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Monday, April 26, 2010

In support of an English Parliament

The constitutional foundation of the United Kingdom changed after Scottish and Welch devolution. For the first time the UK has become a multi-layered state, but with an extremely asymmetrical constitutional order. It is not just that the powers are different between the regional assemblies; the more important issue is that England is the only recognized nation within the UK that does not have its own legislature.

Westminster operates as the federal Parliament of the UK. It handles issues and policies that have been reserved in the Wales and Scotland Acts. At the same time they legislate for England on policy areas that have been devolved. This means that a Scottish MP can vote for legislation that only affects England but English politicians have no power over Scottish policies.

This has given new importance to the ‘West Lothian question’: “For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate... Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?”

There have been several attempts to answer this question. The Labour Party supports creating regional assemblies that will have less power than the Scottish Parliament or the Welch Assembly, but still be able to provide regional leadership. This idea was solidly defeated in a referendum, largely because the proposed assemblies were so weak that they did not actually negate the West Lothian problem.

The Conservative Party has proposed that on issues that only affect England only English MPs should be allowed to vote. This seemingly common sense approach has several practical problems. For one thing it raises the question of what would happen if a government relies on Scottish MPs for its majority and the government is defeated on an English vote that is a confidence vote. Also it is not always simple to decide what issues qualify as ‘English’ and which are UK wide. Still, in the short term this may be the most realistic solution.

In the long term the UK would be better served by creating an English Parliament with the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. This is the main proposal of the English Democrat Party. They believe, correctly, that England is not being well served by the current asymmetrical structure. Let Westminster handle national issues and assign English issues to a solely English legislature.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on April 26, 2010 | Permalink


"Let Westminster handle national issues and assign English issues to a solely English legislature."

Except that Westminster mainly rubber-stamps EU directives & regulations & statutes-in-other-forms. Perhaps let Westminster *become* the English legislature for purely local matters such as garbage disposal (whoops, sorry, that's EU), traffic regulations (ditto), immigration policy (likewise), ... hm, er ...

Posted by: Frank Ch. EIgler | 2010-04-26 9:37:35 AM

Where would the England Legislature sit?

York? Liverpool? Manchester?

Ooh ooh! How about Stonehenge!!

Posted by: Anonymouse | 2010-04-26 2:22:34 PM

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