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The logic in the proposals is so watertight that no-one can possibly argue against it. As an Englishman I feel great resentment at the current disparity. Yes, take these proposals into the next election and let's end this loophole in our democratic system.

Either a full and proper union, with no Scottish or Welsh Assemblies, or something along the lines suggested by Malcolm Rifkind are the only fair and equitable outcomes. The current buggers muddle whereby the Scottish and Welsh have devolved powers but continue to vote on matters that do not affect their constituents has become totally untenable. The beneficiaries seem to be everyone but the English, oh and the Labour party unfairly benefit as well of course.

Will there also be an English, Welsh and northern irish grand comittee for issues that have only been devolved in scotland?

Don't mind how it happens to be honest - I certainly don't feel "used" by Salmon! I will feel even less so when my taxes go down.

"Taken to its logical extent it would create multiple categories of MPs. "

I never get this. We already have multiple categories of MP.

MPs in one category have a general mandate, and the other only a mandate for certain national issues.

One category has an extra tier of representatives below them who presumably deal with a lot of the 'social work' that MPs have to do, and the other doesn't.

If Rikind's plan works then good, but I see absolutely no reason to be alarmist about the break up of the union. All the union does is create bad blood these days. So the only reason I can see for people being concerned about its breakup is financial, otherwise all the other arguments(defence, culture etc) don't stand up to scrutiny and it basically boils down to sentimentality about an empire that is no longer.
To blame the current situation on Salmond is disingenuous. It was the Labour party that caused this fissure by creating an ill thought through devolution settlement, for heavens sake these are the people who didn't build enough prisons and increased sentencing. They weren't and aren't remotely competent enough to deal with Constitutional matters and the end result is this mess.

New intiative?

'In particular, there is unfinished business with regard to the government of England. The Scots and the Welsh should have no hesitation in recognising that the English do have a legitimate grievance as a result of the Constitutional changes associated with Devolution.'

'The best way to do this would be to constitute an English Grand Committee'

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, 19 June, 1998

This 'solution' has been knocking around for years and was proposed in Edinburgh to the Scottish Council Foundation. Such largesse but I will not digress.

In his lecture Sir Malcolm also stated:

'The logical solution to this problem would be the creation of an English Parliament'

However, he dismissed logic in favour of this half way house solution which is full of more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire.

Just imagine the cries of injustice and grievance as the lumpen herd of Scottish MPs is corralled out of the chamber like Highland cattle to some sort of holding pen while the arrogant English hold court?

Do we really need to endure even more of which we ceaselessly endure? Did we really not learn from Irish independence and how unworkable cherry picking the legislative agenda really is?

Devolution caused the problem. Sir Malcolm acknowledged this at the time (above) and recognised that English nationalism would explode and yet still our political masters proceeded and now denounce the English consequences that they themselves created.

As the gentleman from Huntingtdon put it:

'Necessity hath no law' That was Cromwell in the last English parliament.

Do the Tories think only London MPs should vote on Crossrail, only countryside MPs vote on fox hunting, only coastal MPs vote on fishing?

If the Labour party sets up a Provinces Parliament, an Urban Parliament and an Inland Parliament, we might have to think about such ideas.

Doesn't go far enough; what Rifkind proposes may have worked if implemented by Labour when Devolution was granted but events have moved the agenda forward.

I don't think the Tories realise how much the voters south of the border are fed up with their current constitutional status - and why should the argument about whether or not Scots eventually decide to shed their comfort blanket and vote for independence reside with them alone?

To all intents and purpose Conservatism in Scotland is a lost cause. What DC needs to do is pass on our best wishes to Ms Goldie et al, position his party to champion the interstest of the English and give the largest nation in the so-called "Union" the chance to vote for independence. That would really cook Labour's goose.

I’m not a conservative voter but I hope we see something good from Cameron here. After watching Harman this morning on The AM show, I hope in PMQs this week (or whenever this is debated) Cameron & Co remind her and her Labour lackeys that whilst they are clinging desperately onto Scotland to remain in power their argument on English Democracy is going to have to get a lot better. Watching her sprout on about how “people” didn’t care about the West Lothian issue and rather wanted more regional representation just reminds me what a short memory politicians have. Labour were defeated, by a huge majority, on regional assemblies in their own heart land, The North-East (I know, you won’t win there so you don’t usually bother), when Prescott was blundering around Westminster. I hope this is pointed out to them; voters don’t want to continue to be told that what they voted against is actually what they really want by this incompetent Labour Government.

Not sure how EVEL will ensure a split in the Union as the Observer appears to think. In my opinion it is likely to help preserve it. I hope all Scottish Conservatives will support it.

I have not seen anyone answering the difficult questions which go with this approach. Will there be a separate English executive, with its members accountable to the English Grand Committee and not to the UK Parliament? Will there be a separate English statute book for the Acts passed by the English Grand Committee? Will there be scrutiny of Bills by a second chamber and if so, how? Will there be a separate English treasury?

Will it be impossible to bring forward a Bill which contains UK-wide and English-only provisions? How will this be enforced? What if the English Grand Committee agrees an amendment which extends beyond its subject areas?

We have 1 MP in Scotland and little hope of adding more than a couple more next time.

If we now ramp up the Scottish question it will have resonance in England and undermine Brown's legitimacy.

