Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Charter for a new Britain

I saw this article sometime ago probably when it was first published back in December 2005 but never actually managed to read it until today.

In the article Sunder Katwala, the general secretary of the Fabian Society looks what we can do to create a modern sense of Britishness. Sunder Katwala raises sometime important points and makes some good suggestions.

I really like the idea that we should write down the constitution and have supported this suggestion for sometime. My current suggestion would be that the government bring together a committee of MPs and Peers representing all parties to draw up a draft constitution which could then be discussed and edited by both the Commons and the Lords and then put to a referendum. However I do realise would give little opportunity to members of the general public to have an input into the constitution and therefore I like Sunder Katwala’s suggestion that we should have a "great national debate" involving the public with discussions what rights and responsibilities should we have? What role should religion play in a society of many faiths and none? Should more power be held locally? Is the electoral system fair? Could voting be considered a duty of all citizens? I think that the findings of the POWER inquiry report, which was launched earlier this year, could be the basis of this. In my own experience the POWER inquiry also showed that more people then we think actually care about the British “constitution” then most political people like myself believe. I think that any debate on a constitution should also include discussions on the role, responsibilities & make up of the Commons & Lords along with discussion on the relationship we wish our legislature to have with the executive, the role of the judiciary & courts, devolution to national legislatures in Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales along with discussion on potential regional legislative bodies for the English regions this should also include a discussion and debate on the role that Quangos (Non-Departmental Public Bodies), government departments and their role & responsibilities, we also need to have a discussion on the role and responsibilities of local government, we need some guidelines for our relations and obligations to international organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union etc. I light of the current situation we may also need a discussion on the funding of political activities.

As a republican I disagree with a lot of what Sunder Katwala says about under Renew our national symbols however I know that my opinion is a minority view. I would welcome all the changes he mentions in the article but would much prefer to have the changes go further and personally would like the monarchy abolished. However I am not sure about what would replace it, we have a number of options available to us which include a ceremonial president directly elected or elected by parliament or a executive president. I guess the role and responsibilities of head of state are something that can be discussed during a national debate on the constitution.

With regard to his suggestions on the reform of our honours system I very agree with what he suggests. I know that in the current situation I certainly would not accept a honour from any member of the monarchy but would be tempted if was from the speaker of the House of Commons or someone similar maybe this could be for the new from the speaker of the House of Lords which we will get soon. I also think that we need to change the way in which honours are awarded.

I also like Sunder Katwala’s idea of launching a national community service scheme where I differ is that I would suggest that it is something that is maybe included in the school curriculum. This could be easier if the government were to reform the 14-19 curriculum and make it more skills based.

I agree with Sunder Katwala when he says “A society of many faiths and none should treat major faiths equally within a human rights framework” however I would go as far as not have a link between the state and any religion.

I totally agree with Sunder Katwala on what he says about meeting the pledge to end child poverty. Poverty restricts people’s freedoms and freedom is a key British value.

I also happen to agree with what Sunder Katwala says about Teach Britain's global history however he thinks “teaching European languages in every primary school by 2010 would be a major step forward too” while I would like to see foreign languages taught in primary schools I’m not too positive about restricting it to a European language I think schools should be able to decide which foreign language they teach but I also think that part of teaching British history should include lesson and maybe lectures for older students from those who are more critical of Britain’s past.

I’m not too sure about what Sunder Katwala suggests under Tackle the 'ethnic penalty' in employment, however I would be interested to hear more about what he suggests and like to see more examples if things that could be done but what I would if action is needed then we must also take action on access to healthcare.

I like Sunder Katwala suggestion of removing responsibility for producing immigration statistics from the Home Office but rather than forming a new independent migration commission I would like to see that The Office for National Statistics (ONS) did that task for parliament rather then for the Home Office.

Under Investigate the impact of education on integration Sunder Katwala says “Since it is politically inconceivable that current CofE, Catholic and Jewish state schools could be abolished, no principled argument can be made against funding Muslim and Hindu state schools on the same basis” and I totally agree with that however as someone who has family who went to independent religious schools I think they do more harm to integration and think that we may need to look at independent religious schools and state schools start working together on something which may include sharing teachers, having joint classes, using each others facilities etc.

I disagree with Sunder Katwala on his idea to invest in British Muslims because while I think it is important that we do everything to combat the promotion of narrow extremist politics in Muslim communities I think we need to do more to combat the promotion of narrow extremist politics in all communities and this includes the working class estates of our inner cities which have fortunately become no go areas for political parties and homes to either streets gangs and thugs or the BNP. I don’t this needs government action I think has to be something done by community groups and political parties.

I agree that we should use the run-up to 2012 to build a new British story. Sander Katwala talks about having “new festivals of Britishness” I’d like to hear more about that but I think that we should make Republic Day June 2nd a public holiday (weather is usually great then too) I also agree with Sunder Katwala when he says “We don't need another major extravaganza with corporate sponsorship of content-free zones but a community-led and local approach that uses the next few years to discuss amongst ourselves the stories we want to tell the rest of the world in 2012”. I also think we need to do more to celebrate commemorative days we already have St George’s day usually passes without a mention I don’t know if it’s the same in Scotland and Wales on St Andrew’s or St David’s day but these days should be used to celebrate the success that England, Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales have had.
Metro plans passed

Yesterday I was very pleased to hear that the local Passenger Transport Authority has approved plans for a £430m expansion of the Midlands Metro around Birmingham and the Black Country. The scheme which now needs the government's approval which I certainly hope it will get soon.

Plans for a £430m expansion of the Midlands Metro around Birmingham and the Black Country are being sent to the government for approval. The plans include new lines through Birmingham city centre and from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill via Dudley. The government is to be asked for three-quarters of the cost. It is hoped the trams will run by 2012.

As someone who commutes I use the trams almost everyday when and find that they are brilliant. They run every few minutes even during the evening and usually don’t have the problems that you sometimes face when using buses or trains such as delays, traffic and so.

Unfortunately today services between Black Lake, near Wednesbury, and Birmingham have been suspended and the power supply cut off because a man became trapped underneath a tram at the Booth Street stop in the Handsworth area of Birmingham on this morning. So I guess that some issues around health and safety may need to be looked at.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

There is piece of legislation that the Labour government are trying to get passed, which is going to further undermine the rule of law and Britain's liberal democratic tradition. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will give ministers the power to retrospectively alter any piece of legislation without consulting parliament. This will give ministers the power to change any law without a vote in parliament!

And, Bang there goes several hundred years of parliamentary democracy...

visit http://www.saveparliament.org.uk for more information

Save Parliament