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Question of Scottish MPs

Nick Robinson | 11:11 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2007

How would it work? That is the question I have yet to see asked or answered by the Tory Scot who represents an English seat who's arguing that Scottish MPs (and remember he means MPs for Scottish constituencies, not Scots) should be barred from voting on purely English matters.

Sir Malcolm RifkindNow I don't doubt that Sir Malcolm Rifkind has answers but, since I have yet to be able to ask him for them, here for starters are my questions:

• Wouldn't this proposal (if it were in operation now) mean that Gordon Brown had no Commons majority for Labour's key priorities "schoolsnhospitals"?

• If I am right, would the new English “grand committee” with its Tory majority be able to impose Tory measures on Labour ministers?

• If so, wouldn't Labour ministers refuse to implement what was passed or, in practice, seek to bypass MPs and make more and more changes by administrative fiat (more possible than you might think)?

• Is Sir Malcolm foreseeing a culture change in British politics whereby a Labour government could only pass those measures for which they could get Tory consent or build a coalition a little as Alex Salmond now has to do at Holyrood?

Your answers - and his, of course - gratefully received.

Comments

All good points Nick but then we are not starting from a satisfactory position. Labour's botched consitutional reform has left England with a democratic deficit vs Scotland & Wales. As the wise old man said: "I wouldn't start from here". However, nobody seems to want to turn the clock back & start again. At least the Conservatives are seeking to address the problem unlike the Government.....but, then we all know why that is!

  • 2.
  • At 11:40 AM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Patrick Walker wrote:

Nick,
If this idea is even remotely a vote winner, then we just need to wait a week or so and it will be pinched by the current government - and they will explain how it works!

  • 3.
  • At 11:52 AM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robert Seddon wrote:

'If so, wouldn't Labour ministers refuse to implement what was passed or, in practice, seek to bypass MPs and make more and more changes by administrative fiat (more possible than you might think)?'

I thought the received wisdom was that MPs had been increasingly marginalised for years anyway...

Nick

Instead of the scenarios presented you should have cut to the quick, and played out an endgame.

If Gordon Brown does not instigate electoral reform in the shape of PR before the Tories are voted back in under the current system, the Labour party is finished as a power in English affairs. Tory changes to Non English MP voting rights will see to that. If he does then the same can be said of the Tories. We'll have an almost permanent centre / left alignment under Labour - Liberals.

High stakes indeed

The problem he faces is that the Tory proposals are going to be suer fire vote winners. No need to make too great a thing about the detail. Just make a manifesto promise. Can Labour change the voting system prior to the next election? Highly unlikely.

It would prove to a great irony that if Labour lose the the next election to the Tories, the party that started the process of the break up of the Union would be more greatly damaged than the Unionist party.

Gordon Brown is going to need every ounce of political wit to survive. On hearing Harriet Harman trying to defend the undefensible (current position) yesterday on the radio, showed what a corner he is being backed into

What price a five year term and a Jim Callaghan hanging on type of scenario? Even more intersting a position given the Large Labour majority - counting Scots.

  • 5.
  • At 12:16 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

Answers:

Q1: If Gordon Browns policies for schools & hospitals are sound, he would not need to worry who has the majority. Scots get more from the health service than the English do, because Scots MPs vote on Scots matters.

Q2: In matters that concern England only.

Q3: If Government Ministers made changes by administrative fiat out of spite, it would show them up for what they are; not fit for office.

Q4: Malcom Rifkind is looking for fairness to enter into British politics. All he is doing is echoing what I as an ordinary Englishman hear "on the street" every day.

Nick, you keep asking if it would affect Labour ministers powers. If it did do that, it would be the same for whatever party is in power. I cannot see how it would be detrimental to the running of the UK for English MPs to vote on English matters.

By the way, Labour is not in power. New Labour is in power.


  • 6.
  • At 12:18 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David Newton wrote:

"Wouldn't this proposal (if it were in operation now) mean that Gordon Brown had no Commons majority for Labour's key priorities "schoolsnhospitals"?"

Oh dear, what a shame. Rifkind's proposals are far from an ideal solution, but they at least would bring home to Labour the consequences of its devolution programme. The UK used to be a unitary state. It is now a dangerous half-way house between unitarism and federalism. We need one or the other if the UK is to survive.

If we don't get out of this current mess then the UK will eventually be ripped apart. English resentment at the current arrangements is building and Labour would be extremely foolish to let it get up enough of a head of steam to endanger the union. It is getting perilously near that point at the moment.

  • 7.
  • At 12:19 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Dave J wrote:

All good questions, Nick. The nuts and bolts of the proposal definitely need to be made clearer.

Frankly, the only way I can see to solve the West Lothian question is to allow England (and, presumably Wales and Northern Ireland) to have a devolved assembly with the same powers as the Scottish one. Let Westminster set the budgets for the devolved assemblies and then allow them to spend the money how they liked.

What that would do to Westminster, I don't know, but I can't help thinking that any other system, such as differing voting rights for MPs based on where their constituency is, would be impractical, unpopular and still unfair.

Insightful, Nick. I'd never put two and two together before, but this move would lead to the situation where a general election could be both won and lost, with one party having control over UK-wide topics and another having control over England-only topics.

The logical inference is that there should be two separate governments, and the logical conclusion is that there should be two separate parliaments.

I don't really see this proposal as anything but a stop-gap solution. Especially as it will only encourage the Scottish nationalist mindset that Westminster is an English parliament for English people, and there's nothing for us there.

  • 9.
  • At 12:28 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

The same question is asked by the BBC website 'Have Your Say' blog.

The answer from most English people posting on there is quite unequivocal ... an English Parliament.

It is not complicated, except for 'Unionists' who appear to be mostly Scottish MP's at Westminster.

Whether or not these politicians want to face up to that, I believe we really are in the last days of the 'United Kingdom'.

1. Yes
2. Yes, or any party which had the majority in England
3. They could but wouldn't that lead to a constitutional crisis?
4. Yes

  • 11.
  • At 12:32 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • George Mears wrote:

Devolution for Scotland?, if they vote for it then they should have it, and they should then need to find room for all of the MPs that will no longer be at Westminster and we can be rid of this "Scottish" government that we currently have.

  • 12.
  • At 12:35 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rupert Barrington wrote:

The current system is just unfair and something must be done about it,
Foe a labour Minister to state that the Conservatives are threatening the union when they themselves started this process and did not finish it properly , is probably the most rediculous thing I have ever heard from any minister of any political colour. Sort it out or the resentment will grow and then we will not have a union at all.

And the answers to your questions Nick are mainly yes but only if the Tories have a majority in England what is wrong with that? is that not democracy!!

  • 13.
  • At 12:37 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Paul T wrote:

This year, turkeys are expected to vote in overwhealming numbers for Christmas.

Good questions Nick, they just highlight that it's not going to happen. It's also another very British fudge.

If we are lucky (given that the whole devolution thing was ill thought through in the first place), then the end point of all this will be a federation of British states. Scotland, England , Wales and Northern Ireland all having devolved powers to greater or lesser degrees. Amongst other things, the word federation is the sticking point of course.

If we are unlucky then independence is the end point with all parts of the kingdom being diminished. Keep sticking our heads in the sand and all Alex Salmond has to do is continue quietly driving home his wedges. Eventually the chasm between Scotland and England will be self evident. The resulting split will inevitably generate more heat in Wales and Northen Ireland.

We are all the better for being one nation. Forget "regional devolution" it's beaurocracy looking for a reason to exist. From where we are now, an equitable settlement based on national devolution makes sense.

The stalking horse that is the "Grand Committee" may at least shed light on a festering sore that needs treatment.

  • 14.
  • At 12:39 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robert Bird wrote:

Alternatively, why should a Government in a minority in England be a position to impose their policies?

Is this not exactly how the Scottish constituencies felt when a Tory majority in England imposed its policies on Scotland during the Eighties and Early Nineties?

If the correct solution for Scotland, was to give Scots a Parliament to cover domestic issues how can it be defensible for such a Parliament to be denied to the English?

  • 15.
  • At 12:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Roger wrote:

Nick

Exactly the same applies to the Welsh and Scottish Committes/Assemblies which already exist. Bluntly having started the problem they have to live with it!

This Government already bypasses the Houses of Parliament wherever they can and it is convenient but at least the English would have an equal voice with the other constiuent parts of the UK.

The other alternative is to get rid of devolution!

Roger

Nick, it wouldn't work. See the CEP blog.

English Votes on English Matters was Tory policy under Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard and Cameron, and they never produced a policy document explaining how that would work.

We are told to believe that the great minds of Sir George Young and Ken Clarke are beavering away in the offices of the Democracy Task Force on a solution to this. I'll be astonished if they do.

Mark Field MP and Roger Gale MP have already come out in opposition to a Grand Committee. Could England be the Tories' new EU?

  • 17.
  • At 12:44 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Edmund Price wrote:

The answer is simple. The Labour government would have to put forward measures on schools and hospitals which the majority of English MPs support i.e. the ones voted in by English voters who use the schools and hospitals. Specifically, they do not need to worry about the views of the Scottish MPs whose constituents have no interest.

  • 18.
  • At 12:45 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • P Hyde wrote:

its to sorted out once and for all !!
english have a right to there own back yard ! can you see the scots if we could decide for there health and all the things that have been changed

  • 19.
  • At 12:46 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Portwood wrote:

I think that is exactly what he means. At the moment Labour policies affecting England only are only implemented because of the large number of MPs in Scotland, despite the vast majority of MPs in England being Conservative.

England wants Conservative policies and are being forced Labour ones (pro tem). So YES - If Labour is not hypocritical (They devolved Scotland to keep power there indefinitely - oops they underestimated Scottish Nationalism and did the same in Wales (remember they only required a simple majority in Wales to push through Devolution - had they been sincere and offered Devolution on the same basis as Scotland, Wales would not have it))

So we either have yet another Parliament (English) with another set of elections/ members/ administration or we simply have current English MPs voting on English matters only. In either case we will have the position that Labour loses power over England - which is what the English as a whole want, and that of course is why they won't do it.

  • 20.
  • At 12:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robbie wrote:

For the past 10 years the English have had a Scottish PM and chancellor.

Foreign policy decisions have been made by an American.

Domestic policy decided by Europe.

We are about to sign up to a new European treaty with the previously promised referendum quietly ignored.

Politicians wonder why the English electorate are increasingly apathetic!!!

  • 21.
  • At 12:48 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Conrad Beard wrote:

It looks fair and tidy but wouldn't automatically work in practice. If these proposals were law and we then had an election result like 1974, Labour proposals for England could be voted down by an English Conservative majority at Westminster.

  • 22.
  • At 12:48 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

I'm sure those questions will give the honourable member a difficult time, but I wonder how much you'd truely gain by asking them.

It is of course true that the Conservatives would benefit from this, just as it is true that Labour benefit without it.

Many issues including those raised in your 3rd and 4th question will surface if such changes were made, but their is already a fundamental issue:
Scottish MPs can vote entirely politically regarding English issues without any risk of being held to account for it by the people who elected them.

I think the question that needs answering, and which no one who is argueing against it is willing to answer is why it is right for Scottish decisions to only be made by Scotland representatives, and yet wrong for English decisions to be made by Englands representatives.

Not only is people voting on something they have no involvement or interest in wrong, it has ALREADY been abused when Scottish MPs voted to bring in Tuition fees in the UK while they were not in Scotland.
Sadly it seems we cannot trust MPs to decide when it appropriate for them to vote.

  • 23.
  • At 12:50 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

It would mean that it is possible that while Labour has a majority in the UK government, they may have a minority government in England.

It should be remembered that Labour introduced devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and conveniently forgot England. In the current status with an english parliament, Labour may have power over the UK as a whole for foreign policy and defence, but may not govern any individual country.

  • 24.
  • At 12:50 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Clearly the current devolved arrangements give a disproportionate power to Scottish MPs, MSPs and therefore Scottish voters. Measures are passed on exlcusively English matters solely through the support of Scottish MPs. This would always have been the case with the Labour Government but inequality exists because now Scottish MSPs can decide some matters without reference to English MPs. The logical solution would be an English Parliament. The Tories are seeking to provide a solution that would maximise discomfort for Labour. But Labour did start this and as you sow so you will reap.