20 months of this and the GE will bring the removal of Labour from Govt.

"Eventually, he figures, English Tories will turn against Scotland, and a split become inevitable."

A touch of chicken & egg here, maybe.
For some time I have noted references on Scottish newspaper comment boards that if the Tories come to power, it would hasten the Scots' mood towards independence. This long predates any implication that adverse proposals by English Tories now would produce that result. Get into power and you're damned north of the border anyway!

Part of the problem is that any suggestions towards resolving England's democratic deficit are by definition regarded as anti-Scottish. References to Scottish MPs are taken as racist when in fact the phrase is simply shorthand for MPs elected in Scottish constituencies, whether or not they are personally Scottish.

Even Murdo Fraser might have muddled the distinction with "It is not for me as a Scot to say ...". On a personal basis, he is most welcome to express a view. Had he been writing in his official capacity as an MSP, I'd have told him to butt out. Same would have applied to Malcolm Rifkind, had he still been representing an Edinburgh constituency.

I'm not concerned with the fact that devolved Scotland has this or that goody, instead of some other goody.
I am appalled however that Scotland has the flexibility to decide its own priorities, whereas England does not, because the latter is governed by a UK administration rather than a devolved one. Adding insult to injury, the de facto First Minister of England is a Scot [= shorthand definition as above].

EVEL is insufficient as a remedy, because it is simply the longstop when draft laws get presented to Parliament. It does not address the processes of origination of those laws.

Come on Tories - boldly go where three others have gone before!

Half measures are no better than not bothering, and Rifkind's idea barely a half measure.

We wouldn't need English votes for English Laws if our so called representatives voted to their conscience, rather than to the tune of the party whip. What is the point of having English votes for English Laws when there will be a Scottish elected Prime Minister telling the majority of them, MP's, where and on what to vote?

What is needed is for the English electorate to be given the opportunity to vote for an Executive with a program and agenda they want. That requires an English Parliament.

Sometimes I can't believe what I'm reading. Are we the party of the Union or an English party?

We were brought to this disparity by devolution, which, it is plain to see by all, has well and truely unleashed the nationalist genie.

Plans of this sort only put us even further down the road to the break up of the UK.

We have two choices. Scottish MPs should continue to vote on issues concerning England. This has zero effect on people's quality of life in England.


Scrap the pointless assemblies and parliaments and go back to the way it was.

People shouldn't be playing politics and thinking of this in terms of electoral gain. It's far too sacred for that.

And further to complaints that many of us here remain anonymous here is an email that I have just received:

'There is no England, your country is over-run by #### people and #### - every day that passes hereonin your country moves closes towards an #### state. I am Scottish and moved down to England for a temporary period and I thought your country was ####, Lewisham, Barking, Ilford, East Ham .... nice places.

Come and live in Scotland'

This is pretty typical of the bile and personal threats received. The worst comes from white supremacists, oh wait a minute as above, who wish to firebomb me because I am not a white supremacist.

Discussing nationalism is highly dangerous to your email inbox.

Entirely the wrong approach. We should be emphasising what unites English, Scots, Welsh Northern Irisih to be "all British together." This is just playing Salmond's game.

I recall that as devolution for Scotland was going through the Commons, a headline in one national newspaper asked "Will England be the first country to leave the United Kingdom?" I find that sentiment particularly relevant today.
I favour the four nations that up the UK having national parliaments all with the same powers, elected by PR.
Westminster would still be elected by first-past-the-post, but its powers as a supreme nationwide parliament would be limited to foreign relations, justice, defence of the realm, social security, pensions, taxation, customs, revenue and excise, and border controls along with policing (clawed back from the devolved nations) and a national transport policy covering airports, railways, and motorways. This would also allow for properly structured Commons debates and legislative scrutiny, whereas today debates are shoehorned into a few hours with little accountability.
The Rifkind model does not fully answer the West Lothian question. I'm not a Little Englander and do not want the UK to break up. But unless Brown concedes that England is being unfaily treated, I fear for the future of our very democracy.

We should all support Alex Salmond in his wish for Scottish independence, as long as we in England can have a vote in a referendum. This is bound to ensure that they get their independence and they can have their own Tartan House of Commons and we can have ours. I think we know which party will be running ours!

The Labour government must have known that this would be the inevitable consequence of Labour’s Scottish MPs hypocritically propping up the government’s majority on university top-up fees.

May I remind everyone that we are the Conservative _and Unionist_ party?

This West Lothian nonsense is grist to Salmond's mill.

GB chopped off at the thorax would leave England a sad rump. As a Scot living in England, this is not what I signed up for.

What is needed is for the English electorate to be given the opportunity to vote for an Executive with a program and agenda they want. That requires an English Parliament.
This is one way of doing it, another would be to have a Cornish Parliament, Wessex Parliament, Yorkshire Parliament, Mercia Parliament, East Anglia Parliament etc... etc...

Indeed I rather favoured the regional structure of the Scottish Regional Councils and these separately could have been given the powers that the Scottish Parliament now has.

