This week Labour announced plans for English devolution and a democratic Senate to replace the House of Lords. This is good news for the people of Morecambe and Lunesdale, and good news for Britain.
On devolution, Ed Miliband has announced that Labour’s election manifesto will commit the next government to:
- Giving city and county regions more power over their public transport networks so they are able to set the right bus routes and have fairer fares, as well as integrate their transport services to help working people and businesses succeed in their areas. This will give regions similar powers to regulate their bus services as those in London.
- Passing an English Devolution Act to reverse a century of centralisation. This will secure devolution to the people of English regions, transfer £30 billion-worth of funding over five years, and build on the achievements of the last government in devolving power away from Westminster to Scotland and Wales.
- Putting devolution at the heart of the next Labour government with regular meetings of a new English Regional Cabinet Committee chaired by the Prime Minister. This will be attended by relevant Secretaries of State and leaders from major City and County Regions.
This is fantastic news for Morecambe and Lunesdale and our county of Lancashire. While our Tory MP is obsessing over pie-in-the-sky schemes like car tunnels under the bay, the Labour Party is announcing concrete plans to put power in the hands of local regions to improve transport links.
This devolution of power will strengthen the English regions and this is a real opportunity for Morecambe and Lunesdale to have a say over the spending of public money in our local area.
And today, at the Party's regional conference in Blackpool, Ed Miliband made the historic announcement that if elected next May a Labour government would scrap the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords and replace it with a Senate, comprised of members elected to represent regions.
Labour’s proposal to replace the House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nations and Regions will be considered in detail by a Constitutional Convention in the early phase of the next Labour Government. Labour wants the new chamber to be based on representation of the regions and the four nations of the United Kingdom to ensure that a much better spread of people from across the country have their voice heard in Westminster. This regional and national representation will avoid duplicating the constituency link of MPs and mark a clearly defined different role for the Senate.
Each region of England, as well as the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, will hold meetings prior to the UK-wide Constitutional Convention where people will be asked for views on the functions of the new Senate, as well as the most appropriate form of election.
The Constitutional Convention will consider whether the second chamber could also have built into it specific regional representation functions. It will also look at whether wider requirements should be placed on potential senators, regarding ties to the region or nation they represent such as the number of years residence or employment there.
Today’s announcement about reforming the House of Lords is an historic one for Morecambe and the county of Lancashire. Here in the North West we have 86 per cent of London's population but less than a fifth of the capital’s peers, and that simply isn’t fair. It’s little wonder so much of the supposed economic recovery is only benefitting London and the South East rather than us here in Morecambe and Lunesdale and other towns and cities in Lancashire.
Labour’s plans will make Westminster more accountable and strengthen democracy, and that has to be good news for all of us.