A New Britain

Below is a summary of the recommendations from the Labour Party’s report of the Commission on the UK’s Future “A New Britain : Renewing Our Democracy And Rebuilding Our Economy.”

Here is a link to the full document.

https://labour.org.uk/page/a-new-britain/

Our initial thoughts are that there is quite a bit to like in this report. The commitment to some form of subsidiarity (recommendation 2) is welcome. More powers for local government are also welcome. On the other hand, there is no commitment to regional devolution and there is no specific mention of Yorkshire devolution.

Is this real devolution? Probably not. It looks as though all the real power will still sit with Westminster but with a few additional safeguards to protect local authorities and the devolved administrations.

We understand that, at present, a Yorkshire devolution deal is not under consideration. Obviously, we find this very disappointing that Yorkshire’s case has once again not been given the serious consideration that it deserves.

“Our first set of recommendations set out how we deliver our vision of a New Britain.

Our aim is that each citizen as a member of our country can expect government

• to treat all parts of the UK fairly,

• to guarantee rights and ensure a minimum level of living standards,

• to respect the decisions made by local and devolved authorities.

But today, none of these ambitions gives rise to a legal duty. Our first recommendations, therefore, seek to embed in law these common understandings and duties of Government:

1. The political, social, and economic purposes of the UK as a Union of Nations,which the overwhelming majority of people in the country already accept,should be laid out in a new constitutional statute guiding how political power should be shared within it.

2. The common desire for more local control should be reflected in a legal requirement, to require decisions to be taken as close as meaningfully and practicably possible to the people affected by them, so putting power and opportunity closer to each citizen.

3. There should be a constitutional requirement that the political, administrative and financial autonomy of local government should be respected by central government.

4. There should be an explicit constitutional requirement to rebalance the UK’s economy so that prosperity and investment can be spread more equally between different parts of the UK than it is today, thereby equalising living standards across the country over time.

5. There should be new, constitutionally protected social rights – like the right to health care for all based on need, not ability to pay – that reflect the current shared understanding of the minimum standards and public services that a British citizen should be guaranteed.

Our second set of recommendations ensures the right powers in the right places in England so that every town and city can take control of its economic future and have its fair share of resources to play its part in creating prosperity open to all.

6. Towns and cities across England should be given new powers to drive growth and champion their areas.

7. The UK needs a radically reformed suite of place-based, innovation-led R&D programmes, with Mayors and local leaders in all parts of the UK playing a key role in design and delivery. This should include the replacement for EU regional funding, and future support for the Strength in Places Fund.

8. The UK Infrastructure Bank should be given an explicit mission to address regional economic inequality in the provision of infrastructure.

9. The British Business Bank should be given a new remit to promote regional economic equality in access to investment capital. It should do this by bridging the equity finance gap outside of London and the South East, and should be renamed the British Regional Investment Bank to reflect this change.

10. There should be an economic growth or prosperity plan for every town and city to contribute to our shared prosperity, owned by Councils, Mayors, towns and cities working in partnership.

11. 50,000 civil service jobs should be transferred out of London, saving at least £200m per year, and more Agency and Public Bodies Headquarters moved out of London. We identify the first dozen of possible candidates.

12. Local government should be given greater long-term financial certainty to enable them to invest more confidently in their areas’ futures.

13. Local government should be given more capacity to generate its own revenue with new fiscal powers.

14. Local leaders should be able to take new powers from the centre, through a new, streamlined process to initiate local legislation in Parliament.

15. There should be “double devolution” that pushes power closer to people – giving them and their community the right to have more of a say on the issues that affect them, the services they use and the places they live.

Our third set of recommendations concerns Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Commission’s blueprint is intended to give the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a new opportunity to benefit from the unique and mutually beneficial combination of self-government and shared government that their nations enjoy: the opportunity to pursue faster change within a reformed UK.

Scotland

16. Enhanced Protection: Scottish devolution should be constitutionally protected by strengthening the Sewel Convention and protecting it from amendment through the new second chamber.

