Devolution in England - a new approach

Variety has always been a feature of the United Kingdom (UK) constitution. This quality, thanks to devolution, has become even more pronounced in recent years. In many ways the uneven nature of UK democracy is beneficial. It has allowed Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to develop along their own paths towards decentralised self-government. However, England is now left behind. The largest nation within the UK does not enjoy the benefits of devolution outside Greater London. Signs exist that English opinion is now turning against existing arrangements and the discrepancies involved. With these trends in mind, this paper makes the case for an English Devolution Enabling Act. The purpose is to make a contribution to the existing debate about how to introduce greater self-governance to England, alongside other valuable interventions already made in this area, including the ‘Illustrative draft Code for central and local government’, issued by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

The paper considers the present position and difficulties arising from it; then discusses solutions that have been proposed to date, and their problems. It proposes a way forward that would allow localities and regions within England to take on powers previously exercised by central government, helping to close the democratic gap that has opened up with the remainder of
the UK. The appendix provides a more specific idea of how the proposed English Devolution Enabling Act could work.