Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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England’s cry for post-Brexit governance: its own parliament and a shared senate

05 July 2017
St George

Speaking today at the British Academy’s conference, Governing England: Devolution and identity in England, Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, made a plea that all the participants to this debate get over the normal get-out clause for serious discussion, namely that as England is so large there can be no satisfactory federal solution to the post-Brexit governance of the United Kingdom.

Frank argued: ‘It is only through a federal solution that England can gain justice on a par with the other members of United Kingdom. The model we should be aiming for is quite clear. How we get there is of course another matter.

‘The United Kingdom should move to a position where there are four autonomous parliaments. The English one sitting in Westminster, the Northern Irish one in Stormont, the Welsh parliament in Cardiff and the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

‘One of the key questions to be decided is which matters can be devolved completely, which partially and which can only be decided with the approval of the newly established senate which will take the place of the House of Lords.

‘The principle should be that, wherever possible, matters should be devolved to be decided in each nation’s parliament. Matters on the overall budget, and the redistribution from England to the other parliaments would need to be decided by discussion between the four parliaments but settled in the senate. Defence, and other major matters such as Brexit, should similarly be finally be decided in a newly established senate which would replace the House of Lords.

‘The size of England has always been played as a joker against this kind of new constitutional settlement. Instead of seeing it as a barrier, the size of England should be seen as a spur to action. But England needs to be generous in the allocation of each of the four parliaments and would need to come to agreement on the size of each parliament’s representation in the senate.

‘The English Parliament should make clear at the outset that it doesn’t expect to have senate representation based on population only. Population would play a part but it is crucial that the other smaller senate delegations should be able to block England’s will. England will need a high degree of consensus to get policy through that affects all the nations of the United Kingdom.

‘I would suggest that the number of senators be divided into two. Half of them would be voted in by a designated list of organisations which make up the richest interpretation possible of civil society. So doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, trade unionists would elect their slate through their professional organisation. The other half of the senate’s membership should be elected directly on the basis of the new constitutional settlement decided by the four national parliaments. Here the political parties could compete for senators and the four parliaments could decide on a new voting system rather than the first-past-the-post system we have for election to the UK Parliament.’


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