and send us money when we need it. If we broke with them we’d be a lot poorer.”

Scotland: “One thing I am fed up about is a spare bedroom. It’s not asking too much for heaven’s sake. My mother would like to come to stay occasionally. She at least would be someone I could talk to about my feelings. He tells me we can’t afford it.”

England: “I have no problem with her mother coming if she wants to. She does anyway. We have a perfectly good sofa bed in a downstairs room. Her mother told me herself not to bother to add another bedroom as she does not want to be a regular visitor”.

Scotland: “He always says the wrong thing – or more often says nothing. He doesn’t spend a lot of time with me, and when he does he has nothing to say about us and about our relationship. I give him the chance but he always fluffs his lines or is left speechless. He prefers to spend hours watching football or playing his war games. He should know I don’t like either of those.  I do wish he would have some feelings and express them. His stiff upper lip and sense of martyrdom drives us further apart”

England “Whatever I say and do is wrong. If I ask her out for a romantic evening or week-end I am told our relationship is wrong and we can’t do that. Apparently the mood is not right.  Every time she wants to sit down and talk over the same old business of what is wrong with our relationship. I sometimes feel like saying what is wrong with our relationship is that we spend all our time talking about what is wrong with it. But I know that would just make things worse, so I keep quiet. Someone’s got to try and hold it altogether. It’s easier to watch some football than try another version of how we can sort out the devolution of tasks within our family, or how we can determine the family  budget.”

Scotland ” I am worried that he is going to upset our family doctor. He’s always going on about problems with our health service when I think it’s wonderful.”

England ” Scotland seems to think I want to get rid of the family doctor and take out private health insurance. I have absolutely no wish to do that but it doesn’t matter how many times I say so.”

Scotland ” I just can’t stand it. He shows no feelings for me, or for our family or for all in need. He doesn’t do enough around the house. He just assumes meals get cooked and shirts washed by  magic. I just wish he would get in touch with his feminine side and show some normal human sympathy”

England: ” She says I don’t do enough of the chores, yet when I try to cook a meal I get shouted at for the way I use the kitchen. She should see how much time all the gardening, DIY and running errands takes. She says she wants me to get in touch with my feminine side. I am not sure I have one. I thought the whole point of our marriage was she liked manly attributes – my broad shoulders, my decent wallet, my bravery when faced with danger. Would she really prefer it if I turned out to be more feminine?”

To be continued -   will they manage to find true romance as they once enjoyed? Can they find an answer to the eternal problems of who does which chores, and who pays which bills? Will they find a way of being friends and being able to talk to each other again? Will Scotland withdraw the divorce petition? Please let me know your thoughts.

 

 

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Business intervenes in Scottish referendum

 

I  am surprised at how many businesses have decided to intervene in a highly contentious referendum campaign when they have no need to do so.  These large businesses need to remember that they have many shareholders and customers who disagree with the stance they are taking, as well as many who agree. It may all prove to be counter productive for them and  for the campaign they say they are trying to help.

I have no objection to the banks making clear what they would have to do if Scotland votes to become independent. They need to consider their position and then make a formal statement to the Stock Exchange. They were rightly being asked about the impact on their ability  to borrow and lend if they no longer were regulated by the Bank of England and no longer had access to Bank of England lender of last resort cash. They needed to clarify the new position were Scotland to vote for out. They have decided to move their HQs to London to continue to qualify for the Bank of England umbrella. This will help keep their cost of capital down and allow them to maintain current lending programmes.

Alex Salmond brought this on himself by refusing to support setting up his own currency or applying to join the Euro. With no Central Bank any Scottish commercial bank will be in a weaker position than banks who do have access to a Central Bank. I do not know how these banks handled their individual announcements but of course they need to follow the correct company governance procedures and the correct disclosure procedures to the Stock Exchange where they are quoted businesses.

I find the dash of many retailers to tell us things might be a  bit dearer in Scotland if they vote for independence odd. Why upset  half your customers in Scotland by intervening like this? Why upset many of your existing English customers, who are now told by some shops  they are cross subsidising the Scottish customers under the present Union arrangements? There is no Stock Exchange imperative to make this disclosure now. Retailers regularly cross subsidise some towns and cities out of profits made in other towns and cities without having to give a detailed break down city by city.  It looks as if they simply wanted to play politics, and they may find out there is a cost to them. Customers both sides of the border might wish to switch to a retailer that has not jumped in with such claims. If a future independent Scotland should  emerge the trend of prices will depend on many things, including how much competition remains in the local market and how business friendly policy is generally.

The defence contractors, like the banks, had a duty to warn their shareholders through proper Stock Exchange announcements that their Scottish defence  businesses are at risk in the event of independence. It is very unlikely the rest of the UK will be offering  work to Scottish yards and contractors if Scotland leaves.

