With the publishing of the Welsh Commission report, it seems that it is being called for proportional funding based on need, well it is a start but this needs to be implemented. The English tax payer has far too long been paying through the teeth to balance the books of all the other parts of the union. This is unfair as the English get per head, less than every other person in the defunct Union.
When will the people of England open their eyes and see the injustice in this practice, better and free university education – not in England, free or cheap prescriptions – not in England and better services – not in England.
From the CEP
A report commissioned by the Welsh government says that Scotland’s subsidy under the Barnett Bribe should be cut by £4bn if funding is allocated based on need rather than population and political expediency as it current is.
The Welsh government has been promised a referendum by the Brits on turning the Welsh Assembly into a Welsh Parliament and a commission has suggested that the Welsh government should have the power to vary income tax by 3p – a power the Scottish government already has. The Brits have also promised the Scottish government more powers over taxation and an independence referendum will be held some time soon north of the border.
And England? The West Lothian Question has been kicked into the long grass with a promise of an unspecified commission at some point in the future with no changes to the unconstitutional and institutionally racist system of imperialist British government of England in the meantime.
£4bn budget warning
SCOTLAND’s budget could be cut by £4 billion if the Barnett formula was scrapped and funding calculated on how much the country needed, a report on devolution funding commissioned by the Welsh Assembly claimed.
Authors David Miles and Gerald Holtham said the formula should be abolished as it did not allocate money fairly across the UK because it was based on population and not what was needed to pay for public services in different areas of the UK.
“An assessment consistent with those used to distribute health, local government and education spending around England could eventually result in Scotland getting as much as £4bn less than it currently does,” Mr Miles and Mr Holtham wrote.
The report, “Fairness and Responsibility”, called for a reform of devolution that would see the Welsh Assembly handed powers to vary income tax levels in their country by up to 3p in the pound, a power already held by Holyrood.
Row over draft referendum question on assembly powers
A new dispute has begun over the Welsh assembly powers referendum with a row over the wording of the question.
The Electoral Commission is considering the draft question put forward by Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.
But the assembly government says it is “disappointed” not to agree the words with her, and called it “deficient”.
The commission has 10 weeks to consult on the question ahead of a probable 2011 referendum on further powers for the Welsh assembly.
The exact wording of the question is: “Do you agree that the assembly should now have powers to pass laws on all subjects in the devolved areas without needing the agreement of Parliament first?”
We are disappointed that we could not agree a question with the Wales Office
Welsh Assembly Government
Even before this process started, the assembly government made it clear that it did not agree with Mrs Gillan’s question.
A spokesman for the assembly government said: “We are disappointed that we could not agree a question with the Wales Office.
“We feel the suggestion put forward today by the secretary of state is deficient and does not accurately reflect the issue that voters will be asked to decide.
“We will therefore be submitting an amended, shortened version to the Electoral Commission as an alternative proposal.”
This is the latest row between the UK and Welsh governments surrounding the referendum.
The assembly government had stated that it preferred a referendum in the autumn of 2010, but Mrs Gillan ruled that date out and criticised her predecessor, Labour’s Peter Hain, for not doing enough preparatory work to enable an autumn referendum.
Despite the alternative assembly government submission, the Electoral Commission is only funded to carry out its statutory duty – and that is to consider the question submitted to it by the Welsh secretary.
As a result the proposal from the assembly government will not receive any consideration as part of the formal consultation process.
The Coalition Government Ducks the English Question
Gareth Young, 7 June 2010
England may have voted Conservative at the general election but it won’t be Conservative policy on the West Lothian Question that England gets. The Conservatives won a majority of seats in both England and England & Wales, yet their promise to the voters of England and Wales that ‘a Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries’ has been reneged upon in favour of a ‘commission to consider the West Lothian question’.
The Conservatives have been considering the West Lothian Question for the past twelve years. Ken Clarke’s Democracy Task Force had considered it in depth and at length. However, in last week’s written ministerial statement on the Machinery of Government, we discovered that responsibility for considering the West Lothian Question would not lie with Ken Clarke’s Ministry of Justice. Instead it is Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who has been handed ‘special responsibility’ for ‘considering the West Lothian Question’.
The letter that I recently received from Nick Clegg’s office tends to suggest that Clegg favours mitigating the West Lothian Question rather than answering it.
We recognise that devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland poses difficult questions for the governance of England within the Union. I think it’s important to be honest about the fact that it is difficult to find an immediate solution. The idea of ‘English votes for English laws’ is extremely complicated to implement – particularly because many laws actually extend to England only in some parts, while covering other parts of the UK in other areas. Given the fact that changes in spending on English services which would be devolved in the rest of the UK directly affect the devolved administration’s budgets, it is also often the case that ‘English’ legislation actually will affect devolved issues outside of England. We believe that we can only really deal with this question by looking at it as part of the wider political system. We need to do more, first of all, to give more power to people locally in England – so that they, too, have more control over their own affairs rather than being micromanaged from Whitehall. We want to give local communities real power over their health services and policing, through fairly elected local health boards and police authorities – as well as freeing the hands of local councils, removing power from Westminster and Whitehall. Ultimately, we want to move towards a federal United Kingdom – devolving power within England further and thus resolving this question.
The voters of England will not get what the Conservatives promised them. And to make matters worse we will not get what the Liberal Democrats promised us (the Liberal Democrat manifesto promised to “address the status of England within a federal Britain” through a “constitutional convention”). Oh no. The status of England will not be recognised by English Votes on English Laws or addressed through a constitutional convention, instead England faces more piecemeal constitutional reform that ducks the English Question altogether, denied any recognition of nationhood by a manifesto for government that nobody voted for.
