Archive for septembre, 2014

Devolution to Cities - by Michael Webster

Mardi, septembre 30th, 2014

I would like to come back to a subject that I raised in our successful lunch-discussion of last Saturday and which is drawing increasing attention in political circles.

The Scottish referendum and its subsequent fall-out has resulted in devolution becoming a matter of vital interest. And increasing attention is being paid to the question of devolution for England. The proposal of a separate English parliament beholden to a federal Westminster Parliament is a non-starter, given the insoluble problems it would raise.

So how to achieve some devolution for England? Great interest is now being taken in the restoration of powers to the great cities of England and cities such as Manchester and Birmingham are beginning to press for it.

There was a time when they had considerable independence, of which their palatial City Halls are said to be the symbols. Then the exigencies of the two war times resulted in the abrogation of much of those powers to Whitehall.They now seek to reverse this process and create city-regions, claiming among other things that it would eliminate considerable waste.It is interesting to note that Manchester has a greater population than Wales.

This resurgence of civic pride and the seeking of greater self- government are surely trends to be encouraged. There is an additional potential benefit. Much is being written of the increasing disaffection and alienation towards central government felt especially by the working-classes. This is said to have been particularly evident in the pro-independence votes in Scotland and not confined to the United Kingdom. It is said to be becoming a serious social problem.

The exercise of power at the city level might very well diminish this sense of alienation from central Whitehall authority.

Michael Webster

UK votes for UK laws - by Christopher Chantrey

Jeudi, septembre 25th, 2014

The referendum on Scottish independence was bound to change the United Kingdom, whichever way the vote finally went. And since the result was announced on 19th September, the debate about the future of the UK has been as passionate as the campaign in Scotland was.

But aren’t calls for “English votes for English laws” and bids to re-open the “West Lothian question” getting in the way of the real issues?

Ever since the end of the 1990s, when Labour introduced devolved assemblies for three out of the four component parts of the UK , what was missing was an integrated, overall scheme for managing all the component parts of the UK in a fair and democratic manner, under a unifying, central authority. In other words, clear, workable constitutional arrangements… of the kind that other countries take for granted.

This isn’t an easy subject for us Brits to get to grips with. It forces us to use words we hate using, like the “c” words (as in Constitution and citizenship), the “f” word (as in federal), and the “n” word (as in nationality), none of which we are comfortable with at all. It’s much easier, for example, to talk about someone holding this or that passport (a convenient travel document issued on demand to those citizens desiring to travel abroad) than to use the “n” word. But I’m afraid we’re going to have to get used to it.

Let me ease you into the debate by inviting you to compare and contrast these two diagrams.

organization-charts

One of them shows a type of structure in use the world over in organizations of all kinds, including sovereign states. The other one is hardly used at all, with one notable exception. Which of them seems to you to be the better way of organizing an entity that consists of four component parts and a surrounding unifying structure?

Once we’ve agree on that, we shall have to conclude that, for an entity with four component parts and a surrounding unifying structure, we shall need not four, but five management structures.

Then, we shall have to decide which activities should be managed at the level of the unifying structure, and which at the level of the component parts.

Those are the basic decisions that have to be taken before you can get into which structure should be put where, and who should sit in this or that part of it.

It will take time, but hang on, we’ve done this before. In 1867 we drew up the basis for the sharing of power in Canada between the federal government in Ottawa and the (now) 16 provincial governments. In 1900, we did something similar for Australia, dividing responsibilities between Canberra and the states and territories. After the war, the UK took a major role, together with the other Allied Powers, in drafting the 1949 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. Each of these cases proved the general rule: the number of government structures you need is the number of component parts plus one, the surrounding unifying structure.

Of course we are more familiar with terms like provinces (as in Canada) or states (as in Australia or Germany) than “components”. I am using the term “components” merely for convenience, so that are not distracted by the fact that the UK’s component parts are two kingdoms, a principality and a province. That they have different names does not matter: the need is to affirm their equal status. All the country examples I have just quoted call their surrounding unifying structure the federal government, based on a federal parliament and executive.

On the subject of status, note that disparate size of components need not automatically cause a problem. Of Canada’s 16 provinces, the largest (Ontario) has a population 92 times larger than the smallest (Prince Edward Island). Of Germany’s 16 states, the largest (Nordrhein-Westfalen) is over 26 times the size of the smallest (Bremen).

Another thing to note is that in terms of elected representatives, you either sit in a state or provincial parliament, or in the federal parliament, but not both.

I believe it will help us to move more swiftly to the kind of new constitutional arrangements that the UK needs, and which were envisaged by Mr Cameron on 19th September, if we understand these concepts sooner rather than later. After all, they are not complicated, our universities contain a number of extremely competent and distinguished constitutional lawyers who are raring to get going on this, and we do have some experience of doing this sort of thing for other countries.

