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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

My evidence to the McKay/WLQ Commission

On St George's Day I was invited to give evidence to the McKay Commission which I wrote about here >>> Here is the uncorrected transcript that they sent me. What do you think?
5 (12.00 pm)

6 Evidence from MR ROBIN TILBROOK

7 THE CHAIR: Mr Tilbrook, thank you for coming.

8 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Thank you for having me.

9 THE CHAIR: Can I say some introductory things to you.

10 First of all, this is a notional -- a meeting in public,

11 there will be a transcript taken which will be sent to

12 you for correction. When corrected, it will be put on

13 The Commission's website.


15 THE CHAIR: Can I begin by asking you to tell us a little

16 about the origins and the character and the activities

17 of the English Democrats?

18 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Yes certainly sir. Basically, we are --

19 we I suppose were founded out of the campaign for an

20 English parliament, which came into existence when we

21 had referenda on Scotland and Wales, in particular,

22 getting their own parliaments. Basically, by the time

23 the English Democrats came along, they had already

24 spoken to most of the decision makers it seems within

25 political circles and got the answer that they did

page 48

1 accept that an English parliament was the most logical

2 answer to the devolution conundrum, but nevertheless

3 were not interested in it because it affected their own

4 interests and careers.

5 We thought, those of us that were involved in

6 setting up the English Democrats, that basically we

7 needed a campaign with a bit more of a cutting edge, and

8 the way to do that was as a political party. So we

9 formed the English Democrats, initially I registered

10 with some friends, the English National Party, we had

11 a series of meetings with other parties that were

12 emerging at the time, and launched in August 2002 as the

13 English Democrats.

14 Since that time we have basically been campaigning

15 using the political system to campaign and standing in

16 elections and I think, as time has gone on, doing better

17 and better. I suppose, in a way, an example of our

18 progress is shown at the last EU elections where we

19 certainly spent less than any other party that was

20 seriously campaigning, probably no more in campaign

21 expenditure than about £25,000, obviously there's

22 deposits on top of that, but £25,000 but we got 280,000

23 votes nevertheless which made us the party which got the

24 most votes without actually winning any MEPs;

25 significantly more than Plaid Cymru got.


1 So basically we feel that we are making progress,

2 the opinion polls I think show that people are becoming

3 increasingly aware of the kind of issues that we are

4 campaigning on, and we expect to make further progress

5 as time goes on.

6 THE CHAIR: Thank you. The question of fairness seems to be

7 the main spring of English reaction to the problems

8 thrown up by devolution.

9 It has taken a little while to manifest itself, and

10 some of the surveys, not all of the surveys, I must

11 immediately add, but some of the surveys that we have

12 seen show an increase in English awareness of themselves

13 and of the constitutional changes being made at the time

14 of devolution. But since then, according to some

15 surveys, the feeling has been not significantly

16 increased. Some of the figures, for example about

17 people who prioritise themselves as English not British,

18 are much the same in 1999 and 2009.

19 Now, that is not, I think, your experience.

20 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: No, it's not.

21 THE CHAIR: What is your experience based on?

22 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Obviously it's basically contact with

23 people, talking to people, the kind of reactions that we

24 get. Just for instance, when I first started

25 campaigning, telling people the different spendings


1 within England Scotland and Wales, I occasionally got

2 somebody who would say that I was a liar, that it was

3 not happening because they had not read about it in the

4 papers. But that does not happen anymore. What happens

5 is usually as soon as you start talking about it

6 somebody wants to tell you why they think it's totally

7 unfair.

8 I think we have got that message through, and the

9 IPPR report in January did show actually, from our point

10 of view quite interestingly, that there was a more or

11 less level flatlining of knowledge about the

12 differential spendings until we started campaigning. At

13 that point, there is a definite change to the angle of

14 the graph and that's been going on and increasing ever

15 since.

16 I think that many of those that have been doing the

17 surveys that you refer to have their own agendas and

18 I do not think they have been completely scrupulous

19 about how they put those. I do think the IPPR report,

20 and many other surveys that have been done -- opinion

21 polls that have been done before that, which showed

22 a fairly consistent level of support for doing something

23 about the English question -- I think would perhaps be

24 the loosest way of putting it and the most neutral

25 way -- did show that there had been a build up of


1 support for that for quite a long while. I do not think

2 our issue depends exclusively on feeling English, not

3 British. I think many people who feel both English and

4 British feel that the current arrangements are simply

5 unfair and something ought to be done about them.

6 I think the question that arises is what, of course,

7 and part of your remit is to look into that. But it

8 seems to me that the wish list from the government as to

9 what should be done about it, which is as little as

10 possible it seems to me within the confines of the

11 Westminster system, will not answer the issue. It does

12 not answer the issue not only because the issue is not

13 only about representation within parliament, it's also

14 about the way government works itself. So there is an

15 executive dimension to the West Lothian question, it's

16 not just a representation question.

17 THE CHAIR: If you went in the direction in which you would

18 like to go and you had an English parliament with an

19 English executive, there would still be many important

20 issues which were UK issues and these would have

21 expenditure consequences attached to them. England

22 would still, you would still get a kind of dissonance

23 because England would still dominate these UK issues

24 because of -- it's simple numbers, 85 per cent of the

25 population.


