Written evidence from The Campaign for an English Parliament (EDE 25)
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
The Evolution of Devolution: English Devolution
1. Should devolution in England use the reserved powers to bring it in line with devolution in the rest of the UK?
Yes. The people of England have the same right as the other nations of the UK to have their own national administrations as enshrined in the UN Charter on Human Rights.
2. What aims and principles should underpin devolution in England?
A settlement so that England can be recognised politically and constitutionally, to rebalance the Union, to safeguard England’s unity, to ensure a voice in Westminster equal to the other nations of the UK and internationally, to answer the West Lothian question, to support England’s heritage.
A settlement such that there is clarity about what laws and regulations that apply to England alone. This was singularly lacking in the UK government’s response to regulations concerning Covid-19
The same aims and principles that underpinned national devolution for the other nations of the UK. Universal suffrage and possibly a form of proportional representation. Internal issues, such as those devolved to Scotland, should be decided by an English body, assembly or parliament. Tax raising and legislative powers should also be the same as for Scotland.
3. Should devolution in England use the reserved powers to bring it in line with devolution in the rest of the UK?
4. To what extent should there be consistency in devolved and local governance within England, and to what extent is asymmetry necessary?
Rural areas in England outside of or in the periphery of powerful city mayors have always complained of and feared being sidelined in lobbying for funds. Indeed, such organisations competing for the attention of the UK government have been likened to ‘a witches’ brew of internecine rivalries’ by Will Hutton. The ancient system of county and shire organisations has worked well for centuries with some adjustments to take account of demographics. Counties are organic to England and understood by the population.
5. What is the purpose of the current ‘devolution’ deals and mechanisms? Are these purposes being achieved?
The purpose of the current ‘devolution’ deals and mechanisms is, apparently, aimed at taking power closer to the people. In fact both existing and proposed piecemeal devolution demonstrably sucks powers up from local authorities, which, by their very nature, are closer to the people. It seems clear that devolving more power to city regions will undermine the UK government and be a distraction. The current example of the response of the powerful mayor of Manchester to the UK government in relation to actions regarding support for Covid-19 affected areas shows that there is not a clear distinction of responsibility. A national government dealing only with national issues would be closer to those areas suffering disproportionately. Moreover it would act to arbitrate over issues between weak and strong local administrations.
6. How should decisions on English devolution be agreed?
As with the devolved nations, by a referendum in England. The question should be the same in order to demonstrate parity of regard.
7. How should the interests of different parts or regions of England be better represented to central government as well as in intergovernmental arrangements and in Parliament?
Clearly a co-ordinating body, an Assembly or Parliament, would be able to speak as one voice to central government. That body would be responsible for balancing the needs of all parts of England. Such a body could focus on the needs of vulnerable areas and prevent them being neglected.
8. Is there public demand for such structures
All polls* undertaken since 1998 have shown, regardless of the question, that the people of England want a voice. Moreover, in the report of the McKay Commission on the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons, the Commissioners stated that only an ‘all-England’ solution is acceptable, that England needed a voice, rejected regional assemblies or localism as English devolution and that political parties must produce manifestos for England.
 We are submitting this evidence in support of our commitment to a fair deal for England. The CEP was incorporated in 1998 and since then has campaigned for equality for the people of England and constitutional change.