Thursday, 28 March 2013


The report by the McKay Commission suggested that English-only laws need to be backed by a majority of MPs who represent English constituencies and that Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs could see their roles reduced if proposals to give English MPs more say on laws for England are eventually brought in. The Con Dem Westminster government said that it will give the report "serious consideration" this may well be Westminster speak for kicking it into the long grass.

The McKay Commission was set up to examine how MPs should deal with English legislation in the wake of devolution. For some time there has been a potential problem over what’s been known as West Lothian Question - the ability of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs to vote on England only matters - for several decades, but this has intensified of late as a result devolution.

Back in 2004, support from Scottish and Welsh Labour in Westminster MPs meant that the then Blair government could push through the introduction of university top-up fees in England. The McKay Commission has concluded that the current situation is "unsustainable" and that changes were needed. The Commission has proposed the principle that House of Commons' decisions that involve a "separate and distinct effect" for England should "normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs sitting for constituencies in England".

The same principle would apply for decisions that affected only England and Wales. The Commission has recognised that while Westminster law-making had inevitably come to focus on England, or England and Wales the actual processes for making law at Westminster have not significantly changed or taken account of the developments of devolution.

Understandably people in England are unhappy about the existing arrangements and may support some changes to the Westminster legislative process. English people are beginning to fell disadvantaged and understandably have concerns that MPs who represent the devolved nations are able to vote on matters that directly affect England but not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Clearly the status quo is unsustainable and there is a clear need to sort out the problem of all England legislation

Even the Party formerly known as New Labour (and Ed) has recognised the problem and have made tentative efforts to embrace the political elephant in the room that is Englishness and they have admitted that they (Old and formerly New Labour) have apparently been somewhat reluctant to talk about the sleeping elephant (in the room) at the heart of the UK - Englishness. There is more, apparently they have decided that the issue of national identity (English or British perhaps?) should not be a closed book.

Last year in a keynote speech on ‘England’ Miliband managed to hit his thumb squarely rather than the head of the nail, saying that Britain should be a country "where it always possible to have more than one identity" and people should not have to choose between being British, English, Scottish or Welsh. The acknowledgement of "multiple allegiances" potentially raises some interesting questions about national identity and effectively accepted that Labour had done its best to try to avoid having to articulate a vision of Englishness.

Plaid has long called for a partnership of equals, but it is pretty clear that Ed's current position on the English question is that they do not deserve their own Parliament. Not unsurprisingly the party formerly known as New Labour, has done its best to largely ignore the thorny matter of the West Lothian Question and English votes on English laws, perhaps hoping the problem will go away.

Labour’s failure, may remind older participants in the devolutionary process of not so long ago, of typical old Labour fudge. Labour is still apparently currently keen to continue devolving powers to local authorities in England, which is one way to fudge the issue and avoid calls for an England-only parliament to balance those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I suspect that based on the way labour plays the devolutionary game, I predict that this means that in about 10 to 15 years Labour will embrace the cause an English parliament....


  1. That's what I love about being a Cornish nationalist and fellow member of the European Free Alliance! You can always depend upon members of Plaid and the SNP to completely forget about you and instead sing the praises of an English parliament.

    They are so ready to blow sunshine up the backsides of English nationalists. Do they really give two figs about English self-determination? Don't kid yourselves! Plaid and the SNP are all to aware that an English parliament would bring them closer to their goals, so a little cynical politicking is forgiveable even if they do have to sacrifice Kernow.

    Yes, please do give me one more centralised parliament in London, a parliament for 50 million people to sit next door to the parliament for 60 million people. Now that's what I call value for money. And of course such an English parliament would be hugely concerned about the welfare of Cornwall's identity, culture, environment and economy wouldn't it.

    Thanks Plaid we know we can always count on you.

  2. It would be nice if you remembered Cornwall, which is of course not part of England!