  • 25.
  • At 12:54 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robin Tilbrook wrote:

This Conservative proposal is a cynical political positioning policy intended to mislead people who care about England into voting for the Conservative and Unionist Party.
The Union is dissolving in the hearts of the people of its Nations and we urgently need reasoned consideration of a new and fair Constitutional framework.
This should be done within a proper Constitutional Convention and not just by career politicians seeking their Party's advantage.
Robin Tilbrook,
English Constitutional Convention. englishconstitutionalconvention

  • 26.
  • At 12:56 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ron Norton wrote:

How sad it is, I really feel sad that a party who say they talk for all the people want to divide us.
I'm English, and find myself depressed that a party who seek power, look around for negative elements of our society, and try and pit us against each other. They don't tell us of all that is positive with the Union, just scavenge for votes in the dustbin of race.

Yes, these questions highlight the difficulties all Unionists face when trying to suggest solutions for the problems caused by partial devolution. The only satisfactory solutions now are a fully devolved parliament for England or an independent Scotland.

  • 28.
  • At 01:01 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Terry wrote:


Like so many others, this is a problem created by the Government which others are now seeking the answers to. Whichever way you look at the arguments for/against the Tories' proposals on only English MPs voting on subjects which only affect England, there has to be an answer whereby those who are responsible for making decisions are accountable for them too. If the Scottish MPs were accountable to the electorate for the decision on tuition fees, then would they have for them for English students? Maybe, maybe not. However the absence of such accountability is a major failure of the governance of the UK and it needs to be addressed, somehow.

  • 29.
  • At 01:02 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen Pope wrote:

You have posed questions many English voters have asked; those who wonder how a minority (English) Govt can force through policies for which no mandate has been given; something which cannot be achieved in the other parts of the UK.
In answer to your specific questions:
1. Mr Brown does not hold a majority of seats in England; he therefore has no popular English mandate for his proposals.
2. The so-called "grand committee" is the duly elected English Government and one which should be acknowledged.
3. This will only serve to confirm, in the mind of the English voter, the need for a truely transparent and empowered English parliament. Attempts to run the country through the back door will lead to judicial review and a lawful resolution of the issue
4. Possibly.

The English Assembly genie was let out of the bottle once devolved powers were (rightly) given to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies. It will not be put back and must be recognised by the institution of an fully empowered English assembly.

  • 30.
  • At 01:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Paul M wrote:

You are making the mistake (deliberately, no doubt) of taking this as literal. I don't think that for one second the Conservatives expect this to be adopted - for many of the reasons you note.

Their point is to draw attention to (and raise anger towards) the fact that Scottish MPs are voting through legislation for England which Scotland rejects. The result of which now sees that UK taxes pay for.......
1. Leading anti-cancer drugs in Scotland, but not England
2. Tuition fees in Scotland, but not England
3. Foundation Hospitals rejected in Scotland, but not England
4. Full pay rise for nurses in Scotland, but not England

If this bias was based on another criteria (social class, race?) then the BBC would be up in arms. So why not when the English are being wronged?

  • 31.
  • At 01:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Whilst Sir Malcolm's analysis of the problems presented by devolution is sound, his preferred solution – a "Grand Committee" within the existing House of Commons – is fundamentally flawed. As you point out, Nick, the practical effect of his scheme would be to prevent the Labour Government from legislating on its key manifesto pledges, unless they could get the support of the Conservatives.

As I see it, the only way around the so-called 'West Lothian question' is to establish a separate English Parliament.

Unfortunately, such a development would be unlikely to attract the necessary level of cross-party support in Westminster. Would existing Members of Parliament really vote to reduce their legislative powers?

More importantly, would there really be the appetite for a devolved English administration beyond the political village? The rejection of John Prescott's grand plans for regional assemblies was, in part, due to the feeling that it would merely add another layer of bureaucracy (and expense) to an already-bloated public sector.

Perhaps the only way to address these concerns would be to establish an English Parliament as part of a much wider programme of constitutional reform. A move towards a federal United Kingdom may ultimately be the best way of preserving a currently fragile union.

The Westminster Parliament could maintain responsibility for the big national issues, such as defence, foreign policy, energy and security. The number of MPs would be reduced to take into account the diminished responsibilities of the House of Commons. The devolved administrations would then handle everything else: schools, hospitals, public transport, and so on.

If this was accompanied by a reorganisation of local authorities to end the fragmentation between district, town and county councils – bringing about considerable economies of scale – then maybe, just maybe, people could be convinced that federalism made legal, financial and managerial sense.

Gordon Brown promised a big constitutional consultation when he became Prime Minister. So far, he's merely proposed to tinker around the edges. Would he have the courage to suggest such a radical shake-up of our national government – or would he, to use the media's phrase of the month, "bottle it"?

  • 32.
  • At 01:04 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Nick,

The same argument could also apply to purely Scottish measures, and would in throry apply when there is a Conservative government in the UK and for the sake of argument a Labour one in Scotland. It wasn't an issue for Labour of course when they controlled both the Scottish and UK parliaments.Maybe they thought devolution had bought off enough Scots to ensure a Labour majority in perpetuity.

  • 33.
  • At 01:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • stevea wrote:

Nick - as an incredibly well paid journalist, and an expert on UK politics surely you know that Labour have a majority of English seats?

If Labour can't get its own MPs to support its policies then they need to change the policies- not ship in MPs who aren't affected by the changes!!

  • 34.
  • At 01:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ross wrote:

Hey Nick

heres a great wee idea son:
Scottish independence!!

p.s. on a similar point. There was a Scottish grand committee when Rifkind and his pals imposed the Poll tax and other experimental policies on the Scottish pople backed only by ENGLISH MPs votes completley against the will of the Scots.

This will not work, I refer you above to the only viable solution

ALBA GU BRAITH!

  • 35.
  • At 01:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

"Wouldn't this proposal (if it were in operation now) mean that Gordon Brown had no Commons majority for Labour's key priorities "schoolsnhospitals"?"

Yes, that's exactly what it would mean. But how is that a bad thing? The simple fact is, Gordon Brown actually doesn't have a Commons majority for anything that affects England only. Surely it would be fair if the voting system reflected that?

  • 36.
  • At 01:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Paul McGlade wrote:

I do love how people love to portray majoritarian politics as unfair on the grounds that "it's the wrong sort of majority" - British object to EU majorities, Scots object to English majorities, English object to British majorities, Irish Nationalists object to Unionist majorities, Unionists to all-Ireland majorities, Daily Mail readers object to the feckless, ignorant majorities, the Cornish object to pretty much everyone from Devon Northwards.

I'm not sure it really counts as democracy if your starting point is a quick exercise in gerrymandering to assure your position.

Actually, in an ideal world, you would probably want people with no vested interest voting on the issues of consequence so the real arguments could get a hearing. Unfortunately, as this is a sub-ideal world where even those with no direct vested interest would find back-room deals to bolster the own position on other matters, we have to make do with the current set-up.

  • 37.
  • At 01:12 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Nick, you ask:

Wouldn't this proposal (if it were in operation now) mean that Gordon Brown had no Commons majority for Labour's key priorities "schoolsnhospitals"?

As the BBC's political editor, don't you already know this? I don't know off the top of my head, but surely the Conservative party would only have a majority if they had more MPs from English constituencies than either New Labour or the Lib Dems? I don't understand how you can ask the question without already knowing the answer.

And even if this were true, it's called democracy.

  • 38.
  • At 01:12 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Galpin wrote:

Nick I know I go on about this but the "Scotish problem" is really a subset of the more fundamental problem in the UK which is that our electoral system gives us the most unrepresentative democracy in the world. The effect of devolution has just served to heighten the sense of unfairness in representation that many others of us feel. Especially if you are one of the majority 64% that didn't want this administration and still get their policies forced on you.

I for one hope that the Scots gain independence as it may bring forward the chances of wholesale electoral reform and give all of us ( whichever party you support) a government which is more fairly based on the expressed will of the people rather than as now, the largest minority takes all.

On a more topical note it might also help England have BST all the year round. The Scots will then have no basis to complain as they and England will be separate countries, free to go their own way in this and many other things.

One possible impact of separation that I have never heard commented on is that large numbers of Civil Service jobs would necessarily be relocated back from Scotland to England as it would clearly be unacceptable for such work to be performed by citizens of a separate country. Has anyone worked out the impact of this?

  • 39.
  • At 01:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Gavin Greig wrote:

There are only two outcomes that would be reasonably fair and equitable; fully independent nations, or a federal UK including either an English parliament or regional English parliaments in addition to a UK government. I think England would find it difficult to accept Scotland as a truly equal partner in such an arrangement though, due to the difference in population sizes.

The current balance is not right, but there's a good chance that any form of English parliament would have been turned down by the English electorate ten years ago if they'd been offered it, so I'm not sure it was possible for Labour to do better at the time.

  • 40.
  • At 01:20 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Dave Handley wrote:

A situation where the sitting PM did not command a majority in England would not be that different from the situation in countries that have a directly elected president - like the US. There it is not uncommon for the sitting president to have no majority in either house.

The solution of a grand committee is certainly not ideal; however, it is far better than the current situation where people vote on policies that will not be implemented in the area they were elected to represent. I personally remain extremely irritated by the fact that English students in Scotland must pay fees that Scottish nor in fact EU students must pay. Despite there being no tax difference between Scotland and England. The Scottish students are getting something for nothing here, but worse still the English are the second class citizens of Europe.

Devolution by the Labour party is a huge mess, and something will have to be done to resolve it. It is interesting that the SNP are happy to take money from the Barnett formula, and also from such areas as tuition fees from English students; yet also want independence which would result in less income for Scotland. The arguments about additional income from oil are disingenuous, oil revenues would actually have minimal additional benefit to an independent Scottish economy.

  • 41.
  • At 01:21 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • James wrote:

I think that many of your questions are wrong because you have failed to recognise the change to British politics that would result from Sir Malcom Rifkin's proposals.

Currently, in order to form a stable government a party needs a majority of UK MPs.

If the change proposed by the Sir Malcolm were put into effect, a party would need to have both a majority of English MPs and a majority of UK MPs to form a stable government (a majority of Scots MPs would not be required).

Accordingly, Labour could continue to govern the country on the basis of their current numbers of UK and English MPs. Going forward, they would need to increasingly focus on English constituencies to ensure that they are able to form stable governments.

They will struggle in Southern England, which could lead to that ellusive alliance between Labour and the Liberal Democrats finally taking place.

The Scots would feel marginalised, which would play into SNP hands.

Alas, these are the consequences of devolution that Labour foolishly pursued to serve short term political interests.

  • 42.
  • At 01:21 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Harvey wrote:

Finally someone has spotted the 'elephant in the room' and is openly questioning the unique unfairness of the current situation and no guesses that it would be a Tory (and better still a Scottish Tory).

And he is absolutely right to do so. Not only is the current situation unfair, it favours Labour. After all with only one Scottish MP, the Conservatives have nothing to lose and much to gain from this debate. It is likely to be a vote winner and highlights Labours reliance on Scottish MP's to get through unpopular policies that only affect the English.

Labours only chance on this (accepting that they won't push through PR before the next election) is to offer to seriously rethink the Barnet Formula, but that won't prove popular in Scotland and is likely to lead to less Labour MP's.

This could be a 'lose - lose' situation for Gordon!

  • 43.
  • At 01:21 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Doug wrote:

John Constable has hit the nail on the head. An English Assembly with powers identical to those of the Scottish Parliament - Wales should be brought up to parity along with Northern Ireland.
If not there is the problem of those areas where we have issues that are not so clear cut as "England Only" e.g. University Tuition Fees which are levied in England on UK students not just English ones.

  • 44.
  • At 01:21 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Nick,

You raise some interesting questions, and it's encouraging that political correspondents are actually asking such questions, because it means they're finally taking the complaints about a massive democratic deficit in England seriously. Unfortunately, you should have been asking these questions 10 years ago, as many of us were, when this whole mess was conceived. As others have wisely observed, the best answer is "I wouldn't start from here."