In Ulster I wouold rather have favoured existing Local Government being given similar powers and in Wales maybe some kind of regional system, but also with a return in Scotland, Wales and England of historic counties, with a reduction of MPs at Westminster to a third of the current number and either replacement of the Lords with Select Committees with membership open to outside experts, or using a variety of elections on a different basis perhaps reflecting age groupings (maybe allowing a lower voting age than for elections to the Commons) and perhaps representing overseas UK territories with some seats and maybe even a small input from Commonwealth and other countries outside UK control (elected of course according to criteria and observation satisfactory to the UK Parliament). Of course there is not neccessarily need for direct elections to devolved bodies, they could be made up by members of the Local Government in the areas covered who together could comprise the higher body.

I'm loving the Cairns strawman. The last refuge of a man who can't rebut the actual argument.

The union died at devolution, the only decisions now are who gets what share of the cake.

Personally I'm sick of being treated as a second class citizen in my own country.

A full English parliament is a minimim requirement (and preferably in somewhere like York and not London).

Cameron should make a manifesto commitment to this and watch Brown squirm.

I want to be governed by English Conservatives not by Scottish socialists and I want the money I pay in taxes to be spend here not in foreign countries.

The English Parliament should remain at Westminster where it has been for centuries.

The UK Parliament should move to a marquee somewhere equidistant between the four national parliaments. Liverpool would seem ideal.

A marquee because there's little sense in erecting anything permanent.

Surely even the dimmest member of the Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland, should take the hint. Its time to sever all connections, with the Conservative and non-Unionist party South of the Border.


A full English parliament is a minimim requirement (and preferably in somewhere like York and not London)
Seems improbable that an English Parliament would be in York if there was one, I would imagine if an English Parliament were to be established and it were outside London, that Birmingham, Leicester, Derby or Coventry would be more likely.

I rather favour a new UK Parliament being built with video-conferencing facilities allowing for remote voting and for people fromk outside to address the floor of the house. I would favour somewhere more central in the UK, and also higher up to avoid possible problems with higher sea levels and storm surges caused by climate change - I would favour Macclesfield, Buxton, Leek or somewhere in the higher parts of Sheffield.

The Westminster Parliament could then be privatised for use as a museum, which really is largely what it has long been.

So when is anyone going to answer the question about what would effectively be English matters only ministers in the UK government. Currently the House of Commons as a whole can censure a minister. It can dismiss the entire executive as a whole. But that is because the entire House of Commons has everything within its remit.

If only English MPs can vote on "English matters", can English MPs vote no confidence in "English matters ministers"? And if so, what happens when the government as a whole still has the confidence of the Commons as a whole? And if not, how is this "English votes on English issues"?

"The logic in the proposals is so watertight that no-one can possibly argue against it."

The logic is too tight. In the 1980s only MPs in mining areas should have been the only ones able to vote on pit closures.

I find the idea of an English Grand Committee , ie a sub committee of the British pariament , completely insulting .

It derives from a mindset prevalent throughout most British circles wherein , above all , the English must not be allowed any national expression and certainly not any central forum of debate such as their own parliament .

Leaving aside the absolute procedural minefield which it would be precipitated in a dramatically nationally sensitised British parliament by such a measure ,
it is illogical , constitutionaly assymetrical and seems specifically almost designed to provoke ill feeling in both England and Scotland .

One can just imagine the immediate nationalist vortex of spite and controversy that will ensue on a Conservative governemnt's very first bill

-are the(Scottish)speaker's rulings fair

-do the Barnet Rules apply to this measure
if not , why not ?

-does this bill apply only to England in
all its clauses ( most bills are complex )

-what if the minister concerned is not English ?

- etc etc etc

There are dismayed comments above to the effect that the Conservative party is the pary of the Union . Well , it still can be but playing around with this unsatisfactory half measure will not preserve the Union . It will end it .

It really is now time for the Tory party to do something with which it is unfamiliar .
Put its thinking cap on , grapple with the absurdities of Blair's ignorant constitutional chaos and come up with an enlightened proposal .

This should be that the United kingdom will be federal state . It always has been partially federal - separate law , education , religion , institutions guaranteed by the Treaty of Union 1707.

Within it , there shall be national parliaments , including an English Parliament and an overarching British parliament .

Just in from CCHQ:

"Responding to Harriet Harman’s comments today, Nick Herbert, Shadow Justice Secretary, said:

“It is Labour's unbalanced devolution in Scotland and Wales which has fuelled the flames of nationalism, leading to a growing sense of unfairness and putting the Union at risk. The West Lothian question remains unanswered. Why should Scottish MPs have a right to vote on laws affecting, for example, hospitals and schools in England, when no MPs have a say over these issues in Scotland?

“We believe in the Union and we are determined to strengthen it. So we will re-balance our constitution by ensuring that MPs in English constituencies have the decisive say over English laws. Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce is looking at a number of options as to how this will work, and will report in due course.”"

Frank Field is calling for the Labour Party to settle the "Enlgish Question," because, he says, it would be dangerous if the Tories did it instead.
I would bet my house on the Labour Party being the first ones to come out and say English Parliament before the Tories do.
They would win the next election outright if they did that. And the Tories would be seen as stealing Labour's clothes if they left it too late.
Its no longer a queston of IF, but who will get there first. Labour or the Lib Dems.

