Devolved Parliaments (with additional points added at 10.50 am Thursday)

Let me try to explain my idea again. This is not official Conservative policy which is still being discussed. The official Conservative policy in 2005 was to create English votes on English issues in the Westminster Parliament to deal with the worst imbalance of Labour’s bodged and biased devolution "settlement". My proposal goes further.

I suggest that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved assemblies settling a range of agreed issues on the Scottish model. We elect MPs to Westminster who are dual mandate MPs in every case. Those sitting for Scottish seats sit in the Edinburgh Parliament part of the time to settle Scottish matters, and sit in the Westminster Parliament to settle Union matters for the rest of their working time with MPs from the other three parts of the UK. There would no more Scottish elections for a different cast of characters to be MSPs – instead Westminster MPs elected for Scottish seats would also be the MSPs.

Those sitting for English seats would sit in the English Parliament – meeting in the Westminster building which has been the home of the English Parliament for many hundreds of years, prior to it becoming the Union Parliament in 1707. They too will meet with colleagues from the rest of the UK to settle Union matters at Westminster, which would also remain the home of the UK Parliament. It would be up to the elected English MPs to decide what office holders they wanted to carry out their business.

These proposals would

a) Restore symmetry and fairness between the different countries of the Union

b) Save money compared with a model which required yet more politicans to be elected to a new English Parliament, and compared to the present model with the current additional elected people in Scotland and Wales

c) Ensure full time use of the Westminster Parliament and facilities, and??better value from??all elected politicians.

d) Overcome some of the weaknesses of the Scottish (and English) Parliaments being the subsidiary bodies, dependent on tax and grant votes in the Union Parliament for the money they spend. If we carry on with two different sets of elected representatives, one in the each of the devolved bodies and one in the UK body, it provides every excuse for no accountability. The devolved representatives blame the Union for insufficient funds, and the Union MPs blame the devolved administrations for running things badly. No-one is to blame. if the same people carry out the devolved functions and share responsbility for the Union functions it is easier to establish accountability.

Of course the Union can only survive if enough people in all parts of it want it to. At some point we need a referendum throughout the Union on whether the settlement is working and whether the Union is still supported.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted January 4, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    A very sensible solution but I think it is too late. Scotland will be leaving the Union, Blair will have his unintended legacy, and Brown will be the last British Prime Minister.

  2. Posted January 4, 2007 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood I understand that the Conservative policy at present is EVonEM and you are suggesting an alternative. I understand those MPs we elect to Westminster are dual mandate MPs in every case. This would as you say restore symmetry and fairness between the different countries of the Union.

    But what I do not understand is what will happen to Scottish MSPs will there no longer be separate elections for the present Scottish Parliament. If the situation remains as it is at present with a separately elected Scottish Parliament and separately elected Welsh Assembly then I do not see that your suggestion will restore symmetry. Neither do I understand how a Scottish member of Westminster will fit into the separately elected Scottish parliamentary system.

    This would save money on the English side of the equation but not on the Scottish or Welsh side they would still have their separate parliaments with all the associated ongoing costs. England would still in that case be the poor relation with only our dual mandated MPs deciding English matters.

  3. Posted February 8, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    For goodness sakes, the Tories have had 10 years and more to think about this issue. Sticking plaster will not mend a busted damn. It's an English Parliament or independence for me and nothing less will do.

  4. Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Sorry John, that will not wash, the devolution genie is out of the bottle and has granted the wishes of Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. England will not act in the role of Cinderella denied an invitation to the democracy ball yet expected to pick up the tab. It's too late to start fudging the issue, the only fair resolution to the problem is an English Parliament. You have only yourself to blame for not having the foresight to see where this might lead, you set the ball rolling, we will have to wait and see where it comes to rest.

  5. Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    It's a pity John you didn't feel this way when we came to see you 5 years ago. All we wanted then was fairness for the people of England, funny how we have had to prove our point with the English electorate before even Conservatives such as yourself would admit we were right.

    That's really the problem with our political system – it is too dismissive of public opinion and Unionist parties are too accepting of anti-English discrimination. The Unionist parties now find themselves in a serious situation, alienated from the Scots who they are keen to bribe with the Barnett Formula, and now alienating themselves from the English – as they continue to tolerate anti-English dicrimination. Sadly John your idea is too little too late, the parties don't even back even this modicum of a concession to balance and fairness, all Unionist parties are in an uphill fight now to retain the support of the English electorate unless there is a massive volte face electoral disaster will be on the wall for you all.

    Kind regards – English Democrats

  6. Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    It's not often you hear a politician willing to speak their mind. What a refreshing change!

    Yes, the Union can be saved. But this can only be done if you treat each constituent part of the UK equally. Mr. Redwood is right: we definitely need an English Parliament.

    However, I don't think dual-mandate MPs would be democratic. If there is to be an English Parliament, there should be seperate elections. As for saving money- well if Westminster, as the UK Parliament, only dealt with reserved matters such as foreign policy, defence etc., then its responsibilities would be reduced by 50-70%. Why not reduce its numbers by 50-70%? Then we would have leeway to fill the new English Parliament.