We now have different powers in different forms for each of the 4 constituent parts of the UK, which if left unchanged is a huge step towards the dissolution of the Union, but for some reason, England has to put up with its legislation being pushed through by a rump of Scottish Labour MPs whose constituents won't even have to live with the tuition fees/foundation hospitals they're so keen to foist on us.

The trouble with your questions is that you're trying to fit English self-government into a UK-parliament-shaped hole, and it naturally doesn't fit very well. As I see it, there are 3 main options for levelling the playing field:

1. Rescind the Scottish and Welsh devolution (NI is a special case, I think), and return to a genuine UK government - This won't happen.

2. Give England devolved powers, either as a whole or regionally - We saw how unpopular regional assemblies were, due to a general lack of regional identity, but an English assembly with the same powers as the Scottish one might do the trick, although it would be another expensive talking shop.

3. Operate an English government in some form at Westminster, using the MPs already elected to the UK parliament. The English government, if different from the UK government, would have its own ministers and offices, and a chunk of parliamentary time would be allocated to English legislation - Not perfect, but the best option. As an immediate step in this direction, a convention could be established (Parliament likes conventions) that only English MPs would debate and vote on purely English matters.

This isn't a new issue - Tam Dalyell posed the West Lothian question well over 30 years ago. The shocking thing is that this morally bankrupt government charged ahead without answering it, or seemingly without even understanding it.

  • 45.
  • At 01:22 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • DJ wrote:

All very well - just a pity when Mr Rifkind was not so concerned about "fairness" when the poll tax was inflicted on Scotland by English Tory MPs - while he was Scottish Secretary.

  • 46.
  • At 01:24 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ed Anton wrote:

Bluntly, the answer to the first question is "Yes". Though whilst I'm not naive enough to think that any seat in the house of parliament presents a fair and even opportunity to any party at a general election, the simple fact is that any conservative majority in English only seats is derived from a mandate from the people who voted for them, so I'm not really sure whether you can complain about it.

Another question could have been - what is Malcolm Rifkinds agenda here? Is he after an 'english' majority in the commons? Or is he genuinely reflecting the mood of some (the majority?) of the people? Maybe it's both, but either way, the was an inevitablitity about this debate - it has been brewing since the devolution process began and we should have no objection to it being raised.

One of the things this debate really does highlight is how many people in the country do not understand the value of the union. I make no bones that I am one of them. I'm more than willing to be convinced that it's worth maintaining on any grounds, but Gordon Brown would have to present a very powerful argument to make people like myself understand why it is important that Scottish MPs are allowed to vote on 'english only' issues that will have little or no impact on their own constituents, but my MP can't do the same for Scotland in similar circumstances. Surely when all the politics is swept aside you are simply left with that question - simply: Is it fair?


  • 47.
  • At 01:32 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

Labour, Tory, Lib Dem... I don't trust any of them anymore on anything to do with anything that requires being moral.

  • 48.
  • At 01:34 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Jessica Miles wrote:

The correct position would be to remove all of the anomalies.

The Welsh, Scottish and Nothern Ireland devolved governments do not have the same powers, it would have to be amended so that they did (increasing to the common denominator rather than decreasing it would appear the only viable possibility).

There would then have to be an all England assembly or perhaps large regional English assemblies - Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, Anglia -(smaller regional assemblies have been rejected already). It would have to have the same powers as the Scottish Parliament.

If these devolved assemblies had real powers and had them enshrined in a written constitution that could only be changed by referendum then the mockery that is the House of Lords could be done away with as this would then be the true check and balance of the Commons.

Of course all of this is pretty radical. It would require brave politicians to push it through. So we probably won't get it; just the usual hotch-potch muddle-through 'solution' instead.

  • 49.
  • At 01:39 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Steven Uncles wrote:

Before the Scottish Parliament there was a Scottish Grand Committee.

This was abandoned as being unworkable.

The Scottish Parliament replaced the Scottish Grand Committee.

Why are no mainstream politicians proposing the obvious solution for the current constitutional mess.

A Federal UK

English Parliament in the House of Commons

and elected British Parliament in the House of Lords.

- All the great ideas are very, very simple !

How about an English parliment and an English First Minister, just like they have in Scotland? That would resolve the problem. Why aren't the English allowed the same choice as the Scots? Simple really! Those in power do not like the English! Gordon Brown's vocalising of Britishness containes a worrying sub text: the English must be denied the right to self-determination and democracy in order for Gordon Brown to remain in power. Otherwise how else can he create legislation on English only matters like health and education? Gordon Brown has no democratic mandate to legislate on English only matters. He should allow the English their own parliament, or resign. This matter is that serious.

  • 51.
  • At 01:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Frank wrote:

None of your questions are any different from how Scotland and Wales are now governed - one set of MPs for specified domestic affairs, one for national ones. The national cabinet has no say now on Scottish "healthneducation", what is the problem losing the say over its English equivalent. The difference is that an English Committee rather than regional government would avoid the duplicated cost of a fancy new building and another layer of politicians - quite a positive difference. Think positively and stop defending the indefensible satus quo.

Nick

Lets have an open debate about how England should be governed.

What I hate is people saying that England can not have it's own parliament because we are to big or it will be a threat to the UK, these people haven't got the guts to openly discuss English devolution in a public arena.

May I suggest that WE have this debate but with people from all sides and not the usual bunch of anti-english groups that the BBC peddle out when the English question comes up.

You should engage people like my campaign or groups like the English Democrats to get a true and balanced view on why England needs her own parliament.

Go on Nick, have the cuts to have us debate with you and others.

Honestly Nick, I am getting really irritated at the way our ostrich-like politicians are having to be dragged, kicking and screaming towards the inevitable. Once New Labour attempted to spike the nationalist guns of Wales and Scotland in 1998 with their DevolutionLite' model, it was inevitable, as sure as eggs are eggs that the people of England should demand parity. And if New Labour had indeed treated all the home nations with equal respect 10 years ago - and included us as a nation in the devolution deal, we would have had a more contented, federal UK.

Instead we get Sir Malcolm trying to suggest a compromise that is condemned to failure - and Hush Puppy Ken taking 2 years to bring his supposedly thoughtful and considered solutions to 'the English Question'... (and guess what, it's apparently OK for us to have EVoEL, but not an English Parliament because otherwise, the sky will fall in). Instead, we get brain dead Labour politicians currently telling us that 'devolution has strengthened the union' - and choosing to ignore that in the devolved legislatures of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland they are either partly or wholly ruled by nationalist politicians.

Oh for a mature politician who tells it like it actually is (Like Frank Field) and proclaims that the only way forward, the only right and proper way to proceed is to reinstate the Parliament of England, right now!

  • 54.
  • At 01:49 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Michael Greenlees wrote:

Nick,
Your questions are based on the old paradigm- not the one that has now been established by the creation of separate assemblies with devolved power.
The system of "States Rights" established in the US effectively proscribed those issues that are justifiably and appropriately dealt with by local State administrations, and those by national government.
To your points - health and schooling are properly local issues ideally addressed with local taxes - raised in England, Wales and Scotland.
Defence, foreign policy etc are National issues to be addressed by national governement
The US has clearly demonstrated that whatever else their failings such devolution of responsibility has hardly resulted in a weaker national consciousness - it has however resulted in greater engagement in local politics - of which we need a good deal more IMV

  • 55.
  • At 01:50 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Lloyd wrote:

Another Question:

What would happen in the Lords?

  • 56.
  • At 01:56 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rob K wrote:

Wouldn't this proposal mean that Gordon Brown may have no majority for his 'schoolsnhospitals' priorities?

Possibly. But then he doesn't have a majority for those 'priorities' in Scotland (I bet he'll keep that quiet in his election communications). If he doesn't have a English majority for his English policies, perhaps he should be prepared to compromise on them.

  • 57.
  • At 01:56 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • G. Tucker wrote:

Like most people I'm BRITISH, I'm not english - thats just a language. I'm not european - that's just a bunch of foreigners who I don't haven't anything in common with.

I'm as proud of Devon as any Scot or Welsh person is. To my mind we - England/Scotland/Wales/NI are in this together as British subjects and brothers. It is down to Blair who has potentially split us up with the devolution rubbish. An English parliament would just create another pit to through money down unnecessarily which no-one wants.

One trait of Britishness is an idea of fairness, this is currently not happening. So either we have to stop certain MPs from voting which is a bodge in my mind or take back certain powers from these assemblies or parliaments and become as one again with equal money being spent on us all.

How can we have senior politicians holding office if they are not accountable to the people? Brown, Darling, Brown, etc. THEY SHOULD GO unless they repeal these powers and restore democracy.

  • 58.
  • At 01:58 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Nick S wrote:

These are all relevant questions but there is really nothing difficult about them.

The democratic deficit which sprang up when devolution was enacted is real and whilst it might not be convenient that the Labour government is only able to govern with MPs from Scotland, it is true, and having heard so much in the 80s about Scotland being governed by an English government they hadn't voted for, it seems odd for ministers who fought fro fairness for Scotland to argue against fairness for England.

Nick Robinson implies that the proposal lacks detail and so is flawed - it really doesn't need any detail other than to lay out a list of legislative areas where devolved administrations have competence and then produce a list of MPs from constituencies that are covered by the devolved administrations. Those MPs on the list would then no longer be entitled to vote on legislation in the lists. That way, legislation is passed by the appropriate representatives - if the constituents don't like it, the representatives can be held to account. At present, MPs vote on matters which have no impact on their constituents, and constituents see legislation passed into law by people who, in their terms, are unelected representatives of a central executive.

The prospect of yet another layer of politicians is not great – a clean and simple solution would be to have a single body of MPs who are all equal. They vote as a whole for legislation that covers the UK, and in country groups for those areas which have already been devolved to the current administrations – simple and cheap.

  • 59.
  • At 01:59 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

"Wouldn't it mean that Labour had no majority for...?"

Yes, Nick, it's called democracy.

I realise this is a new and radical concept for England, but I think it might make a nice change. Don't you?

  • 60.
  • At 01:59 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • LondonWilliam2 wrote:

Totally unfair response, Nick. Why do you not recognise the constitutional problem Labour created and never resolved? Why not query how and why they let the Barnett formula become increasingly inequitable? Do you not appreciate how appalling the prevailing situation is and the urgent need for it to be remedied?
Also:
1) Who cares? Brown's NHS and school initiatives have achieved little but wasted vast resources (taxpayer's money) and built up a huge PFI debts!
2) It would at least be democratic if those elected by, and accountable to, English constituents alone set the purely English agenda.
3) Surely if Labour ministers resorted to such an 'administrative fiat' they would rightly consign their Labour Government to a massive defeat at the next election.
4) As in 2) above, Rifkind's idea would at least be democratic.

  • 61.
  • At 02:02 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Bernard from Horsham wrote:

eerrrr..... why is it not workable just because Labour don't as you put it have a majority of seats?
Labour have a majority of seats anyway.....

https://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/vote2005/html/england.stm

  • 62.
  • At 02:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ian Campbell wrote:

Mr Rifkind cannot answer your questions, nor can his colleagues, because like the earlier proposal for 'English Votes for English Laws' the Grand Committee will not be workable. It seems likely therefore that, in power, the Tories would rarely if ever use it. Since the UK Parliament draws up UK Bills, most Bills that are intended to deal with England have some UK clauses tacked on so there are few English Bills. So this proposal is just a bid for English support which now runs at 50& for and English Parliament, however elected. England needs more than a Grand Committee. Scotland, Wales and N Ireland each have an Executive and First Minister(s). Unless the EGC elects a First Minister there will be no one to speak for England or frame Bills for England alone. Eventually the English will demand full devolution as in Scotland - but by then it may be too late to save the Union, if it is worth saving.

  • 63.
  • At 02:07 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Brian Lee wrote:

Tony Blair changed the mother of Parliaments into the mother-in-law. Rifkind's make over will not make her any more agreeable. Whether they like it or not the Westminster Club has to accept that a separate legislature for England is the only way to give parity to the overtaxed, under represented English.

