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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Fresh call for English Parliament
Big Ben
The constitutional settlement works against England, campaigners say
English people have a "sovereign right" to a Parliament of their own if they want one, an architect of Scottish devolution has said.

Canon Kenyon Wright said it was "undemocratic" that Scottish MPs could vote on England-only issues but not vice versa.

He said he wanted to see "a strong English Parliament" and a strengthened Welsh legislature.

Opponents say they fear the break-up of the United Kingdom.

But Canon Wright said creating an English Parliament would strengthen the union and "may well save it".

He said he had changed his mind on the issue after English regional assemblies - originally planned to correct the alleged power deficit created by Welsh and Scottish devolution - had been overwhelmingly rejected by voters in the North East.

"I have become convinced that England has a growing sense of national identity, every bit as strong as ours, and there should be an English parliament if people want it.

"It is as much our right as it is yours," he told a meeting of the English Constitutional Convention (ECC) in Westminster.


He said it was "quite irrational" for those MPs who in the early 1990s had signed a document claiming the right of Scotland to its own parliament to "now deny that same sovereign right to the English".

England has a growing sense of national identity as strong as ours
Canon Dr Kenyon Wright

ECC chairman Michael Knowles said the devolution in Scotland and Wales had led to a "constitutionally and politically bizarre, inflammatory and divisive" situation.

It had created many injustices in health and education policy, where there was a more generous deal for Scots in particular, he added.

"We don't want to take anything away from Scotland and Wales, we just want the same thing for people in England," he told the meeting.

But he said it would not be enough just to make the case for constitutional reform in isolation, it had to be relevant to people's lives and needed cross-party support.

'Weak' government

He urged MPs on all sides to campaign for an English Parliament and against the planned abolition of English counties in favour of "city regions".

The government was "weak" at the moment, he argued, and "the moment they get a whiff of opposition they will run scared".

An Ipsos Mori poll carried out in July suggested 41% of people wanted "England as a whole to have its own national Parliament with similar law-making powers to the Scottish Parliament".

Mark Gill, head of political research at Ipsos Mori, told the meeting this was a 10% swing in favour of an English Parliament, compared to previous polls, although the question had been made more detailed.


The ECC was set up by the English Democrats and the Campaign for an English Parliament.

Its name echoes the Scottish Constitutional Convention, a cross-party unofficial body chaired by Canon Wright in the 1980s.

Its blueprint for Scottish devolution formed the basis of the system Labour implemented following a referendum in 1997.

Canon Wright said a suggested policy of simply banning Scottish MPs from voting at Westminster on English issues would create more problems than it would solve.

UK break-up fears

But Campbell Christie, who sat on the Scottish convention, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "The consequence of creating a parliament of nine tenths of the UK is that it would almost definitely lead to the break-up of the UK.

"That parliament would not be content with just the powers that the Scottish Parliament has.

"It would want to handle foreign affairs, taxation and the economic affairs."

Earlier this year the idea of an English Parliament was rejected by the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.

He also said it would lead to the break-up of the UK.

The Conservatives have backed the idea of England-only votes at Westminster.

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard told Tuesday's meeting he backed the "laudable" aims of the ECC but thought they were "playing into the hands" of people who wanted to break up the UK and create a "Europe of the regions".

Blair rejects England-only votes
07 Feb 06 |  UK Politics
Davis wants England-only voting
10 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

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