Just to come back to Harriet Harman's comment about Crossrail; if there's a proposal to upgrade Glasgow's "clockwork orange" or to abolish all road bridge tolls north of the border, are these transport issues issues which are decided in Westminster, or are they matters for Holyrood only? If they are the latter (which they are Ms. Harman), then why could Scottish Westminster MPs potentially vote down the much needed Crossrail project? There's no way that's a fair settlement.

Ekky Thump "They would win the next election outright if they did that. And the Tories would be seen as stealing Labour's clothes if they left it too late."

Sounds like wishful thinking Ekky, Brown has ignored this issue and if he now did bring forward an English Parliament, it would look yet again like he was stealing tory clothes not the other way round. Brown just prays the whole thing goes away as there is absolutely nothing in tackling this from Labour's perspective. So instead whenever the issue comes up they resort to scaremongering ie spin which is after all the only thing they are good at.

The proposal is likely to be warmly greeted by Conservative members

Tim, you're having a laugh!

Apologies. Yet another long post on this matter.

Is this it? the great new idea on the WLQ. After 10 years of watching Labour abuse our constitution and suppress the English as democratically second class citizens this is all they can come up with at the 2nd attempt? And from a Scotsman to boot - that's rich!

For those saying this type of response is exactly what the SNP and Labour want. I don't care. This is nothing to do with Scotland and they have nothing to fear in my view. This is to do with England and English Based Voters being given parity of rights with the other three home nations.

As we see from the Labour response (and on this they are right) this will not make the WLQ go away. It will continue to rumble on and this proposal will fail if ever actioned.

We already have the open running sore of the EU simmering in the background. We do not need another one but WLQ looks likely to become one if this pathetic attempt at repackaging EVEL is all the Conservatives can come up with.

Each open sore is potentially another split in the Conservative party instead of something it could easily unite around.

There are several issues which make up the West Lothian Question.

1. The under representation democratically of the English based voter
2. The provision of Self determination for the English over domestic issues.
3. Equitable funding across the 4 home nations
4. A sense of English Identity for the English.

This 'English Grand Committee' is nothing more than a confidence trick from what I can see. In essence it is the same as EVEL with a fancy bureaucratic committee name.

It only addresses one of the four issues listed above (point 2) and does so in exactly the same flawed and inconsistent way that EVEL did. It is a rehashed warmed up dog's breakfast that will only bring our constitution, our political structures and our politicians into further disrepute!

I don't know whether to accuse those who came up with this totally transparent rebranding as being cynical, just plain stupid or cowardly?

Why, when it comes to constitutional issues do the party fall back on the ideas of Grandee Europhiles such a Clarke and Rifkind? They have never been able to convince many of us of the 'benefits' of the EU with its faux democratic institutions so what makes the party think that they will convince people on this?

Our constitution and democracy are broken and all they can suggest is to break it even more. English matters must be seperated structurally from UK matters.

Now is there anybody in the Conservative Leadership with the backbone to do so?

The real solution is a large and complex issue and needs to be addressed as such. It is not something that can be addressed by a cheap rebranding stunt.

Renegotiate and reform the funding arrangments, give us our directly elected separate assembly (ensuring the primacy of the UK government) and let the English be English!

If the leadership lack the courage to do this off their own bat then give the people their say. Let the English people decide. Give us a referendum and the party will have a mandate.

After all the Conservatives are supposed to be a localist party.

The options are easy enough.

1) Do nothing and let the inequality persist
2) Go down the cheap and nasty EVEL/ English Grand Committee (sic) route and create more constitutional chaos.
3) Go down the English Devolution (funding renegotiation & reform, separate assembly etc.)route and perhaps find a lasting solution

In doing option 3 you might just save the Union! The other two will likely not.

Yet again we see an occasion when a supposedly respected senior politician fails to provide a sound constitutional solution.

It is about time politicians were not allowed to fiddle with the constitution anymore. The temptation of self-interest is too great. It's time to provide a separate non-political body to safeguard the people's constitution.

Finally let me apologise to those who find this post harsh. I do not like being treated like a fool and therefore my response is appropriate to those within the Conservative Parliamentary party who would treat me like one!

David Cameron told Gordon Brown not to treat the people like fools, perhaps he should take his own counsel on this matter!

"I find the idea of an English Grand Committee , ie a sub committee of the British pariament , completely insulting ."

Jake I do too, the gist of Rifkin's case is that English people should have their issues decided by a committee of the great and good, not for them a Parliament or the right to decide their issues and priorities, no the people who created Parliamentary democracy are to be fobbed off with a bloody 'grand committee'.

Iain And John Leonard

I think you are both right, in my heart of hearts I can't see this working. Therefore Cameron should reject it and be bolder.

Malcolm Rifkin said that although he is in England, he would always keep one eye on Edinburgh (easily googled for evidence of this). This probably explains why we are not being offered a proper settlement. We need someone with both eyes on the job. Not one.
Besides, why is a Scotsman denying the England the same democratic rights as Scotland, when he supports Scotland having its own Parliament?
No doubt he will also want to give it a name that mentions Scotland as well. Can't we have anything of our own?

RifkinD, not Rifkin, Ekky Thump.

"Finally let me apologise to those who find this post harsh."

No its not, it bang on hits the mark.