The final predictable interventions of doom  are the ones from large overseas investment banks. They clearly are on the side  of the EU. They are against  an independent Scotland  in case such a move led to an independent Catalonia and other knock ons in Euroland. One of them being interviewed on the Today programme hinted at this, by talking about the Euro and German support for southern countries in the zone, when asked questions about Scotland.  It was difficult to follow their logic of a major recession based on Scottish banks not having access to Bank of England money, when the self same banks have already announced they would rearrange themselves to continue to be regulated by the Bank of England and have facilities from the Bank if needed.

I suspect Scottish voters will answer the more fundamental question – do they want to be part of a new Scottish state or do they wish to be part of the long standing UK? For every voter who might be influenced favourably by businesses playing politics there might be at least one who resents their interventions. Both sides are trying to play the business card, so the businesses end up firing at each other.

 

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We need an English Parliament – a bit more power for some cities is not enough

Mr Clegg’s proposal to devolve a bit of power to some English cities is no answer to the pressing need for a fair settlement for England.  Nor has it been popular in the past. In 51 referenda to create more powerful elected mayors, 35 have resulted in a rejection of the proposal. 2 elected mayoralties that were set up have subsequently been abolished following another referendum.

There are three proposals before us to deal with the problem of England in the new devolution settlement we are now contemplating. The first is the proposal for an English Parliament. The second is devolved Assemblies for the European regions of England favoured by some in Labour. The third is this  very loose Nick Clegg  proposal for more devolution to English cities.

The case for an English Parliament is overwhelming. Breaking England up into unloved and in some cases unknown Euro regions would be most unpopular. Labour tried this in office, and got a dreadful result in the North East when they asked the public there -  normally a Labour area – to endorse it. Devolution to anything less than England cannot solve the main reason for an English Parliament – the need to settle taxes and tax rates that will be separately decided for Scotland in the Edinburgh Parliament. We do not want different Income Tax rates for Birmingham and Bradford, or for the rest of the south east.

The idea of devolving more power to cities over their budgets and ambitions may well be a good idea. It is no substitute for an English Parliament and could best be done by an English Parliament. It is all the people of England, whether in cities, in the suburbs or in the countryside, that need better representation and more self government.

The unpopularity of elected mayors shows that the electors of England do not see this way of making local government more powerful and more interesting as a good way forward in most places. Mr Clegg does not seem to have much in mind by way of devolved power. He does not seem to want English cities to set different Income tax rates for example, the main new power Scotland will enjoy.

England this time will not be fobbed off with third class devolution or no devolution at all. The Scottish vote and attitudes changes things fundamentally – for England as well as for Scotland.

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Speak for England campaign

If you want England to have its own voice and home rule please write to your own MP asking them to speak for England. You could also copy in BBC News.

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Who speaks for England?

 

My question this week in the House is a fundamental one for government to answer in a few days time.

If the Union survives the Scottish vote, we will immediately need the government to produce proposals to honour the three parties’ pledge (and UKIP’s) of more devolution for Scotland. As I have explained, we should not  come up with proposals to strengthen devolved Scottish government, without at the same time tackling the problem of England.

Labour hopes we can just have a “Scotland” bill, giving Scotland new powers of self government. This is unacceptable. It needs to be a UK bill, giving the same powers to England – and probably to the Welsh  and the Northern Irish Assemblies as well assuming their representatives want that.

It appears that one of the powers Scotland will gain is the power to set its own Income Tax rates. There is no way that we can have a situation where Scottish members of the Westminster Parliament can vote through Income tax rates for the rest of the country that do not apply to Scotland. This is a more extreme version of the West Lothian question. Only MPs for people and places paying the tax should be imposing the tax.

So my first request of the government is simple. Who, after next Thursday, in the government will represent England’s needs for devolution? Which Minister is going to be in charge of the devolution bill generally, including devolution to Scotland? England needs to know  both who to lobby, and which Minister or Ministers is looking after our interests.

I and many of my Parliamentary colleagues will help the party leaders honour their promises to Scotland as long as it does so on a basis which is also fair to England.

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Mr Redwood’s intervention during Prime Minister’s Questions, 10 Sept

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Assuming there is a no vote in the Scottish referendum, who in the Government will represent England in the new devolution settlement? Who speaks for England, because we need a voice and a new deal?

The Leader of the House (Mr William Hague): Well, there are many of us. Having represented Yorkshire for 25 years, I can claim to speak for England from time to time—Yorkshiremen are always keen to speak for a far bigger area than they represent. All these debates are to be had once the referendum is concluded.

The video is available here.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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