Someone Else’s England
You don’t have to be a nationalist, or English, to accept the case for an English parliament.
One of the most striking features of the massive response to my article last week on Hazel Blears and the Labour Party was the number of Labour activists who wrote in to agree. If, as I suspect, their fury and dejection is representative, Labour will be eliminated at the next election. Just three years ago, almost all the pundits agreed that the Tories were finished as an electoral force. Suddenly, Labour looks like the force that might never recover. Has any party in modern politics done more to squander the goodwill that swept it into power?
But I noticed something else as well: something that wasn’t there. Every other issue I mentioned was picked over and debated. One was not. It concerns the most glaring democratic deficit over which this government has presided, yet almost everyone is too polite to mention it.
Three nations in the United Kingdom, as a result of one of this government’s rare progressive policies, now possess a representative assembly. The fourth and largest does not. England, the great colonising nation, has become a colony. It is governed by a Scotsman who uses foreign mercenaries – Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs – to suppress parliamentary revolts over purely English affairs. There is still no democratic forum in which English interests can be discussed only by English representatives. The unfairness is staggering, the silence stranger still.
One of the peculiarities of UK politics is that issues which hardly anyone supports receive majority assent in parliament. Under the current system, no popular support is required. University top-up fees, for example, were rejected by the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, but Scottish and Welsh MPs were frogmarched through the lobbies to impose them on England (the government won by five votes). Foundation hospitals were voted down in both Wales and Scotland, and foisted on the English by the representatives of those nations. Had Heathrow’s third runway been debated only by English MPs, the proposal would have been resoundingly defeated; it was approved by 19 votes, after 67 MPs from the other nations were induced to support the government. They can support such measures without any electoral risk, as their constituents are not directly affected. Devolution, which has had such beneficial consequences here in Wales and across the other borders, has left the English high and dry.
So why does no one – with the honourable exception of a tiny band of thinkers like Paul Kingsnorth and Gareth Young – who is even vaguely on the left want to discuss it? Perhaps it is because two quite different issues have been muddled up: democracy and nationalism. English nationalism takes many forms, but the image which comes to most minds is of skinheads waving the flag of St George. These are, or should be, separate concerns. You don’t have to be a nationalist, or English, to accept the case for an English parliament.
Last month I was fiercely attacked by the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) for writing that “England means nothing to me”. I meant two things. First that I consider myself a global citizen – a member of the species – before I consider myself a national citizen. I believe that everyone has an equal entitlement to the world’s wealth and power. I don’t love England, but nor do I hate it. I am indifferent. Secondly, I do not know what England means. The problem for those who wish to define this nation is that England has universalised itself. English culture, thanks to English imperialism, has seeped into everyone’s culture; the English language has become everyone’s language. The acts of union, forged by a dominant England, have submerged English identity into a British or Unionist identity. British imperialism, in turn, has destroyed the sense of a discrete and self-contained nation. The values, language, governance and business structures, the global integration we imposed on other nations have come back to bite us.
The hero of the film Slumdog Millionaire, for example, works in a call centre in which cold-callers in Mumbai, tutored in British accents, politics, weather and geography, seek to persuade their British customers that they are phoning from just around the corner. I happen to think that the transfer of jobs like this is a good thing, a restitution of employment once forcibly relocated from India to England, but I realise that most people here are appalled by the implications. Whether you approve or not, you have to accept that Finland has no such issues, as no one else was forced to speak Finnish.
Those five words in December, claimed the CEP’s head of media, Michael Knowles, were “as good an illustration anyone can get of the prejudice England experiences from the UK Establishment.” It is because of the “indifference and hostility” of people like me that the English “are so discriminated against”.
Knowles, in other words, confused a good case founded on democracy and human rights with patriotism, giving people of more cosmopolitan views every excuse they need to turn away. To support an English parliament, you don’t have to love England, you have only to love democracy.
Labour politicians use this excuse to sustain the government’s inordinate executive power. Instead of a parliament, England has been given nine regional assemblies. Only one of them (in London) has been elected; hardly anyone even knows that the others exist. They represent the opposite of devolution: a transfer of power away from local authorities towards a higher level of government, over which the people have no direct control. Next year they will be turned into Local Authority Leaders’ Boards, representing the final abandonment of the government’s promise of regional referenda leading to elected assemblies.
On Sunday David Cameron revealed his own plan: a great bog of fudge pudding which makes the parliamentary system even more complex and opaque than it is already. “For English-only legislation, we would have a sort of English grand committee,” he told the Mail on Sunday. In “exceptional circumstances” (and what isn’t?) the committee can be overruled by the rest of the Commons. Today he writes in the Guardian of his plan for a “radical decentralisation, to reach every corner of the country” and turn Britain’s “pyramid of power on its head”. But there’s not a word about an English parliament.
No one is suggesting we disband the government of the United Kingdom (though I propose that it be moved close to the geographical centre of the UK – Liverpool, say, or Rhyl). The Campaign for an English Parliament argues that it should retain control over matters such as the UK’s constitution, foreign and defence policy, employment legislation and social security. The remainder – some taxation, health, education, transport, local government, planning, the environment, police, courts, prisons and the rest – should be devolved to the four nations.
England is no longer my home and not much of my business. But I would be surprised if anyone across the border who has understood the implications is happy with the current deal. The nation which claims to have brought democracy to the world is in dire need of it.