1 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: The fact is, as is shown from the way

2 public money is spent, England does not dominate at the

3 moment; far from it, England is dominated and it's

4 dominated through the operation of the party system and

5 it's dominated through the way that the executive is

6 currently set up. It's also dominated by the dynamic of

7 politics because the fact of the matter is if you have

8 one group that are fighting for their interests and

9 others who are not, within the political dynamic, the

10 ones that are fighting win, even if they are a tiny

11 minority.

12 THE CHAIR: Then my last question to you is: assume that the

13 House of Commons is, has its procedures adapted to give

14 a more conclusive voice to English opinion, whether it

15 is -- it would be something short of what you are after

16 but it would give a better voice, you might think, to

17 English opinion. It would depend of course on

18 identifying the English bills. English Votes for

19 English Laws, you would first have to identify an

20 English bill.

21 Your concern is that the speaker would have

22 difficulty in doing that, difficulty in avoiding

23 politicisation. The speaker however does that every day

24 when he selects amendments, amendments which have been

25 carefully crafted and have great political weight and he


1 has so come to a conclusions saying, "Sorry, it's an

2 order, but it is not going to be debated." Surely there

3 is a way of, short of an English parliament, determining

4 what an English bill is without politicising the

5 speakership?

6 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: I think the first point is that, as one

7 would see from the way the SNP talk about English bills,

8 quite a lot of things that are in the main about England

9 still are not English bills in their sense because they

10 have an impact on spending in Scotland through the

11 Barnett formula. So it would be quite hard to say what

12 was an English bill in the way that things are currently

13 set up.

14 Secondly, I think that -- what my point is really --

15 if we had the situation, which is often posited in this

16 kind of discussion, where there was a different party

17 that had a majority in England to the party that had

18 a majority overall in the UK, then the speaker's role is

19 going to become absolutely critical to whether or not

20 the UK majority can get its way on English bills.

21 As you have already pointed out, that is 85

22 per cent -- or I do not know if you actually use that

23 expression -- but at any rate the majority of what the

24 government would be about. If they then find they have

25 a speaker who is not ruling the way they want him to


1 rule on a regular basis, it is going to become

2 imperative to the government of the day to do something

3 about that speaker, is it not? Otherwise they are not

4 going to get their bills through. The moment that that

5 happens, the speakership will have changed permanently

6 in the way that it operates because it will become

7 a part of -- it will be important for the government to

8 retain control over the speakership and it will not be

9 an independent voice for the House of Commons in the way

10 that it has been for centuries; it will become much more

11 akin to what the House of Lords speakership was before

12 the latest batch of reforms on that with the

13 Lord Chancellor.

14 So I do think the speakership issue will matter in

15 terms of whether or not English Votes for English Laws

16 could work. But from my perspective, even if you were

17 able to devise, or the State was able to devise some

18 sort of system, whereby an English voice was heard,

19 admittedly through the imperfect medium of the political

20 parties, they would nevertheless not have answered, or

21 even touched, the key question which is the way the

22 actual government works. Because the importance of

23 parliament in a legitimacy sense is to provide a sort of

24 democratic framework and scrutiny of the government. It

25 is not an end in itself. So without a First Minister


1 for England, I do not see how we will have even scraped

2 the surface really of the issue.

3 So our point would be, although we would certainly

4 talk about an English parliament as being a key issue,

5 which we do think it is, nevertheless the foundation,

6 and the most important issue of all, really is an

7 English government, in particular an English First

8 Minister.

9 I think if we wind up with an English First

10 Minister, then everything else will flow from that, that

11 will necessarily lead to all the various other changes

12 that we are campaigning for, because obviously an

13 English First Minister is going to be a major political

14 figure. One of the dynamics of politics is that once

15 you have a major political figure they are looking to

16 increase their position and basically do the sort of

17 things politically that they want to be able to do in

18 order to secure reelection. So I think that's the key

19 issue to us.

20 THE CHAIR: One last question: this would presumably benefit

21 from a written constitution?

22 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: We are definitely in favour of a written

23 constitution. We also think the best way forward

24 really, in order to get from where we are, is to follow

25 a model similar to what the Scots did with the Scottish


1 Constitutional Convention, and that we ought to have an

2 English Constitutional Convention. And possibly, as

3 this does have implications for the way the whole UK

4 works, perhaps there ought to be not only an English

5 Constitutional Convention but also a UK Constitutional

6 Convention.

7 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: Thank you very much indeed. You just

8 asserted the priority is to have an English First

9 Minister.


11 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: There is an English Health Minister,

12 effectively. Isn't the test how you make that minister

13 accountable? Do you need an English parliament to make

14 the English Health Minister accountable?

15 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: We did a demonstration on April 1st

16 because we have English prescription charges going up

17 when everybody else is free. We were standing outside

18 Richmond House, the sort of headquarters of the English

19 Health Ministry, and Richmond House is flying the union

20 jack; you would not find the Welsh Health Ministry or

21 Scottish Health Ministry flying the union jack. But

22 I think it shows where the loyalties lie; it does not

23 lie towards England, and indeed I think much of the cuts

24 and so on that are being done, which tend to focus

25 unfairly on the English National Health Service, again


1 suggests the kind of dynamic at play that I was talking

2 about earlier of those that have the voice and mouth to

3 protest getting preferential treatment within the

4 political system. So I am not sure I would agree with

5 you, but I see the point.

