Sunday, July 02, 2006


English Votes for English Issues would wreck UK Parliament

According to the Observer today the Tories are arguing Scottish MPs should be barred from voting on English issues. As they cannot make this a reality until 2009 and then only with a majority, this might seem academic. But raising the topic draws attention to Gordon's palpable non Englishness and breathes a little more on the potential fire of a backlash against the £1000 plus per capita of public spending Scotland receives from the public purse compared with England. At first glance it seems an easy answer- always a hugely seductive attraction for any policy-to the vexed West Lothian Question, the unfair advantage whereby Scots MPs can vote on English domestic issues but English MPs, not (because of devolution) the vice versa. But would it work?

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.

It's interesting that they've never had any problems with the Ulster Unionist's voting with them on issues that don't effect Northern Ireland, isn't it?
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.
I tend to agree. The Conservatives must know that this is an unworkable solution. The only reasons that I can see why they might be pursuing this are:

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.
In regards to northern ireland, there isn't a northern ireland parliament or working assembly. I am definitely not a tory but you mustn't forget that the tories didn't start this, the labour party did. Why should the english (I'm scottish by the way) have to have devolution and a new parliament when they thought the old way worked fine. The act(s) of union merged the parliaments of england and scotland and we scots got a new one 300 years later, so strictly speaking the scottish have no right to govern england now and westminster should become an english parliament with scottish MPs only voting on issues that affect us.
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.
What nationalist feeling? The welsh almost rejected the idea of a welsh assembly. It was only the momentum of the scottish parliament referendum that drove the welsh one through and even then it had less than 55% support with all but the rural welsh speaking areas rejecting it completely. I seem to remember the SNP getting about 6 seats in westminster in the 90s polling at about 12%, Slightly different to today. John major, for all of his faults, said in the 90s that a scottish parliament would start scotland on the slippery slope to independence and would blow up in the labour party's face, and 10 years later.....kaboom!.
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