Party leaders praise Journal call for real devolution to the North

Westminster leaders respond to major newspapers of the north joining forces to demand a fair deal for the region

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg
Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have praised northern newspapers after they joined forces to demand a fair deal for the region, including the power and funding needed to manage our own affairs.

And the leaders of all three major parties agreed there had to be changes to the way England is governed, with more power dispersed to the great cities and regions beyond London.

It follows the unprecedented joint statement from newspapers in the North East, North West and Yorkshire who joined forces to demand that the North is not left behind when further powers are devolved to Scotland.

But while the party leaders agreed on the need to devolve authority to cities and regions, they clashed over how to do it - and in particular, over the question of how to change the way that politics is conducted at Westminster.

Mr Cameron said he backed “English votes for English laws”. This is likely to involve creating an English “grand committee” in the Commons to discuss issues such as schools and hospitals, which only MPs representing English constituencies are allowed to attend.

Some Conservative MPs are pressuring the Prime Minister to go further and create a full blown English Parliament.

Mr Cameron has put his Conservative deputy William Hague in charge of drawing up plans, and said draft legislation would be published in January.

Labour leader Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband
 

Labour leader Ed Miliband however has announced plans for a longer process, with consultations across the country leading to a constitutional convention to discuss changes next year.

It will consider “the case for a Senate of the Nations and Regions,” Mr Miliband said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he backed reforms to Parliament to ensure only English MPs voted on English issues. He also highlighted his “Northern Futures” consultation, designed to decentralise power to the North.

Mr Cameron said: “Now that 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. 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.

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

“Today, several northern papers have done what local papers do best – come out campaigning for their area.

“I am clear that it is also important we have wider civic engagement about how to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities.

“This is something I am absolutely passionate about, which is why we have set out our long term economic plan for a Northen Powerhouse. Over the coming months we will continue to work with the North to make this plan a reality.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Labour welcomes the campaign by The Journal and other leading regional newspapers calling for new powers for the communities they serve.

“As I said yesterday we will deliver on our promise of further powers to Scotland. But other people in Britain including in England and including the north, now deserve the chance to shape their own futures with a dynamic devolution settlement open to every citizen.

“I want to ensure decisions are taken closer to families and businesses and in the interests of hard-working people.

“These issues can no longer be fixed solely by politicians or prime ministers.

“We will set out a process, to begin before the next election, with every region in the country, including the North East, engaged in a dialogue with the people about how power needs to be devolved.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “Crucially, we need to address this huge missing bit of the jigsaw - which is England.

“Because, for far too long, far too many decisions have been taken on behalf of the towns, villages, cities and counties of England by Westminster and Whitehall.

“As a Sheffield MP, I tell you people in Sheffield quite rightly say, ‘Well, if we’re having all this debate about more power and control moving to other parts of the United Kingdom, why not to Sheffield too?’ or to Manchester, or Liverpool, or Newcastle or to Cornwall?

“That’s not something we’re going to settle in a matter of weeks, but I think we should seize this opportunity to use this appetite for change to ensure that we move beyond the over-centralised status quo and really resettle things so that people feel much more in control of their own affairs.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer