An essential part of the solutions to the problems outlined above is an English Parliament with a mandate to represent the interests of the whole of England and all its people. A parliament and executive would provide the people of England with the means for negotiating a fair distribution of public spending within the UK and allow them to allocate resources in a way that best meets their needs. Unity and co-operation within a natural political and cultural unit would be more fruitful than competition between artificial regions.There are those, like Lord Chancellor Irvine, a Scotsman, who are content with the present unfair arrangement and see no need to offer the people of England the same choice that was given to the people of Scotland. They argue that the West Lothian and English Questions should not be asked or answered. They are satisfied to see the constitution evolve in a gradual fashion while keeping the people of England content with the offer of Regional Government, which will dismember England into nine regions, each with its own assembly. This approach has been described by Will Hutton as “a witches’ brew of internecine rivalries.”
The Regional Assemblies would not have powers to enact primary legislation on devolved matters such as education, the NHS, and transport, which will need to be controlled countrywide. The assemblies and associated unelected quangos would be another tier of local government and bureaucracy, probably leading to the end of County Councils and therefore more remote from the electorate than at present. The regional approach attracts those who favour a European government of the Regions but, in breaking England into competing regions, it would be a partial reversion of England to the 9th century, yet without an adequate historical, cultural, or geographic basis for their boundaries. The parliamentary and government problems of the West Lothian and English questions would continue since Westminster would still have to enact all the primary legislation needed to govern England. (See Question Proposals have also been made to alter parliamentary procedure to deal with the West Lothian Question. These seek to debar MPs of Scottish constituencies from discussing and voting on English legislation (and similar restrictions on Welsh and Irish MPs when appropriate). This would significantly breach the principle of equality of members of the United Kingdom parliament and would be unworkable and chaotic in the possible circumstance of a government with an overall majority but not one of English MPs. The proposals also fail to address the problem of government (as opposed to parliamentary) control of English legislation. A continuing constitutional argument would result with procedures being amended by successive governments to serve their own interests and this would lead to unstable government.
The solution of devolving powers over English legislation to an English Parliament, with similar action for Wales, has therefore been advanced to ensure that all parts of the United Kingdom receive equal treatment. It would provide a full answer to the English and West Lothian Questions, satisfy the growing sense of unfairness in England, and resolve the constitutional anomalies that have unbalanced the Union. Inevitably, it would be a major step in constitutional development but it has not yet been endorsed by any of the three main political parties.
The creation of an English Parliament is not only about achieving a devolution settlement that is fair. It is also about encouraging innovation and openness in our democracy. What better way to build on the English democratic tradition than by establishing an English Parliament? A Parliament designed for modern conditions which would make governments more accountable to those who elect them. The Campaign for an English Parliament was formed in 1998 and is growing steadily into a countrywide organisation. It is not a political party, nor is it allied to any political party, but it seeks to persuade public opinion and politicians of all parties that an English Parliament is the best way forward. It recognises that the proposal needs deep and careful consideration, and in this pamphlet it puts forward its Aim and answers some of the questions that flow from it.