Friday, October 23, 2015

English Votes for English Laws

MPs last night approved a very modest measure moving Britain closer slightly closer towards a fair Federal system.

All laws will still need support from a majority of all MPs to pass, but a new stage will be added to the process for those laws which only affect England and which will now also need to win a  majority among MPs representing English constituencies.

Similarly laws which affect England and Wales but not Scotland will now need to win a majority among MPs representing England and Wales as well as one among all MPs.

This is in line with the recommendations of the Mckay Commission.

It will reduce the anomaly where Scottish MPs in Westminster can vote on matters such as health or education in England, but English MPs cannot do likewise on issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This is known as the West Lothian question at the suggestion of Enoch Powell because the MP who first asked it, Tam Dalyell, was member for West Lothian in Scotland and framed it in terms of whether it would be reasonable after devolution for him to have a vote on measures affecting Blackburn, Lancashire on those matters where he no longer had a vote on equivalent measures affecting the people in Blackburn, West Lothian which was part of the constituency who actually elected him.

Mr Grayling told MPs: "These proposed changes enable us to give an answer to the West Lothian question, they enable us to give an answer to our constituents, to say England will have its own piece of our devolution settlement."

He rejected as "nonsense" claims that it would create "two classes of MPs" adding that the measures were "fair, sensible and I'm entirely comfortable as a unionist presenting them to this House".

He added: "It can't be in anyone's interest to see English people becoming cynical about the union... it isn't tenable to have devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and for England to have no powers at all."

There has been a regrettable but entirely predictable outpouring of utterly ridiculous posturing from the SNP against this very modest measure, despite the fact that the proposed change will NOT remove the ability of Westminster MPs for Scottish constituencies to vote against any attempt to slip something damaging to Scotland through in an "English only" bill.

This could make it difficult for a UK government which did not have a majority in England to impose on England policies which the English people don't want. But isn't that merely giving the people of England a small measure of exactly the same kind of control over their own affairs which the SNP has been demanding for decades for Scotland?

However, this measure does not take away one atom of control over their own affairs from the people of Scotland. It is a very moderate measure of devolution for England and is not in any way, shape or form anti-Scottish, anti-Welsh, or anti-Irish.

The bill will be attacked by supporters of an English parliament for not going far enough as it has been attacked by the SNP for going too far. The former will have a coherent intellectual case, although I personally believe this is an honourable compromise which delivers what the Prime Minister promised. The arguments presented by the SNP do not hold water.

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