Philip Davies: We need a constitution delivering fairness to England

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AS A believer in the United Kingdom, I am delighted that the people of Scotland have decided to remain part of the UK. However, this referendum campaign has highlighted why we need a completely new UK-wide constitutional settlement - not one that is fairer to Scotland but one that is fairer to England.

There are two main issues, I believe, that need addressing urgently. The first is the spending imbalance which means that year after year after year the English come off worse when it comes to dividing up the money available to all those in the United Kingdom.

The second problem is the political imbalance which gives the Scottish a political influence over English matters but not the other way around. In both these respects, the Scots really are currently having their Dundee cake and eating it!

In terms of the financial imbalance, the funding per head for each part of the UK in 2012/13 was £10,876 for Northern Ireland, £10,152 for Scotland, £9,709 for Wales and £8,529 for England. These spending differentials arise from a funding formula which was only ever meant to be a temporary mechanism and yet has remained in place for nearly 40 years.

Lord Barnett, the architect of the formula back in the late 1970s to counter the then upsurge in Scottish nationalism, has called its continued use a “national embarrassment” and is apparently even ashamed that his name is associated with what he calls an “unfair” system which was a “mistake”.

Despite this, the main party leaders seem to want to continue this injustice in favour of the Scots at the expense of the English.

The whiff of a few extra votes going to the Yes campaign – more so after one opinion poll that turns out to have been inaccurate – seems to have been enough to cause a last minute panic, and common sense and the long overdue changes to the formula appear to have been consigned to the bottom of Loch Ness.

At the present rate of this funding underspend in England, someone living for 70 years in Yorkshire could, on average, over £100,000 less spent on them than the exact same person living just over 100 miles away in Scotland. My duty is to do the best for my constituents and I do not see why they should continue to pay this price.

On the ground, this means that people in Scotland get free prescriptions; their students are exempt from tuition fees and they are guaranteed free personal and nursing care if they are over the age of 65. All of these same free services are not available to people in England in the same way.

When it comes to the issue of the democratic deficit, we have a Scottish Parliament making decisions about Scotland in addition to Scottish MPs having a direct say at Westminster on matters which affect only England. As more and more powers have been transferred to Scotland - and will no doubt continue to be transferred - this issue has been exacerbated.

It is simply not right that Scottish MPs vote on issues in the Westminster Parliament which will not affect their constituents, when English MPs have no say whatsoever on those matters decided by the Scottish Parliament.

This situation was ironically highlighted when Tony Blair only managed to get his policy on university tuition fees through Parliament because of the votes of Scottish Labour MPs - even though their constituents were not going to be paying any tuition fees! You could not make it up.

Now that the issue of Scottish Independence has been settled (for now) it is the English – who make up the vast majority of the population of the UK – who need to start exerting themselves. It is high time both these financial and political issues were sorted out.

I do not even think that dealing with them is actually that difficult. We do not need regional government - which the voters rejected when John Prescott tried to foist it upon them - or a separate Parliament in England (the last thing we need is yet another tier of politicians). We just need to ensure that only English MPs make decisions about English matters in Westminster and that the English receive their fair share of the money available to the whole of the UK.

As far as I am concerned, we have heard enough bagpiping from the party leaders North of the border. What we need to start hearing about is what action is going to be taken to ensure a fair deal for England.

As I mentioned at the outset, I believe in the United Kingdom but not at any price to my constituents and only if it works for all parts of the UK. If these issues are not addressed, I believe that the biggest threat to the UK in the future will not come from Scotland but actually from England.

• Philip Davies is the Conservative MP for Shipley.

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