England could see up to 20 ‘mini-parliaments’ spring up to answer ‘the English Question’ under proposals published by two senior Liberal Democrat parliamentarians today, including North Devon’s Nick Harvey.
In a major new publication from the liberal thinktank CentreForum, Lib Dem constitutional affairs spokesperson Lord Tyler, and former Defence Minister Nick Harvey MP, develop proposals for English devolution.
Nick proposes abolishing existing local authorities in England, and replacing them with roughly 150 ‘local governments’ and 15-20 ‘regional governments’; while Lord Tyler argues for ‘devolution on demand’, which would see local leaders able to demand legislative power from Westminster in Cornwall, London, or any area with a population of a million or more.
They conclude their ‘Devolution Dialogue’ with a joint action plan to:
- Enact a Devolution Enabling Bill for England, in the next Parliament
- Complete devolution to every area of England by 2020
- Conduct a ‘bottom-up’ process through an English Devolution
- Convention to determine the boundaries on which new assemblies or governments would be drawn
- Limit the number of regional assemblies to 20
- Ensure every assembly has enough members to provide a government and a scrutinising ‘backbench’
- Re-examine the effect of devolution on the House of Commons – ‘the English Question’ – after radical devolution is complete
- Review all local government structures, seeking to empower smaller councils beneath the new legislative assemblies with “double devolution”
The new bodies would take wide-ranging powers from Parliament, including responsibility for housing, planning, tourism, education and NHS services.
Nick said: “It is wearily depressing to see right wing Tories licking their lips at the thought of expelling 59 Scottish MPs from the debate over much of the domestic agenda, then reinforcing the status quo – of grotesque centralised rule from London – with the rightward lurch effected by axing the Scots.
“Their sabre-rattling about English votes is a massive distraction from the real need to decentralise power within England.
“Our proposals are for radical devolution from London, and not just to cities, but to rural areas too. It is the only way to bring about a renaissance of local accountability and to stop some small rural local authorities going bankrupt.”
Lib Dem Constitutional Affairs spokesperson, Lord Tyler added:
“London covers just 1% of the surface area of the UK, yet it accounts for 13% of the UK population, and more than a fifth of the total UK economic output.
“These disparities serve both London and the rest of the country badly: the cost of living in the capital is prohibitive while the economic potential of the rest of the country is undermined.
“Our joint plan takes the debate about England out of the cul-de-sac of votes in the House of Commons. Only radical devolution out of Westminster can make politics more accountable, by ensuring decisions are taken as closely as possible to those they affect.”
(from a press release)
(image: Nick Harvey, from Chatham House)