6 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: The test is whether Mr Lansley is

7 accountable. At the moment he is a Secretary of State,

8 answerable to the Queen; Secretary of State of the

9 British Government. But if you could set up a system

10 where his responsibilities, obviously, are to England;

11 if you can make him accountable in some way within the

12 House of Commons, do you need a parliament to be able to

13 hit that little nut?

14 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Well, when we say an English parliament

15 we do not necessarily mean to have a completely separate

16 entity. For instance, one proposal that was made a few

17 years ago by, as he was then Lord Cranborne, now Lord

18 Salisbury, was that the House of Commons should be

19 reformed to be the English Parliament and you then have

20 Holyrood and Senate being the respective parliaments for

21 Scotland and Wales, but they would be the lower chamber.

22 Then the upper chamber would be an elected UK Senate

23 where the UK government would have its powers. We are

24 not necessarily saying separate buildings, but we are

25 saying it does involve quite significant constitutional


1 change. My personal preference would be for a separate

2 parliament in the same way as we have Holyrood and the

3 Senate, but I do think that that is something that does

4 need to be resolved as much as possible by consensus

5 through a constitutional convention.

6 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: In either case it tends to be

7 a federal outcome.

8 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Federal, yes, definitely. Therefore,

9 once you say federal you have to also say written

10 constitution, because there has to be demarcation of

11 where the powers lie. That of course is one of the

12 weaknesses with the current arrangements whereby England

13 is directly ruled by the British government, whereas

14 Scotland and Wales are indirectly and they have their

15 own governments.

16 What that means is of course that if you have

17 pressure on spending, as we have at the moment, the cuts

18 are likely to fall disproportionately in England, and

19 I think the proof of the pudding on that is in the

20 eating, it is happening.

21 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: Would you accept -- you demonstrated

22 prescription charges -- that they are actually

23 a consequence of devolution, that legislatures and

24 governments in the devolved areas take decisions on

25 expenditure, which they feel are their priority; if they


1 want to go for prescription charges or no university

2 fees in Scotland, that's perfectly fair. But they will

3 have to make commensurate savings elsewhere to actually

4 afford the luxury of what they are doing in certain

5 policy areas.

6 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Obviously one of our points, as a party,

7 is that more money per head is being spent in the

8 devolved nations than it is in England, so those choices

9 are made in the context of where English tax payers are

10 helping to pick up the bill for that. I have not got

11 any objection to the idea that the Scottish government

12 and the Welsh government should be able to make the

13 decision to have no prescription charges, I am fully

14 happy and endorse that. But where is the English voice

15 deciding the same? All we have is a British in

16 position.

17 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: Should public expenditure from the

18 different parts of the United Kingdom all be directly

19 related to population in order to get equity?

20 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: I think if you are going to be fair

21 about it, it would have to be to need not population.

22 It's need.

23 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: If you applied need, for example in

24 the case of Wales, and applied the criteria used by the

25 Department of Communities, et cetera, Wales would be


1 getting substantially more than she currently gets. So

2 would you support that?

3 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: If that was the case, possibly.

4 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: I think it's been established as

5 being the case.

6 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: My understanding from the Hotham Report

7 was that that was not the case, that actually Wales was

8 getting more than it would get vis-a-vis England. What

9 it was not getting was as much as Scotland is getting or

10 Northern Ireland.

11 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: I suggest you re-read the Holtham

12 Commission because the criteria as applied to Wales

13 would produce more money. If you look at the

14 expenditure per capita in London for example it's

15 probably four times that per capita in Scotland. Is

16 that fair?

17 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: I do not think that's true.

18 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: If you look at the Treasury

19 figures --

20 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: In any case, what's happened to make

21 those figures even remotely stand up is that the cost of

22 central government, the cost of the monarchy and so on,

23 have been added to the spending in London. The fact of

24 the matter is there are many boroughs in London which

25 are far poorer than anywhere in Scotland and do not get


1 the same amount of money.

2 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: The biggest capital project in the

3 construction sector in Europe is Crossrail in London.

4 If you add the Olympics and various other things you

5 would find the public expenditure per capita in London

6 is at least four times that in Scotland. Is that

7 equitable?

8 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: The result of the Crossrail budget is

9 that there is then an additional amount of money under

10 the Barnett formula going to Scotland and Wales when

11 they have not got a need for a project.

12 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: Not to Wales because it's not

13 devolved.

14 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: I think both are getting some money out

15 of the Barnett formula on the Crossrail.

16 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: Railtrack is not devolved.

17 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: There's been quite a lot of discussion

18 in Welsh papers about the fact there is this money

19 actually.

20 SIR EMYR JONES PARRY: We can talk about this separately but

21 it's not the case.

22 PROFESSOR CHARLIE JEFFERY: Thank you very much. Good

23 morning. You are clearly a proponent of an English

24 parliament and government in a federal UK. There are

25 attractions in the symmetry of that proposal.


1 We are receiving evidence, which I think more or

2 less uniformly, with the exception of your evidence and

3 that of the Campaign for an English Parliament, that

4 suggests a federal UK with such a big component would

5 not be a stable UK. How would you respond to that

6 suggestion?

7 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: We are not in a stable UK anyway. If

8 England isn't sorted out, you are going to get the same

9 kind of reaction as happened with Russia.

