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A devolved English Parliament, giving separate decision-making powers to representatives for voters in England similar to the representation given by the National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, is currently a growing issue in the politics of the United Kingdom. The Campaign for an English Parliament is a pressure group that is lobbying for this.

A January 2007 poll of 1,953 British respondents polled in Great Britain found 61% support among the English for a parliament of their own, with 51% of Scots and 48% of Welsh people favouring the same.[1][2] An earlier ICM poll of 869 English people in November 2006 produced a slightly higher majority of 68% backing such a body.[3][4][5][6]

Contents

History

The first English Parliament arose during the 13th century, comprising members of the nobility and clergy, and representatives from shires and boroughs. It developed a bicameral arrangement with an upper House of Lords for the nobility and clergy, and a lower House of Commons for the shires and boroughs. The powers of the parliament were fairly great: the king could not institute a new law or tax without its consent.

The Laws in Wales Acts passed in 1536 and 1543, incorporating Wales into England. Previously, not all members were English by birth (notably Simon de Montfort), or had solely English concerns, but now, members could be elected by, and for, people who were not English. The parliament convened in 1542 had twenty-seven elected Welsh members in the House of Commons.

The English Parliament was dissolved (and the Parliament of Scotland with it) by the Treaty of Union in 1707, and replaced with the Parliament of Great Britain. In practice, however, this was a continuation of the English Parliament - it met in the same place, had the same traditions, usages, and officers, and English members comprised an overwhelming majority.

Devolution and the West Lothian question

Following the first elections to the newly created Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly in 1999, England was left as the only country in the United Kingdom with no separate representative body, although the Northern Ireland Assembly has been subject to periods of suspension. The West Lothian question which was posed by the Scottish MP Tam Dalyell in the 1970s is wide open:

If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament, how can it be right that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Parliament of the United Kingdom still have the power to vote on equivalent issues affecting England and other parts of the UK, but not Scotland?

Although the Welsh Assembly has limited primary legislative powers in areas where it has been devolved from houses of parliament, there is a chance the introduction of an English Parliament would result in the Assembly gaining full legislative competence and becoming a Welsh Parliament. Of the mainstream political parties in Wales, only Plaid Cymru (which wants outright independence) and the Liberal Democrats support this. Scotland and Northern Ireland already have separate legal systems and laws, so the delegation of legislative authority does not cause any such issues.

Proposals

Consequently, some have advocated a new devolved English Parliament, entirely separate from the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to counteract what they see as a democratic imbalance. Provision for such body existed in Tony Benn's defeated Commonwealth of Britain Bill.

Activity

There are currently several groups working to raise this issue of a Devolved English Parliament, including the Campaign for an English Parliament and the English Constitutional Convention. Also, the English Democrats Party supports the creation of an English parliament, although they have achieved limited success at the polls as of 2009.

Regions of England

The Labour government favoured devolution to nine regions within England, claiming that it is too populous (with over 80% of the UK's population) to be governed as a subnational entity. A London Assembly was established on 3 July 2000, after a referendum in which 72% of those voting supported the creation of the Greater London Authority, which included the Assembly along with the Mayor of London. But Greater London is seen as a special case, and such a high level of public support is atypical. In all other regions, notably the South West England and South East England, there is little interest. Growing support for the assemblies was thought to be present in the north of England, but a referendum to establish a regional assembly for North East England on 4 November 2004 was defeated by a majority of 78% against. Further referenda in the other regions, notably those planned for Yorkshire and the Humber and North West England have been abandoned.

See also

References

Further reading

External links

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