Answers to the West Lothian Question

Share this article
0
Have your say

The answer to the West Lothian Question (aka “English votes for English issues”) and the broader UK constitutional fallout from last week’s referendum lies in the following two-part solution.

Firstly, the House of Commons should be turned into an English Parliament, composed solely of English MPs (EMPs?), to vote on English domestic law and issues.

In the political hierarchy, this English Parliament (which could still be called the House of Commons if needs be) would sit directly alongside the existing Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies.

Secondly, the House of Lords should be turned into a wholly elected upper chamber of members elected from across the whole UK (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland & England).

This reformed version of the House of Lords would hold sway on non-devolved matters (such as defence and foreign policy), debate UK-wide issues, refer issues for debate by the regional assemblies, have the ability to issue non-binding “think agains” to the regional parliaments and would adjudicate in instances of dispute regarding whether an issue is devolved or not.

Members of this reformed House of Lords would carry the title “Lord”, but only for the duration of their office.

A solution on this basis would resolve the lingering unfairness in the UK political system since devolved government was introduced in the late 1990s, and would 
also solve the century-old issue of how to reform the Lords to make it relevant and representative in modern-day Britain.

(DR) MARK CAMPBELL-RODDIS

Pont Crescent

Dunblane

The spectre of “English votes for English laws” has once again been raised in the aftermath of the independence referendum result.

I remain unconvinced of Allan Massie’s arguments in favour of it (Perspective, 24 September).

My reservation is based on the simple proposition that if someone is elected to a parliament, they should be entitled to vote on all matters that come before it.

If we leave aside the difficulty of determining issues which are solely English, and only have consequences for England, there is the distasteful matter of creating two tiers of representatives (those who have a franchise on certain matters and those who don’t).

Introduction of tuition fees south of the Border, and their abolition north of it, has helped fuel the controversy of who should vote on what policies.

It is certainly true that fees exist in England because Scottish Labour MPs helped get the matter through the House of Commons.

They have been abolished in Scotland because a Nationalist administration decided to use its devolved power to do so.

This is one of the results of Westminster legislating to create parliaments and assemblies in the United Kingdom, and at the same time taking a prudent view of how higher education is financed in the non-devolved areas, ie the whole of England.

Controversial and complex? Certainly. But those who complain should concentrate on getting a change of policy by democratic methods.

They do the democratic process no favours by trying to create two types of member of parliament.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

The West Lothian Question may be sound in principle but has it practical relevance?

Normally which party forms the Westminster Government is determined by the number of English constituencies each wins so whether or how MPs from Scottish constituencies vote on English matters has no effect on the outcome, given normal party discipline.

Occasionally the Labour MPs from Scotland tip the balance in favour of a Labour government. However, they are not there to promote a separate Scottish agenda but to support the policies of the UK Labour Party.

The only circumstances in which MPs from Scotland might frustrate the wishes of the majority of English MPs on English matters would be if there were a serious breakdown in party discipline or if there were a hung parliament with a significant number of MPs from outwith England with their own agenda.

Even in the latter case matters would probably be resolved by inter-party bargaining. Is the significance of the West Lothian Question more apparent than real?

S Beck

Craigleith Drive

Edinburgh

Back to the top of the page