10 PROFESSOR CHARLIE JEFFERY: So we move into a situation

11 where we do have four more or less equal jurisdictions

12 within the UK. What about the charge of instability?

13 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: The way a federal system operates,

14 usually it seems to me, is you weight the arrangements

15 to try and produce some form of equality in certain

16 respects.

17 If you take for instance the American constitution,

18 the lower chamber is based on population, but the upper

19 chamber, each state gets two senators. So there's no

20 reason why a similar arrangement should not be at the

21 root of the way the federal system works within the UK.

22 It's just that we have already moved to a partial

23 federal system, it's just an illogical and incoherent

24 federal system we have at the moment. The question is

25 where we go from here rather than can we stay where we


1 are, it seems to me.

2 Certainly we intend to continue campaigning on these

3 kinds of issues. As I say, I expect that we will get

4 more and more attraction as time goes on with this.

5 Obviously what's happening in Scotland, with the move

6 towards having a referendum on independence, is raising,

7 within English minds, the idea of English independence.

8 For instance, there was a big parade yesterday in

9 the West Midlands for St George's Day and people up

10 there were reporting back to me that quite a lot of

11 people were simply saying, "let's go for independence";

12 they are fed up with the way the current system operates

13 and they move straight from thinking unitary Britain,

14 not via a federal state, which is a complicated idea,

15 but straight to the sort of notional simplicity of

16 independence.

17 PROFESSOR CHARLIE JEFFERY: Just imagine one more thing, if

18 I may: how the Daily Mail might respond to the idea that

19 England would be weighted equally to Northern Ireland

20 when Northern Ireland does not have many people in it

21 and England has 50 plus million.

22 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: You have to bear in mind what we are

23 saying is that England should have its own First

24 Minister, government and parliament with at least the

25 same powers as the Scottish ones. The unionist parties


1 are all in agreement, and have more or less got through

2 a new Scotland Act, have they not, which will in fact

3 grant yet further powers.

4 So what we would be saying is England should have at

5 least the same, and therefore the constitutional

6 arrangements would be based on at least the same

7 across-the-board. So what you are probably left with,

8 by the time the current process with Scotland has ended,

9 is a situation where the UK is dealing with foreign

10 affairs, dealing with defence and one or two other

11 issues that are still not devolved.

12 I do not see the problem with, even for the Daily

13 Mail, those matters being dealt with on the basis of

14 a sort of weighted representational legislative system.

15 Because that would not be dealing with the sort of day

16 to day things that most people who come into contact

17 with the State would experience. So most normal things

18 would be dealt with through the English political

19 system.


21 SIR GEOFFREY BOWMAN: Mr Tilbrook, you mention the

22 Barnett formula I think. You are saying that that would

23 present difficulties in trying to identify an English

24 bill.



1 SIR GEOFFREY BOWMAN: You have been dealing with some rather

2 heady topics, I am dealing with a very narrow technical

3 issue, nevertheless an important one. I think the

4 suggestion is that the Barnett formula has the

5 inevitable effect, that if you change expenditure on

6 a given subject in England then it has an effect in

7 Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Is it so

8 inevitable? For example the Barnett formula isn't set

9 in legislation, it's merely a practice. What determines

10 the level of expenditure is the House of Commons supply

11 procedure through the appropriation act?

12 All that the bill does is generally speaking give

13 power to spend money, it's the actual spending of the

14 money that makes the Barnett formula operate, as

15 I understand it.

16 Why is it so difficult, why is the Barnett formula

17 such a problem? There's no inevitably about it, is

18 there?

19 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Well, it's become sort of a convention,

20 has it not? After all, before the Barnett formula we

21 had the Groshun (?) Convention, as it were, so there has

22 been a series of conventions going back into the 19th

23 century, and probably arising out of any difficulties

24 with home rule in Ireland.

25 I think the idea that the British government would


1 change its approach to allocation between the nations,

2 although I think constitutionally proper, is in fact

3 quite unlikely. David Cameron, before he became Prime

4 Minister, did set his face against changing the

5 Barnett formula and we would quote him for the way he

6 put it because what he said was that he was not going to

7 change it because, "I am a Cameron and there's plenty of

8 Scottish blood flowing in these veins", which we thought

9 was a rather peculiar way of putting it for somebody

10 representing an English seat. But if he is not going to

11 change it, then -- and there is no move afoot to change

12 it -- bills that have a spending element to them are

13 going to remain caught by the Barnett formula, and

14 therefore it's going to be perfectly reasonable and

15 sensible for politicians representing Scotland, Wales

16 and Northern Ireland to get involved in discussing

17 those, and they are going to want to do it.

18 I do think quite a lot of academics have talked

19 about trying to get rid of the Barnett formula and have

20 criticised it, but that does not mean it's actually

21 going to change because it's too convenient and at

22 a time when the Westminster/Whitehall establishment

23 think that Scotland and Wales are -- there's a potential

24 risk of them becoming independent, they are hardly going

25 to cut the spending to those nations.


1 I do think that the rattling the sabre of

2 independence, which has been done by both SNP and by

3 Plaid Cyrmu, has worked very well in terms of getting

4 lots of extra money out of the UK Exchequer, and

5 I cannot see that changing either.

6 SIR GEOFFREY BOWMAN: We will have to live with the

7 Barnett formula as it is and take the consequences, but

8 would it nevertheless be possible for the speaker to

9 identify a bill as predominantly English? If we cannot

10 say that it is entirely English, we could say of a given

11 bill that it's more or less English, that the effects of

12 Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would be de minimis

13 and therefore we can certify the bill as English?