For 10 years we have been waiting for the Conservatives to come up with a decent response to the discriminatory constitutional arrangement Labour have created, but they have flunked it every year. Now ten years on they repackage a miserable half arsed response they first proposed a decade ago, which doesn’t solve anything, and just perpetuates the inequality.

If the Conservatives have any desire to sustain some form of Union then they had better come up with a proposal that actually works, for anymore of this dithering and half measures is sure as dam it see an end to the Union in any form!

Hello John Gilmore

'GB chopped off at the thorax would leave England a sad rump. As a Scot living in England, this is not what I signed up for.'

I think beheading Gordon Brown is a bit harsh but each to their own.

What did you sign up to? To the best of my meagre knowledge I have yet to offered any signing up related activity. On most forms I do not even have the option of being English.

Meanwhile, Andrew Marr had Salmond on at lunchtime graciously granting an English parliament.

A Frenchman has just insulted me, via email, as follows:

'J*@!£" - bonjour je suis francais et je voudrais dire ca je deteste les anglais et j'espere tu mortirais.'

The gist seems to be wishing me dead and detesting the English.

Any proposal for a fairer democratic deal for the English coming from Rifkind should be very carefully examined and the small print magnified. This is the man who recently insulted those who do not wish England to be governed by edicts from Brussels - Rifkind does. This is the man quite prepared to go along with Brussels dictating to us who we will let immigrate into Britain. This is the man that would really deny us control of our borders along with some of his colleagues. So Rifkind is now a believer in democracy for England?

Typo, Felicity. You'll have to forgive me. I'm working class and was educated at as a commoner at a common, underperforming school in the north of England; a working class area where children would never even be named Felicity. We couldn't spell it.

"Not sure how EVEL will ensure a split in the Union as the Observer appears to think. In my opinion it is likely to help preserve it. I hope all Scottish Conservatives will support it."

Malcolm, to be fair, as far as I can remember, all the regular Scottish Conservative poster on this site have been supportive of sorting out the WLQ. I know that I have consistently criticised the idea that *some* Scottish MP's have been voting on English only matters.
What is often forgotten, maybe because of the small numbers involved, is that some Scottish MP's already do abstain as a matter of principle. Just think what a commendable thing it would have been, had all their colleagues done the same for the last 8 years since the birth of Holyrood?

Only MPs representing English constituencies being able to legislate on English-only matters is the right and fair way forward, and surely wouldn’t threaten the union as much as an English Parliament or English First Minister, and could address the devolution imbalance and thus make it less likely that Alex Salmond’s alleged wish for an English backlash would be granted? Anyhow, Alex Salmond (here on BBC) wants an English parliament – so that idea can’t be right!!

As for Labour protesting about the risk of Sir Malcolm’s idea breaking up the UK, why should English only MPs voting on English only matters threaten the union any more than Scottish MPs deciding English-only matters that don’t affect their constituents, while English MPs have no say on those same issues in Scotland?

I recall that at the time the Scottish Parliament was set up, it was suggested that for Shetlands and Hebrides etc, an Edinburgh government would be just as remote for them as the Westminster one. So I ask, rather than having set up this costly additional layer of Government in Scotland and Wales, could some powers have been devolved from Westminster to County level - in England as well - instead? Could this have brought Government closer to the people without threatening the union?

"Sometimes I can't believe what I'm reading. Are we the party of the Union or an English party?"

There IS no more Union: there hasn't been since 1997. Get your heads out of the sand and come up with policies that confront that political reality. The current assymetric devolution is fundamentally unstable and delegitimizing: within 10 years at most, possibly far less, there will have to be a federal UK or there will be no UK. Whether you or I or anyone else likes that reality is beside the point.


I found an article in todays Telegraph on-line which suggests there maybe more to this than is represented here by the Observer.

Sunday Telegraph Article

Here is an extract:

But in a newspaper interview Mr Cameron called the formula into question: “We are not currently looking at it, but it is a question we ask ourselves and we are right to do so: is the Barnett Formula right for the 21st Century?”

Do you know which newspaper David Cameron did this interview in and is it online? Perhaps for completeness you might also link the Telegraph article and the David Cameron interview.

My previous criticism stands but if the party are intending to go further than the Observer article suggests then that could be a different matter. Also are there any detailed descriptions of how the 'English Grand Committee' would be made up?

At last! Why has it taken so long for a major political party to address the injustice of Scottish rule over England. This will put Brown and Darling right on the spot. Keep the ideas going like this and the next election is in the bag.

The Union evolved its political nature - again- with devolution, and it's no good pretending that hasn't happened. Rifkind's proposals seem eminently sensible, properly ;'finishing off', as he says, the business of devolution which, in typically Blairite form, was an unfinished job. Harman's response this morning was ludicrous - it is patently absurd to talk of an English Grand Committee posing any more of a serious threat to the Union than devolution already has done. But then, she is a pretty absurd figure I guess.

Philip | October 28, 14:55
"I recall that at the time the Scottish Parliament was set up, it was suggested that for Shetlands and Hebrides etc, an Edinburgh government would be just as remote for them"

When I lived in Shetland for a while in the early '80s, several local folk expressed unease at the building pressure for devolution. They felt they had more prominence at Westminster than they would have at Edinburgh and did not see themselves as "traditional" Scots.

I had no interest or knowledge (..still the latter!) in political matters at the time and the topic of conversation was initiated by my friends.