  • 64.
  • At 02:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • FN wrote:

The federal UK is the obvious solution but it is to late. The Conservatives want to break up the union and will suceed. They have spun the myth that labour did not win the last election in England and only rule through Scottish MPs this is not true but people believe it re John Portwood. the bitterness generated on both sides of the border will eventually lead to the end of the UK

  • 65.
  • At 02:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Christine Constable wrote:

Nick, surely the questions you pose strike at the heart of the nonesense being spoken by Rifkind?

All we see is an interminable list of daft ideas to address the West Lothian Question, whether it is Labour's failed Regionalisation plan (kicked out by the North East in 2004 by 79%); English Laws on English Measures - Lord Baker's Idea, An English Grand Committee Rifkind's idea or the option I and the English Public best support the establishment of an English Parliament.

You know that the BBC in its own polling found 60% support for an English Parliament, and we don't get any sensible debate on this option either from yourself or anyone from the BBC, because everyone is so paranoid that this will break up the UK.

Personally I believe those who believe that are wrong. In fact I would argue the reverse will be the case. If the issue of West Lothian is not acted upon and fast, the mounting resentment of the English at being sidelined and shouted at by people such as Rifkind and Brown will result in a serious and perhaps unpredictable backlash.

Why can't we have the same debate Scotland and Wales had? Why do we have to have a string of pathetic botches served up by each of the three Briticentric Parties, all to appease the Union at the expense of English democracy?

How can it be right that England a country of 50 million people has no political executive of its own, yet Scotland with five million people has? How can it be right that Gordon Brown is First Minister of England when no one in England voted for him? How can it be right that Scottish MPs can vote through something like Top Up Fees, overturn the English majority and reject top up fees for Scotland to boot?

Nick, why isn't the BBC having a much fairer debate on this? Why does the BBC keep with the editorial line that A Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are good, but an English Parliament is bad. Isn't this pure hypocrasy and demonstrates for all to see that the BBC is little more than an organ of the Labour government?

If this was happening in any other country, I could guarantee the BBC would be waffling on about abuse of democracy, and banana republics, but because it is England, and somehow England doesn't count you can fiddle about asking equally daft questions about something that should be debated nationally so all the issues can come out on the table.

Yes of course Rifkind's model is a mess and won't work. Niether will EVOEM, and niether will regions. Now can we talk about why an English Parliament is so objectionable, seeing as it was so right for the people of Scotland?

What is democracy if it isn't representation by the people of the people. No it is not right that post devolution Alexander elected in Scotland manages devolved English Transport, it's a bit like Sarkosy taking over the Home Office - he has no right to be there and isn't elected by anyone in the country he seeks to serve. That is the fact. If Nick you cannot see any problem with this, then I (frankly) despair of the BBC and the sooner it is wound up and people who recognise the fundamentals of democracy and free speech replace the current incumbents the better.

Can the BBC now start to open up this debate with the public and expose the fudges we have received from the main three parties as the non starters they are. The only possible way forward for England is to look at a Federal Structure where England is given the same courtesy of a public debate and referendum. We can waste hours on "what if scenarios". What if England was given a Parliament exclusive to itself, so that the people could elect their own politicians to run English affairs? Radical, not really, before Labour screwed it up we had something like this, now it is passed we have to give England back her own voice. Question is will the BBC let the English speak, or are there too many vested interests keen to silence us?

  • 66.
  • At 02:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David McCrone wrote:

Dearie me, Nick. What are the BBC paying you for? Now pay attention. At the 2005 British general election, Labour won 286 seats in England to the Tories' 194. That means Labour won 54% (yes, that's a majority) of seats in England. You are probably getting confused with the share of the vote in England, where Labour got 35.4% to the Tories, 35.7% (which gave them 36.6% of English seats - roughly proportional, as it happens). If you'd like PR for British general elections, then that'd be worth writing about. In the meantime, stick with the facts.

  • 67.
  • At 02:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Something needs to be done as the current system is a mess and plain unfair. (BTW I'm Welsh and live in Scotland so have no real axe to grind.)

I dont think English votes or and English grand committee is the answer because some measures in the House of Commons apply to the UK, some to England and Wales and others to England, there is also the issue of the knock on effects from the Barnett formula. Either of these can only be a stop gap to a large overhaul of the system.

How about making the Commons an English Parliament and a fully elected House of Lords could become the UK chamber with responisbility for foreign policy, defence and setting the budgets for the regional Parliaments. Of course the four regional parliaments should have the same powers in a such a scenario.

  • 68.
  • At 02:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

In answer to all the (presumably scottish) moans about the imposition of the poll tax in Scotland. The same poll tax was then imposed throughout the UK. This is very different from the a Scottish Elite ruling England whilst giving it's own people.
And in addition Nick, Scottish university's charging only English students tuition fees (and not Scots or Eu students) is the most blatant form of racism imaginable.

  • 69.
  • At 02:16 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John, Devon wrote:

Steven Uncles's idea of a federal UK with an English Parliament in the House of Commons and an elected British Parliament in the House of Lords overseeing UK - wide issues is a good one that merits further exporation and discussion.

So it has no chance.

  • 70.
  • At 02:23 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Nick, you're slightly missing the point.

Firstly, such a system wouldn't be introduced under the current Labour Government. It would only be introduced under a Tory Government when any of the problems you describe would be masked.

And if the system would then fall to pieces disasterously when the Labour Party next got into power, is that something that the Tories would greatly worry about?

Secondly, it's clearly an issue that has to be addressed. Outside the Westminster in-crowd it's a massive vote winner.

  • 71.
  • At 02:36 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • hmurray wrote:

If the model used for the English Grand Committee was the same as the Scots one before devolution, it would not have a majority of opposition MPS as the goverment of the day always had a majority on the Grand Committee. The Scottish Grand Committee was always balanced with english tory MPs when they were in government

  • 72.
  • At 02:40 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • James wrote:

What happens if the Government loses a confidence motion in the English "Grand Committee" but still has the confidence of Parliament as a whole?

Do we only re-elect English seats? Do Scottish MPs (without a vote in dissolving Parliament) get bounced into an early election?

Or, if there is no mechanism for a confidence motion in the "Grand Committee" then what mechanism does it have to force Ministers to do its bidding?

While this might sound like a populist idea to an opportunistic Opposition it's hardly going to survive the rigorous examination it'll get in an election campaign is it?

  • 73.
  • At 02:46 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Daniel Wright wrote:

It seems to me that the solution to the west lothian question is clear. Abolish the Scottish parliament.

I dont remember anyone in England getting a vote in the "referendum" that paved the way for that institution yet it quite clearly was a matter that affects english constituencies. The Scottish parliament (and welsh and northern ireland assemblies) was created as a result of a con job and should be scrapped at the first opportunity.

  • 74.
  • At 02:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • diane mundell wrote:

Responding to Jack Chapman's comment on the Tory party trying to do something about an english voice for english people - He ends with
"but, then we all know why that is!"
Well Jack I dont know why that is - could you elucidate.
I grew up under a Tory government and I cannot believe that they are any WORSE that a labour govt., and would probably be a hell of a lot better.
What I want is to get out of Europe entirely - Why' because the Brits have traditionaly been an island people; by nature we're reserved and tribal we've never been particularly friendly towards outsiders: we always kept our distance and that was a primary reason why weve stayed friends with each other for so long.
Familiarity breeds contempt - we would do well to remember that.
When suddenly were a multi-cultural society? - in short time - and in such large numbers, our little island and its people are completely swamped by it all.
We're told that the Brits are work shy'' - I dont believe that. Its more likely to be other factors -
Like poor education''
and young people with attitude problems, are the cause than anything else. I blame the government' for its eneptness of too much regulation and political correctness for the problems we face in this island.
The lack of diciplin in schools was the worst thing for children ever.
And all this rubbish about not smacking your kids at home?
One really wonders how this country ever managed before. And it was better before - MUCH BETTER.
NOW PEOPLE ARE UNHAPPY - NO ONE KNOWS WHAT TO TALK ABOUT - MOST SUBJECTS ARE TOBOO - AND HUMOUR' WHATS THAT. ITS ALL DOWN HILL FROM NOW ON.
The truth is everything is for
Big Business - Globalism has taken over. The economy requires cheap labour - so they say lets import them and the brits will put up with it because there is nothing they can do to stop it.

  • 75.
  • At 02:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

An English Parliament - not practicable as too similar to the House of Commons. Regional Assemblies - already rejected (except in Greater London).
So why not give each English County (under traditional boundaries), powers similar to the Welsh/Scottish/NI assemblies - including Schools and Hospitals.
The counties vary in size but so be it - that's democracy.

  • 76.
  • At 02:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rowan Lill wrote:

Surely one way to ensure an English Grand Committee doesn't cause any problems for Labour is to make sure all matters put forward to a vote are not purely English matters.

Seriously though, Labour are to blame for this. They cobbled together a devolved system, in the same way they cobbled together a reformed House of Lords, in a messy way with no thought for how it would work out in the long run.

  • 77.
  • At 02:51 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Nu Labour started this by giving devolution to the Scots. English MP's cannot vote on matters reserved to the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish MP's could not vote on matters reserved to the English Grand Committee.

Nu Labour only have themselves to blame for having started the process ten years ago - they will have to live with ultimate consequences.

Some honeymoon! Does GB still want to be PM?

  • 78.
  • At 02:55 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Alan Bush wrote:

Answers

Question 1 so what - why should english affairs depend on Scots Labour MP's to carry english matters into legislation? I don't even know the size of Brown's majority, he is Scots like me representing a Scottish constituency and I don't like paying to be represented twice to allow Brown to govern the english.

Question 2 so what who - selects the make up of Parliamentary committee's anyway?

Question 3 If the answer to your own question is true what is the point of back benchers and MP's per se for that matter. I wouldn't ask an MP for the time of day!

Question 4 assumes nothing will change - an electorally dangerous assumption someday the sleeping apathetic will wake up to the con!!!!

As a scot it is not beyond the wit of legislators to ensure that the English legislate for the English and that matters of a UK wide interest like defence and tax is voted on by the 4 devolved "parliaments" acting together with their voice being weighted in relation to their representation, i.e. the overwhelming majority of english MP's cannot ram rod UK legislation through to the detriment of the "provinces"! We don't need scots MP's in both Holyrood and Westminster what an utter waste of taxpayers money not unlke the billions we pay out for MEP's. Who asked for a political European Union anyway - the politicians forced it on us without a mandate to do so. We voted for a European Economic Community which is a million miles from where we are now, If we had anarchy it could not be much worse for the man in the street.

England needs an equivalent party to the SNP which will support independence.

That way then the English will not be reilant on people who are only interested in power for power's sake (Brits).

Neither the Conservatives or Labour can be trusted to do what's right for Scotland or England.

Instead their every decision is designed to give the minimum of powers to the 'Celtic fringe' that they can get away with.

There are three Celtic countries in the UK: Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Scotland due to the strength of the SNP has a mid powered parliament.

Wales has a weaker parliament (Plaid Cymru are in government with Labour and growing stronger so Wales is now gradually moving towards Scottish style devolution)

Cornwall has no parliament though the Tories have given Cornwall a specific spokesperson. Cornwall also has a nationalist party (which tends to win seats at local level) but Cornwall has no proper international recognition whatsoever.

England has no parliament but it has the biggest share of the most powerful parliament, Westminster.

However, the Parliament is ran by Brits from Scotland who seej power over England. That is the reality of the current situation and the only way to solve it is by moving all the individual countries to independence.

  • 80.
  • At 02:58 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • nic wrote:

Independence for Scotland and Wales would sort all this perceived English constitutional problems out.
We in Wales are used to being outvoted by the English/British block. It hurts doesn't it.

  • 81.
  • At 03:01 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • I Albion wrote:

Nick ,you have worked to long at the B.B.C.the thought of England getting any sort of recognition is making you a bit Queasy,A Parliament for England is whats needed,and that would work!!

  • 82.
  • At 03:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Frances wrote:

The trouble with your questions is that the underlying premise is wrong - Labour may have slipped behind the Tories in England in terms of the popular vote at the last election, but they still won a clear majority of English seats. Therefore, Rifkind's proposal wouldn't really weaken Labour's position at all under the current arithmetic (unless of course there was a substantial rebellion on a given topic by English Labour MPs, as there was over tuition fees).

