Sorry I've been so slow with this story, it's plenty covered elsewhere, but I think the word should be spread as far as possible! Derek Wyatt, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, has joined the chorus calling for equality for England within the UK. Excellent!
This debate has a simple theme. My constituents are living in a half-finished house that costs them money, and they are beginning to resent it. The half-finished house in our country—the United Kingdom—has, like so many historic houses, grown up over the centuries without a master plan and according to the needs or whims of successive owners. Nearly 90 years ago, after a long and bitter dispute, we gave the neighbouring property to its sitting tenants—although some preferred to go on living with us. We spent the next 70 years or so trying to improve our house to make it a better place in which to live and trying to protect it from outside attack. We made no changes to the structure of the house and all the rooms and facilities were shared among all the residents.
However, in the past 10 years, there has been some major remodelling of the property. We converted the upstairs into a separate flat for the Scots and created another flat with inferior facilities in the west wing for the Welsh. We then persuaded the Northern Irish to live in another flat in the orangery—although many of them wanted to live with their neighbours next door. All that remodelling failed to create any special space for the English. They went on living in the property, but the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish were still free to walk in and help themselves to the fridge and the drinks cabinet. They could even make rules for the English that they themselves did not have to follow. Meanwhile, the English went on paying most of the household bills.
More and more of the English, including many of my constituents, are finding that an uncomfortable way to live. They put up with it when there was plenty of money coming into the house, but now that money is scarcer and outgoings are rising, they are beginning to question it. I propose some restructuring of the property so that we can all live in the way that we want to without imposing on one another. I am also calling for a fair and transparent system of meeting the household bills. That will entail replacing the Barnett formula, which, as we know, was intended to be a temporary expedient that would last six months. However, the formula still regulates the financial relationships between the separate devolved entities of the United Kingdom. Our household settles its accounts through arrangements that were set up in the 1970s for reasons that no one can remember and with results that no one can understand.
Read the whole speech here.