Once the division of responsibilities is clear, then we can debate whether Westminster should be the English parliament or the UK parliament; where we should put the assembly which Westminster is not, which Westminster MPs should sit in each, and how and when we should make the transition. There are arguments for putting the assembly which Westminster is not, in some other part of the UK, perhaps in the north of England. But wherever it is located, one aspect must not be overlooked: the UK parliament must make adequate arrangements for the representation of the 9% of Britons who live outside the UK. Oh, dear, the “n” word again…

Christopher Chantrey

Thank you Mr Carswell - by Robin Baker

Vendredi, septembre 19th, 2014

Thank you Mr Carswell (the former Conservative MP for Clacton and now UKIP candidate) for leaving the Conservative Party. We are better off without you. To see why, let us look firstly at the blog you have published as a new member of UKIP:

We need change in our relationship with Europe.
When we joined what was to become the European Union all those years ago, we imagined we would be joining a prosperous trading block. In the early 1970s, it accounted for almost 40 percent of world economic output.
Today it accounts for a mere 25 percent. In a decade, it’s expected to be down to 15 percent.”

Yes, and a very good thing this fall in the EU’s share of world economic output is too. The EU has 7.3% of the world’s population, does Mr Carswell really think that our share of the world’s wealth should be more than three and a half times our share of the population? This change results from the strength of economic growth in the emerging economies and that is to everybody’s benefit: firstly because economic disparity between the poor and the rich is dangerous for world stability, secondly because we should be glad to see the world’s poor becoming less so, and thirdly for the selfish reason that the richer they are, the more they will be able to trade with us and so increase our prosperity as well.

Mr Carswell should be aware of one simple illustration of how the world has changed. When we joined the then EEC in 1973, the price of oil was some $2 - 3 per barrel. Today it hovers around the $100/barrel mark. Does he think that this should not have changed the balance of economic wealth?

He then followed this blog with an article in the International New York Times, which repeated that inanity from the blog and added:

Instead of using primaries to select candidates for parliamentary seats, party hierarchies parachute in those whom they favour.”

The only reason I can think of for Mr Carswell to use a foreign newspaper to write such rubbish about his own country, is because most of its readers will not recognise that his remarks are simply untrue. The decision on the selection of Conservative parliamentary candidates was previously always made by a general meeting open to all members of the local party. True, Party headquarters has, on occasions, tried to parachute in a preferred candidate from outside, but these attempts have generally failed, indeed for a candidate to be known to have HQ support has been the kiss of death. But the Party is now more and more moving away from the “local Party members” system to taking these decisions by “open primaries”, i.e. a primary in which any elector in that constituency may vote whether or not they are Party members. Two Conservative MPs elected in 2010 had been selected in that way and a number of candidates have already been chosen by that system for the election in 2015.

The Conservative candidate for the Clacton by-election caused by Mr Carswell has been chosen by such an open primary, this was done on 11th September, a week before Mr Carswell’s article was published. There was, however, one candidate who was parachuted in by his party hierarchy for this by-election. The UKIP candidate for Clacton had already been selected, by local UKIP members. When Carswell defected from the Conservative Party, that candidate was unceremoniously booted out and Nigel Farage parachuted in Douglas Carswell to fight the seat.

One other lie in the New York Times article, which says: “Most Laws made in Britain this year emanated from the European Union.” Mr Carswell may no longer be an MP, but he can still read reports by the House of Commons Library, a highly respected and independent source of information. They have studied this question and found:
“It is possible to estimate the proportion of national laws based on EU laws. In the UK, over the twelve-year period from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU obligations.
It is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts. This includes olive and tobacco growing regulations which are unlikely to have much impact in Britain.”

We do not need Mr Carswell’s shallow thinking in the Conservative Party, nor do we want his lies. He is highly suitable for UKIP, where such thinking is a requirement for membership. That is why, Mr Carswell, the Conservative Party is better off without you. Thank you for leaving the Conservative Party.

Robin Baker

Scottish Referendum - A Message from Sir Roger Gale MP

Mercredi, septembre 10th, 2014

Good morning

Folks in far-flung places and those closer to home,

If you have family or friends or contacts who are eligible to vote in Scotland next week would you be kind enough to impress upon them the importance of the “No” vote to maintain the Union.

At the Battle Of Britain dinner in the House last night the point was made that it was at this time of year that so many of our young airmen gave their lives in the defence of the United Kingdom. The break-up of the Union would have disastrous consequences not just for Scotland but for the whole future of what most of us have worked all our lives for and hold dear.

That, of course, will embrace not only domestic but overseas interests as well.

We are making considerable progress over the right of Britons resident overseas to vote (and if you are eligible but have not yet registered please do so) and there are even some glimmerings – although I would not wish to overstate the case – of light on the pensions uprating front. We shall be stronger together.

This is a crucial moment in our Island`s history and we really do need to muster all of the support available.

With very best wishes

Roger - (Sir Roger Gale MP)

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote