English Votes on English Matters

English Votes on English Matters

Constitutionally there are three questions to be answered; the West Lothian, Upper west Lothian and the English. The first asks: Why should Scottish MPs in the British Parliament at Westminster be barred from voting on matters internal to Scotland that affect their constituents, but still be able to influence internal matters in England? No English MP has reciprocal rights in Scotland. The second asks: Why should laws only for England be scrutinized and amended by an unrepresentative House of Lords composed of members from all countries of the UK and abroad. The third asks: Why should MPs from Scotland, whose constituents are not affected and who are thus non-representative, have ministerial portfolios for internal matters in England, be cabinet ministers or Prime Minister when the majority of government business deals with English matters?

The Conservative party recognises and attempts to answer only the first question. Initially they advocated English votes for English measures (EVoEM). However there were glaring constitutional faults in their approach, which can be summarised as follows: It is a procedural device, without the force of legislation, which can be reversed at any time without the formality of repealing an Act of Parliament. English laws will still be proposed by a British Government and scrutinised by a House of Lords, containing members from across the UK and abroad. There is no administration devoted to English affairs and British MPs will still vote on British party lines. It does not provide a workable solution for the eventuality of a Government being in power with an overall majority but without a majority of English seats.

Even this device was watered down by Kenneth Clark’s recommendation that consideration by British MPs of English constituencies of proposed legislation for England should only take place clause by clause in the committee sessions but that the law for England should still be voted on by all British MPs regardless of whether they represent English constituencies. This leaves us with the prospect of a lot of time and taxpayers’ money taken up with deliberation only for the final product to be rejected on the votes of unrepresentative British MPs. Detailed objections to these proposals can be found in the CEP publication Devolution for England, A Critique of the Conservative Party Policy “English Votes on English Matters”.

The 2010 Coalition Government set up a commission on the West Lothian Question but no-one on this committee represented the interests of England. The terms of reference of the commission, which did not mention England, were:

“To consider how the House of Commons might deal with legislation which affects only part of the United Kingdom, following the devolution of certain legislative powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales”

Indeed the majority appointees represented those parts of the UK that already have their own representatives in the British Government and their own administrations. The appointment of Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, who advocates the dismemberment of England into regions, to oversee the setting up of this Commission shows us how little commitment to England there continues to be from the British Government. Because of the evidence the CEP and others gave the McKay Commission, the Commissioners went beyond their sole remit to propose a procedural device at Westminster. They stated that only an ‘all-England’ solution is acceptable, that England needed a voice, rejected regional assemblies or localism as English devolution and that the political parties must produce manifestos for England. In addition to calling for an English Parliament these were precisely what our evidence required.

All these recommendations have been ignored

British MPs of English constituencies all belong to unionist parties and although they claim to represent the interests of their constituents, they are not there to promote or further English interests. Experience tells us that they pursue the policies of their unionist parties and put the interests of the Union before the interests of England. Some have even declared themselves by expressing views that are positively antagonistic to England.