'Taking Power Away from Westminster Is the Best Way to Strengthen United Kingdom'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

'Taking Power Away from Westminster Is the Best Way to Strengthen United Kingdom'


Byline: By Tomos Livingstone Western Mail

More power needs to be devolved to the English regions to help bolster the United Kingdom, a senior Welsh Labour MP says this morning. In an essay published in today's Western Mail, Wrexham MP Ian Lucas says the current devolution settlement "plays into the hand of separatists".

Further devolution to parts of England - through Regional Grand Committees at Westminster and holding existing regional quangos to account - would help change the terms of the debate, Mr Lucas says.

The so-called "English question" has risen up the political agenda in recent years, with Tory leader David Cameron enthusiastically pushing a policy of blocking Welsh and Scottish MPs from voting on matters which only affect England.

Questions are also being raised over the significantly higher levels of public spending in Scotland, which some English MPs argue is unfair. The Government spends pounds 6,762 per head in England, while the figure for Scotland is pounds 8,265. Wales does better than England at pounds 7,666.

Labour needs to be clearer about the benefits of devolution and why it believes in it, Mr Lucas says, arguing that giving away some powers allows regional differences to flourish while a "common approach to problems we all share" can continue at Westminster level.

"Devolution debates have played into the hands of separatists who see devolved powers as a precursor to the formal break-up of the United Kingdom," he writes. "For the Labour Party, devolution since 1997 has been a road with an unknown destination. We have failed to agree on the aims of devolution, and also failed to initiate a debate about it."

The party can win the argument on devolution as an end in itself - rather than a stepping-stone to independence - by stressing it is an "efficient" form of Government that improves people's quality of life, he says. …

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