Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Future of Devolution - draft amendment

Another motion on the agenda at Bournemouth next month is The Future Of Devolution, proposed by the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats.

This is OK as far as it goes, but there is one glaring hole in it, which is that the motion focuses only on Scotland and Wales. There's absolutely no mention of that big bit directly below Scotland and to the right of Wales - what's it called again? Oh yes, England.

To have a motion about devolution which doesn't mention the single biggest bit of the UK seems somewhat naive, and possibly a little dangerous given the views sometimes expressed south of the border about the way Scotland and Wales can control their domestic affairs but England can't.

Now, it's not really for me to suggest how England ought to govern itself, although I have some ideas on that score. But the issue does need to be discussed at some point.

That's why I've drafted the following amendment:

Add at end:
Conference also believes that government in England is far too centralised and unaccountable and instructs the Federal Policy Committee to bring forward proposals to Federal Conference within the next 18 months on how this can be tackled.

As with the Real Women one, if you support this amendment and are a Lib Dem federal conference voting rep, email me at bernardsalmon[at] with your name, membership number and local party.


Frank H Little said...

You can lead a horse to water ... the voters of North-East England voted to reject a democratically-elected regional assembly, thus accepting by default the existing Gauleitung.

The only part of England which has shown a desire to run its own economic development is the south-west.

Bernard Salmon said...

Indeed Frank, which is why my amendment doesn't specify the exact nature of how England should be governed, whether through revived regionalism, an English Parliament, enhanced county/city/unitary local government or whatever, but merely calls for proposals to be brought forward so the issue can be addressed. I don't think we as a party have really thought about these issues since the North-East no vote.

Stephen Glenn said...

I was about to applaud you for noticing Northern Ireland was omitted, but I'll still applaud you anyway.

Bernard Salmon said...

Stephen, yes I had noticed that Northern Ireland wasn't in the motion either and I did think about adding something in, but I couldn't think of anything that would be worth saying that wouldn't completely overshadow the rest of the debate. But as you have more experience of the issues than I do, if you want to draft another amendment on NI, that might be worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I'll look forward to the debate, I do hope it moves beyond the general platitudes towards federalism that we've seen in the past. The lib dems have a platform to bring forward not just their vision but the means with which to achieve it and sooner of later the dreaded 'r' word "referendum' will arise.

You must have a mandate for change , over and above general election support.

The argument that 'independence' can't be on a referendum is outmoded and fundamentally anti-democratic.

It's time for the Liberals to support a three question referendum, I suspect your option of much greater fiscal autonomy would win and change would happen.

At the moment, it looks piecemeal and derisory, as though you don't as a party mean what you say.

Peter Black said...

I think the problem is that England does not seem to know what it wants itself so how then can we account for their views in a motion?

Bernard Salmon said...

But Peter, that's the whole point of my amendment - it doesn't commit us to any particular solution at this stage, but it does guarantee that we do look at the issue.

Peter Black said...

Well it should come from England organically, not imposed on them from a Federal level.

Bernard Salmon said...

No-one's imposing anything, Peter - I would expect the FPC to conduct a thorough investigation of the issues involved and to encourage people to submit their views. But it is a discussion we need to have, as we have basically dodged the whole debate over English governance since the North-East no vote. We can't get away with that for ever.

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