If the Tories really want to credibly drive home this 'no mandate to govern England' stuff, I'm afraid they'll first have to ditch their absurdly self-defeating opposition to proportional representation.

Much better questions would be - if Scottish MPs are literally banned from voting on certain issues, will the Tories show a fair and even-handed approach (I'm not holding my breath) by also scrapping the absurd anomaly under which Westminster retains the right in principle to legislate on devolved Scottish affairs? (If you think this is just a technicality, then how did London contrive to legislate on a devolved matter 'by mistake' a couple of years ago?) Also, will they campaign to give the Welsh Assembly the same powers as the Scottish Parliament - and indeed give both institutions the same power over abortion law that the Northern Ireland Assembly has - without which the operation of this scheme in practice will be an unholy mess?

  • 83.
  • At 03:12 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Brian Abbott wrote:

Rather than concentrating on the West Lothain question (which has various complicating factors as you make clear) why don't the Conservatives focus on the simple issue of constituency representation?

Here's the average number of electors in a parliamentary constituency:

England 70,000
Scotland 55,000
Wales 56,000
Northern Ireland 67,000

I can't see any reason why the Conservatives don't make a commitment to correct this anomoly. Much more clear-cut and with positive benefits for them and - given their enduring poor performance in Scotland - little downside (though with an obvious downside for Labour and the Liberals!)

  • 84.
  • At 03:16 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • sgh.duck wrote:

INDEPENDENCE for ENGLAND.FULL STOP.
People all have talk,talk,talk,BUT NO ACTION.


Common knowledge the ENGLISH need to be independant of the shackles our ancesters left us with.

We need to build again an ENGLISH NATION by ENGLISH PEOPLE for ENGLAND.

But we will never do it if we keep poking our nose into other nations affairs and allowing other nations to poke thier noses into ours.

Nick, I wonder if you could take the time to point out a significant misunderstanding which surrounds this debate?

English MPs have not lost the right to vote on Scottish matters. Westminster still has the power to impose laws on Scotland as and when it so desires. In fact, English MPs even have the power to abolish the Scottish parliament altogether despite the fact that they don't represent Scottish constituencies.

This misunderstanding seems to be fuelling much of the resentment generated by the West Lothian Question. As such, it might be worth highlighting it.

  • 86.
  • At 03:22 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Hyder Ali Pirwany wrote:

The Blair government did use its Scottish MP's to keep students tuition fees in England. That was hardly fair. Ministers who are doing PR against Mr Rifkind's proposal certainly think that we are fools and that we don't remember their double talking.

  • 87.
  • At 03:23 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

Since his fellow Scots turfed him out Rifkind has had as much credibilty as Major minor.

What si needed is soem sort fo devolution to EWnglan's regions, cities etc on a fairly piecemeal basis, just as Wales' and Scotland's Parliaments are different from one another, according to the various circumstances seen there.

Londoncentricity sis what is most commonly objected to in England, as it was in Scotland and Wales.

Neither Yorkshire nor Cornwall will thank you for an English Parliament, neither will Tyneside nor Manchester be grateful for a Grand English Committee of the current English MPs.

Yet more amateur pecksniffian goggledegook posing as justice, when it is a recipie for disaster, but imagined to be the Tories' silver bullet aimed at Labour's heart.

Heigh-ho!

  • 88.
  • At 03:27 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

The mess is totally made by Gordon Brown and the now much forgotten Tony Blair who, so hell-bent on getting into power, sold the promise of devolution to the Scots (now come back to bite them with the SNP now in power). The English now realise they have lost out and want control of the country back and anyone who promises this has a sure-fired vote.

I for one am sick of subsidising the Scots and have them ruling us still. But then again we did vote for a Scottish PM in Westminster. Oh hang on, no we didn't...

  • 89.
  • At 03:28 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • peter J Johnson wrote:

Why o why is this matter being played out by politicians who do not want to accept the fact that the majority (a measure that they always work with and to)of English people want an English parliament?
The main question has to be answered by all colours of politicians and political parties (except one)including the likes of Harman, why do they obviously fear an English parliament?
They have to stop their continual fear mongering arguments that the union would colapse...it wont! Additionally accept and recognise that "Regionalisation" has been voted a big No!

Being a lay person when it comes to politics, I have to propose a complete solution (albeit radical, but quite simple really) to all our Island's woes.
1)Create an English parliament and one for each of the other nations within the UK. Elected by and with full and fair proportional representation. Abolish the House of Lords.
2) Create an Anglo Celtic Alliance (including Eire) Assembly. Meeting and based in the Isle of Man, to effectively deal with all extraneous matters affecting the Alliance.

But I doubt that we have men and women in our political parties that would have the vision and determination and unselfish awareness, to effect such a change.

I live in hope.............
Peter J.

  • 90.
  • At 03:36 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

So you would rather keep the status quo would you ? Were the views of the vast majority of the population are ignored. Labour has no mandate to govern in England, they lost the last election. More people voted conservative than labour in England.
Surprise surprise someone from the BBC doesn't like it. Labour started this game by playing the devolution card. You reap what you sow, another short sited idea introduced by T Bliar.

  • 91.
  • At 03:54 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David Lee wrote:

Why is everyone getting so hung up about national identity in relation to the regional assemblies. No-one seems to have mentioned that the largest regional assembly in the UK at the moment is ..... London. So shouldn't Rifkind's proposals really be English MPs, unless you happen to be a London MP, voting on English matters where they are otherwise devolved. All begins to unravel doesn't it.

Devolution was never about nationalism, but about making decision-making more local with democratic accountability. Nick is correct that these proposals risk a complete roadblock in both power and accountability, with the Government potentially set against the Grand Committee - with each vying for power. Also who would get the blame when things go wrong. Sorry I know we are the Government, but this was a Grand Committee decision, please blame them.

What this really shows is that the Tories have given up on Scotland and Wales and have become simply an English party. Perhaps they would be better off developing policies that attract people in all regions of the UK.

  • 92.
  • At 04:00 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Here's an idea.

1) Stop having two lots of MPs in the devolved regions. Sort this out at the next election for this constituencies.

2) Have regional parliaments (including England) convening on Monday to Wednesday to discuss devolved items.

3) Have all MPs come to London on Thursday and Friday to do "British" stuff.

4) Each devolved region has a First Minister from from the party which has the majority in that region

5) The UK Prime Minister is from the party with the majority in the UK.

Basically a federal system but with only one set of MPs.

But, that'll be too much work I hear the devolved MPs say. However isn't that what basically happened before devolution and what the English MPs do now?

  • 93.
  • At 04:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David Lee wrote:

Why is everyone getting so hung up about national identity in relation to the regional assemblies. No-one seems to have mentioned that the largest regional assembly in the UK at the moment is ..... London. So shouldn't Rifkind's proposals really be English MPs, unless you happen to be a London MP, voting on English matters where they are otherwise devolved. All begins to unravel doesn't it.

Devolution was never about nationalism, but about making decision-making more local with democratic accountability. Nick is correct that these proposals risk a complete roadblock in both power and accountability, with the Government potentially set against the Grand Committee - with each vying for power. Also who would get the blame when things go wrong. Sorry I know we are the Government, but this was a Grand Committee decision, please blame them.

What this really shows is that the Tories have given up on Scotland and Wales and have become simply an English party. Perhaps they would be better off developing policies that attract people in all regions of the UK.

  • 94.
  • At 04:07 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Gregor King wrote:

Nick, there is a more radical solution that should suit everybody. The Scottish parliament already has two classes of MSP, constituency members and regional list members elected under PR. For reasons I will not go into here, there is a very good argument to suggest that these two classes of MSP should be elected separately, two years apart, so that the parliament is refreshed half way through its four year term and the list MSP election is effectively a referendum on the conduct of the government of the day. If the list MSPs also became Scottish representatives in a UK legislature, based as previously suggested in the House of Lords, there is a direct link between the devolved parliament and the UK government. Adopting the same principle for English (based in the current Commons), Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments would provide answers to a number of questions: 1. Fixed term parliaments; 2. proportional representation; 3. the West Lothian Question as it applies throughout the Uk, not just Scotland/England. The Tories current ideas are a clear political attempt to embarass the Labour government, not a realistic proposal to solve the difficulties that the devolution process has created. Until all parties start to attempt to find an answer acceptable to all parts of the UK, break-up of the Union is inevitable.

  • 95.
  • At 04:09 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Kevin Burns wrote:

As soon as the artificial construct that is 'the UK' starts to work ever so slightly against the English, only *then* do they start wailing injustice. So, after all these centuries of an English United Kingdom, this situation sounds patently absurd - but brilliantly ironic.

The English establishment either wants it's own little Empire, or it dosn't - if they want to start playing hardball on these seperatist issues, then the Irish, Scottish and Welsh are within our rights to get rid of their bloody Monarchy.

  • 96.
  • At 04:13 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Richard Evans wrote:

Scottish MP's (MSP's) decide Scottish Health & Education policies, & Scottish MP's decide ...... English Health & Education Issues.

Excuse me Nick, how does that work?

The only realistic solution to the anti English devolution anomalies is for the English to have their own parliament as do other parts of the UK. There could be a federal UK parliament for external matters such as defence policy but all domestic matters inclding taxation and possibly foreign policy should be dealt with by 4 national parliaments. Defence policy could be funded by a per capita charge on each national parliament raised by the federal parliament.The UK and the Union no longer exists in any real sense as devolution of itself destroyed it.

To John (comment 19)

Only 35.7% of English people want Conservative policies, less than 1/2 a percent more than those who want Labour policies. Why should either of them have a monopoly on power when neither can muster the support of the majority?

The West Lothian question needs addressing, but no more so than our ridiculous winner-takes all (even loser-takes-all!) electoral system.

  • 99.
  • At 04:48 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Fred Forsythe (Not the) wrote:

My Question.
Why is yet another Scot, Rifkind,devising pathetic ploys on behalf of his ("There is plenty of Scottish blood flowing through these veins") master,Cameron, which will see yet another Scot, Martin, as the arbiter of what constitutes and English matter?
We want these people to go govern their own people so that we English can have our own parliament, staffed with people who respect and love our England. Those that don't can simply shove off.

  • 100.
  • At 05:00 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Dundas wrote:

They're at it again! It was Malcolm Rifkind & Michael Forsyth who started the Scottish hiatus by packing the Scottish Grand Committee with English MPs so they could impose the then unique Poll Tax on Scottish families. The Scottish Poll Tax was a way of cutting taxes for high income Scottish families by transfering their taxes onto low income families. In Scotland. That devisive measure led to the upsurge of Scottish Nationalism and enduring indignation. Tories deserted the Scottish Conservatives and now mostly vote for the SNP. That's why Rifkind wants to take further steps to break-up our island: he knows the Conservative Party can never win again in Scotland. So he wants to drive a wedge through our island. Surely the voters of Kensington & Chelsea are not that dumb?

  • 101.
  • At 05:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robin Bruce wrote:

Nick

I think you have got your arithmetic wrong. An English Grand Committee would have 286 Labour, 193 Conservative, 47 LibDem and 2 other MPs (subject to minor variations as there would need to be neutral Chair and Deputy). Therefore Labour easily has an overall majority.

So your first three questions are based on a false premiss.

If Labour were to lose 22 English seats, on a uniform swing it would probably lose at least another 12 in Scotland and Wales and would have no overall majority in the Commons as a whole. So the scenario of a Labour majority in the Commons but no majority in an English Grand Committee is most unlikely.

Surprising as it may seem, Labour's percentage of the English seats (54.2%)almost exactly mirrors its proportion of the UK's seats (55.2%).

So there is less in this argument than meets the eye.

Robin

  • 102.
  • At 05:06 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Charlie wrote:

No one ever mentions the fact that labour polled fewer votes than the conservatives in England in the 2005 election (Labour 8,043461, Conservative 8,116,005). Based on votes casts labour has no mandate for its English only policies.

