As it’s St George’s Day I thought it would be a good idea to bring the case for a devolved parliament for England. As an Englishman and a proud supporter of local government I think the need for an English Parliament is paramount. It’s not just about nationalism, it’s about solving the West Lothian question and a reorganised administration for the benefit of England.
In the 1998 Devolution Act powers of regional state interests were granted to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Giving them their own parliaments and administrations to serve their people. This was a moment of victory for the nations and regions who felt that they now had more potential for creative ideas that suited them and grant them less bureaucracy with London rule. It also made many nationalists happy and controversially looked like the downfall of the United Kingdom as we know it.
I love Britain just as much as I love England and I do wish for my own country to have it’s own parliament. However the reason why England never got a parliament of it’s own is because of a number of reasons. First there is the nationalist issue whereby the British Isles could be politically divided right across the borders, then there is the distribution of public money across the country with some nations and regions losing out on subsidies and benefits that rely on for their welfare.
But the main reason for the lack of an English is because of political and legal jurisdiction. Scotland, Wales and Ireland had their own laws and governments written centuries before they were amalgamated into the Kingdom of Great Britain which ceased the countries including England as independent states in 1707. When they became devolved in 1998 they were able to create their own local administrations based on their old laws. England never had that opportunity because of the way the country was created.
England first emerged as a country in the 10th century when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged together to create the Kingdom of England. The formation of the first English Parliament was based on a unification of the nobles in the 13th century after the signing of the Magna Carta. Over the next hundreds of years there was a series of battles between the nobles over control of the Kingdom of England. This infighting created a constant state of unrest that troubled the development of the first English Parliament, which wasn’t even based on a formal constitution. Instead a series of bill of rights and charters built England’s administration. But they didn’t do well to maintain a basic order of society. So whereas the other countries are founded upon a formal legal and administration system, England has been founded upon a change of hands between different monarchs renewing and amending statute laws. That’s why Britain has no official constitution, just a sum of laws and principles.
Since devolution began there has been several campaigns to grant England it’s own parliament for representation of it’s own people. Some nationalists and political parties support it for their own agenda on breaking up the UK or reducing the size of the government. It has had some support from English MPs who feel that by having non-English MPs voting on matters that only affect English citizens is unfair. England has lost out on some occasions because of this. There are 533 English constituencies in Parliament, which creates in inbuilt majority that leaves the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish constituencies vulnerable to losing out on matters that affect them.
It could be argued that England does have some political representation in the UK Parliament. When the Act of Union 1707 came along the Parliament of England was amalgamated with the other countries. So England’s Parliament exists as locked into a unitary parliament that represents Great Britain. Because England has the most productivity and wealth of the British economy it seems to be paramount for England to be tied to the UK Parliament to run and finance the domestic affairs of the whole of the UK.
However of that wealth that the UK generates the bulk of it is dominated by London, the only part of England with it’s own devolved government. A city which has outgrown it’s boundaries. With an English Parliament the wealth can be redistributed regionally with a fair share of powers to cities and counties. Thus allowing for freedom of development and growth elsewhere.
After the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014 Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford suggested converting the UK Parliament from a unitary parliament to a federal parliament to help create an English Parliament. But I wouldn’t go with this because a federal parliament works for a large country like Australia and Canada where the powers can be decentralised to small areas for the small state’s own personal needs. Unitary parliaments work best for small countries like Britain where the counties need closer ties to a central government because their economies are too small to be run all by themselves.
Now I think can there is a way in which England can achieve it’s own parliament. It doesn’t require creating another layer of government but opening up a separate division of parliament and transferring powers for English issues to that division. Since the Act of Union tied all the parliaments together, devolution took certain powers away from Westminster and transferred them to the other nations. With an English division of Parliament you can transfer the powers that are similar to that of what the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland. The location of this English Parliament would be best placed somewhere in the Midlands to help reduce the North-South divide.
The structure of the English Parliament would consist of 9 regional areas with 83 counties. These regions or counties could be multi-member constituencies taking the place of the metro, non-metro and county councils, just as they have done in Scotland. The elections would be carried out in a party list proportional representation. With England operating with devolved powers in this way the Westminster UK Parliament would be left with state affairs that affect the whole of the UK.
With this system of governance the whole of the UK can live with an effective government that suits each of the nations and regions. There will be a smaller government that can give the people more freedom to better themselves and have a decent share of wealth and prosperity for the people. In the time that I have been living and working in Scotland as a sports volunteer I have seen how effective the devolved government can be.