14 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Well, obviously the answer to that

15 question would be yes, that the speaker could so

16 certify.

17 SIR GEOFFREY BOWMAN: But legitimately obviously.

18 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Whether that would be the end of the

19 discussion might be a different question, bearing in

20 mind what's being talked about at the moment isn't

21 primary constitutional legislation, but simply

22 a development of some sort of convention. After all,

23 conventions only work for as long as politicians feel

24 that they work as far as they are concerned in the way

25 that they want to react to events.


1 After all, Tony Blair's government showed quite

2 a lot of conventions simply evaporated the moment the

3 government didn't think they were convenient anymore.

4 So I think whereas constitutional lawyers used to

5 spend a lot of time talking about conventions within the

6 British constitutional system, I do think they are a lot

7 more ephemeral than we used to be taught. I cannot see

8 a convention which was trying to exclude, say, Scottish

9 MPs from getting involved in a discussion which could

10 mean a substantial additional payment, or even worse

11 a substantial reduction in the amount of money that was

12 going to ... I cannot see them being willing to be

13 excluded from discussing that.


15 PROFESSOR YVONNE GALLIGAN: Good morning Mr Tilbrook.

16 I would like you to expand a little bit on what

17 institutions you would see representing the Westminster

18 or federal part of this relationship. I think I heard

19 you say that it would constitute a senate of some kind

20 but I didn't quite follow exactly what you have in mind

21 in this regard.

22 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: What I was talking about there was

23 something that Lord Cranborne said when he was the

24 Conservative leader in the Lords under William Hague.

25 What he said was -- or proposed -- was that the English


1 parliament should be the House of Commons and the House

2 of Lords should become an elected UK Senate, with all

3 the lower chambers in the same kind of relationship to

4 it as the House of Representatives in America for

5 example. So a slightly complicated arrangement.

6 I am not necessarily proposing that, but that was

7 what he suggested. I will give you an alternative model

8 that was put forward by Tony Benn in the Commonwealth of

9 Britain bill. What he suggested was that there should

10 be an upper and lower chamber for each of the nations

11 with an elected president for each of the nations, he is

12 a republican.

13 A number of different models have already been

14 proposed. I do not think, as far as the English

15 Democrats are concerned, we have really gone beyond

16 saying there needs to be an English parliament, First

17 Minister and government, with at least the same powers

18 as the Scottish ones, and then we say the way to get

19 there is to try and build some sort of consensus through

20 an English constitutional convention.

21 We have not been very specific as to what exactly

22 the constitutional structure would be, and that is

23 simply because I do not think there's been sufficient

24 consideration of how that all fits together.

25 One of the advantages of the Scottish Constitutional


1 Convention was that by the time Labour had adopted the

2 idea, most of the interplay as to how the system would

3 work had already been worked out, so they were able to

4 adopt, more or less intact, a proposal that had been put

5 to them by the Scottish Constitutional Convention. At

6 least that's my understanding of it.

7 PROFESSOR YVONNE GALLIGAN: The other element of English

8 Democrat position is that there would be a written

9 constitution codifying and clarifying all of these

10 institutional arrangements and the relationships between

11 them.

12 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Yes. I think that necessarily follows

13 from saying it's a federal system. I do not think you

14 can have a federal system without a constitutional

15 arrangement. The nearest that I am aware of that didn't

16 have a constitution framework, a written constitutional

17 framework in that way, was probably the Austro-Hungarian

18 empire, which in fact, although I think people tended to

19 think it was going to fall apart on its own accord, it

20 really did not fall apart of its own accord. It was not

21 until Wilson made it clear they were not prepared to

22 talk to the Austro-Hungarian empire and wanted it

23 dissolved, that it dissolved, or was dissolved, in order

24 to get to the point where the First World War could be

25 brought to an end, with quite unfortunate consequences


1 in many respects in that part of the world.

2 PROFESSOR YVONNE GALLIGAN: Fair point, but would you not

3 consider that constitutional arrangements in fact do not

4 really legislate for relationships? By and large

5 constitutional arrangements do set out the parameters

6 within which relationships are conducted, but in actual

7 fact when it comes down to the hard politics of it,

8 constitutional arrangements are as much dependent on

9 give and take and dependent on convention and dependent

10 on rules and procedures that grow as things evolve. So

11 it's not a certain ...

12 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Up to a point. Obviously one of the

13 things you also accept by accepting the idea of

14 a written constitution is that there has to be a proper

15 Supreme Court, which does actually determine what the

16 powers will be when there is a dispute. Because, yes,

17 there will be a question of relations but in the end

18 there would have to be a final legal determination of

19 what was constitutionally proper.

20 Obviously then, one of the issues that would present

21 politicians within the constitutional framework would be

22 the appointment of judges within the Supreme Court.

23 I do not think you would necessarily want to have judges

24 who were merely career lawyers; you would want judges

25 who had a wider experience of life in the same way as


1 many of the American Supreme Court justices have.

2 I think you would have to have some form of way in

3 which they were appointed that had a democratic input,

4 again in the same way, perhaps an indirect scrutiny of

5 the appointment process held in public.

