The time has come to transform British Government

Peter Hain MP has joined Ed Miliband’s calls for scrapping the House of Lords in favour of a democratically elected Senate.

Speaking from his Neath constituency, the former Secretary of State for Wales said: “the Lords are an archaic anomaly which fuels disillusionment with British politics. It exists purely on a democratic deficit which has been allowed to evolve unchecked for centuries.”

“Wales has just 24 peers in the Lords, compared to 266 from London and the South East of England. London alone has more peers than East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber added together. We cannot allow this to continue.”

Since the Scottish Referendum on the 18th of September, Labour has been the only party to call for a full-scale constitutional convention in the United Kingdom to redress the imbalances of its historical system of government.

“I believe this is a once in a century opportunity to make our system of government fit for everyone, the fact is that people are fed up with an out-of-touch political class and the growing sense that Westminster is failing us all.”

-ENDS –

No to English Parliament, yes to English devolution in a federal UK

Progress

Former Welsh secretary and Labour MP for Neath Peter Hain had this to say in a statement on the result:

The energy in the Scots votes, No and Yes, shows time is up for the old politics of the Westminster elite. People are fed up with a Westminster that does not listen and in the case of policies like the bedroom tax does not care.

All the Parties must now move quickly not only to deliver the promised new powers for Scotland, but to do so also for Wales, Northern Ireland and devolution to England. English regions like Cornwall and the North East, and city regions like Manchester and Leeds, also want more powers and should get these.

Peter added in a phone call with Prospect’s Josh Lowe: “If Scotland is going to get the same deal under the Barnett formula Wales has got to get a better deal [than it currently has]… You can’t keep giving all the goodies to Scotland simply because they shout the loudest.”

‘There is a strong case for the Committee Stage of English-only Bills to be scrutinised and amendments debated by English MPs only. But it would be fatal to balkanise Westminster by creating first and second class MPs for votes on the floor of the Commons. Otherwise only London MPs should decide on laws for London and so on, and crucially the Prime Minister would in practice be elected by English MPs alone since the PM would have to command a majority in the “England section’ of Westminster. The solution is devolution in England coupled with a federal UK Parliament in which English MPs would as they do now dominate, comprising 80 per cent of all MPs.”

The UK should move to a federal structure with nations, regions and communities empowered to build a new politics. This should include a democratic Second Parliamentary Chamber elected at the same time as general elections to replace the anachronistic House of Lords, representing all the nations and English regions.

Statement on the Scottish Referendum

I welcome this result but no one would be fooled by the idea that this is an endorsement of the status quo.

We have to accept that this is a strong mandate for greater federalism in the UK, for decades now the Celtic Nations have been calling for greater devolution and the English regions like Cornwall and the North are reigniting their desire for greater autonomy. I think Ed Miliband’s plans for greater city autonomy clearly shows Labour is the party to deliver on these ideals shared by much of the of British people.

And in Westminster we need to accept that decisiveness is urgent to finally address our constitutional issues including the House or Lords, which I have been calling for my entire parliamentary career.

People throughout the UK will not stand for inertia from Whitehall and the House of Commons any longer.

This referendum has woken up political engagement in the UK and that is something to be celebrated, it’s absolutely vital that we take heed of that but it’s what all of Britain, regardless of political creed wants.

There is a strong case for the Committee Stage of English-only Bills to be scrutinised and amendments debated by English MPs only.  But it would be fatal to balkanise Westminster by creating first and second class MPs for votes on the floor of the Commons.  Otherwise only London MPs should decide on laws for London and so on, and crucially the Prime Minister would in practice be elected by English MPs alone since the PM would have to command a majority in the ‘England section’ of Westminster.  The solution is devolution in England coupled with a federal UK Parliament in which English MPs would as they do now dominate, comprising 80 per cent of all MPs.

Alex Salmond, you’re no Nelson Mandela – Scotland is free already

Telegraph, 12 September 2014

For anyone like me who waged the long and bitter fight against apartheid, hearing Alex Salmond rank it alongside his campaign for Scottish independence defies belief. Apartheid was one of the worst racial tyrannies the world has ever seen – it suppressed, imprisoned, tortured or killed opponents, and it stripped blacks of any shred of dignity, denying their common humanity.

Scotland is part of a UK democracy where human rights are deeply entrenched. It has almost complete self-government – and has been promised still more. I quite understand why Salmond contrives to present his campaign as a battle against the perfidious English, he as the “Braveheart” liberating his people from London’s dastardly despotism. Doubtless one of his spin doctors will soon invoke him as a Nelson Mandela-like freedom warrior.

All that neatly diverts attention from both the paucity of the separatist case and its deeply flawed expectations. A separated Scotland will be weaker not stronger, a tiny isolated nation rather than part of a world power, poorer not richer, its currency in the lap of the gods, its status uncertain.

Maybe still in Nato, but no longer with a voice through the UK on the United Nations Security Council. Maybe admitted back into Europe, but probably not. Maybe still with the Queen as Head of State, but her Balmoral estate now in a foreign country – possibly no longer such a favoured destination.

Where Nelson Mandela was demanding his African people take their rightful place at the centre of power, Alex Salmond seeks to withdraw his people to the margins of it.

But when he commented that a long queue to register to vote in the referendum was “almost reminiscent of scenes in South Africa from 20 years ago when people queued up to vote in the first free election”, that wasn’t just fanciful and absurd, historically and politically – it was downright insulting.

I was a British parliamentary observer on that historic Wednesday morning, April 27, 1994, driven at dawn to Soweto, near Nelson Mandela’s old home, gold mine dumps looming in the early mist.

Arriving at our first polling station half an hour before it was due to open, there were already thousands queuing up, their mood calm and expectant. More were streaming in out of the morning haze as the sun rose.

My official driver happened to be a local resident, and was therefore invited to jump the queues and vote first. He waited anxiously to have his hand stamped. Then, as he put his ballot form in the box, he turned to catch my eye, smiling – part triumphant, part astonished – before leaving the polling station with a broad grin, punching the air in excitement.

Hardly able to accept that, in middle age, he had actually voted for the first time in his life, he told me he had been worried in case his ballot paper might be snatched away at the last minute.

An old woman – perhaps in her nineties – was led shuffling away after voting, a smile of eternity gracing her weathered face, as young men bounced confidently out in their trainers, giving high fives to friends.

After all those years, all the animosity, the ugly discrimination, the lives wasted away in prison, here it was happening, amazingly, right in front of me: constitutional apartheid being exorcised.

When Nelson Mandela cast his ballot later that day, also for the first time in his life, he characteristically joked when the waiting media posse asked him who he was voting for: “You know, I have been agonising over that choice all morning!”

It is sadly delusional to imply that next Thursday’s referendum will be any such magical Mandela moment.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11090512/Alex-Salmond-youre-noNelson-Mandela-Scotland-is-free-already.html