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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 08:44 GMT
Does England need regional assemblies?
There is big support in the regions of England for devolving power from Westminster to elected regional assemblies, according to a new poll commissioned by the BBC.

Almost two-thirds of people (63%) want regional government, according to the survey, with less than a quarter (23%) opposed to the move.

The poll suggests the most popular reason why people in England would support a regional assembly is to give their area a stronger voice in both Westminster and Brussels.

The survey also revealed that we classify ourselves more by our local town than by our country - we are more likely to say we are Scousers or Brummies than say we're British.

Would you like your local area to have more political power? Do you feel more affinity to your region than England or Britain?

This Talking Point was suggested by Denise, UK :

Do the English really 'want regional parliaments'? Would we end up like the US with its State run schemes?

If you have any suggestions for Talking Points, please click here.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

To John of France, yes we do love paying our taxes over here because overall we pay some of the lowest taxes in Europe. Another level of bureaucracy sounds like a nightmare but if it means this country becoming less London-centric then I'm all for it.
Tarun Patel, England

Regional assemblies are not enough! What England needs is independence from its moaning British siblings.
Anthony Walmsley, UK

Regional government... another level of politicians to drain our taxes?

Peter, UK
Regional government... another level of politicians to drain our taxes? Or a professional administration to replace the rag-bag chaos of county councils, district councils, parish councils, single administrative authorities, city councils and all the other people playing at running our lives? Would a regional council allow the delay and confusion currently occurring between Bristol and South Glosterchire over the rapid transit rail system? I think not... Let's go for the single authority to replace the chaos and save time and money!
Peter, UK

Absolutely - the sooner the economy of the South East is freed from subsidising the rest of Britain, the better!
Guy Hammond, England

If the English had their own Parliament, as do the Scots, Welsh and Irish, then regional government would not be an issue. I have seen numerous English fans out here flying the Union flag at the cricket games. The English don't know the difference between being English and British.
Keith Gethen, Australia

As a Merseyside resident I just can't wait to have all the political decisions for the region made in Manchester... Not!
Andy, UK, Liverpool

Yes, an assembly today and finally a Republic of Yorkshire. No more nonsense from these fancy southerners and their Lacastrian friends. I look forward to singing 'Ilkley Moor' as the newly formed Yorkshire football team win the World Cup!
Andrew P, Yorkshire

Scotland and Wales are one thing, the Balkanising of England's another

Desmond, UK
Scotland and Wales are one thing, the Balkanising of England's another. What 'regions'? What are these 'regions'? How do residents of these 'regions' identify themselves? Are there not enough toothless assemblies in the UK already? How about decent County and City authorities who can actually do something that matters to their citizens' lives without being crippled by Central Government interference? Let's give Londoners the right to decide how to run the Underground, and the residents of Yorkshire and Warwickshire the right to decide if they'll permit fox hunting or not. The natural internal boundaries of our nation are cultural ones, based upon the differences in attitudes between, for example, rural and urban areas, not the simplistic north, South, East, and West ones.
Desmond, UK

Devolution has been a waste of time and money. It was done in haste and without thinking through the whole issue of the British Constitution. That is, does the UK need a federal system or not? A federal system a 100 years ago may have "solved" the "Irish Problem". This partial devolution is a failure. Some regional autonomy, not "national" is what is needed to develop the economies of those regions. This is particularly true of the Scottish Highlands and islands who will continue to suffer under the Scottish Parliament.
David, Canada

When Wales and Scotland gained parliaments, England should have got one by default. There should be no need for a referendum, but an automatic English parliament. Some years ago Blair was asked "Is there to be an English Parliament?" He said, "There has been no call for one". Well we're calling for one now!
K Young, England

More of the European Agenda by the back door

Bill Bell, UK
More of the European Agenda by the back door along with a further opportunity to distance itself from any form of responsibility. Go for it - you know it makes sense.
Bill Bell, UK

I see they are at it again! The government I mean. Prescott has decided all on his own that 1000 year-old counties are to be abolished. This is the real reason that Labour are touting regional assemblies. More divide and rule. Well, he won't get away with it. England needs a parliament so it can run its own country without subsidising any others.
R. Anderson, USA

I would most certainly support a national assembly for England. I'm not so sure about regional assemblies. Are we not divisive enough already? This small island of Great Britain has more in common with it's fellow nations than it gives it self credit for. What happened to "united we stand, divided we fall"? Would we really be better off as separate nations, or are we just pandering to foolish pride?
Matt Jamieson, England

You want yet another level of government for the regions? Areas of land that are insignificantly small?

Alex C., Australia
You want yet another level of government for the regions? Areas of land that - not just from an Australian perspective - are insignificantly small? How tribal! Strange that we are taught to regard Europeans as sophisticated.
Alex C., Australia

What we need is fewer politicians with greater powers. We also need to give them the ability to actually implement policy decisions more quickly. If people then saw the effects (good and bad) and could associate those responsible we'd encourage more interest in voting.
Neil Pearce, London, England

Why should England be more devolved than Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? More importantly, it is wrong that non-English constituent MP's at Westminster have the ability to vote on issues which are only relevant to English constituencies.
Damian Johnson, England

I live in Harlow and currently have the dubious honour of paying the highest Council Tax in the country for some of the poorest services

James Miller, UK
I live in Harlow and currently have the dubious honour of paying the highest Council Tax in the country for some of the poorest services. Do I want to pay even more for another tier of ineffective government run by self-serving hypocrites who wouldn't recognise a good idea if it hit then in the face? I don't think so!
James Miller, UK

Having English regional assemblies will just provide another layer of bureaucracy and yet more self-serving politicians that WE will have to pay for.
Paul, England