Its clearly not tenable to go on allowing non-English MPs to vote on English only issues, as others have pointed out if it had not been for Scottish MPs, the vote on fees for English students would have failed. Non-English MPs are helping to prop uup policies which do not affect their constituents this is clearly undemocratic. Devolution gave power from England to Scotland, now Scottish MPs now needs to give up their power over England. I think people are waking up to this fact and Rifkinds intervention is to be welcome.

  • 103.
  • At 05:08 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen Gash wrote:

Frankly I'm fed up with Scots having any say at all over England's governance.

Rifkind was parachuted in to a safe Tory consituency in England after having been kicked out by the Scots.

No self-respecting country would choose to be governed by a Grand Committee.

What is most annoying is the Tories won't acknowledge that the English want an English Parliament, and mimic Labour by saying it would "break up the Union".

The longer the English don't get what all polls say they want, an English Parliament, the greater are the chances of the so-called United Lingdom breaking up.

  • 104.
  • At 05:11 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Patrick Harris wrote:

If England had been afforded the courtesy of a referendum when referendums were popular, there would now be an English Parliament presided over by a First Minister that was elected in an English constituency. Don't blame the English, we have been telling you and others like you that make a (very good) living out of politics, devolution, as she is today, was destined never to work unless the whole of the UK was involved in the democratic process. Even when part of England was invited to the dmocratic fancy dress party (the great north of England referendum on "regionalisation") This government chose to ignore the result and it's been full steam ahead with the Balkanisation of England ever since, albeit by about three different names. Sorry Nick, the devolution chickens are coming home to roost. The biggest surprise is that New Labour, Political pundits, such as yourself and a host of "advisers" did not have the foresight to see the buffers coming.
You would possibly be a staunch Europhile as well I'll wager. Whoops, look out, the "EU constitution" buffers are in sight.

  • 105.
  • At 05:34 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

If enough English people vote for independent candidates at the next General Election then we would be able to implement a more representative democracy in England.

This would enable English people to :

a) regain their own country (in the political sense)

b) provide a written constitution for England.

c) institute fixed terms of Government

d) recast both Houses as 100% elected (anti-phase as per the USA)

e) provide a 'direct democracy' electronic voting mechanism whereby English people can provide a vote on crucial issues, thus counterbalancing the tendency of people engaged in the same trade e.g. nominally independent MP's, to form cliques, groups or parties.

These five ideas could provide the political mechanism to transform England completely.

The current clapped out political system is on its last legs, everybody can see that (except most professional politicians).

  • 106.
  • At 05:36 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Robin wrote:

Nick

I think you have got your arithmetic wrong. An English Grand Committee would have 286 Labour, 193 Conservative, 47 LibDem and 2 other MPs (subject to minor variations as there would need to be neutral Chair and Deputy). Therefore Labour easily has an overall majority.

So your first three questions are based on a false premiss.

Surprising as it may seem, Labour's percentage of the English seats (54.2%) almost exactly mirrors its proportion of the UK's seats (55.2%).

On a uniform swing, if Labour lost its overall majority of English seats, it would probably lose its overall majority in the whole House of Commons. So the scenario of a Labour-controlled UK Parliament but a Conservative-controlled English Grand Committee is highly unlikely.

So there is less in this argument for the Conservatives than they appear to think.

Robin

Nick

We've been round this so many times it really is getting boring. What everyone (and I include you in this) is tiptoeing round is that a major constitutional reform is needed, particularly the basis and mechanics of how each level of government is funded (Ideally I'd include developing new models of how the EU and United Nations are funded)

My view is (and I have made these comments on this blog before) is.

House of Commons becomes English Parliament which continues to be elected on a “First past the post” system. House of Lords becomes UK “Senate” elected on a “single transferable vote” basis. Division of responsibilities between the two is based around the current Scottish devolution model. I’m relatively comfortable with the electoral systems other way round i.e. “first past post” for “Senate”, but I think that it is important to have both a single representative at a geographic level and the overall balance of public opinion represented. Using the two systems automatically creates a check / balance.

To remove a layer of politicians/ government/ bureaucracy, given that a new one would be created, it might make sense to move to unitary local authorities sooner rather than later. There is a drift towards this already.

When New Zealand changed to a unicameral (single chamber) system of government, which this would be in effect, they also moved to fixed, and shorter, parliamentary terms at the same time to improve accountability.

One other issue that this raises is what happens to the House of Lords role as the highest court of appeal in the UK. This has been diminished to some extent by the European Court and creating a separate court of final instance has been on the cards for years.

A by product of this is that it solves the “what to do with the Lords” issue as well.

  • 108.
  • At 05:52 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ben Slight wrote:

What amazes me is how many 'wonderful' New Labour policies that would lead to new dawns in 1997 are actually turning out to be headaches - for example, the Human Rights Act (a big obstacle to anti-terrorism policy for Blair,) and devolution.

Labour promised constitutional reform and made a hash of it. Devolution was rushed through when it didn't need to be and wasn't thought out properly. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were considered, England wasn't. The real reason for which, Blair was aware that the Tories would control such a body, so he didn't create one, simple as. Labour played a dangerous game, it was simple - give the Scots a Parliament and shut up the Nationalists...

Hasn't quite worked like that has it? Firstly, the voting system for the Scottish Parliament prevents Labour dominance (or any party for that matter) and Labour only held power with coalitions as the PR system increased the Tory and other party seats. Secondly, Labour overlooked the fact that the Nationalists wouldn't be appeased for long - this is what is happening now...

Cameron is right to raise the issue of the West Lothian question, mainly as Labour are too frightened to put in the real solution i.e. English votes on English matters.

Perhaps this could be the beginning of 'true' constitutional reform in the UK. If Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland were given greater autonomy, perhaps a federal system would suit us better and perhaps an entirely new political system - a Governor/First Minister of each country and then an elected President who represents the UK as a whole (forget the Royal Family, not too bothered if we keep those.) It works for the USA - which has almost been in existance for as long as the Union, why not here...

Can't see the Union existing as it does now without change...

  • 109.
  • At 06:07 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

The folly of devolution will ultimately manifest itself (c/o the Law of Unintended Consequences) in the break up of the UK.

Key question: Is this good or bad for England?

  • 110.
  • At 06:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Haymes wrote:

You've raised some interesting points. Perhaps you should seek an interview with him and maybe you'll get the answers but don't hold your breath.
It's not just the English MPs who cannot vote on Scottish matters, the Scottish ones can't do either.
Who says Labour could not have a majority of English MPs, they did so 1997 and 2001 and, if I'm not mistaken, in 2005, although the Tories had more votes in England, more Labour MPs were elected.
This is an ill-conceived proposal for party political purposes, a sort of gerrymandering. They have given up on Scotland and can only see any success in England. In other words the Tories are now just an English party

  • 111.
  • At 06:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:
1)Create an English parliament and one for each of the other nations within the UK. Elected by and with full and fair proportional representation. Abolish the House of Lords. 2) Create an Anglo Celtic Alliance (including Eire) Assembly. Meeting and based in the Isle of Man, to effectively deal with all extraneous matters affecting the Alliance.

I'm in favour of a proper unification of the United Kingdom and bringing the Republic of Ireland back into the fold, and something along these lines is as good as anything. It would make the artificial problems created by law and nationalism evaporate but too many people are clinging to their legalisms and insecurities. Putting the constitutional question on the table opens up the whole field of play so anything is possible.

  • 112.
  • At 06:25 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mike P. wrote:

The question I have yet to see answered is why it is 'fair and right' for Scotland to have it's parliament as well as representation in Westminster, Ireland has an assembly as well as representation in Westminster, Wales has an assembly as well as representation in Westminster but the poor old English get nothing but the idiots there, oh unless you count the unelected quangoes spending vast amounts of money trying to 'regionalise' us. And why do the BBC ignore the question completely - it's only very recently you have even mentioned it, and then only when English rumblings grew too loud to ignore.

  • 113.
  • At 06:34 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Lillywhite wrote:

Would you believe that it took over 4 years for the Tories to arrive at this rubbish. The only way forward for England is our own Parliament as being fought for by The English Democratic Party and The Campaign for an English Parliament.
Incidentally is it possible that the reason for our MP's reluctance to give justice for England is the risk to their obscene and uneared Salaries and Allowances?

  • 114.
  • At 06:55 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Anne Murphy wrote:

I'm not sure that it matters that much that there are problems with the approach suggested by the Tories. Whatever happens their system would be short lived. These ideas will only get implemented if the Tories get back in. And if the Tories get back in, Salmond will have the best recruiting sargent imaginable for independence. What the Tories should do (but won't - it's too radical) would be to enter into negotiations with Salmond about a workable federal system. Given where Scotland is now, the only way the UK will survive is in some form of loose federation.

  • 115.
  • At 07:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Haymes wrote:

You've raised some interesting points. Perhaps you should seek an interview with him and maybe you'll get the answers but don't hold your breath.
It's not just the English MPs who cannot vote on Scottish matters, the Scottish ones can't do either.
Who says Labour could not have a majority of English MPs, they did so 1997 and 2001 and, if I'm not mistaken, in 2005, although the Tories had more votes in England, more Labour MPs were elected.
This is an ill-conceived proposal for party political purposes, a sort of gerrymandering. They have given up on Scotland and can only see any success in England. In other words the Tories are now just an English party

I think you've got your numbers wrong. I make it:

English MPs:

Labour 303

Tory 207

LibDem 52

Others 3

Giving Labour a clear majority.

Back to the drawing board!

  • 117.
  • At 07:11 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • MW wrote:

There are a lot of comments here for a poor BBC reporter to wade through, so I hope (but am not certain) mine has something fresh to contribute.

Basically, the relationship between England and Scotland rests on a balance between two principles:
[1] equality of sovereignty (kingdom to kingdom / lion & unicorn)
[2] proportionality of populations (approx. 10:1)

So, when people point to Scottish MP’s privileged position, they are looking at the population size without considering the sovereignty principle. The US constitution, of course, recognises both of these by having a ‘proportional-based’ Congress and a ‘sovereignty-based’ Senate. Britain has always been a bit more ad hoc, but basically the UK’s political arrangements must reflect both of these principles in order to survive.

Some, of course, may argue that devolution ‘upset’ the previous balance, but it should be noted that the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster was reduced from 72 to 59, a cut of 18%.

And although there may well be good grounds for constitutional reform in general, the claim that there is a specifically English ‘democratic deficit’ all too conveniently ignores the fact that virtually every government of the UK claims a mandate on the basis of less than 50% the votes cast. Sometimes much less.

  • 118.
  • At 07:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John Galpin wrote:

Response to Andy H (comment 98)

Precisely Andy, my point is about democracy and fair representation, not a party political one.

The one great thing about some form of PR is that it will force the current parties to stop their ridiculous posturing and stealing each others policies to try and get just a little bit more of the centre ground. I hope PR will enable a fundamental realignment of British politics where a "centre" group is opposed by "left" and "Right" groups each with their own distinct voice for those that support them and possibly more of a chance for a few independents and other voices too. Democracy is about fair representation of the people not a system for keeping the current party vested interests in power at all costs which is what many politicos arguments amount to.

For me the collapse of the current system where overwhipped guards of the party (any of them) support whatever some "inner clique" want to impose can't come too soon. It will make it much more difficult for any future PM to bluster through actions like Iraq or other deeply divisive policies when they have to really share information to keep coalition partners on board. Could Brown then get away with the EU sleight of hand as he is currently intending? I think not.
The politicians don't want PR as it takes too much power from them and gives it back to the people, what a shame!

  • 119.
  • At 07:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • James wrote:

Nick, I think you're forgetting that Labour has an overall majority of over 40 amongst MPs in England. The Tories did win more votes than Labour in England in 2005, but that's a different argument.

The Scottish and Welsh blocks of Labour MPs only increase Labour's overall majority by just over 20 because all the Northern Ireland MPs are counted as opposition MPs (although the SDLP would normally side with Labour, and Sinn Fein obviously can't vote at all).

  • 120.
  • At 07:41 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Andy Cooke wrote:

Q1: No. Labour have a majority of over 40 in England alone.

Q2: "If I am right ..." You're not. So no.

