Conservative Diary

« Cameron promises three-fold crackdown on immigration | Main | Highlights from David Cameron’s immigration speech »

A step closer to English votes on English laws?

By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter

Amid all the bother about immigration and Boris and Cyprus, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the report being released by the McKay Commission today. This independent commission was set up last year, with Government backing, to look into the question of…

“How the House of Commons might deal with legislation which affects only part of the United Kingdom, following the devolution of certain legislative powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales.”

…and it appears to have reached some significant conclusions about – and for – England. Among them is a recommendation that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs have their influence over English laws curtailed. The report will say that this can be done in a number of ways, including separate votes on legislative clauses that relate only to England.

The Cabinet Office assures us that it will reply to the Commission’s proposals in due course. Here’s hoping it doesn’t dismiss them out of hand. As the best report on this subject – the IPPR’s The dog that finally barked: England as an emerging political community – has already shown, English disgruntlement has spread alongside devolution. One poll in that report found that 34 per cent of English people want a settlement much like that one the McKay Commission will recommend, against 24 per cent who prefer the status quo and 20 per cent who would prefer a straight-up English Parliament. This sentiment could well intensify as the vote on Scottish independence nears.

Besides, it’s not just a case of quelling dissatisfaction, but also of righting an unfairness. This is something that Harriet Baldwin – who, in her written submission to the McKay Commission, referred to the “unfair devolution settlement” – understands well. We included her battle for “Justice for England” in ConservativeHome’s recent series on Little Guy Conservatism not because, by itself, it’s a massive vote-winner, but because the current set-up fuels the idea that politics is constructed without sense and wired against normal folk. This is an idea that the Tories should, at all times, be happy to dispel.  

If the Tories don’t do it, Labour might. Yes, it’s true that Ed Miliband’s party stood aloof from the McKay Commission – declining to submit evidence, allegedly because they don’t want to help strengthen Tory control over English legislation – but I wouldn’t be surprised if they trammelled across this territory still. Jon Cruddas, who’s in charge of the party’s policy output, has previously called for a “truly English Labour Party”. And he’s also been campaigning for an English national anthem. At the very least, Labour figures will probably start dropping the E-word into more speeches – particularly after Scotland’s vote, when there’s no risk of upsetting Alistair Darling’s unifying efforts.

In the meantime, how about re-reading some of ConHome’s writing about England, the West Lothian Question and all that? Here are Tim Montgomerie, Paul Goodman and Roger Scruton.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.