17. Enhanced status internationally in devolved areas: the Foreign Affairs reservation should be amended to permit the Scottish Government, with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament, to enter into international agreements and join international bodies in relation to devolved matters.

18. Enhanced status for MSPs: Members of the Scottish Parliament should enjoy the same privileges and protections as Members of Parliament In relation to statements made in their proceedings.

19. Enhanced local control: there is a strong case for pushing power as close as possible to people in Scotland, and consideration should be given to establishing new forms of local and regional leadership, such as directly elected Mayors.

20. Enhanced opportunities for co-operation to mutual benefit: there should be not only enhanced self-government for Scotland but strengthened cooperation with the UK Government to address the challenges Scotland faces today.

21. Enhanced access to economic resources for Scotland: the British Regional Investment Bank should maximise support for innovation and investment in Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish National Investment Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Wales

22. Enhanced protection: Welsh devolution should be constitutionally protected by strengthening the Sewel Convention and protecting it from amendment through the new second chamber.

23. Enhanced role for Members of the Senedd: the Welsh Senedd’s members should, if desired, enjoy the same privileges and protections as Members of Parliament in relation to statements made in their proceedings.

24. Enhanced powers: new powers should be made available to the Senedd and Welsh Governments, including embarking upon new powers over youth justice and the probation service.

25. Enhanced access to economic resources for Wales: the British Regional Investment Bank should maximise support for innovation and investment inWales, in conjunction with the Welsh Development Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Northern Ireland

26. We support devolution in Northern Ireland, consistent with the principle of consent and the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and wish to see it restored and strengthened.

27. Enhanced access to economic resources for Northern Ireland: the British Regional Investment Bank should maximise support for innovation and investment in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with Invest NI and the European Investment Bank.

Our fourth set of recommendations focus on our institutions of shared government.By giving each part an equal and respected voice in joint decision making and creating new institutions to drive better co-operation we will embed in Westminster and Whitehall a new culture of cooperation in pursuit of shared goals across the UK.

28. There should be a ‘solidarity clause’, a legal obligation of co-operation between the different levels of Government and institutions across the UK.

29. The UK need a new and powerful institution to drive co-operation between all its governments – a Council of the Nations and Regions.

30. The structures of co-operation and of central government and Parliament should respect and recognise those areas of decision making that are England only.

31. Joint policy initiatives in areas of common interest, from climate change to security, should embed co-operation between different levels of government.

32. International trade policy should be made more inclusive of devolved leaders across the UK and have an explicit focus on reducing the UK’s regional economic inequality.

33. UK-wide departments and public bodies should, as a matter of course, be obliged to make space in their governance and oversight arrangements for national and regional representation.

Our fifth set of recommendations will start the process of cleaning up ourpolitics – making politicians more accountable for their behaviour and fighting back against the excessive influence of donors.

34. We must clean up our politics with new rules for politicians and civil servants, new powers to clamp down on outside earnings for MPs, new laws to eliminate foreign and corrupt money from UK politics, and powerful new institutions to enforce these, to replace the current institutions that have failed.

35. There should be a greater role for the public in making and enforcing the rules followed by politicians.

36. There should be a powerful new anti-corruption Commissioner to root out criminal behaviour in British political life where it occurs.

Our sixth set of recommendations will clear out the indefensible House of Lords and replace it with a smaller, more representative and democratic second chamber to safeguard the new constitutional basis of the New Britain.

37. The House of Lords should be replaced with a new second chamber of Parliament: an Assembly of the Nations and Regions.

38. The new second chamber should complement the House of Commons with a new role of safeguarding the UK constitution, subject to an agreed procedure that sustains the primacy of the House of Commons .

39. The new second chamber must have electoral legitimacy, and should be markedly smaller than the present Lords, chosen on a different electoral cycle – with the precise composition and method of election matters for consultation.

Our final recommendation is on taking these changes forward.

40. We recommend that the necessary consultation and preparatory work should begin now, and this should include a ground-up conversation with the people of Britain.”

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