Peers debate 'mess' of UK constitution - and football


Here at Westminster, the government has rejected growing calls for a constitutional convention on the future of the United Kingdom after the Scottish referendum.

Or has it? Whip and spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Liberal Democrat, told the House of Lords this afternoon there was no public demand for a convention and he had not heard any major political party suggest it. But he appeared not to rule out one in future.

But he admitted a convention would be a radical and rational step and encouraged a Welsh Labour peer to continue to campaign for one.

The historian K.O. Morgan, Lord Morgan of Aberdyfi, told him a convention would allow the government to address the "mess" of the current constitution.

He asked: "Would not a constitutional convention help to clear up the mess firstly by clarifying the muddle over asymmetrical devolution, by clearing up the devo-max in Scotland that cannot speak its name, by re-asserting the authority of the Westminster parliament and above all at long last doing something about England and showing that England is not simply a bad football team?"

Lord Wallace replied: "We'll leave the football team to one side. Constitutional conventions have on the whole taken place after revolutions in the United States, in France and elsewhere to go as far as a constitutional convention for the whole of the United Kingdom would itself be a radical and rational step. I encourage the noble Lord as a rational radical to pursue that but the public has currently no demand for it and I have not yet heard any major political party suggest this."

First Minister Carwyn Jones has regularly called for a convention to look at the way the UK works and those calls have got louder as the Scottish referendum approaches.

Former Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley told Lord Wallace: "Whatever the outcome of the referendum in Scotland, whether it's a 'yes' vote or a 'no' vote the status quo is unlikely to be the final resting point of the argument.

"That being so, surely a piecemeal approach is not acceptable, particularly when in Scotland the government appear to be offering taxation powers which were recommended by Silk for Wales but which the government has rejected for Wales. So on what possible basis can there be a coherent progress when that is the approach taken by the government?"

Lord Wallace told peers that ministers had set up the Silk commission in Wales, the Calman convention in Scotland and the McKay commission to look at the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons. The government does not at present contemplate a further broader convention

Labour peer Lord Foulkes said those commissions had caused the problem because there was growing concern of the "piecemeal" nature of constitutional change and what he called "the English democratic deficit".

Lord Wallace said the Kilbrandon Commission had looked at the broader question but had taken four years. "It is not felt that a commission of that length would help." He said the government was moving on the English question, with moves towards decentralisation within England.

My sense was that he may have declined the suggestion of a convention but he certainly wasn't ruling one out after September's vote. Alternatively, Lord Morgan could always launch a revolution to bring it nearer.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    It's also customary to either leave out the "neutral" answer or add it to both sides. Good ole Kev has added the neutral answer "no difference" to the positive "improved" but not the negative "got worse"

    Is this the same one bleating about "proving them wrong?".

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    #23 It is customary, when you write "the results find that.." to give a reference to the authority that you are quoting. It certaily isn't obvious from your previous incoherent rant at #22 or from my post at #21; nor from DCk's article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    "The results find that 80 percent of Welsh people believe the Welsh Assembly has either improved the way the nation is run or has not been detrimental. Just 12 percent believe it has led to a decline in the way Wales was governed.

    Even in a Conservative stronghold such as Monmouthshire, a third of those surveyed believed the Welsh Assembly was an improvement over previous Westminster control."

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    same mad unionists saying the same rubbish. you can prove them wrong but they wont change tier views. They hate wales and anything welsh that shows any kind of difference to their perfect country that is england. Please get a life folks and let wales grow and mature and become more confident as a nation in its own right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    #20 One would assume that Wales was much like West Yorkshire and Glasgow; and the more adjustment was made to compare like-with-like - the Vale of Glamorgan with Surrey, Barnsley with Tonypandy - the closer the mortality figures would be. Immigration differences also, of course.
    Again, I doubt that there is any political milage here.


Comments 5 of 25


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