Thank you, Mr Hosie. I have debated matters of English local government in this room on several occasions, and I remark now, as I remarked then, that I quite often feel as though I have gatecrashed someone else’s party. On this occasion, I feel as though people have got the wrong date for the party; I have never been to a debate in this Chamber that has been so sparsely attended, and it feels really weird to be called to reply to the debate when only the mover of the motion, Andrew Rosindell, has spoken. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to make some remarks.
Although I may not have been invited to the party, I sense that the music is very similar to that which we hear north of the border. Some of people’s concerns and desires for reform of local government administration in London and, indeed, throughout England are motivated by feelings very similar to those that drove the cause for Scottish devolution and that are now driving the cause for Scottish independence. They are feelings of remoteness, of not being in charge of the place in which you live, and of not having a shared sense of identity with others who live in that place. I am therefore sympathetic to such debates, and I would say that they are actually all part of one grand debate about how we reform the antiquated structure that is the United Kingdom, in order to create governance on these islands that is more fit for the 21st century.
That said, there is a world of difference between the devolution of legislative authority to a nation within a political union, and the decentralisation of administration within the largest country of that political union, which is England. I want to speak as an observer in the debate.