Sunday, July 02, 2006
English Votes for English Issues would wreck UK Parliament
Ken Clarke, chair of the Conservatives' Democracy study group, seems to think so not to mention the redoubtable members of the Campaign for an English Parliament'CEP'(currently still draped in the St George's Cross). But, given the political advantage involved, they would wouldn't they? I am more persuaded by more nonpartisan analyses and that of Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit at UCL, offers, in addition, the cool authority of a true expert in the field. He argues that while such an idea enjoys majority support, in England and in Scotland, it would carry with it grave problems for the working of Parliament.
It seems only logical and fair that Scottish MPs should no longer be allowed to vote on legislation purely affecting England, when English MPs can no longer vote on equivalent measures in Scotland. The former Conservative minister Kenneth Baker introduced a bill in the House of Lords that would achieve just that. But technically there is no such thing as an 'English law', and any Speaker's ruling on which votes should be English-only would be heavily contested.
Politically the difficulties would be even greater. It would create two classes of MP, and lead to potentially serious instability if the UK government could not command a majority for its English business. The idea would involve more than just a modest procedural change. Effectively it would create a parliament within a parliament, with an English parliament operating within the shell of Westminster.
To my mind, this would make the existing chamber virtually unworkable and effectively achieve the break-up of the United Kingdom. I suspect that maybe the Conservatives know this but that, for reasons of expedience, are keen to run with this ball as far as it will take them.
Yes, key point this; it was just another of the many anomalies of good old British government and no-one lost any sleep over it until 'Black Tam' made his name by raising it.
1. They cannot sell the only workable answer - an English parliament - to their members.
2. They are playing a dangerous constitutional game and are trying to draw Labour's fire - particularly the Brown camp.
Either way the end result will be a constitutional meltdown resulting in an English parliament, which is fine by me. Though not before a lot of bad blood has passed, alienating the Scots, and possibly the Welsh.
This argument is a little weak as it neglects the fact that any government would have to deal with nationalist feeling of the intensity found in Scotland and Wales in the late nineties.
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