Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 17:30 UK

Brown 'must lead on devolution'

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond at Holyrood
The SNP have promised a referendum on Scottish independence

Gordon Brown must "lead the debate" on the creation of an English Parliament or risk losing more ground to the BNP, ex-minister Frank Field has said.

The Labour MP said voters in England were growing increasingly resentful of the "injustices" caused by devolution.

Mr Field, who led the Labour rebellion on the abolition of the 10p tax band, called for a UK-wide referendum on independence for Scotland and England.

Such a vote was inevitable and Labour should not shy away from it, he argued.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Field said: "The English question must be settled because it has created these grave injustices for the English.

"But if we don't, then we are making it easier again for the BNP and parties like it to eat into our core vote and I don't believe we should make a present of that."


On Tuesday, in a speech at Hertfordshire University, Mr Field said English voters feel devolution is "unfair both constitutionally and financially" over issues such as prescription charges and university top-up fees.

No one is better placed than the prime minister, representing a Scottish constituency, to deliver justice to English voters
Frank Field

He said the English were "awakening from the great slumber into which they fell when Parliament passed its first devolution measure establishing a Scottish Parliament".

But the devolution debate was not purely about a referendum on independence for Scotland - voters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should also be given a say.

'Bring it on'

"The choice is not whether there will be a second devolution measure. That will occur," said Mr Field.

"The choice is now about who will lead the change - whether it will be Gordon Brown or David Cameron.

"No one is better placed than the prime minister, representing a Scottish constituency, to deliver justice to English voters."

The Scottish National Party, which since May has led a minority government in Scotland, has promised a referendum on independence by 2010.

Labour was initially hostile to the idea but its position was thrown into confusion last month when Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander told First Minister Alex Salmond she feared nothing from a vote and urged him to "bring it on".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown avoided comment on Ms Alexander's call for a referendum, although he backed her as an "excellent leader" of Labour in Scotland.

He has pledged to do "whatever is necessary" to preserve the United Kingdom.

Conservative leader David Cameron recently mounted a strong defence of the Union, telling his party's Scottish conference he wanted to be prime minister of England and Scotland.

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