Article for Wokingham Times, 27 June

Most electors want Parliament and the government to fix the economy. The squeeze on the private sector has been going on for four years now. We would like some relief from the tax rises, the inflation rises, the higher government imposed costs and charges. There was some welcome news that at last the inflation rate is falling. When I put it to them, Downing Street assures me they have got it, and are now reviewing the impact of government on the cost of living. There were welcome changes of mind on budget tax measures. The cost of living rises need to come down more.

Meanwhile, the SNP want the issue to be the separation of Scotland from England, the Liberal Democrats want the issue to be House of Lords reform, and the Coalition government has made elected Police Commissioners and the offer of elected Mayors two of the issues brought before us.

Of course an energetic Parliament can handle more than one issue at a time. The problem with constitutional reform is the lack of agreement in the country on what reforms we might like. The offer of elected Mayors in several cities was firmly rejected, just as elected regional government for England was rejected when Labour offered it. A different voting system was rejected. Any particular type of Lords reform, if offered in a referendum, might also be rejected.

The English majority feels frustrated. After all, the English elected a Conservative government in 2010, but the UK has a Coalition government owing to the distribution of seats outside England. That makes decent devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and nothing for England even more unfair and harder to accept. The English feel they pay more than their fair share of the bills, but get a less good deal. Why do Scottish and non UK EU students in Scotland get free higher education, yet our English students going to Scottish universities have to pay? How can Scotland afford a better approach to care for the elderly than England? Why do Scottish MPs at Westminster get to vote on English education, health and environment, when English MPs cannot vote on the Scottish approach to those issues?

There are referenda in the air, but no decisive move to give us the one we want on the EU. There is discussion of a referendum if Lords reform goes ahead. Many more will say if we can have a vote on creating a Mayor, if we can have a vote on how many people to put into the Lords, surely we could have a vote on the UK’s relationship with the EU? Scotland will get the constitutional referendum it wants – should it stay in the UK? Why can’t England have the referendum it wants, on our relationship with the EU?

Parliament could always get back to concentrating on sorting out the economy. If it wishes to carry on with constitutional change it has to recognise that England is getting a bad deal. This is the elephant in the constitutional room. It needs tackling soon.

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12 Comments

  1. norman
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    ‘Why do Scottish and non UK EU students in Scotland get free higher education, yet our English students going to Scottish universities have to pay? ‘

    I can answer this one. At the time (and I remember scoffing at the naivety of it at the time) all the talking heads rolled out at the time of this decision were saying that they only wanted free education for Scots, everyone else would have to pay. Of course, anyone with any knowledge of the thing knows that due to EU rules you have to treat EU citizens the same as you would citizens of your own country so it was obvious from day one someone from, say, Estonia would get to study at St. Andrews for free whilst an English, Welsh, or Northern Irish student would have to pay.

    We were assured time and time again this wouldn’t be the case, an exception would be made (maybe using the influence we buy to get our seat at the top table?) and that they’d have to pay too.

    Now it just looks like an anti-English measure and it’s no wonder it rankles. I’d be livid if my son or daughter was being landed with £30k of debts and at the time I was subsidising EU students studying in Scotland with my taxes. It’s a ludicrous situation made possible by Labour and devolution. What’s being done to remedy it? Nothing as far as I can see.

    Maybe a promise could be made to look at it after the next election? Funny how liberal / socialist policies seem to have no trouble sailing through this government yet anything the Conservatives want to do get blocked by the 15% Lib Dem MPs.

  2. Lord Blagger
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Any particular type of Lords reform, if offered in a referendum, might also be rejected.

    ===========

    Not true. One would be accepted. Abolishing them completely saving 600 million over a term in the process.

    The problem is that you won’t offer it.

    Why can’t we have a referenda in England over Scotland? Ah yes, the English don’t get to have a vote.

    No vote – no responsibility for the mess.

  3. Iain
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    “This is the elephant in the constitutional room. It needs tackling soon.”