"Taken to its logical extent it would create multiple categories of MPs. Where does it end? Do the Tories think only London MPs should vote on Crossrail, only countryside MPs vote on fox hunting, only coastal MPs vote on fishing?"

Speaking as an ardent Unionist - how the hell do they have the cheek to say that! Astonishing!

"Us Labourites thinks that only Scottish MPs should vote on Scottish issues; but those Tories think that only English MPs should vote on English issues! Only the Labour party is commited to the Union and a fair deal for all".

They're absolute bastards, and once their demolition of the Union has finally been played out, I hope they enjoy many years stuck in permanent opposition in England, with no compensatory dominance in Scotland and Wales any longer.

Harriet Harman has a cheek to say the Conservatives are not a unionist party when it was Labour who brought in these socialist ratchets (ie. the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly) which has damaged the Union more than anything else in the past 300 years.

I am a strong David Cameron supporter but one of our few differences is our position on whether these devolved governments should be abolished or not.

We have debated this on this site for a long time and the repeated consensus is that a Federal system provides a more elegant and complete answer to the problem than EVfEL. It has the support of the SNP, which reduces the risk of problems with the Union and is indeed, I believe, the only hope for the UK.

The leadership have been wilfully asleep to this issue for too long and now despite the obvious self-interest, despite the increasing public clamour, despite the repeated counsels of wiser minds, they are threatening to plump for the wrong solution, already debated and rejected by all those who have given the matter any thought. There's none so deaf as them that will not here. I like to think that having been shown, against their inclinations and better judgement, a killer policy, their public-school hankering for fair play demands they choose a policy so riddled with loose ends and uncertainties that it will give Labour a sporting chance to destroy it in a welter of detail as they have already started to do. Good show, chaps.


I appreciate that this is linked on your home page but as it clearly outlines the reasons why an English Grand Committee is a bad idea I think it should be included on this thread.

Campaign For An English Parliament Response to Iain Dale's Positive Thread on an English Grand Committee

It says it all really....

As I've been suggesting a Grand Committee for ages I can't but agree with Sir Malcolm. There are currently three Grand Committees in the UK Parliament for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively, the Scottish one is practically defunct as it hasn't met since just after devolution (but remains ready for non-devolved matters potentially mainly or wholly affecting Scotland.

So an English Grand Committee is wholly within the tradition and constitution of the United Kingdom. The existence of the other three gives both precedence and answers Cairns question on classes of MP - i.e. it's not a new invention but extends to England a constitutional approach previously extended to the other three nations, and if that infers different classes of MP then we have those already.

But neither is the EVoEL idea new, look at devolution proposals for Ireland. In Gladstone's Irish Home Rule Bill of 1893 Irish MPs could only have voted on matters affecting Ireland. In the later 1914 Government of Ireland Act while Irish MPs were not so restricted but numbers elected to Westminster were more than halved from 103 to 42. This was what was implemented for Northern Ireland when devolution was granted there - votes on all matters but very reduced representation.

Labour rejects all three of these historical precedents for partisan advantage; it offers no solution. It rejects also symmetrical devolution preferring that the settlements in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland differ and no settlement offered to England.

An English Grand Committee is a very Conservative proposal built on the institutions of this nation; not perfect in theory but sensible in practice. That's what Tories do - they conserve our institutions and judge by practicality not political theory.

And the latest on the Welsh position:

BBC Article on Welsh Referendum

Seems like we English are just being left behind.......

Talk of where to put an English parliament should reveal that you have not thought this through properly. The system of devolution as it stands at present is not working because it wasn't set up for the people but for perceived party agendas. We should not fall into the same trap. Parts of the devolved nations (Scotland and Wales)as they stand at the moment feel deeply left out by other parts. It would be exactly the same in England. Do you really think Cornwall will want to be run by York or Sunderland run by Birmingham? We should not copy the botched devolution Labour instituted with more bureaucracy. A few years down the road and people in England will realise all the problems. As a party we need to think first of what we need to do to serve the people of our islands and their needs. The majority of those people want better decision making and value for money. On balance many decisions would be best made closer to the people at the sub-regional level or by people themselves. This would be proper devolution and would be a true centre-right solution based on freedom and responsibility. Once people see their counties and parishes better empowered, represented and fairly funded they will actually be better able to see the point of the Union, this being in fact a mechanism to address the bigger issues that effect the island of Britain.

We don't need our own parliament

What needs to happen is for us to get rid of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies


I seem to recall that David Cameron actually called for an English Parliament in 2006 but got called a 'xenophobe' publically by Ken Clarke for his pains.

So when we talk about who is for and against this in the party we must make sure we know who is saying what.

My own view is increasingly that 'Old Nags' such as Clarke and Rifkind are hindering the further advancement of the party. Perhaps it is time they were put out to grass!

Frank Field has rightly pointed out that this is a dangerous issue for Labour, even more so if we come up with modern solutions.

Alongside IHT, stamp duty changes, Euro referendum etc this is yet another example of where we can outflank Labour in the 'battle of ideas'

I only hope that the bulk of the argument is around the delicate legal issues rather than whether individuals like/dislike Rifkind.

