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Paul Nuttall MEP: Never Mind an English National Anthem, Where’s Our English Parliament?

Much has been talked about this week about the idea of England having its own national anthem.

It’s been suggested that God Save The Queen, the British national anthem, be dropped for England sporting events and replaced with songs such as Jerusalem, or Land of Hope and Glory.

Wales has Land of My Fathers; north of the border there is Flower of Scotland. It seems only fair and logical, then, that England should maybe have one of its own, too.

Personally, I couldn’t really care less what they choose. It is after all just a song.

But if that anthem is to be an expression of “Englishness”, why aren’t politicians debating something of greater importance and of far more relevance: an English parliament.

Northern Ireland has Stormont. Scotland has Holyrood. Wales has its National Assembly. England has… absolutely nothing other than Westminster.

It means the English have decisions about their lives voted on by Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs, while having little say over those countries in return.

In September 2014, the Prime Minister opened a can of worms. David Cameron stepped out of 10 Downing Street and announced that the union would never be the same following the sensible decision by the Scots to remain part of the UK.

Then he threw a grenade into British politics and called for equality for the English, which means that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should not vote on matters that only relate to England.

Unbelievably, the Prime Minister put a three month limit on resolving the issue and asked former Foreign Secretary William Hague to report back in January 2015.

UKIP went one further and actually posted letters to all 59 Scottish MPs asking them to abstain voluntarily from debates and votes in the House of Commons that only concern the English.

It all sounded perfectly fair. I cannot see why Scottish MPs have the right to vote on issues such as education and health in England, when English MPs can’t vote on those same issues in Scotland because they’re decided by the Scottish Parliament.

This then logically led on to the question of an English Parliament – something which I have been talking about since 2011.

Now, I never wanted devolution in the first place. I thought the United Kingdom was getting along just fine and didn’t need a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly or indeed a Northern Irish Assembly.

However, when Tony Blair was elected in 1997 he was bound by a commitment given by his predecessor John Smith and reluctantly had to move on the issue.

The problem is that when the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish got their parliament and assemblies, the English got nothing, which left the UK unbalanced and the vast majority of people (the English) unrepresented.

My concern was that Cameron’s proposals all seemed to have been sketched on the back of a fag packet, and rushed out without much thought given to how the system was going to work.

One thing I have found since studying this subject since 2010 is that when you think you have an answer, more questions arise.
Is there going to be an English Parliament and is there going to be an English First Minister?

Are there going to be separate English parliamentarians or will it just be English MPs voting on English matters? And where would this new English parliament reside? London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle? The list can go on and on.

That was why I thought David Cameron was wrong to put a three month time limit on the issue because after the referendum on our membership of the European Union, it is the biggest and most important constitutional question of our time.

Which is probably why Cameron has pretty much said nothing about it ever since.

An English parliament would be difficult and complex and that’s why I believe we should call a Constitutional Convention, which would be made up of the best academics and constitutionalists in the country, and come up with a long-term solution.

It’s all very well having a bit of fun in the Commons debating about what song to sing at a home nations football match, but when it comes to the bigger picture Cameron and the rest of Westminster have gone missing.

Paul Nuttall is MEP for the North West, Ukip Deputy Leader, and Head of the British Delegation of Ukip MEPs in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament.

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