    Don’t we know it, trouble is the British MP’s squatting in English seats just don’t care, or the English ones are playing cricket rather than coming out fighting for England, as was seen on your message board the other day that saw fit to censor my post which sought to portray what had been done to England was racist. So instead of English MP’s getting angry and asking the PM at PMQ’s after he has finished indulging Glegg on the constitution when is he going to do something about the racist anti English constitution put in place by Labour, instead what we get from English is sweetness and light and jolly hokey sticks.

    WHEN ARE YOU ENGLISH MP’S GOING TO GET ANGRY AT THIS CONSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION?

    It should also be noted that if English MP’s were really concerned about this they would have tied Lords Reform to the reform of the West Lothian question . For the settlement of the West Lothian Question could/should make the Lords reform an irrelevance.

  4. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I notice that the the parties’ constitutional hobby-horses all entail the creation of extra parasites – commissioners, regional assemblies, LibDem senators , no doubt extra quangos for a breakaway Scotland. Soon there’ll be no more blood left to suck – those Englishmen who haven’t emigrated will give up paying tax for life on the dole.

  5. waramess
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Any diversion from the real problem is sanctuary for the government. They have no idea how to go about fixing the economy nor do the Treasury. Everybody is far to busy trying to fit this catastrophy around their own favourite textbook model and it won’t work. Bernanke and King, both scholars want to do whatever the textbooks tell them amd it clearly is not working.

    Somebody needs to do a bit of clear blue sky thinking and find an alternative to printing, more credit and low interest rates, or the markets will punish them severely.

    Not one Misian or Smithsonian on the MPC committee and I’d bet a pound to a penny for each one that might be found in the Treasury.

    There is clearly a penalty to be paid for a bigoted approach to economics and this government have just discovered one of them: it needs to search around for distractions whatever the unintended consequences might be.

  6. Tad Davison
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    No disrespect to The Wokingham Times, but why is this not in a national daily?

    The article touches most of the bases (not crime alas, and I make no apologies for being a hard-liner) which are of great import to the majority of good, decent, British people.

    Tad

    Reply: The Wokingham Times asked for it, a national daily did not. I have been asked to let the Yorkshire Post run a recent blog, and recently published in the New York Times on the Euro.

  7. Posted June 27, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I disagree with the Conservative “right” over Lords reform. Clearly something needs to be done. The idea that, after a century, we are moving to fast is risible. The other claim that it is impossible to do anything because Parliament is too busy ending the recession is nonsence on several grounds, most politely that they are 2 non-overlapping areas and thus doing 1 does not restrict acting on the other.

    The problem ultimately comes down to the Commons wanting to prevent an effective Lords because it infringes on their monopoly of power and prefer the appearance of the constitutional check of a second chamber without the reality. This is not in the interests of anybody else.

    II would be happy to have the question of whether to reform and what sort settled by one or more multi-option referendums since on this issue I have far more trust that the people will vote in their intersts than that the commons will vote in the people’s interests.

  8. Antisthenes
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The simple answer to the Lords reform would to make the commons the parliament for the English sans the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish and the Lords the parliament for matters that concern all the nations making up the UK.

  9. Adam5x5
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    “Parliament could always get back to concentrating on sorting out the economy. If it wishes to carry on with constitutional change it has to recognise that England is getting a bad deal. This is the elephant in the constitutional room. It needs tackling soon.”

    If it isn’t, all that will happen is further increases in support for the breakup of the UK, it wasn’t that long ago opinion polls were showing that the English had a higher proportion in favour of Scottish independence than the Scots.
    If it isn’t addressed – with English MP only debates for English only matters, then all that will happen is the rise of more nationalist sentiment and parties in the English area.

    Your points about the referenda show how hypocritical David Cameron is. Referenda on governance for Scots, Lords reform, Falklands, AV – yet none for the English or the EU.
    Self-determination is a fundamental right – but only on topics he approves of.