"We don't need our own parliament

What needs to happen is for us to get rid of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies"

Good luck with that. No offense, but politics is the art of the possible, and that is IMPOSSIBLE, so not seriously worth even suggesting. The pre-1997 unitary UK is Humpty Dumpty and you are not going to put it back together again. Just what exactly is so horrible about the idea of an English national parliament taking its proper place alongside its Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts, with the UK parliament and government retaining authority over the same matters for the whole of the UK? Why instead should England be the last colony of the British Empire, effectively treated as unable to govern itself?

I suppose as an American federalism seems a naturally reasonable and highly practical solution to exactly such questions. Why are you are all shrieking blue murder as you clutch at straws trying to reinvent the wheel? The UK created two of the world's most stable federations--Australia and Canada--without any radical departure from the Westminster model, so why wouldn't it work at home?

Perhaps we had better prepare for the worst. If we won the next election but only had 4 or 5 seats in Scotland ( and I'm being optimistic) why would the Scots want to be represented in EU negotiations and have their fiscal policies determined by a government that could not be said to represent them. What if we had a referendum on the EU treaty/constitution and Scots voted 'yes' and the rest of the UK said 'no'?
I think it likely that Scotland could vote to join the euro but England would reject it.
There are a host of issues which are likely to push England and Scotland further apart in the future. Like many Britons I've family connections with all the historic nations in the UK and I would be sad to see the end of the Union. However, the present arrangements are unfair to England and cannot continue. Either we have a federal system: separate assemblies and executives for the different nations and a federal Parliament, reduced to say 300 MPs in Westminster. Or we go our separate ways, as amicably as we can make it.

Dave J | October 28, 20:01
What commonsense!
Thank you.

Whether common sense will prevail however seems doubtful.

This is an important problem, unfortunately the Union has been irreparably and fatally damaged by devolution and we can't roll back what they've done.
The Conservatives under Cameron should go further and study the viability of a Federal system, it could be the best way forward in solving the problem, bring back balance to the undemocratic mess nuLabour has created. Each state being responsible for its own affairs in tax and public finances with all national affairs being handled by a Federal Government at Westminster.

Additionally the English Parliament would be best located somewhere else, York popped up and seems like a good idea. The Federal Parliament would stay in London as the Embassies and other international organisations are based there and moving them would be inefficient. This way the Conservatives would be seen as fixing and balancing the issue, giving power back to the people to whom it matters and preserving the UK is a form that would be different but more Democratic than it currently is.

We will all mourn the passing of the Union, but after we've made peace with that we should look to the future and who knows, it might be better for us all.

You need English elected representatives voting on English laws and those matters of competency being administered by and English Executive.

Just like they have in Scotland.

Nothing else will do.

What one-sided coverage on the BBC news tonight. Every comment was about this planning threatening the Union, very little about the inequality to England.

A great idea and a good first step.

YMT | October 28, 21:28
"York popped up and seems like a good idea."

Are you trying to restart the Wars of the Roses?!

Better make it approx halfway between York and Lancaster.

How about out on Blubberhouses Moor midway between Harrogate and Skipton?

Absolutely agree. The BBC coverage of Rifkind's proposals was couched in terms of Labours reaction to it. Personally as a passionate Unionist I see these propsals as the minimum required to preserve the Union.

Matt Wright and I both live under the yoke of the assembly in Cardiff which has taken even more power from the local areas and concentrated it in Cardiff.

Matt is absolutely right in proposing that even greater local accountability is the answer. The regional "solution" does not work.

What is interesting about the "English" solution is that both England and Wales operate a common legal system and some decisions would have to allow both English and Welsh MPs to vote whilst excluding Scottish MPs.

I hope this whole issue continues to gather momentum, and I am sure it is possible to ensure EVforEL's without too much expense. It wouldn't surprise me if Brown didn't quite enjoy his Scottish MP's voting on English issues, apart from helping his majority!

I think this issue is a vote winner in England, and if Brown thought that this would be the case, he will definitely filch this idea too. I haven't said that he would pinch it from Malcolm Rifkind, because he/Brown would not be able to help himself inasmuch as he would fiddle and tamper with the idea like he did with IHT, so that in the end it cost a lot of money, and probably IN FACT nothing would be actually changed!

So what England needs is:-

A Scotch Tory parachuted into a safe English constituency telling the English they can't have a parliament because the Scots wouldn't like it. So this Scotch Tory's answer is we should have a Grand Committee of the kind the Scots despised. Wasn't it Rifkind that made sure the poll tax was introduced into Scotland via this marvellous Grand Committee? The same man of the same party that were both booted out by the Jocks and set the devolution ball rolling?
Let's not forget that David "I've got lots of Scottish blood in my veins" Cameron always blames the English for everything (the latest being his crass statement "I've made the point that a lot of people in Scotland get understandably upset when they come south and shops start looking at their money as if it's monopoly money.")
Not quite in the same league as dying of cancer because you can't get drugs in England, while still paying with real English money to ensure the same drugs are freely available to Scots, is it?
Cameron is a class one dope.

Only MPs representing English constituencies being able to legislate on English-only matters is the right and fair way forward, and surely wouldn’t threaten the union as much as an English Parliament or English First Minister
It then raises the spectre of London MPs being able to vote on issues that in the GLA area are devolved - the only answer is a Federal system and a UK wide solution of devolution rolled out with equal powers devolved in each area.

