Labour proposes devolution settlement to ‘shape own futures’
Ed Miliband unveils plans for constitutional convention and stresses need for dialogue about how power is dispersed.
Labour has countered David Cameron’s plan for English MPs only to vote on English issues in the Commons by saying Ed Miliband will convene a constitutional convention to discuss the future of devolution and power at Westminster.
The prime minister had said on Friday morning that the result of the Scottish referendum and the commitment to further devolution in Scotland required the introduction of a new settlement in which only English MPs vote on English laws, excluding MPs from the other UK nations from some votes.
The proposal buys Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, time to resolve internal differences in his party and gives him the chance to show he is seeking to engage with a disaffected electorate.
Labour, like the Liberal Democrats, is opposed to Scottish MPs being excluded altogether, saying it will produce two tiers of MPs at Westminster .
The convention will be a form of semi-representative assembly going beyond elected MPs.
It would begin before the next election with every nation and region in the country engaged in dialogue with the people about how power needs to be dispersed, not just in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in England too.
The Labour proposal is that these debates will bring together MPs and councillors with ordinary citizens.
Each region will produce a report outlining a series of recommendations, covering for example: how sub-national devolution can be strengthened; how the regions can be given more of a voice in our political system; and how we can give further voice to regional and national culture and identity.
This would be followed in autumn 2015 with a constitutional convention to determine the UK-wide implications of devolution and to bring these recommendations together.
It will discuss the shape and extent of English devolution and what reforms are needed in Westminster, as well as the case for a regionally representative Senate or for codifying the constitution.
Any recommendations would be debated by parliament.
Miliband said: “This referendum has changed Scotland. But it will also change Britain.
“We know there is deep anger across the UK with Westminster politics from so many people who feel left out and left behind – that our country doesn’t work for them.
“Labour’s plan for Britain means big economic change but it also means change in the way we are governed.
“The passion in this referendum campaign on both sides has shown that politics can still galvanise people, engage the young, bring people out to vote in record turnouts.
“I want more of that energy, not less. The Labour party will not now sit back and put up a ‘business as usual’ sign over Westminster.”
Miliband said he would not allow the post-referendum atmosphere to be hijacked for narrow party political advantage.
“We need a response that matches the scale of this moment. That starts with delivering on our promise of further powers to Scotland.
“But other people in Britain, including England, now deserve the chance to shape their own futures with a dynamic devolution settlement.
“This must not be led just by a Westminster elite but be open to every citizen so that they can have their say.”
He said a series of constitutional changes were necessary including the case for a senate of the nations and regions.
“But we need further devolution of power within England, we need reform at Westminster, and we need to look seriously at codifying the constitution, following an unprecedented period of constitutional reform and instability.
“These issues can no longer be fixed solely by politicians or prime ministers trying to shore up their position in their own party. The people need to be given a voice too.
“We can mend our broken politics so we are better together by working together.”
- The Guardian,