Tony Blair has said that setting up a separate English parliament would be “unworkable” and “unnecessary”.
The population of England accounted for the “vast majority” of people in the UK and did not need more representation, he told his monthly news conference. …
A BBC Newsnight poll suggests 61% of people in England, 51% in Scotland and 48% in Wales support an English parliament.
It also suggests that 73% of people in England and 56% of those in Scotland want the Union to remain.
Mr Blair said: “There is a UK Parliament. There should be one class of UK MP.
“It’s a completely unworkable situation to have two different classes of MP.”
Aren’t there already “two different classes of MPs”?
I must admit I’ve never understood why the Scots and Welsh can have their own ‘parliaments’ but the English can’t. I don’t begrudge the Scots and Welsh their parliament – far from it, if that’s what they want. Isn’t that democratic?
So if the English want their own parliament, why can’t they have it?
This forms part of the West Lothian Question. The other part is, how can it be fair that Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on English affairs, but English MPs can’t vote on affairs devolved to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments? (In other words, “English votes on English laws”).
What the English have been given are nine ‘regional assemblies‘. These aren’t much like parliaments, rather extensions of the Executive. Eight out of the nine (the other being London) have members that aren’t directly elected.
Are the English prevented from having their own parliament because it is “completely unworkable”, or is there another – perhaps darker – reason?
Here the proposals would apply in England but not Scotland, yet Scottish Labour MPs voted on it. To be fair to them it was a whipped vote.
Opponents to the plans claimed that the Bill would have failed without those votes. Indeed the result was a close call, with a majority of just five in favour.
Another example is the matter of NHS Foundation Trusts. In one debate there were a few points of order‘ criticising Scottish MPs for voting on an English matter. The result wasn’t quite as close as for the Higher Education Bill, but the number of Scottish MPs was greater than the difference between the number of votes for and against.
Although the Conservatives in England got slightly more votes in the last General Election than Labour – see Table 3 of the General Election 2005 Summary of results – I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Conservatives would win an English parliament.
But could that be what Blair is afraid of?
Looking back, this sort of misses the point, which is “Why can’t we have English votes on English laws?”
Blair seeks to confuse the issue by conflating with it the break-up of the United Kingdom and the (unecessary) addition of an English parliament.
It seems to me that all that needs to be agreed is a convention whereby the only MPs who would vote on English laws would be those from English constituencies.
It wouldn’t cost any more money, there wouldn’t be any more politicians, and it would be a whole lot more fair to the English.
The Home Office suffered another blow to its battered reputation last night with the disclosure that figures on key areas of policy were “not up to scratch”.
One in five sets of statistics collected or collated by the department have been found to be inadequate, MPs were told.
Sir David Normington, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, apologised for providing misleading figures on antisocial behaviour orders to the National Audit Office. He said that as part of the Home Secretary’s reform programme for the department a review had been conducted into 160 sets of data.