6 From where we are at the moment, all I am really

7 saying is that we would have to go down the federal

8 route, I do not see any -- it seems to me there are

9 really only two long term practical outcomes to where we

10 are at the moment. One is federal system of the UK and

11 the other is the UK breaks up into the constituent

12 nations.

13 PROFESSOR YVONNE GALLIGAN: One last question: would you

14 envisage that the English parliament and government

15 would have their own tax raising powers?

16 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Well, our position is that that would

17 depend on whether the Scottish Parliament had those

18 powers. Because we are not saying that we want more

19 than Scotland's got, we are simply saying at least what

20 they have. Therefore, we set our benchmark by what

21 Scotland has. Obviously Scotland does look to me as if

22 it is moving towards having its own tax raising powers.

23 If that is the case, then the same would have to apply

24 to England. We would of course be saying that Wales

25 should have the same and Northern Ireland should have


1 the same. Although we focus on England, we are not

2 trying to say that other parts of the UK should have

3 a lesser arrangement than England gets; we are simply

4 saying everybody should get the same.

5 PROFESSOR YVONNE GALLIGAN: The consequence of that would be

6 that the UK, the federal parliament, would to some

7 extent lose control over fiscal policy and economic

8 policy?

9 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: It might do, yes. After all, if you go

10 back to the model of the United States, although the

11 federal part of that has been growing in power, from the

12 middle part of the 20th century onwards really,

13 nevertheless each state still has its own tax raising

14 powers, it hasn't presented insurmountable difficulties

15 as far as the states are concerned. The problem at the

16 moment I think that's been identified with what's

17 happening with the devolved government is that they are

18 not really sufficiently answerable to the electorate for

19 their spending decisions because of the Barnett formula,

20 too much of a block grant and too little they have to

21 raise themselves from their own people.

22 Obviously if we did wind up with a devolved

23 arrangement for tax, there would still have to be

24 something that was federal. So you might have some

25 federal taxes and you might have some national taxes.



2 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: It's probably what would happen, the

3 same as does happen with the States.

4 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: Good afternoon. The question you have

5 just been asked covered some of the ground I wanted to

6 cover but I wonder if I could come at it from

7 a different angle. You are in a favour of a federal

8 United Kingdom.


10 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: I think if I have understood you rightly,

11 you are holding out to us the prospect of a break up of

12 the union as a risk rather than something that would be

13 in itself desirable.

14 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Yes, I think that's probably right.

15 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: If you are in favour of the union, could

16 you tell me what it is that you see, from the point of

17 view of the English Democrats, as the advantages of the

18 union?

19 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Yes. I think I probably ought to say

20 first of all that one of the issues that was current at

21 the time the English Democrats was being formed was the

22 whole question of regionalisation of England. We sort

23 of observed with some interest that people like Charles

24 Kennedy, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, was

25 saying he liked the idea of regionalisation because it


1 was calling into question the idea of England itself.

2 So we did regard regionalisation as an attack on the

3 idea of England, and to the extent it still has any

4 attraction at all we still consider it to be an attack

5 on England.

6 If I have to choose between maintaining the

7 integrity of the UK and the integrity of England, then

8 I choose England. So the UK is sort of extra rather

9 than a bedrock item for us, I think.

10 That being the case, at the moment we still think

11 that the UK could be an acceptable constitutional

12 arrangement for the English nation to continue to

13 operate within. But if the UK -- it becomes more

14 fixated on the idea of trying to break England up, it

15 may be that that view would change. So I suppose my

16 support for remaining within the UK is a bit conditional

17 rather than unconditional, and it is not a visceral

18 support. I would not say, if you asked me whether I was

19 British, you would not get me to talk about being

20 British until we were on to passports or benefits or

21 whatever.

22 So I would place myself as being an English

23 nationalist, but being an English nationalist does not

24 necessarily mean you have to immediately say you want to

25 break up the UK, I do not think. I am not sure I have


1 fully answered that question.

2 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: I think the reason I am asking you is in

3 case it sheds more light on what you think the role of

4 the federal, the UK parliament, would be under your

5 system, because presumably you would want it to do the

6 things that make the union necessary and desirable. So

7 I am asking you why you think the union is necessary and

8 desirable.

9 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: If we for instance think about why the

10 union came into existence in the first place, part of it

11 was foreign affairs and defence, was it not; admittedly

12 at that time in an imperialist context. But obviously

13 foreign affairs and defence may still be better dealt

14 with through the UK structure.

15 I am sure there are other things that could be best

16 dealt with at that level but I have not come equipped

17 with a checklist of items that I would say ought to be

18 dealt with at that level. We are not for instance

19 campaigning to change the way that the Queen and

20 monarchy operates, so that's obviously a UK issue.

21 We start really from the perspective of fairness,

22 but we are looking at it from fairness for England's

23 point of view. At the moment we do not think the

24 arrangements are fair so we want to see them changed.

25 If they were reordered so that they became fair, then


1 I think our view of things would be that that was

2 satisfied, and therefore not want to go to the, more

3 loosely speaking, revolutionary point of actually

4 breaking the UK up if it was not necessary.

5 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: A passive preference to the union as long

6 as it's fair rather than a ...

