41% favour English Parliament

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Days since England had its own Parliament



ENGLISH CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

BUSINESS MEETING

In the House of Lords

Wednesday 26th January 2005 at 11.30 hours

THE MINUTES

Present:
Robin Tilbrook (RT)
Andrew Taylor (AT)
Grahame Leon-Smith (GLS)
Jervis Kay QC (JK)
Peter Sanders (PS)
Scilla Cullen (Chairman)
Julia Howman (JH)
Robert & Wendy Sulley (RS)
Prof Hugo de Burgh (HDB)
Ian Campbell (IC)
Adam Abadi (AA)
Shaun Nelson (SN)
Harold Green (HG)
Gary Cowd (GC)
David Lee (DL)
Jim Matthews (JM)
Iain Dale (ID)
John Horam MP (JH)
Barry Hamblin (BH)
Lord Hylton

Item 1 Introductions
The Chairman introduced herself, welcomed those present and gave thanks to the Lord Hylton for hosting the meeting.
She reminded the meeting of the principles of the English constitutional convention as set out at the press launch in October 2004.

Item 2 The agenda
The agenda was agreed. Proposed GLS, seconded HDB. Approved nem. con.

Item 3 Consideration of the Terms of Reference of the English Constitutional Convention/ Scope
The Chairman read the Terms of Reference of the Scottish Constitutional Convention.
RT informed the meeting that the Liberal Party wished to widen the scope of the ECC to wider constitutional issues. GLS raised the issue of reviving local democracy and that the ECC should not consider only one issue. In particular some issues were easily addressed others would be the subject of long term aims. SN gave example of Top Up Fees.
HDB had been a journalist in Scotland during the (SCC) Constitutional Convention and reminded the meeting that it had concentrated on the concept of Scottish nationhood and suggested that to gather support the ECC should concentrate on the issue of English nationhood. He also emphasized the importance of openness.
DL commented that the issue of an English Parliament should be central to the proceedings of the ECC and RS questioned the ease of getting public notice. SN thought a video he is working on would help. JM urged wide terms of reference.
JK raised a concern about the use of the phrase "English Parliament" (EP) and preferred a Parliament for England. A number of alternatives were raised regarding the nature and location of an EP. PS was concerned over the issue of controlling the political agenda and that clarity in the aims of the ECC was needed.
JH indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of an EP and the EVEM was one step towards that goal but the profile of the issues needed to be raised although the Sun was already addressing the issue. He suggested that there should be a rolling programme procedure. AT stated that the EP should be on the basis of the SP.

The Chairman summarised the discussion and suggested the following resolutions.

That the primary objectives of the Convention are:

a) To draft a plan for a Parliament for the People of England, within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in furtherance of both the proclamation in the United Nations Charter of the sovereign right of the self-determination for nations and peoples and the precedent set by the United Kingdom (UK) government's Devolution Acts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Proposed JM, seconded AT carried unanimously.

GC queried the inclusion of "cultural deficit" but was satisfied after discussion that it was not given the same prominence as other UK cultures. It was agreed to omit the word "English" in the second resolution and the following resolutions were proposed by SN, seconded by IC and carried unanimously

b) To educate and inform the public and organisations about the democratic, financial and cultural deficit experienced by the people of England within the UK and thereby to galvanize opinion in favour of the plan.

c) To lobby and persuade the UK government to implement a national Parliament for England.

d) To act as a forum in which the views of interested persons and organisations can be heard and recorded.

Item 4 Operating procedures
RT suggested that the ECC should act like a select committee and take evidence from witnesses.
DL anticipated that there would be an unequal response since certain organisations such as the Labour Party were committed to devolution by Regionalisation. RS reminded the meeting of the EU dimension with regard to the Regionalisation issue. AT suggested that although the EU Regionalisation agenda could be noted alternative international outcomes must be anticipated. JH noted that this might well be the case if the EU constitution were defeated by referendum. PS queried the attitude of the EU parliament?
RT proposed that the ECC should meet once per month in order to take evidence and then report. JH seconded and this proposal was carried. JH volunteered to book meeting rooms as needed in the House of Commons.

Item 5 Funding
The SCC final document stated that it had been funded, inter alia, by the Joseph Roundtree Reform Trust and RT proposed that they should be lobbied for money at least for three months. He would volunteer to help fundraise, PS and HDB volunteered to form a subcommittee for fundraising. It was finally agreed that this should be a Finance and General purposes Committee. JK mentioned contacts in brewing and volunteered to be on the Committee.
AT suggested that he set up a protected website, with secure email, on Google for the use of those present. RT reminded the meeting that there was already a website for the ECC http://www.englishconstitutionalconvention.com.
SN noted that Sir Freddie Laker could be approached for funding.

Item 6 Approaches to Organisations to become activists/panel members
A number of English orientated organisations were suggested. English Democrats Party (EDP) and the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP), both of which are founding members of the ECC. The English Progressives, National Union of Students and SAGA were also suggested. JH offered to approach Oliver Heald for a Conservative representative.
HG suggested brewers such as Charles Welles and PS suggested that would approach Fullers. There was disagreement on approaching Max Clifford and in order to maintain unanimity the consensus was that he should not be approached. HDB suggested a Muslim Association and RT thought that the Interfaith Union would represent the Faith community. ID suggested Billy Bragg, Melvyn Bragg and Tony Benn.

Item 7 Approaches to MPs to become participants
Approaching individual MPs was discussed but HDB considered that those interested would make themselves known in due course.

Item 8 Publicity
SN propose that he should make a film which could be distributed to senior journalists.
AT noted that the ECC should get others on board first. HDB agreed that results of the select committees style meetings should be published and stands taken at the TUC, Labour and other conferences. "Liberty" should also be approached.

Item 9 Any other business
It was agreed that these minutes would be posted on the website once agreed by the Chairman.
HG emphasized that the ECC should cultivate grass roots support.
AT emphasized that there should be a date set, perhaps 5 years, for achieving the long-term objective. Yearly dates should be set for shorter-term objectives in a rolling programme of targets. It was noted that one of these could be reform of the Barnett formula.
SN noted that English businesses should be approached to support the ECC.
PS said that a group should focus on the political framework to establish what is practicable and do-able. PS, GLS GC volunteered to do this as part of the General Purposes Committee.

Item 10 Confirmation of date and venue of next meeting
This was deferred until a host was found
There being no further business the meeting closed at 1300 hours.