On Monday the 19th of November I attended the “Parliament Talks Constitution” event held at King’s College London.
It was the latest in a series of free events and promotional activities that highlight Parliament’s role in debating and challenging policy. The subjects were: What role does the UK Parliament play in reforming the British Constitution? What does the future hold for British Democracy?
The event was chaired by the BBC’s Mark Darcy. The panellists were Natascha Engel (Labour MP for North East Derbyshire), Lord Rennard (LibDem member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the British Constitution), Eleanor Laing (currently Conservative MP for Epping Forest and Member of the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee) and Professor Robert Blackburn (Professor of Constitutional Law at King’s College London).
Darcy introduced the event by noting that a Constitution was a set of rules by which governments should work. He stated that having been stable in the past the British Constitution has, since 1997, been undergoing rapid change.
Eleanor Laing spoke next and illustrated the work of the select committee by saying that they were discussing what the powers of a PM should be and how legislation should be scrutinised. Rennard referred to unaccountable MPs. Engel referred to the role of the second chamber. Blackburn said that there was a rolling programme of constitutional change which was too flexible and he was looking at the process of constitutional law reform and codification.
When questions were invited I asked Laing two questions. Firstly, in considering the powers of the PM had they considered the situation of a PM overseeing law for England that did not affect his constituents and secondly had they considered the issue of the minimal scrutiny of regulations made to Acts of Parliament which were merely laid before Parliament for a couple of days and not debated. I referred particularly to the Workplace Parking Levy (England) Regulations.
My first question was interpreted by the representative of the Biased Broadcasting Company as the West Lothian Question.
At this point I should put in a health warning for Scottish readers of a certain disposition. The following is not anti-Scottish but actually anti-English Scottishness.
Mrs Laing, lately of Scotland and now one of our so-called English MPs responded by repeating the infamous phrase of her compatriot the former Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg that we should not ask it. In other words ‘You English should put up and shut up!’
How insulting to an Englishwoman to be told by a Scot, whose compatriots have their own national Parliament, that I should not question the undemocratic way I am governed.
She finished by saying that none of her English constituents had suffered because of a Scottish Parliament. Well some of the following disadvantages must have slipped under her radar.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents are not recognised politically and constitutionally with a national Parliament.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents have no Parliament to ensure the future existence of their country as a political entity.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have an equal voice in Westminster as there is no-one that has the express authority to speak for England.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have an equal voice internationally as there is no-one that has the express authority to speak for England in The European Union or the British/Irish Council.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have equal representation and enfranchisement compared with the rest of the UK.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents have no-one that has the express authority to speak for England when laws such as the Workplace Parking Levy (England) Regulations are imposed upon them and the regulation of an English river by the Scottish Parliament, in which they have no representation.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents can be and have been governed in English domestic affairs by MPs that are unaccountable to anyone in England.
- Her constituents do not have equality of funding with her compatriots and they are more heavily taxed with prescription charges, graduate tax, bridge tolls etc.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents cannot control, through a national Parliament, their own assets such as forests which are at the disposal of the British Parliament for the benefit of the whole of the UK.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have a national Parliament to support and protect their culture.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have a national Parliament to prevent the submersion of their country into Britain and to separate their identity from a British identity.
- Unlike her compatriots her constituents do not have a national Parliament to discourage discrimination on the grounds of nationhood.
Finally, why does she have to shout? It’s so un-English. Oh! Sorry I forgot!
Campaign for an English Parliament