David Cameron accused of peddling 'nonsense with stilts on' in wake of No vote

English Parliament move is gerrymandering for Tory-led South and ignoring calls for devolution of powers to the North East

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement in Downing Street in central London as Scotland has rejected independence
Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement in Downing Street in central London as Scotland has rejected independence

North leaders accused David Cameron of gerrymandering to advantage the Tory-led South when he called for ‘English votes for English laws’.

Speaking outside Downing Street, the Prime Minister gave the clear indication he would move toward an English parliament following Scotland’s No vote to independence.

He said: “We have heard the voice of Scotland - and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard.

“The question of English votes for English laws - the so-called West Lothian question - requires a decisive answer.”

But regional leaders said to have an English Parliament was “nonsense with stilts on” and a “disgraceful” attempt to marginalise the North East.

Scotland and Wales currently have a Labour majority and the PM’s words spark concern the Tory South East would dominate an English Parliament.

Campaigners for devolution of powers to the region also fear the case for the North East could be swept to one side in a rush to remodel the constitution.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said the PM’s response to the region’s call for more localism amounted to “nonsense with stilts on”.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council

He said: “An English Parliament would be very bad news for the North East.

“It would replicate all the problems with the current Westminster system - remote decision making, centralisation of powers and a lack of local democratic engagement.

“From a political point of view it would almost certainly be dominated by Tories from the shires and counties, further marginalising our city and our region.

“We need a timetable to devolve powers to cities like Newcastle, where we’ve got the appetite and zeal for reform, alongside the timetable for devolving powers to the Scottish Parliament.

“Anything less would further stoke the flames of resentment within England’s cities and regions about once again being overlooked by a London-based political elite.”

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, was also angry and accused David Cameron of engineering the response to cries for more control in Scotland to suit the Conservatives in England.

He said: “He is gerrymandering the process in favour of the Tories. It is disgraceful.

“He may be thinking that if we can get people thinking about an English parliament it will resolve the arguments for devolution to the regions, but it doesn’t.

“Regions like Yorkshire and the North East need more power.

“The North East has its own balance of trade and good export figures and it is a significant region in this country.

“We want more self-determination but in the existing structures of the United Kingdom.”

He added a minister for the North East was needed to unite the region.

Durham Council leader Simon Henig

“It needs to be the right politician who can bring people together and who can really act as a catalyst now.”

Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and chairman of the North East Combined Authority, said: “It is now time to have a full debate about the devolution of power throughout the UK. If additional funding is guaranteed to meet the needs of Scotland it is reasonable to ask that funding is also guaranteed to meet the needs of northern England in areas such as transport and the economy.”

Labour peer Jeremy Beecham said: “It’s a nonsense. We need more powers for local authorities individually and collectively through combined authorities, national minimum entitlements, and fair funding. We’re still the UK and need a UK parliament.”

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, said: “It is a complete distraction from the real issue.

“An English Parliament would be disastrous for the North East but what we really need is a change in the funding formula that moves money from poor areas of the North East, which is a deliberate policy of this Government.”

Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, added: “The result of the Scottish Referendum is not the end of a process, but the beginning of another process.

Simon Hobson Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead
Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead

“England, and especially the North East, needs an English Assembly like a hole in the head. We need proper regional devolution to see real changes.”

David Cameron spoke on Friday morning, shortly after the final results of the referendum were declared.

He said: “Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs.

“The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.

“It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom.

“In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers.

“And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations.

“In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.

“I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England.

“We have heard the voice of Scotland - and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard.

“The question of English votes for English laws - the so-called West Lothian question -requires a decisive answer.

“So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.

“I hope that is going to take place on a cross-party basis. I have asked William Hague to draw up these plans.”

In total, 44.7% of Scots voted to break up the Union.


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