Hain in plea for power shift

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Indy Politics

The Government has become too centralised and will have to "let go" by handing down power to regain the trust of voters, a cabinet minister will say today.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, will argue that Labour must surrender real power to local authorities and neighbourhood bodies to regain the support of progressive voters who have deserted the party.

While accepting that Labour has brought in some good democratic reforms since 1997, Mr Hain will argue: "We should have done more and we can do more." He will endorse the goals of last year's Power Commission on reviving Britain's ailing political system and The Independent's Campaign for Democracy.

He will tell the New Local Government Network: "Restoring trust in government begins with government showing that it trusts the people. Democratic renewal is the most urgent task facing progressive Britain today. Britain today still remains far too centralised a state. And since 1997 Labour has not always lived up to our aspiration to radically alter Britain's skewed balance of power. At times we have undermined the good work we have done by refusing to let go politically even as we let go constitutionally."

He will add: "We must also recognise that we will never renew our democracy until we understand that devolving power means choices and decisions being made at different layers of government with which we may disagree. But this is not something to be afraid of. It is a sign of a healthy democracy."

Mr Hain will call for greater powers, independence and resources for select committees; an elected senate to replace the House of Lords; MPs to be elected by the Australian alternative vote system so they command majority support in their constituencies after second preference votes are redistributed; voting to be made compulsory; the voting age reduced from 18 to 16 and more female and ethnic minority MPs.