Good to see you on board John. I will keep making the case for localism as I believe it is the best way forward to the conundrum of half baked devolution and the Union.


"Matt is absolutely right in proposing that even greater local accountability is the answer. The regional "solution" does not work."

Giving greater autonomy to local government, and creating an English Parliament, are not incompatible or mutually exclusive. Rather, they are both good ideas. Counties and municipalities in the US and Canada generally have far more power than in the UK, and that doesn't undermine the states/provinces or the federal government.

"Are you trying to restart the Wars of the Roses?!"

haha, forgot about that. True. But it should be out of the South East to appease feelings that all government is centered down here in the south. Plus it could help beef up a city and create a new metro hub as we desperately need to think of ways of stopping the flow the population into the SE, its getting too crowded down here!

Who is gong to be on this "Grand Committee"??

Why must England have a lesser solution than the other members of the Union?

This is one sure way to kill off the "Union".

"[English parliament].. should be out of the South East to appease feelings that all government is centered down here .."

Great idea.

As to suggestions of regional/sub-regional devolution -- also a possibility, provided that they weren't within the sphere of the current devolution on a national-except-England basis. E.g. devolved powers would go to, say, a Highlands & Islands Region, there no longer being a Scottish Parliament. Maybe a Borders Region might straddle the border? Although that would present admin difficulties through separate Scots and English legal systems, I happen to think that it is odd that we haven't merged the systems after all this time, taking the best aspects of each tradition.

So long as the national devolution principle exists, then England has to be included and how any devolved administration organises its sub-units is a matter for its own discretion.

Cameron/Rifkind's plan will add more fuel to the independence fire for sure. The Union is clearly under serious attack and Cameron will not be the one to defend it.

Today's Scotsman- http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1723192007
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, described Sir Malcolm's proposal as "some sort of spatchcock solution to appeal for votes in Middle England". He said:
"I am a great believer in an English parliament, and you know a lot of folk say that England couldn't manage on its own. I decry that entirely. I've got every confidence in the people of England to be fully self-governing. I think they'll make a fantastic job of it and we'll be the best of neighbours and the best of friends."

Alex Salmond - Saviour of England.
Couldn't the party engage him as a consultant, please?

You might enjoy:


About on the same level of Salmond's remarks.

"In the 1980s only MPs in mining areas should have been the only ones able to vote on pit closures."

Fair enough, so long as only people in those constituencies paid for the subsidies required if the pits were kept open.

I see lots of grumbling from "English" contributors about how "unfair" it is that the Scots get, as they see it, a better deal out of the Union. Well, tough! That happens in a country. If you chase off the Scots on this ground, who will be your next target? Will you complain about how beneficial regional policy is to Sunderland and Newcastle and so want to be rid of the North-East? What will come next? Should Liverpool worry? What about the South West?

The reality of living in a country is that taxpayers in some parts subsidize those in other parts, for the sake of the whole. If you want an argument for being rid of the Scots, I think you should come up with something better than that!

Personally, I disagree with all sorts of our regional policy, as it has been conducted for the past eighty-odd years. But I accept that I live in a democracy, and once I've made my argument and lost, then I accept that what will happen is that the winning government will enact its policies. I don't hope to improve matters by cutting down the country to only people that agree with me!

Andrew Lilico | October 29, 13:38

I've not grumbled about redistribution of money to more needy regions. It is the fact that they have discretion to deploy their allocations according to their priorities, a discretion not available to England.
My gripe is that the devolved components have grand committees, Secretaries of State and devolved administrations, whilst at the same time getting involved with governance of my undevolved component, whether by voting on matters of no impact on their devolved area or by holding positions such as de facto First Minister of England (aka Prime Minister of UK) although elected in another nation.
England meanwhile has to make do with the ministrations of the UK government.

Give us back Union, if you are truly a unionist party. Then you can carry on with Barnett Formulae, Groschen Proportions or whatever other pork-barrel devices have been used in the past and I'll shut up moaning.

Alas, there are but two partial solutions on offer from politicians right now. On the one hand Mr Rifkind offers a recycled sop that would be messier than the problem it purports to resolve. On the other hand, ladies & gentlemen, I present to you Mr Alex Salmond, the only prominent UK politician who actually has eloquence, vision and sense of purpose on the subject. Admittedly it is not my preferred outcome but at least his objective has the merit of resolving a large part of the problem.

Andrew Lillico:

It seems to me that the essence of your argument is that because we live in a democracy we should just put up with the flaws in the current arrangements and not seek to complain.

To me that does not sound like an aspirational or democratic view but more one based on some sort of authoritarian view of life. We the public should do as we are told and not question it.

The devolution act was flawed and the Barnett formula is flawed. They both need to be reformed to improve the situation for all. Now either you wish to block progress or support it. Your choice really?

As for me I support progress and if there is a better way of doing things I will look to support it.

Re Dave J at 6.08 - yes but as people saw that better local decisions making was giving them the accountability they craved, you wouldn't need full blown parlaiments in the 4 nations. You would have lean Assemblies and strong counties and communities. In Westminster a smaller number of MPs form across the UK would address the big strategic issues that effect all of us. This is the honest, non-partisan approach that puts the people first.

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