McKay Commission: Welsh MPs' role could be limited

BBC Wales parliamentary correspondent David Cornock on the report's findings

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Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs could see their roles limited if proposals to give English MPs more say on laws for England are brought in.

A report by the McKay Commission says English-only laws should normally need backing by a majority of MPs who represent English constituencies.

Sir Emyr Jones Parry, who has chaired a Welsh devolution commission, said it would not take anything away from MPs.

The UK government says it will give it "serious consideration".

Start Quote

We weren't taking anything away from other MPs but we proposed that MPs from England should have an opportunity to have their voice heard and normally that voice shouldn't be overruled by the rest of the House [of Commons]”

End Quote Sir Emyr Jones Parry Member, McKay Commission

The commission was set up to examine how MPs should deal with English legislation in the wake of devolution.

There has been controversy over the so-called West Lothian Question - the ability of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs to vote on England-only matters - for several decades, but this intensified after devolution.

In 2004, support from Scottish and Welsh MPs allowed the government to push through the introduction of university top-up fees in England.

The commission concluded that the current situation was "unsustainable" and changes were needed.

It proposed the principle that Commons decisions with a "separate and distinct effect" for England should "normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs sitting for constituencies in England".

The same would go for decisions that affected only England and Wales.

Former diplomat Sir Emyr, who previously chaired the All Wales Convention on devolution, was a member of the McKay Commission, and he said the proposals would give English MPs more voice on some issues.

"We weren't taking anything away from other MPs but we proposed that MPs from England should have an opportunity to have their voice heard and normally that voice shouldn't be overruled by the rest of the House [of Commons]," he added.

'Greater clarity'

Sir Emyr said the commission had also tried to address the "overspill effects" of the proposed changes, including the fact English-only law can often have an impact on other parts of the UK, such as the economy.

He said the report also proposed "greater clarity" on what exactly English-only and English and Welsh-only law was.

Cardiff West Labour MP Kevin Brennan said it was important not to do anything to help break up the UK.

"These are interesting proposals as far as I can see as an initial reaction that need to be looked into," said Mr Brennan.

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I think it's right that the House of Commons preserves overall the right to vote on all matters that affect any part of the United Kingdom within the House of Commons”

End Quote Kevin Brennan MP for Cardiff West

"I think it's right that the House of Commons preserves overall the right to vote on all matters that affect any part of the United Kingdom within the House of Commons. That's very important."

Commission chairman Sir William McKay said Westminster law-making had inevitably come to focus on England, or England and Wales.

"But the processes for making law at Westminster have not significantly changed," he said. "Surveys have shown that people in England are unhappy about the existing arrangements and support change.

"There is a feeling that England is at a disadvantage, and that it's not right that MPs representing the devolved nations should be able to vote on matters affecting England. The status quo clearly cannot be sustained."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the government was "very grateful to Sir William McKay and his colleagues for their work".

"This is a very important issue, which is why the government asked this expert commission to look into it.

"We will give the report very serious consideration before we respond substantively," he said.

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