Monday, June 09, 2008

Cameron fudges English Parliament issue again

Today's Daily Telegraph contains an apparently authoritative leak from Ken Clarke's "Democracy Task Force" which is looking into, among other things, possible answers to the West Lothian Question for the Tories.

Its key revelation is that Clarke has retreated from the Tories' previous position of seeking to establish an "English Grand Committee" - effectively an English Parliament within a UK Parliament - to a bizarre fudge under which, while only English MPs will be able to discuss English-only laws at the committee stage, all MPs will get a vote on third reading.

Both Iain Dale and Little Man in a Toque have already been predictably scathing about this, and they are right, although I don't blame Clarke so much as David Cameron, whose timidity on this subject is becoming legendary.

The answer to the West Lothian Question is painfully obvious and has been well-rehearesed on this blog: to give England the same degree of devolution as Scotland and equivalent democratic representation to other parts of the UK. This will require the creation of an English Parliament. Who will be the first main party leader to recognise this straightforward political reality?

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Anonymous said...

Or of course, Paul, it may be that the first to recognise the need for English "democratic representation" on the same level will realise that devolution of an English Parliament will create an even more unbalanced union and leave the function of a UK institution even more severely in doubt. The point really is; When will the first main party realise the Union is doomed and the only possibility is for all parties to become sovereign nations?

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right,what a pathetic fudge,but coming from Clarke no great surprise.

Cameron seems to forget when he comes up with the goods e.g IHT,stamp duty reductions his party's popularity soars,when he comes up with Labour light policies people say what's the difference.

Doug said...

I'm not convinced the process would be anything like as straightforward as the principle.

Stephen said...

100% right Paul. It is unfortunate that the Tories are not alone in their blinkered attitude to the concept of an English Parliament. I suspect the proposal would have considerably more public support than John Prescott's nonsensical attempt to create 'Regional Assemblies' too.

David Boothroyd said...

Let's understand exactly what you mean. Are you talking a separately elected body, with its own executive, not subordinate to the United Kingdom Parliament but running services in England broadly comparable to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly?

If so, how much would the establishment of such a body cost? What would happen to the United Kingdom Parliament? What would happen to the legal system, which England and Wales share? How would the United Kingdom Treasury account for public expenditure when more than half of public sector spending is out of its control? What financial powers would the English Parliament have over its income? How would you deal with objections that a Parliament covering England isn't noticeably closer to the voters than one covering the UK?

Very easy to say 'the English should have what the Scots have' but in practive there's a great deal more to be decided.

Letters From A Tory said...

Cameron bottled it. His desire to appease is still stronger than his desire to lead.

Anonymous said...

Well, of course the answer to your question is that the first leader of a main political party to advocate an English Parliament is Nick Griffin of the British National Party.