    UK MPs are elected to do what is best for the UK. English Parliament members (EPMs) would be elected to do what is best for England. What is best for England, and what is best for the UK, is not always the same thing. We need a seperate English Parliament and Executive to speak for England.

  7. Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    An English Parliament does not necessarily mean more politicians. There could be fewer.The House of Lords could become the British Parliament (say 250 members), the House of Commons the English Parliament (say 400 members). The number of possible solutions to the 'English Question'however is almost as great as those proposed for reform of the House of Lords. But as with the Lords there is no real will in the Tory party or elswehere to solve it – most commentators doubt whether the official Conservative policy of 'English votes' would work and it is at best a half-hearted fudge.
    An article in The Guardian today includes the comment: "The Tory party, for 10 years now without a single seat in Scotland, has become the English party." It does of course have one seat now but the point is surely that the Conservative (& Unionist) Party has not yet realised that it is the English party. The voters don't know what the Union is for – few Unionists do either, although the MP for Bedford claims that it is worth paying a subsidy to Scotland to keep the Union together. Why?
    The only genuine solutions are: (a) a Union as now but with devolved Parliaments in each nation each with same devolved powers; or (b) a federation in which sovereign parliaments in each nation agree to cede some specific powers to a federal government (the reverse of devolution; or (c) independence all round.
    Unless politicians make a genuine attempt to make (a) or (b) work, with the consent of the people in a referendum, what we will end up with when the popular revolt comes is (c). It is only a question whether a Scots breakaway happens first. If Scotland secedes that surely recreates the pre-1707 English & Welsh Parliament? The English & Scots will have to renegotiate – it will not be a matter for the UK government.

  8. Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    If the Lords becomes elected, will EVOEM apply there too? No politician has mentioned this yet.
    Wales is soon to have more powers , Scotland has no need for the lords and Northern Ireland will have no real use for the lords.Why not scrap the lords and use that chamber for a new small british parliament, the commons can be the new English Parliament with vastly reduced MP's because the Conservatives will devolve powers back to the shires and counties of England.
    Thank you for involving the public in the debate.

  9. Posted February 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    It is not merely a matter of voting on England's matters. England needs a First Minister and its own executive.

    The UK Prime Minister could/should not be also First Minister of a constituent nation.

    How many MPs would Scots have? Before devolution they were even more over-represented than they are now, to redress the balance somewhat. Would this situation be returned?

    How would public spending be allocated? Would the Barnett formula be retained? This subsidy is one of the biggest bones of contention in England.

  10. Posted February 8, 2007 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Instead wesminster mps elected to scotish seats would become msps, get it now ken, I can only see a group of Ulster mps not wishing to buy into this. agree this is a good way of keeping district councils and county councils and doing away with un-elected regional EUssr quangos.

  11. Posted February 8, 2007 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Might have made some sense in the 1980-90's but is now far too late for all that John .
    You are implying a disbandment of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments . This is not going to happen .
    You do accept that the constitution is now severely assymetrical and therefore unsustainable .

    Face it , EVOEM is a divisive and unsatisfactory can of worms – it'll finish the Union for sure !

    An English parliament ( which will not be more expensive than the present setup ) with the same rights as the Scottish parliament will defuse the situation .

  12. Posted February 8, 2007 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    This is a better solution than English votes on English Matters and is agreeable to me.

    Those MSP and Welsh Assembly members would be redundant, but so what.

    With this set up England would have to charge the United Kingdom rent to use Westminster and the leader of the party with most MPs in England would probably be First Minister of England.

    The money inbalance would have to be restored as well, so that England does not have to subisdise the rest of the Union like it does at present.

  13. Posted February 9, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    John,
    I recall coming to see you with Christine Constable some years ago; then you pointed out that you haad received no communications from your constituents on the issue of an English Parliament. It looks as though you have either received many communications or you have become only too aware that the wind is blowing strongly for an English Parliament. I expect MPs to note what the electorate are thinking and it is good to see that your thinking has changed since we met at the H of C. I only wish that more MPs were prepared to be more open to change. Of course there is still the House of Lords to sort out and the government's proposals are a dog's dinner. The second chamber could function on the reserved matters not dealt with by all four parliaments.
    With all good wishes, Tom Jackson

  14. Posted February 9, 2007 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I applaud your courage in realising that EVoEL, the current Conservative policy, is not practical and no full and adequate solution to the English Question. Your new proposal that would have an English Executive with powers similar to those accorded to Scotland would be a big step forward. It is similar to the original “Westminster solution” put forward by Lord Baker some years ago and mo doubt you will have discussed it with him.
    However it would not be easy to persuade the Scots and Welsh to give up their existing members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly to conform to your proposed English system of devolution and they should not be allowed the opportunity to veto English devolution. It should be possible for the English system to be different from theirs but of course it would have to be put to the people of England in a referendum.
    As a first step it is suggested that you should persuade the Conservative party to participate in the English Constitutional Convention that has been set up by the English Democratic Party and the Campaign for an English Parliament to try to agree a proposal likely to attract a majority in a referendum.

    Meanwhile it is good to see that some in the Conservative party are now ready to consider the deeper implications of the constitutional problem that goes much deeper than the West Lothian question. Unless there is some progress soon in solving the wider English Question of who governs England it is feared that the Union will not long survive.

    I wish you every success.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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