Democratic Yorkshire’s response to Labour’s Commission on the UK’s Future

Democratic Yorkshire has today issued the following response to Labour’s “A New Britain : Renewing Our Democracy And Rebuilding Our Economy” report.

We favour a federal system of government for the UK similar to that in Switzerland and consequently viewed Labour’s proposals in that light. 

Call for a Codified Constitution

The UK is one of the few countries of the world that does not have a codified (written) constitution.  Instead, our constitution comprises of various statutes and written and unwritten arrangements.

Democratic Yorkshire are not alone in seeing this has a huge weakness. We believe that it is a mistake for the Labour Party to rely once again on the passing of a constitutional statute left open to repeal once they leave office.

What’s missing.

We are disappointed at the commissions failure to commit to proportional representation and introduction of regional government in England. For us, these are two essential elements of constitutional reform in moving the UK towards federalism.  

The positives.

We support the proposals to replace the House of Lords with a new elected Assembly of the Nations and Regions.

We agree 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.

We agree there should be a constitutional requirement that the political, administrative, and financial autonomy of local government should be respected by central government, but would say, not only respected, but totally independent of interference.  

Local government (we would say including regional government) should be given more capacity to generate its own revenue with new fiscal powers.

We are encouraged by Labour’s proposed changes to the nature of the UK Infrastructure Bank and British Business Bank to promote regional economic equality.

We welcome the concept of “double devolution”.  It 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.

We agree 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. We believe that the best ideas and political solutions start in the local neighbourhood and should be allowed to work themselves upwards.  

We agree that there should be new, constitutionally protected social rights – like the right to health care for all based on need, not ability to pay.  Where we disagree and what we find shocking is Labour’s suggestion that these protected social rights should reflect the current shared understanding of the minimum standards and public services.  The British people deserve better than the minimum, they deserve the highest standards and world class public services, a promise of anything less will simply not do.  

Finally, we endorse the need to 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.  We also agree that there should be a greater role for the public in making and enforcing the rules followed by their elected politicians.

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