Q3: "If so ...". It's not so. So no.

Q4: The dog's dinner of a constitutional settlement that Blair/Brown have left us with (and it's not as though it wasn't long anticipated - paging Tam Dalyell ...) is the root cause of your worry. But yes, if no one Party has a majority of seats, a coalition or negotiations on legislation by legislation basis would be necessary. Like it is in cases UK-wide in hung Parliaments - there's quite a lot of precedent (1910-1922, 1923, 1929-1931, 1974, 1976-1979, 1995-1997 - that's not far off of a quarter of last century, omitting occasions when coalitions were formed in National Emergencies when one party had a strong majority).

Cases where a government had a UK majority but not one in England are pretty rare. Since WWII, we've had 1950, 1951 (NI Unionist MPs put Churchill into power), 1964, 1974 (twice). That's it. Occasions with either wafer-thin majorities or UK Hung Parliaments. Not really that wide ranging as to be significant issues, wouldn't you say?

  • 121.
  • At 08:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Conway wrote:

What country is this ?
The Queen is Head Of State,
The Head Of Central Government is called a Prime Minister,
The Queen is shown on the currency?
Its not Britain its Canada...

Isnt it time we followed the Canadian example ?
A Confedration of provences(States) which give central government permission to legislate on issues .
Even although they are all Canadians each of the Provences have there own Government and are responsible for there own affairs.
Money is paid to central Government for defence etc

  • 122.
  • At 09:15 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Masterley wrote:

What's the problem with any of those points. Exactly the same issue (with roles reversed) arises with a Conservative government in Westminster and Labour in control in Scotland under the current arrangements. Or could it be that, applying typical BBC bias, the latter is acceptable but the former is not?

  • 123.
  • At 09:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen Cullen wrote:

In our typically British way, the 1997 Parliament delivered an unfinished constitutional reform, leaving us with a quasi-federal system. The answer is to complete that reform by making the UK a truly federal state. The House of Commons could become the Parliament of England, and the House of Lords could be fully, and usefully, transformed into the Senate for our constituent nations (including Cornwall).

This reform could, of course, be allied to the final extension of a more democratic voting system for all the people - ie, giving the English a vote with some PR element, just as used in the rest of the UK.

Finally, we need to reconsider the massive democratic deficit that continues to build up between the British peoples and the EU.

  • 124.
  • At 09:47 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • RAL wrote:

Constitutional change must come. I think it is a good thing that the Westminster Parliament is going to have to show more to the public. What I mean is: Rather than just Lab-Con bias, to build a consensus that will result in law, the policy can be debated and ground given by each side to ensure the (majoritive) desired result. Lab (would) need to do it to get laws passed and Con (would) need to do it to show that they have policies and are not just obstructive for the sake of it. It is a revolution and long over due. Role on the constitutional change that must come.

  • 125.
  • At 10:17 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Les wrote:

My father-in-law is a Scottish Nationalist who, like many others north of the border, are somewhat embarrased when this subject is raised.

He and most of his countrymen can quite easily see that the Labour Party has cynically courted Scottish and Welsh votes at the expense of the English.

It's time for parity to be restored to UK politics. Either we have fully independent nations (as Alex Salmond is certainly making a strong case for), or we don't. Personally I don't think the clock can be turned back now. Devolution will prove to be (yet another) case of short-sightedness from this wretched Labour government.

  • 126.
  • At 10:38 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • MrEmissions wrote:

The current situation is entirely unsustainable. We need a new british federal parliament in say north wales and for the english to reclaim our national parliament at westminister.

As many other people have noted the anger at the English disenfranchisment is growing, but will the elitist government notice in time and if so have the wit to do the decent thing. Unlikely.

All we can look forward to is another civil war!!!

  • 127.
  • At 10:42 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Ignoring the xenophobic brigade that roll out every time we have a similar debate, I feel that it is only right that MPs should only vote for matters which affect their constituencies.

However.

The Tories started the rot when they imposed the Poll Tax on Scotland first. Oops.

Then the ENGLISH electorate decided to give ENGLISH Labour candidates enough votes to become MPs and thus form a Labour Government. Oops.

Now that Labour MPs in England are a minority, a lot of these voters are now complaining that Scottish MPs drive through a lot of policies.

Labour has simply messed up the UK. The best solution would be to remove the Scottish and Welsh Goverments and resort to one UK Parliament. But that is not going to happen.

The UK is ruined. It doesn't help having Alex Salmond up here either, with his sole desire to upset Westminster (and the English) at every opportunity.

But what do ministers care? They have their pensions.

  • 128.
  • At 10:55 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David Wilson wrote:

1)The Scots have more MPs per head then the English.
2)Harriet Harman was arguing that the Northern MPs can vote for projects like Crossrail which is in London. She missed the point English MPs would not be able to vote on a cross rail project in Edinburgh
3)The treasury contribution is more per head to the Scots than the English
4)The Scots are finding money for projects like University fees which the English can't afford.
5)If Europeans go to a Scottish University their fees are paid but for the English they are not.

All we want is a level playing field. If that means a Tory majority for English projects so what? The English elected a majority of Tory MPs why should they be dominated by a Scottish labour majority on English matters?

  • 129.
  • At 11:03 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Josh Heald wrote:

It's important to note that, contrary to popular belief, counting only English MPs, Labour does currently have a (slim) overall majority. Of the 531 English MPs, 286 are currently Labour, 193 Conservative, 49 Liberal Democrat, and 3 of other affiliation/independent. This equates to Labour holding 53.86% of English seats in Wesminster; not a large majority, but only slightly lower than their majority of 55.2% when counting all UK constituencies.

We also need to remember the fact that there are 646 UK constituencies, meaning that 82.2% of constituencies are English, making it logically impossible for England to be dictated to even by Scotland, Wales, and NI together, let alone just one of the three other nations.

Figures sourced from analysis of election results on wikipedia.com
  • 130.
  • At 11:06 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • E MacDonald wrote:

Labour let the genie out of the bottle with their devolution settlement. It can now only go one way.

A) You can't scrap the Scottish Parliament now.

B) Devolution is a fudge under which one or other party will always be treated unfairly. (Noone has satisfactorily answered the WL Question in 30 yrs of trying).

C) That leaves one final workable solution. . .

  • 131.
  • At 11:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • NickL wrote:

There seems to be no problem here. The Tories might have received a higher proportion of the English vote in 2005, but Mr Brown still has a large majority of English MPs, so how could the opposition impose its will on Labour? If, of course, the opposition had a majority of English MPs, them how would it be undemocratic for it to have the upper hand in legislating laws with effect only in England? It would be no different from the SNP controlling law-making in Scotland as a result of last May's democratic elections for the Scottish Parliament.

As the member for Kensington and Chelsea, Malcolm Rifkind shouldn't comment on matters that especially affect Scotland. Such hubris! Where will it end?

  • 133.
  • At 12:02 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • frank wrote:

There is not actually a Tory majority in England. There is a situation of no overall controll dominated by Labour.

  • 134.
  • At 12:06 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • will hanlon wrote:

Nick,if a Scotsman is advocating English votes for English laws then it cant be good for England,what we English must demand is our own parliament not some half way house devised by MP'S with Scottish interests at heart like Rifkind and Cameron,this is the only way to curb the current Scotland only benefits to this joke of a union and to alleviate us from our 2nd class status.

The answer to all these questions is if this was the case, in the long term Labour would have to pull its finger out south of the border and think about England more...

Is that such a bad thing really?

  • 136.
  • At 01:44 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • thomas hodgens wrote:

Sewell motions can be passed by the Scottish parliament to allow a devolved issue to be determined at Westminster. They are named after Lord Sewell who introduced the policy while the Scotland Act was being passed in the House of Lords.
Will these past issues be devolved back to the Scottish Parliament should Scottish Mps be barred from voting on purely English matters?

  • 137.
  • At 07:11 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • David wrote:

interesting questions, but here is another:

how do we define an England-only piece of legislation?

most of the so-called "England-only" laws have smaller clauses which have UK wide implications, espcially with regard to the European Human Rights Laws.

in fact... who would decide what laws would be considered England only, and which were UK-wide, and how would these people be held to account?

  • 138.
  • At 08:09 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • bernardo wrote:

Don't underestimate Alec Salmon in all this. he is probably a generation away from his dream of an independent Scotland, but by his mischievous actions, deliberately designed to irritate his English neighbours, he may get his wish by default as scotland is pushed away by britain rather than cut loose by his own countrymen. Mr salmon is as cunning as a lighthouse rat (i say this in deep admiration!) and knows that the political significance of the Scottish tail constantly wagging the English dog will eventually lead to the English losing patience with the likes of harriet harman defending the indefensible (which seems to be her stock in trade...) the tories will come up with some sort of plan to address the issue, which workable or not, will strike a chord with the British people. Personally i cant wait for Scottish independence even if only to spare us the scottish weather forecast,putting the stupid clocks back, and the vein-opening moment of hearing the first soccer results of the winter before the kids have even gone back to school!

Nick (my earlier numbers were a bit out),

The BBC have helped me on this one.
Well done BBC! I went to:

https://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/vote2005/html/england.stm

Labour have an overall majority of 42 for English constituencies:

Labour 286
Conservative 193
Lib Dem 47
IKHH 1
Respect 1

  • 140.
  • At 09:11 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Robert Henderson wrote:

Cameron's proposal is unworkable because (1) it leaves unresolved the question of who is to initiate legislation and (2) English votes would determine the vast majority of legislation and expenditure before the House, which would mean that a Government dependent on non-English seat votes would be impotent, an untenable situation.

There are other objections. The English would still be left in an inferior position to the rest of the UK because they would have no national political focal point. Moreover, it is far from clear that legislation would be honestly designated as English only legislation - it is easy to see a future Tory Government fudging the issue and designating much English only legislation as UK legislation because it has ramifications for the rest of the UK.

The other thing which is left unresolved is the position of the Lords. Would they be subject to the same rules as the Commons? If so, how would the peers be designated as English qualified?

  • 141.
  • At 09:19 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Blackburn wrote:

Nick,
The present situation is unacceptible, its like your neighbours or perhaps more accurately like people from the next village who have less interest in you than your neighbours, being the ones to decide for you how often your wife sleeps with you, what plants you should have in your garden, how much you should spend, which possessions you should take to the tip, which schools your children go to, when the doctors surgery is open etc. While at the same time these very same people make their own minds up and have the priviledge to decide these matters for themselves.

  • 142.
  • At 09:20 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

You only have to read the comments here, and I'm sure the government and its advisors do, to realise that there is huge resentment in England at the current arangements introduced by New Labour. It is a bit rich for Harriet Harman to claim that the Tory ideas would jeopardise the Union, it was her government that did that; the only way to save it is to introduce fair arrangements for English self-government to match that now given to the Scots. That will, of course, mean that Gordon Brown becomes the first PM in British history to have no vote on domestic issues anywhere in the UK, but frankly, he should have thought of that before voting through devolution.

Labour need to understand three things:

1) England is a nation, not a collection of regions, and certainly not ones with boundaries devised in Brussels. We wish to be governed as a nation.

2) The present botched system (which they introduced) will certainly fracture the UK unless it is rectified - and soon.

3) This issue will not go away.

If we had to have devolution, which I doubt, then we should have simply allowed those MP's already at Westminster to vote seperately on domestic issues affecting their nation within the UK. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday put aside for those issues with English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish MP's sitting seperately. Thursday and Fridays all together for "UK" wide issues like foreign affairs, defence etc. No extra pay or pensions involved and eveybody happy. Instead we were given this dog's breakfast which not only costs far more, but is a total disaster. Still, Tony Blair has walked away with a huge smile and book deal. Pit about his legacy.

  • 143.
  • At 09:42 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • David Burgess wrote:

Full independence for Scotland!

  • 144.
  • At 10:14 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Krishn Shah wrote:

We should all take a deep breath, step back an ponder "how did we get into this
mess?".

We should scrap the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, keep the individual budgets and instead have the Westminister MPs formulate bills that affect their regions. The bills would be debated in Scotland and Wales by the MPS or their representatives and voted on by them.