If these costly talking shops are going to be imposed upon us Cornwall should get its own assembly rather than being part of a fake euro-region called South West England. Also Shetland and Orkney should get their own assemblies too rather than being lumped together with Scotland. They once had their own language (Norn), have their own flags and feel more Scandinavian than Scottish.
James Wild, UK

County councils should be replaced by larger regional assemblies

Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge, UK
I believe county councils are too small and too unempowered to be of any use, and that the district councils, being about a quarter of the size of the counties, are too similar in size. It seems obvious to me that county councils should be replaced by larger regional assemblies with more clout thus allowing the smaller district and city councils to be more focused on the detail of local affairs.
Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge, UK

Doesn't it strike you as slightly odd that this government seems intent on splitting up the UK into large regional assemblies - ones that would easily, say, be amenable to some sort of future control by Brussels in a Britain fully integrated into an EU superstate?
Tim, Glos, UK

The short answer is no. Although English, I live and work in Wales. As an 'outsider', it seems to me that the Welsh Assembly has been an unmitigated disaster. There has been no decrease in political chicanery (e.g. the Chamber Orchestra funding scandel), no increase in efficiency and the whole thing just costs money (witness the multi-million pound farce that masquerades as the new Assembly building). The recent outcry in north and central Wales over the decision to award Newport city status, cited as further evidence of a massive south Wales bias, suggests that such assemblies merely serve to relocate the big fish of government to a much smaller pond. In fact, the only solution to the north-south argument in Wales is probably regional Welsh devolution!!!
Paul Kenton, UK

The Scottish Parliament has been a complete and utter waste of time and money and I seriously regret ever voting for it

Michael, Scotland, UK
Being Scottish and having voted Yes in our referendum for devolution my advice would be to think long and hard about what your region would be creating. Since it was set up, the Scottish Parliament has in my opinion been a complete and utter waste of time and money and I seriously regret ever having thought of voting for it. The cost of the new building is spiralling out of control, MSPs go against public opinion, they debate nonsense issues and vote to award themselves higher salaries and more holidays, with no second tier house to stop them. Even now they complain about being paid less than Westminster MPs. If I could turn back time, I would send them homeward to think again. I'm Scottish and I'm proud of that. But since the creation of the Parliament I've realised that we didn't need any more red tape to affirm our identity. We also didn't need any more politicians to run local affairs (the Scottish Office took care of most of that). Nationalists would of course disagree, but I helped create a disaster.
Michael, Scotland, UK

All this would mean is that we would see more politicians, more beauracracy and more money wasted on talking shops.
Steve, England

Centralised power has proven under Labour that it is inefficient and ignorant to the needs of provincial Britain

J Kerr, England
I'd welcome regional assemblies - centralised power has proven under Labour that it is inefficient and ignorant to the needs of provincial Britain. Regional assemblies would also appreciate the needs of the local community they are responsible for, and would probably deal with such a situation more effectively then Westminster. The regional power bases of the US have showed that good government can arise from a compromise between state power and federal weight. I can't see why such a balance could not be struck in the UK.
J Kerr, England

As a Yorkshire man, I suppose I should feel as much regional pride as anyone. However, given the appalling performance of some of our local authorities and councils - many of whose members would doubtless make up such an assembly - I think this would be a recipe for disaster. Also, what exactly would these assemblies do, apart from spend money? Better the devil you know, if you ask me.
Anthony Jones, UK

The sooner we get our own assembly in Cornwall with real powers, the better for all concerned

Phil T, Oman
Being Cornish, I would welcome a regional assembly. For years now we have had successive governments whose main concerns have centred around London and the South East of England. It has caused a lot of animosity throughout the British Isles and giving local regions more say in how their money is spent is a good idea. Cornwall is considered one of the poorest areas in Europe and has Objective One status, yet we receive back from the British government 350 million per year less than what we pay in taxes. How can this shortfall be justified, especially when successive governments manage to waste over 800 million on a Dome, which is continuing to cost taxpayers money? The Objective One status means that there is money available for development from the EU. However, in order to get that money our government has to equal the amount that the EU is prepared to give. So far, our government will only match a proportion of what the EU is willing to give. The sooner we get our own assembly in Cornwall with real powers, the better for all concerned.
Phil T, Oman

Regional assemblies are fine in principle, but a number of key issues would have to be resolved. Firstly, would the assemblies have revenue raising powers. If so, wouldn't this simply increase the burden on local residents? Remember council tax in London was raised by a significant amount to pay for the GLA. Secondly how would the assemblies sit with other regional bodies such as chambers and RDAs. Finally, those in the other regions keen on having their own should ask themselves what benefits London has received from having one.
Garry Waddell, UK

You really enjoy paying your taxes over there don't you. Has anybody given any thought to the cost of setting up a complete tier of administration? Just think of all those highly paid executives itching to get your tax money, so they can an empire build at your expense. Simple question, has the employing of thousands of administrators, pen pushers all, improved the treatment that your health service now offers?
John, France

Ian - You are 100% correct. But remember that no system is perfect; French, British or otherwise. I am in strong favour of decentralization. Whether Britain ends up a Federal nation or not has yet to be scripted. What must be understood is that for decentralization to actually work, power must be handed from the Central government in Westminster to the regional or country assemblies.
Alex, France/USA

John, France has had a regional system of government since 1982. Granted the regions don't have real power, but I don't see the French complaining. They seem to be the most over governed nation from local government upwards. If Scotland and Wales can have devolution then why can't we in the North?
Ian, UK

See also:

21 Mar 02 | UK Politics
English 'want regional parliaments'

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