A Yorkshire Constitution : Proposals for a Yorkshire Parliament

The Mansion House, York (on Yorkshire Day)

Following on from the previous article ‘Yorkshire Devolution : Why We Want It’. Stewart Arnold puts forward some thoughts around a Yorkshire Constitution, including the idea of a Yorkshire Parliament and how it might work.

1. Yorkshire is committed to building a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, self-determination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

2. Yorkshire, as identified in this constitution, is entirely consistent with its traditional, centuries-old, boundaries (i.e. pre-1974 local government reorganisation).

3. The official design of Yorkshire will be the white rose and the official flag, which will fly over the Parliament building, will be the white rose on a blue background.

4. The Parliament’s headquarters will be in York.  

5. All citizens, 16 years and older, will be able to vote in elections for the Yorkshire Parliament.

6. The overall number of members of the Yorkshire Parliament, in the first instance, shall not exceed 95. The first election to the Yorkshire Parliament will be carried out with a hybrid system of first past the post (of the existing 50 or so Westminster seats in Yorkshire) and a top up, via a list system, to allow for greater proportionality. Henceforth, the parliament will make arrangements for an electoral system of Single Transferable Vote (STV) through multi member constituencies (MMS) of no more than 92 seats. The composition of constituencies to be revised at least once in every twelve years in accordance with the national census reports.

7. Elections will be held every 4 years.

8. Members – known as MYPs – will be paid. Additional paid work will be unlawful. The seven Nolan Principles will be observed.

9. The Yorkshire Parliament will be single chamber (unicameral).

10. A Presiding officer will be elected, from within the elected MYPs, at the outset of the sitting of each new Parliament.

11. The parliament shall have responsibility, uniquely, for the following functions: health, rural affairs, housing, equal opportunities, consumer advocacy and advice, local government and cultural affairs, and in partnership with national government for: the economy, education, transport, justice, the environment, sport and taxation.

12. Powers reserved solely to the UK Government will include: foreign policy and defence.

13. A First Minister shall be elected by the newly elected Yorkshire Parliament, at the latest within one week after its assembly, for a term of four years. The First Minister shall appoint and dismiss the ministers and junior ministers with the consent of the Yorkshire Parliament.

14. There will be an integrated committee system, consisting of mandatory committees, Temporary committees and Committees of Inquiry.

15. Mandatory committees will be established under the Yorkshire Parliament’s Standing Orders, which will govern their remits and proceedings. Membership of mandatory committees will be established at the beginning of each parliamentary session. Two spaces on each mandatory committee will be reserved for members of the voting public in Yorkshire selected by sortition.

16. The mandatory committees will be:

Citizen Participation and Public Petitions

Economy and work (incl. skills training)

Local Government housing and planning

Environment energy and transport

Culture and sport

Finance and public administration

Public Audit

Education (incl. young people and children)

Health and social care

Social justice and equality

Rural affairs

Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments

Delegated Powers and Law Reform

17. Additional temporary committees and Committees of Inquiry can be created as the need arises.

18. A single police service would be created in Yorkshire accountable to the Yorkshire Police Authority which will be elected from members of the Yorkshire Parliament.

19. A single Yorkshire Ambulance service will form part of NHS Yorkshire which will be set up to implement health and social care policy and funding and which will be administered through the Health and Social Care Directorate of the Yorkshire Government.

20. Additional non-departmental bodies of the Yorkshire Executive will be established:

A) Yorkshire Enterprise (to encourage economic development, enterprise, innovation and investment in business in Yorkshire)

B) Yorkshire Investment Bank (to deliver infrastructure development and strategic investments)

c) Visit Yorkshire (to promote tourism)

D) Institute of Yorkshire Affairs (to be set up to specialise in public policy and debate around the economy, education, environment, culture and health sectors in Yorkshire)

21. An instrument known as a ‘Popular Initiative’ will be introduced whereby citizens, on collection of 100,000 valid signatures in an 18-month period, can propose changes to the Yorkshire Constitution

22. Finance will be delivered through three sources:

  • An annual negotiated block grant from central government
  • Taxation (either an additional levy on national rates of income tax or a taxation on items otherwise not taxed at a national level)
  • VAT Receipts returned on a per capita basis by central government


1. A series of values, on which the Yorkshire constitution is based, is imperative but may be contentious to some.

3. Flag: As per Flag Institute – Pantone Blue 300, White, Cream 617, Green 368/370, Yellow 109/116

5. The voting age in Wales and Scotland is now set at 16 years and, as part of the new coalition agreement in the Bundestag, this will also become the case in German elections too.

6. The system of voting as used in the Republic of Ireland and the preferred choice of the Electoral Reform Society in the U.K. In context, it will allow for a greater plurality of representation of political parties and greater numbers of independents being elected.

The total number of Parliamentary seats could be seen as arbitrary, but it should be born in mind that the Scottish Parliament representing a similarly sized population, has 129 members. The Welsh Senedd (representing a population of 3.1 million) has 60 members and even North Yorkshire County Council has 72 members. Therefore, slightly less than 100 seems appropriate. The average number of Irish MPs (TDS) per seat is slightly above four, in which case the Yorkshire Parliament will have approximately 23 multi member constituencies in order to elect MYPs.

8. The seven principles of public life: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2

9. Support will be given to a U.K. parliamentary second chamber (or Senate) representative of Scotland, Wales, the English regions and Northern Ireland.

11. The division of responsibilities between regional and national entities is not an easy one to define in this short paper and needs more detail to be worked on in future. For example, although local government in Yorkshire is easily identifiable as a responsibility, education is not. Whereas Scotland has a long history of administering what is a very different educational system at all levels from that in England, Yorkshire does not. What, for example, happens to the large number of independent fee-paying schools in Yorkshire or to the university sector which is highly integrated into the overall English university system?

18. This will mean the abandonment of the four Police and Crime Commissioner posts within Yorkshire

22. An example of tax otherwise not imposed at a national level is a Tourist Tax, which can be applied per diem on a hotel or restaurant bill.

2 thoughts on “A Yorkshire Constitution : Proposals for a Yorkshire Parliament

  1. While there may be a few good ideas in Stewart Arnold’s article, it does feel a little like Moses stepping down from on high with the 10 commandments forged in stone.

    We at Democratic Yorkshire favour a much more bottom up approach to deciding Yorkshire’s future through a Citizen-led Constitutional Convention

  2. We may be missing an opportunity here to create something radically different. With modern technology, I believe it may be possible to operate the “Yorkshire Parliament” as a direct democracy. There could be significant advantages to this in terms of public participation in government and in terms of responsibilities and accountabilities, however, there would be many obstacles to be overcome.

    A constitutional settlement would determine the powers and responsibilities of the parliament but I believe that it should be financially independent.

    I agree with Philip that a citizen-led constitutional convention should kick things off.

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