Evel implications for Commons equality
They may in fact help assuage the frustration many English Conservative MPs have felt over the years about the Scottish influence on key parliamentary votes. But his views are mistaken on a number of counts.
Firstly, Evel affects the basic principle that if you are elected to Westminster then you are not simply entitled to vote on all matters that come before that parliament.
You are entitled to do so on the principle that all MPs should have the same rights and be treated equally.
Secondly, it is becoming very difficult to determine what matters affect England alone, and therefore this places the Speaker in an invidious position in determining the issue.
Thirdly, a government elected with a majority is entitled to enact its programme. If a Labour government, for example, needed the help of its Scottish members to enact key proposals for south of the Border, it is entitled to do so.
The West Lothian question always had an answer. It is to extend devolution throughout the United Kingdom either through regional assemblies or the more modern proposal based on co-ordination of large cities.
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland parliaments or assemblies were enacted by Westminster not simply as a response to a surgent nationalism. It was a response to pleas for less centralised government.
They may have created some anomalies in terms of parliamentary procedure. They pale into insignificance against the basic principle of equal rights for all members elected to the House of Commons.
Alexander McKay (Letters, 3 July) fails to take into account the input of English constituency MPs into the powers for Holyrood decisions that have been taking place in the Commons.
I would think that England should have its own devolved parliament too – whether in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, or wherever, rather than be seen to have its devolved parliament in the House of Commons, as the Evel move confirms.
To be seen to be making a special case for England by assuming that the Commons can be “converted” at will into a devolved chamber for England is to proclaim loudly that the nomenclature “UK” and “England” are interchangeable.
Probably Mr McKay is happy with this arrangement. However, he shouldn’t add his assumption to the aforementioned one that such an arrangement makes us all happy.
Tory proposals for “English votes for English laws” are not only entirely incoherent, but will lead to a constitutional shambles, riding roughshod over the democratic rights of the Scottish people.
For good or ill Scots rejected independence last September, the UK was retained and as such Scottish MPs should be treated on an equal footing with their colleagues from the rest of the UK.
The creation of two types of MPs, with Scottish MPs treated as second class, is therefore simply not tenable and further demonstrates that Westminster is not fit for purpose.
Should Scottish MPs, as the SNP have previously done, not vote at Westminster on issues already devolved to Scotland and which only relate to England then that is their choice.
However, it should be noted that many of these issues will impact on Scotland.
In 2003, for example, SNP MPs voted against foundation hospitals in England on the basis that moves to privatise the NHS in England posed a threat to Scotland’s budget under the Barnett formula.
And in 2004 SNP MPs voted against the introduction of university top-up fees in England, again because of the impact this would have on higher education institutions north of the Border.
The creation of two tiers of MPs will put the Speaker in the invidious position of making a judgment on which legislation will have an impact on Scotland and which will not.
A simple solution to this for the Tories is the creation of an English Parliament, rather than the delivery of a constitutional dog’s breakfast as currently proposed.
Scottish matters dealt with by Holyrood do not impact on England. However, many “English” matters do indirectly affect Scotland. If I therefore had no say in these matters, I should no longer feel I was living in a democracy.
H A N McKenzie