State of the Union – A Federal vision
The National Liberal Party and a federal vision to unite the dis-United Kingdom
We live in what is supposed to be a United Kingdom and indeed this once was the case. However in 1997 Tony Blair’s Labour regime, transformed what was the United Kingdom into the dis-United Kingdom by introducing a devolution settlement that can only be described as complete fudge. It was a fudged settlement which allowed the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish to have a government or an assembly working in the interest of their particular nation, whilst England was denied such a democratic institution. It was a fudged settlement which allowed M.P’s from the other home nations to vote at Westminster on matters which solely related to England.
It is likely the basis of the devolution settlement was not to bring about better democracy or recognise the distinct culture of the Celtic nations, but to stem the rising tide of votes for parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Or to put it another way, to secure Labour seats in the Parliament at Westminster. This fudged settlement remains today, with little hope of the Tories, Lib Dems or Labour ever likely to look at democracy instead of self-interest.
The National Liberal Party is a party which firmly believes in democracy. The people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland chose to have their own devolved Parliament or Assemblies and we accept their decision. Likewise our belief in democracy goes as far as self-determination, and therefore if any of the home nations decide via a referendum that their future rests outside the United Kingdom, we would recognise the majority decision. If this came about, the National Liberal Party would work towards creating a Britannic Conference, whereby close links and co-operation between the former home nations would be nurtured.
However, with opinion in all four home nations currently in favour of a ‘United Kingdom’, the National Liberal Party proposes to deal with the current fudged devolution settlement through the creation of a federal UK.
To bring about these changes, we have to ensure democracy and fair representation exists within the UK. As has already been mentioned, the Celtic nations have their own houses where elected representatives can make decisions on items such as health, policing, education and the environment. The National Liberal Party would offer the people of England the opportunity to decide whether they also wished to have their own Parliament, whereby representatives elected in England would solely deal with matters that directly concern England. Opinion polls currently demonstrate the vast majority of people in England wish to have their own Parliament, something the National Liberal Party is happy to support. We recognise the present devolution settlement is unjust, and in England in particular the elderly, the infirm and the young are the ones that are being hit the hardest.
There is a definite need for an English Parliament for several reasons.
• It would allow democratic, accountable government in England.
• It would allow the people of England to express priorities where expenditure is needed and provide a much fairer deal financially.
• It would give greater protection to England’s heritage and culture.
• It would allow the people of England to preserve its national identity and protect its environment.
• It would help unite the people of England, from all identities and backgrounds to decide their future within the UK and the EU.
• It would give a voice and recognition for England.
As part of our revised devolution settlement, greater powers could be devolved to the houses of all four home nations. Therefore ALL the nations of the United Kingdom would have a greater say in their own destiny. This would allow a reduction in the number of M.P’s currently being sent to Westminster. Through greater devolution of powers, the role of Westminster would mainly be concerned with defence and issues of national (involving all the home nations) and international affairs. Internal affairs (within each home nation) would then be the responsibility of each devolved government. This is the nature of a proper federal state and will ‘square the circle’ of the present imbalance.
As an aside, we support the principle of Subsidiarity which means the different organs (Westminster, Parliament, Councils) are responsible for what they need to be responsible for and thus handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. This in effect will mean a devolution of power downwards from Westminster and Parliaments/Assemblies.
The National Liberal Party is one of true democracy. Currently in the United Kingdom, through the failings of all the main parties to put the interests of the people before their own political aspirations, true democracy has been denied. We have been force fed democracy for political self-interest, rather than democracy for national interest.
Our policy for a federal United Kingdom is built upon Liberty, Democracy and Independence, the three pillars of National Liberalism. It would offer each home nation far greater control of their internal affairs and tackle the fudged mess we currently live with.
Date: November 22, 2011