7 MR ROBIN TILBROOK: Yes I suppose that's right, yes.

8 SIR STEPHEN LAWS: Thank you.

9 THE CHAIR: Thank you Mr Tilbrook. Can I simply conclude by

10 wishing you a happy St George's Day.

11 SIR MALCOLM RIFKIND: Thank you very much. Happy St

12 George's Day to everybody as well.

13 THE CHAIR: Thank you very much.

14 (12.46 pm)

15 (Mr Robin Tilbrook withdrew)

For completeness here is the Commissions' covering note etc..
Dear Mr Tilbrook
Thank you for giving evidence to the Commission on the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons on Monday, 23 April 2012. I attach a transcript of your exchanges with the Commission. This is now being prepared for publication on the Commission’s webpages shortly.
If you consider that the transcript inaccurately records what you said, this is your opportunity to correct it. You should do this either by correcting the electronic text using the “track changes” facility and emailing it to me as an attachment. If this method presents you with any difficulties, please could you let me know and we can consider an alternative.
Minor alterations to the style or grammar of any answer should not be made. Any changes you propose should be restricted to the correction of inaccuracies in the reporting of your words, or to the correction of matters of fact. If you have become aware that you need to make corrections of any matters of fact or interpretation to ensure that the final record of what you said to the Commission is accurate and complete, you should submit a separate note which will be appended to the evidence either as a footnote or as a freestanding piece of written evidence.
We would be grateful if you could return the corrected copy of the transcript to reach me by Friday, 4 May 2012. If special circumstances make this impossible please let me know, but if I do not hear from you to that effect, and do not receive the corrected transcript within the time indicated, your evidence will be published in its uncorrected form.
The final decision on the admissibility of any proposed amendments rests with the Commission. Although the evidence was taken in public, you should not make any public reference to this transcript without indicating clearly that it is an uncorrected document, and that the final form of its publication has not yet been approved by the Commission.
Yours sincerely
Olaf Dudley
The McKay Commission Secretariat
From: RobinTilbrook
To: secretariat
Sent: Sun, Apr 29, 2012, 11:49 AM
Subject: Re: Transcript of evidence session

I believe that the reference on page 66 of the transcript should be to the "Goschen Formula".
Dear Mr Tilbrook

Thank you for your comment on the transcript, which I will put in hand, and for the references to both the Barnett formula and Viscount Goschen.

Yours sincerely

Olaf Dudley


  1. Well spoken , Robin. Quite helpful to see your thoughts on the need, or not, for UK breakup on gaining an English legislature.
    This seems to be a regular issue when it comes to nationalist arguments- but the case for a fair and just resolution of the imbalance in our current system is the strongest card to play.
    After all, the Scots and Welsh were hardly taken to task over the effect within the UK when they were awarded devolved powers.
    N. Ireland had a special case scenario due to the Eire dimension.

  2. I have been itching to communicate this one to you Robin and am surprised that you have not picked up on it already. I would have posted it on your main piece about Ed Milliband and the English Parliament but postings there seem to take days to appear. My wife was watching Channel 4 News with Krishnan Guru-Murthy interviewing Ed Milliband. I think she must have gone into daydream because she cannot recall the subject matter but I wonder if it was Ed the Red or Milli the Marxist opining about Englishness. Krishnan then suggested to Ed that he was not English himself. Yes I am Ed protested as I was born in London. No you are not replied Krishnan, you are an immigrant like me. You are British but you can never be English. He left Ed totally bewildered. Nice to see that an immigrant can tell another immigrant that he is not English. In fact, we never allowed Ed's grandad into the country as he was a potential Marxist political troublemaker. A shame we allowed his dad in - now buried near to Karl Marx - or there would have been no Ed. So Krishnan is saying Englishness is an ethnicity, not a case of where you are born. Why is the equality commission not doing Krishnan for anti-semitism? Nice to think that Krishnan does not think of himself as a Lancastian although born there. Does he think of himself as a British Indian and more Indian than British? This just goes to point to the future as I have said when our non-English immigrants will just be creating outposts of their mother countries with whom they will remain in contact and whose cricket teams they will continue to support, as the Indians in Fiji. This may well be the case even when they are in the majority and we ethnic English are history. Is there hope that Krishnan might actually realise the plight of the ethnic English and understand how we feel? If only he would and say to his compatriots, the holiday's over chaps, time to go home and let them clean the house. 30 years ago there was a Jewish gentleman, whose name escapes me, who actually supported Lady Jane Birdwood, that scurge of the UAF, in her attempt to restore England to the ethnic English. Melanie Phillips might be on our side also. But otherwise, all other immigrants probably just regards as useful idiots who are quite happy for them to colonise feeling it is the Christian thing to do. Anybody opposed to the process is in their eyes just a neo-nazi neanderthal. By the way, did you know the Norwegians are paying for asylum seekers living in Greece ( very few who make it to Norway are genuine ). Presumably the Greeks are saying they won't pay and the saintly Norwegians are just waiting for them to be processed before rolling out the red carpet for them.

    1. Miliband would have been genuinely shocked by that question, mainly as it was from someone whom he would not easily declare a racist owing to being an ethnic immigrant himself, or at least of immigrant stock. Channel 4 is usually loyal to the marxist agenda, perhaps there is some personal antipathy between Mr Murthy an Ed.

