Tories raise West Lothian question over Brown as PM
THE Conservatives have served notice that they will target Gordon Brown for being a Scottish MP when he succeeds Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
Ed Vaizey, a Tory MP and close ally of David Cameron, the Tory leader, said the Chancellor's background was the "elephant in the room" that the Opposition would seize on as it considered the "West Lothian question" of Scottish MPs voting on issues affecting only England.
His remarks came as Mr Cameron unveiled a Tory "task force" to re-examine the basic rules of British politics, including whether the prime minister should be stripped of the power to declare war without the formal backing of parliament.
The Tory leader insisted that "putting parliament back at the heart of our national life" was central to the Conservative agenda and called on voters to judge the party on "whether we find a way to disentangle those powers that concern some of the most important things a government can do - sending troops to war, making treaties, major public appointments, reorganising government - and whether we can find a way of opening that to parliamentary scrutiny."
The review and the challenge to the Chancellor come as a growing number of MPs at Westminster are arguing for curbs on the right of Scottish MPs to vote on legislation that affects only England.
Mr Vaizey broadened that argument yesterday, questioning whether a Scottish MP should head the UK government. Mr Brown's nationality raised legitimate constitutional questions about having a prime minister who represents a seat north of the Border, said the MP for Wantage, Oxfordshire.
"The situation will be thrown into stark relief if we have a prime minister who is in charge of the manifesto and driving through a domestic agenda whose constituency is in Scotland," Mr Vaizey told The Scotsman yesterday.
"The new West Lothian question is an issue that will bubble up to the surface more often.
"There is an elephant in the room which is being addressed, which is, if Scotland has devolution, then Scottish MPs should not be responsible for putting through controversial legislation. That will be thrown into stark relief if we have a prime minister from Scotland."
Setting up a further clash with the Chancellor, Mr Cameron announced his democracy task force would seek to move the Tories into territory Mr Brown had claimed as his own - seeking more power for the Commons over issues such as declaring war and appointing members of the English judiciary.
Mr Cameron insisted that any change would not prevent British troops being deployed quickly and without MPs' approval if such a move was needed militarily. But he added: "The prime minister is able to do what he wants without consulting parliament at all. In the case of the Iraq war, there was a vote - as there was under John Major as well - but there are no formal arrangements on when that vote should take place. In Kosovo, there was no vote at all.
"Looking at the arrangements we could put in place for a more formal process would be helpful and restore faith that parliament has a proper and timely debate and helps to make the decision about these issues."
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