This week there have been vitally important meetings, meetings which directly affect England and the English taxpayer but from which any English representative and English voice have been excluded. They are the regular ministerial meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee. The Committee is made up of the UK Prime Minister, the Scottish First Minister, the Welsh First Minister, the Northern Ireland First Minister, and their deputies, and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no one representing England. ‘It is totally weird’ said Scilla Cullen, chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament, ‘how these people still think England is the UK and the UK is England. England is just one of the four parts of the UK and both the identity of England and that of the UK itself should be respected.’
The range of inter-governmental respnsibilites the Committee considers is quite vast. They cover health, the economy, poverty and European issues of which fishing is but one, as well as financial matters and the operation of the Barnett Formula. All involve finance, and it is the English who contribute 84% of the UK tax income. This week JMC meetings have considered the dispute between Scotland and the UK over the £400 million council tax benefit Scotland receives and the £120 million the Scottish Government claims it is owed through the way the Barnett Formula works. Under the Barnett Formula Scotland is entitled to 10% of any money spent in England, in this case on England’s overcrowded prisons, which the Scottish government can then spend on any thing it thinks fit. Lord Joel Barnett himself has called for the formula to be revoked as completly out of date and unfair to England.
‘The Joint Ministerial Committee is only one out of many examples of the grotesquely unfair way in which England has been left out of and penalised by devolution’, says Scilla Cullen ‘It has no voice of its own, absolutely none. Unlike the Scots, the Northern Irish and the Welsh it has no institution with MPs specifically elected to represent its interests. The discrimination practised by the UK state against England and its people is intolerable. It is one of the issues that will be discussed at the National Conference on the future of England on Saturday April 26th from 10:30 to 4:30 at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1, which is free and open to everyone to attend.’