England and the Union: How and why to answer the West Lothian question

~ 7563 ~ England and the Union: How and why to answer the West Lothian question ~ Jim Gallagher Jim Gallagher
Published Thu 19 Apr 2012
This report recommends a series of changes to existing procedures within the UK parliament to overcome the practical implications of the West Lothian question, which asks how can it be right after devolution that non-English MPs still get to vote on English domestic matters.

The proposed solution includes a vote in the House of Commons to determine whether a bill should be treated 'as if' it applied to England only and the creation of a new 'English grand committee' to conduct the usual report stage for such 'England-only' bills.

The West Lothian question is an anomaly. It follows from having devolved legislatures for some of the UK but not for England.

Today, there are three factors at play which, taken together, might elevate the question from a theoretical anomaly into an issue that demands an answer: political divergence within the British union, the number and significance of various national groups of MPs, and whether or not the English people themselves see it as a problem.

Now, a strong case can be made for addressing the question: perhaps most importantly, English voters may be beginning to see themselves as a political unit, and three-quarters of them think that this matters. It is arguably better to accommodate measured change now than to be forced into something damaging, in an unmanaged way, at a later date.

The report weighs procedural change against other options, including increased English regionalism, the creation of an English parliament and a 'devolution discount' on non-English MPs in the Commons, and also assesses two earlier proposals for similar change, made by Sir Malcolm Rifkind in 2007 and Kenneth Clarke in 2008.

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