      If he really wanted to point out the hypocrisy of those who support Israel, he could have mentioned the forced expatriation of blacks that is I believe happening there at the moment. Netanyahu called them 'infiltrators' and that they were threatening the jewishness of the state.

      Absolutely no msm coverage for that here.

      Oh, but of course, zionism is not racist like we are is it? What is worse, the Poles and Russians doing a bit of rude chanting or state sanctioned cleansing?

    2. Loving your neighbour does not mean letting them do whatthey like

  3. Dear Robin
    thankyou for sending this to me, you did proud for the English cause in how you explained to the commission the direction of the English Democrats.
    From my understanding with union with Scotland was that it was achieved by underhand methods, Queen Ann had placemen in the Scottish parliament so ensuring the union took place,
    this caused much trouble and always have so if we are to have change then it must be right from the very start so this sort thing does not haunt us later, this is of paramount importance.
    so from my unlearned understanding, we have a monarch who upholds the constitution and we swear allegiance to this through the monarchy which is non political.
    then we have a body which deals with issues that concern the union obviously some more so than others which could be moved to parliament and thus a parliament dealing with issues concerning ie England which again some issues may
    need to go to the UK parliament for want of a better word.
    for me the most important thing here is talking to one another to resolve issues that will arise and coming away knowing these issues have been resolved through discussion,
    as Winston Churchill said jaw,jaw jaw not war ,war ,war
    The real thing is now which is happening throughout the world people are giving up or being denied their own sovereignty so that others can take easy resources from their own countries making them slaves or making them slaves through economic procedures, so as English this is of the most paramount importance an English parliament set within the United Kingdom of four nations/countries without this we are nothing but a ship with no rudder.

    kind regards


  4. Phoenix - Fred14 June 2012 at 09:35

    Well done Robin!
    This is the message that we need on the BBC rather than a closed room. From his questions it appears that the decision is already made and it ain't an English parliament.
    Wonderful performance Robin but you may need your chain mail and sword to win our battle. Westminster will need de-lousing before England stops itching.

  5. Hello Robin, I think it was noticable and we in the CEP also noticed it when we gave evidence, that the Commission were lamentably ignorant of the issues for England. well done and we said the same things later in our evidence.

    Of course we all know that the McKay Commission is a fig leaf that has nothing to do with fairness for England. Compared with the numerous commissions for Scotland and Wales it is seeded with a majority that have no understanding of the exploitation experienced by the English nation.


  6. Thank you Robin, it could not have been easy for you; but you pressed the English case well.
    I am still not sure why the Daily Mail's stance on anything should be cosidered more than Dustbin fodder

  7. In my town we still have a moot hall where the town council of independent councillors meets. This harks back to the Folcmoot of Anglo-Saxon times when the whole community met to discuss and agree policy and local issues. Contrast this with the debate in parliament yesterday about culture secretary Jeremy Hunt. Valuable parliamentary time was wasted in an exercise in political point scoring. Was anybody listening and did anybody care? But perhaps this only goes to underline what Stephen has just said. We now have the illusion of democracy where the three parties are virtually indistinguishable and are pursuing the common Marxist/Globalizers' one world agenda so they are fully able to take up parliamentary time with trivia as they have nothing else of note to decide upon. Nothing of any substance is decided in this country or any country any more. It is decided in New York or Berlin or Brussels or at meetings of the Bilderbergers. We heard yesterday that the government are to press ahead with giving the security services access to everything we say or write. I read a comment on Yahoo yesterday to the effect that those who comment on certain articles should be careful about what they say as they might receive a knock on the door from the police. In 60 years we have gone from being a free democratic little island detached from the continent but sharing a common European Christian culture to being a piece of land bound by every means possible to the rest of the world but reduced in effect to a nation of credit slaves and pawns who can be manipulated at will to benefit the few. We are drifting into being a police state whilst being made to think we are still free. We are being asked to surrender any shred of sovereignty and democracy and our very national identity to a totalitarian European and ultimately world superstate but for what? All this is being done in the name of the good of mankind but we are being deceived, hoodwinked to benefit a world-wide plutocracy. A world without white hegemony and homogeneity , a rainbow world will be the new paradise. Well is it? 800 ethnic Norwegians fled from Oslo last year and yet the population of the city is increasing. A left-wing population drooled over the news excitedly proclaiming that Oslo is now enjoying a wonderful diversity like so many places in Europe. Who do these people speak for? Eventually there will be no indigenous Europeans in any of Europe's major cities and this will be hailed as a wonderful development, not the ethnic cleansing of Europe that it actually is. Is it not now obvious that politicians all over Europe and probably elsewhere in the "white" world speak for nobody but themselves, be it on the European Union, multiculturalism or any other juvenile Marxist concept. But they have seized total control and whipped the carpet of democracy from under our feet whilst their financial masters hold us penniless and powerless. So what can we do? An English parliament would possess the potential to wrest back democracy to the English. However, I am afraid that that is not part of their programme, so unless something violent and seismic occurs we have no hope of defeating them. Universal suffrage here lasted from the 1920s to the 1970s when we were conned into joining what we thought was a free trade area, a mere 50 years. Once we had voted yes to the EEC it was all over.

  8. If people REALLY don't want their freedoms and country back- then there's no way the ED's can do it , either- but we have to try our very best to raise awareness and hope it hits home [soon] :~/