To save the union, a new constitutional settlement is needed | Letters

The status quo is unsustainable, writes Lord Salisbury, while John Thomson says that we must rebuild our relationship with Europe and Richard Ross turns his attention to the House of Lords

Martin Kettle has done us all a service by pointing out the urgency of constitutional reform (Only a full devolution reset can stop the UK splintering apart, 30 June). In particular, he rightly highlights the valuable work John Denham is doing on the future governance of England.

The Constitution Reform Group (CRG) is a group of politicians and officials of all parties and none that has been developing proposals for constitutional reform for some years. It has just published its revised version of the bill that Lord Lisvane laid before the House of Lords in the last parliament.

The CRG’s bill embodies proposals for a new federal settlement, laying out two options. It does not address the governance of England, except in so far as its proposals affect the constitutional relationship between the member nations of the union. However, we have been in conversation with, among others, John Denham, David Cannadine and Gisela Stuart, who have each been working on the English question.

Many will consider our proposals too radical. However, there is a growing body of opinion that feels the status quo is unsustainable, whether Scotland leaves the union or not, and that we need a new settlement. No one but the government can take the lead in addressing this matter. Independent talking shops are useful in rousing public opinion and formulating proposals, but they tend to proliferate and cannot act.

For the reasons Kettle gives, now would be a good time for the government to implement its manifesto commitment and set up a commission on the constitution. Only the prime minister can build a consensus for the new constitutional settlement we need and only he has the power to implement it.
Lord Salisbury
Chair, Constitution Reform Group

• Martin Kettle is right: a constitutional framework is required if the increasingly fractious peoples of the British Isles are to coexist in reasonable harmony. The tragedy is that we had one. It was (and is) called the European Union. For proof of its efficacy – and of the dangers of lacking it – look only to the recent history of Ireland, or to the strife over the Internal Market Act.

When will an active, high-profile politician be brave enough to point out that the first step in resolving the tensions within the narrow confines of this archipelago should be to renew our association with the wider continental community of which we are inescapably a part? In its current political form it was, after all, created specifically to ensure lasting peace among previously warring nations.
John Thomson
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

• Martin Kettle is undoubtedly correct that the UK needs a constitutional settlement that gives weight to its constituent parts – Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the English regions. As recent byelections show, there are toxic divisions within England – and not just between England and the other countries. A way forward would be for the House of Lords to become a second chamber representing the interests of the countries and regions of the UK. Such a settlement would involve the establishment of powerful regional assemblies in England, a necessary step toward the decentralisation of the UK.

An added advantage of this proposal is that it would do away with the failed politicians, party donors and placemen and -women who currently occupy the benches of the House of Lords.
Richard Ross

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Guardian view on the future of the Union: Britain faces breakup | Editorial
Editorial: The combination of Boris Johnson, Covid and Brexit is creating a constitutional crash that is waiting to happen in 2021


29, Dec, 2020 @4:00 PM

Article image
The United Kingdom is broken. It’s time for a new British federation | Simon Jenkins
Celtic grievances can no longer be waved away by Whitehall, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins

05, Jul, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Labour and England’s place within the union | Letter
Letters: Labour also wants England governed by the same union state that is fracturing in front of our eyes, notes Prof John Denham


05, Jul, 2021 @4:28 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Johnson and devolution: another reckless gamble | Editorial
Editorial: The internal market bill is too easily portrayed as a Westminster power grab at the expense of the Scottish and Welsh governments


30, Sep, 2020 @5:50 PM

Article image
Losing all hope that the union can survive Boris Johnson | Letters
Letters: Readers reflect on the deepening divisions between the four nations


12, Apr, 2021 @4:46 PM

Article image
Time to repair the fabric of our disunited kingdom | Letters
Letters: Paul Tattam calls for a good-humoured national debate about the future of the union, and Iain Forbes says the problem is many English people don’t seem to care about it. Plus letters from John Skrine and Michael Cunningham


11, Jul, 2022 @4:21 PM

Article image
Brexit: the Irish question and the English puzzle | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to a Guardian article by Fintan O’Toole


21, Nov, 2018 @5:41 PM

Article image
Tumbling towards a no-deal Brexit catastrophe | Letters
Letters: The electorate should be invited to reconsider, says Bernard Stafford. I voted Brexit but we now know so much more, says Bill Butterworth. Plus letters from Dr Richard Turner, Chris Webster, Angela Neustatter and Mick Crawley


14, Aug, 2019 @4:02 PM

Article image
Why hoarding power in London doesn't work | Letters
Letters: When things go wrong, the instinct of ministers and officials is to seek more central action, writes Prof John Denham


20, May, 2020 @4:27 PM

Article image
Johnson’s hypocrisy on ‘saving’ the union | Letter
Letter: No other Conservative leader has done so much to undermine the constitutional framework that binds the UK together, writes Paul Dolan


14, Sep, 2020 @3:58 PM