This is proper and fair devolution with one MP remaining accountable for all policies, local and national.

I guess we're too far down the road for such a change but one can only hope.

  • 145.
  • At 10:17 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Iain Scott wrote:

I sense a bit of an Angry from Hemel Hempstead 'England for the English' thread here. Do the English people REALLY believe that they don't have a parliament they can call their own, or that the nasty Scots are constantly doing the dirty on them? I don't recall all English people being required to wear tartan, eat haggis, call people numpties, be clinically obese etc? The reality is that you're still all free to do all the things that made England great......ie Hate the French, hate the Germans, hate the Argentines, pretend England's not part of Europe etc.

Anyway, surely the Labour legislation is voted through because of the LABOUR MPs who represent Scottish seats, rather than ALL Scottish MPs, or is anyone representing a Scottish seat automatically seen as a threat?

I don't recall such a furore when the system acted in favour of the English (which it usually - some would say always - has). At the risk of introducing another controvertial topic, all this clamour reminds me of the England football team situation.....sing when you're winning, bad loosers, always someone else's fault.

As I'm north of Hadriian's Wall I'd be delighted for Scotland to go our more social democratic way (like the Scandinavian countries) and England to be true blue Tory forever (like the US). You can keep Mr Rifkin too.

It is time that we reviewed the whole system thoroughly - instead of constantly tinkering around the edges.

The old adage of start with a blank canvas comes to mind. Personally I would like to see all the countries which compose the UK to be in charge of their own destiny, and yet still work together.

I have a lot of English friends and colleagues, and bear no animosity to them or 'things English'. I am appalled at the way that Gordon Brown has mis-handled the economy, and is now mis-handling the country.

Whilst I am sure that many people in England would like to hand him back, I can assure you that many of us in Scotland would not welcome him.

  • 147.
  • At 12:53 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Abraham wrote:

I really fail to see any hope of resolution regarding the "West Lothian" when UK politics are based on gerrymandering of electoral boundaries and a determination to hold onto fiscal control in order to rob the population. Few people seemed to recognise that devaluation was and is simply a method of avoiding debts nationally whilst at the same time making everyone suffer for the political blunders causing the initial problems. The NI political solutions offered by politicians of all shades started the rot and historically the Scots had a great deal of independence. The Welsh have been the most sensible to date. The way things are going in the UK even the English language is in danger.
The reality of the EU has been ignored or derided even though other countries have benefited enormously from it -- how many citoyens of the UK have any idea what the various treaties really say -- apart from straight bananas and non bread sausages? UK politicians have opted out of so many important parts of the common EU legislation that they are regarded with great suspicion by most of the rest of the EU. Have they really done these things for the benefit of UK voters?

  • 148.
  • At 01:12 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Nigel Carter wrote:

The "Tory" plan has one clear advantage - it seeks to maintain England as a country and a political entity. "New Labour" has, since 1997, tried at every turn to extinguish England and, but for Fat John's botch of the NE referendum would have suceeded. What the government clearly desires is for England to become a set of political regions and, therefore, not a single dominant force within the Union.
So, there you have it - either a United Kingdom & no England or, England & no "United" Kingdom.

  • 149.
  • At 01:53 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Steve Ellwood wrote:

DJ wrote: "All very well - just a pity when Mr Rifkind was not so concerned about "fairness" when the poll tax was inflicted on Scotland by English Tory MPs - while he was Scottish Secretary."

Possibly, the difference being that there wasn't a devolved government in Scotland at the time? Who had tax-raising powers...

[Incidentally, I write as an expatriate Englishman who chose to domicile legally in Scotland, and who would take Scottish citizenship when the SNP win.]

  • 150.
  • At 02:16 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • jim brant wrote:

The Tories really are making a habit of rushing out ill thought-out policies are they not? A tax handout to the already rich on the basis of a calculation of extra income that doesn't make sense; a commitment (??) to an unquantified reduction in the amount of immigration after consultation with business that might come up with the answer that we need more immigration, not less; and now a 'solution' to the West Lanarkshire conundrum that would be unworkable and just make matters worse. To name just three. The PM must wake up every morning expecting/hoping to hear the sound of the next shot into DC's foot.

  • 151.
  • At 03:42 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Brian Lee wrote:

It is interesting that some of the ideas being mooted here seem to be far more sensible than those emanating from the Westminster Politicians.

Posting 88 suggests each part of the islands has its own parliament with an Anglo Celtic Alliance based in the Isle of Man and including Eire.

A similar idea was was being put forward by thinkers in the Irish Republic over 20 years ago as a solution to "The Irish Question".
It might well be the answer to the "English Question".

However if such a solution was to be considered it would have to pursue the democratic deficit further by disengaging from the EU.

The most difficult part of this idea is to get agreement on what to call it!

  • 152.
  • At 04:04 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Uncle Pete wrote:

To those supporting the idea of Westminster becoming the English Parliament and the Lords becoming an all-elected Pan-British Parliament - Good Idea. Fair and to the point.

The new Lords would be responsible for international trade, defence, foreign policy... but which party would seriously consider this as it is those powers that are slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) being assumed by the European Parliament and the EC? We could create the new Pan-British parliament in time for it to become obsolete.

  • 153.
  • At 06:18 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • AT wrote:

82: "Here's the average number of electors in a parliamentary constituency:

England 70,000
Scotland 55,000
Wales 56,000
Northern Ireland 67,000"

No - this is what the average number of electors in a parliamentary constituency WAS before 2005.

The number of Scottish seats in 2005 was REDUCED by 13. The English quota of 70000 was used to calculate the number of Scottish seats. So the average electorate of Scottish seats is - with the exception of four particularly far flung seats in north-west Scotland - now in line with the average for England.

  • 154.
  • At 09:37 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • steve wrote:

Nick hope you don't mind but this is something to think about!

In order to shut down EU Referendum discussions the government have set up two stories to deflect attention

1) CHARGING FOR RUBBISH Which is so obviously going to go straight to no1 in the headlines

2) IMMIGRATION admitting they lied something they never do.

This is very typical of new labour and has frequently happened in the past. This government is expendable just as long as they get that EU Constitution through at any cost.

  • 155.
  • At 09:44 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • David wrote:

But but but:

English MPs do have power over Scottish policy - they set the budget that the Scottish Parliament then has to implement.

I'd call holding the purse strings significant power.

The interesting question is why the marginal seats of (mostly Southern) England have become a different country from the rest of the UK...

...how would a 'grand committee' (what a catchy, populist title) bring government closer to the people?

...the UK needs PR, an elected upper house and regional assemblies in order to become a mature modern democracy.

  • 156.
  • At 11:30 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

Few questions:

1) What is an "England only" issue REALLY? How many times since the Union has a bill been passed that does not have ANY direct or residual effect on the Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish? I don't think you'll find it's that many in REALITY.

2) Why do the figures vary so much when Scotland's "subsidy" is discussed? I've seen figures ranging from £3000 per head pa down to a recent Daily Mail (of all papers) story, also ran in The Sun, claiming it was nearer £38 per head. Is the tax take based on a UK average as opposed to a Scottish average per head? I think you'll find it's the former.

All seems like petty jingoism dressed up to me.

  • 157.
  • At 11:38 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

Also, enshrined in the Scotland Act 1998 (Section 28.7, I think), the basis on which the Scottish Parliament was formed, Westminster retains the right of absolute sovereignty and can in effect override ANY decisions that goes through Holyrood.

Look it up, I know many won't but we really, as goes with my above post, look at the FACTS first, and not the perceptions of a cynical media that sees division and the perception of grievance as more newsworthy than a true TRUE picture of the situation.... or as usual the general public could just believe any old bunk that the red-tops feed them.

  • 158.
  • At 11:47 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Barry Collings wrote:

The system has to be changed - any diminution of democracy means you no longer have a democracy. Why should I pay more taxes just to allow the Scots to have free prescriptions or university education? I didn't vote for that. "No taxation without representation" should be the cry - it has a familiar ring to it and will, I hope, result in a similar sort of outcome.

  • 159.
  • At 12:07 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • James Ware wrote:

Nick,
There is great merit in turning the PR seats into mid terms for Wales and Scotland and having a federal House of Lords / Senate.

At the same time the EU parliamentarians could be included in said senate to explain what they get up to after all Brussells is only 2hrs away now by Eurostar, lol

One proiblem is that Ulster has multi member STV elected seats (another form of PR derived from the original Irish Parliament pre 1801 and used in Stormont and Dail Eirnan in the South)

So to answer all these anomolies has the time come for a UK / British consitutional convention rather than the usual drivel such as citizens conversations.

If not then we need an Emglish Parliament for England and fast for reasons outlined by the other posters.

  • 160.
  • At 09:24 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Peter D. Granville-Edmunds wrote:

Lets not pussyfoot any longer, there is no "United Kingdom". It is now time that we got rid of the blue Scottish colour in the union flag.
It is time for an English Parliament, in England. Nothing else will do.
Best wishes.

Peter D. Granville-Edmunds

  • 161.
  • At 04:29 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

#126 re: 1) England is a nation, not a collection of regions, and certainly not ones with boundaries devised in Brussels.

Not so!

I think you will find that it was the Tory Government in the early 1990's who, in response to a enquiry from the EU, divved England up into several regions.

Of course, nobody in Government thinks to ask us, the English people, if we mind having our country chopped up.

Then you'll notice that a Labour Government comes along and tries to foist this 'regionalisation' on us English even more by requesting that we 'elect' people to an entity i.e. a region, that we did'nt ask for in the first place.

When some English people complain about politicians and say 'they're all the same', well, they (Labour and Tories) certainly are in this case.

  • 162.
  • At 04:59 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • pat kewell wrote:

I dont think the majority of English people want an English Parliament. What we in England want, is the Scottish parliament .. it seems to handle matters of health, education, provision for the elderly and law and order rather better than the present Westminster set-up !

  • 163.
  • At 08:39 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Enima Pod wrote:

We have been in the UK together for over what? 300 years? and suddenly everyone knows what is purely Scottish or 'Purely English' issues! Well, Nick, what do you mean? We are talking about the British Parliament, are you suggesting Scotland should be expelled for having their own Assembly? It may be a crime in the tory hymn-sheet, but Scots are our salvation, in my book, particularly the ones hounded out of office by the motley crew that think they are the Press. Well, come clean, there is an ulterior motive, and I suggest its to get at our current Prime Minister. Crime, being UnEnglish???

  • 164.
  • At 02:49 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Nick, ever since Scottish Labour MPs - immune from any English votes - imposed top-up fees on England's students it has been obvious our democracy is broken and skewed in favour of Scottish Labour, completely due to labour's uneven devolution. What we really need is an English parliament to restore true democracy in England. If there is still a need for a federal UK government then that comes later.

  • 165.
  • At 04:59 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Simon Ritchie wrote:

I am a firm believer in an independent situation. I agree fully that the current situation is not fair for England. However, I think removing certain MPs from certain jobs within the UK Parliament is going to widen the split between the nations of Britain. I believe centralised government for Britain is completely bust, and devolution is getting frustrating for everyone too. I fully support the idea that the English people can run their own country, and thus would strongly back an independent English Parliament in a sovereign state of England as a long term solution to the West Lothian Question.

  • 166.
  • At 08:40 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Tom Jackson wrote:

Nick, Your questions have encouraged wide-ranging comments on the current constitutional imbroglio.
Tam Dalyell, now retired, must be chuckling to himself at the short-sightness of so many of his former colleagues. Sir Malcolm Rifkin's attempt to address the WLQuestion at least stirs up the Westminster dovecote but the proposal is unrealistic, unworkable and unecessary. We need a Constitutional Convention to sort out this political mess that currently exists in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Away with the House of Lords to become a Senate.
An English Parliament will eventually be the way forward, hopefully in my lifetime

  • 167.
  • At 01:20 AM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • J.WESTERMAN wrote:

If this is left as a fight for what individual politicians think is best for themselves we will see them drag the UK to destruction.
I sincerely hope that the residents of the four united countries will make their displeasure known at the possibility of such a sad event. I would not put it past some of these politicians to set up military and customs & excise controls at the various borders.

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