Monday, 25 May 2009

The English Question

From a report in The Daily Telegraph today: England is stuck in a "pre-devolution time-warp" 10 years after the creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, an MPs' report said. The Commons Justice Committee said there was wide agreement that its system of government must change but no consensus on what should be done. It said Parliament would come under increasing pressure to resolve the so-called "English question", but gave warning that there were problems with the proposed solutions, such as an English parliament, regional assemblies, or English votes for English laws. The committee also called for urgent action to reform the Barnett Formula which distributes central government cash, regarded by many as unfair to poorer regions of England compared with Scotland and Wales. In an inquiry timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 1999 devolution in Scotland and Wales, the committee questioned ministers, MPs, members of devolved assemblies, academics, campaigners and civil servants on the English question. Sir Alan Beith, the committee chairman, said: "England is the unfinished business of devolution - stuck in a pre-devolution time-warp, while the rest of the UK has moved on." The cross-party committee advised against an English parliament and first minister because of the difficulty of balancing their powers with those of the Government and Prime Minister. But they added: "It may become necessary to [consider it] if the English questions are seen as increasingly significant and other solutions are rejected or fail."

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