  10. Max Dunbar
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    “Decent devolution for Scotland”. The separatists are not decent.

    I suggest a system of periodic MP exchanges a bit like the twinning of towns and cities. You, Mr Redwood, could come to Scotland’s central belt and stand in for a Glasgow MP for example, and one of our working class heroes could stand in for you in your constituency. A lot could be learnt and many false conceptions changed in a few weeks.

  11. JoolsB
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    “Scotland will get the constitutional referendum it wants – should it stay in the UK? Why can’t England have the referendum it wants, on our relationship with the EU?”

    Scotland will also have a referendum on the EU if England get’s one so why can’t England also have both and get a constitutional referendum as well? If the elephant in the constitutional room has to be handled – when are we going to see it because our elected representatives are very quiet on the matter, in fact the silence is deafening. Whilst Scotland and Wales are being asked yet again how they wish to be governed, when are we in England going to be asked just once? What are the politicians afraid of? We know in reality that now Scotland, Wales & NI have their own parliament/assemblies that 119 Celtic MPs at Westminster have nothing to do outside reserved matters except meddle in English only matters to justify their existance. Are our United Kingdom MPs with English seats more afraid of losing their jobs if heaven forbid we should ever have English MPs than doing the right thing for their constituents by standing up for them and demanding equality?

    We all know Scotland is never going to vote for independence and we all know that David Cameron is going to capitulate to Alex Salmond and give away even more powers to Scotland at England’s expense. All the polls show that if England were asked, Scotland would be independent tomorrow because they are fed up of seeing all the goodies given to Scotland (& Wales & NI)which are denied to them on grounds of cost. The polls also suggest that people in England would like their own parliament too.

    When I canvassed for a Conservative Government in 2010 I at least expected the party who relies on England for it’s votes to start standing up for their English constituents and end the blatant discrimination against them since devolution and yet one of their most shameful first acts was to push through the increase in tuition fees to £9,000 for England, championed by Danny Alexander, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey whose constituents of course will pay nothing thanks in part to the skewed Barnett formula which even now the Conservative led government refuses to address – what a thankyou to the people of England for voting Tory.

    Rumour has it that some Tory MPs with English seats are unhappy with the status quo but if that is so, when are we going to hear them speak out on the subect? They can’t even say the word England, let alone stand up for us. Why aren’t they demanding England is treated equally with equal funding? Where is our First Minister, our Secretary of State, our parliament? Why are we the only nation in the western world without our own parliament? No-one speak for England, certainly not our ‘there’s Scottish blood in these veins’ PM or in fact any of our elected MPs with English seats. The only politician to speak out on the subject and who deserves a great deal of respect for doing so is Frank Field who was disgracefully slapped down by the PM in PMQs for ‘nurturing our grievances’ when asked if we could have a debate on England’s future. How dare he? £9,000 a year tuition fees may be peanuts to him as a price worth paying to stay in a union which doesn’t exist anymore but many bright and talented kids in England will now be deterred from going to university or leave the country once qualified whereas our taxes will still continue to fund free or heavily subsidised tuition fees for everyone else whether they are gifted or not. Blair’s government voted in by Socialist Celtic countries introduced the unsustainable 50% quota but yet again it is the English who are paying the price. Resentment is growing in England and ignoring the problem as all three parties continue to do is only making the resentment grow and the party to feel the backlash most will be the Conservatives who were put there by the English and because we expected no better of Labour.

    So you see John, England would like a referendum on the EU but it would also like one on self-determination, something Cameron demands for the Falkland Islands and the rest of the world. UKIP are offering both and if the Conservatives want to win back some of those disillusioned Tories who have defected to UKIP, myself included, they could start by doing likewise.

  12. The Prangwizard
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Look at the Campaign for an English Parliament – a lobby group. There is also a small party, the English Democrats, who also want a Parliament for England on the same lines as the Scottish one.

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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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