09 June 2008

Here we go again

Ah yes, the English Question. The Telegraph reports:
Scottish MPs would be banned from voting on new laws for England under Conservative plans to rebalance the British constitution.
(Well not quite, actually - see below.)
The Daily Telegraph understands that David Cameron is preparing to throw his weight behind a plan to give English interests more explicit recognition at Westminster.
The Tories will next month publish the report of a review led by Ken Clarke, the former Chancellor, which has drawn up new proposals in the wake of the creation of the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Clarke:
... is said to have advised allowing all MPs to vote on English legislation at the initial second reading stage of parliamentary scrutiny. But only English MPs would get to vote during the detailed committee stage of the legislative process, where real changes can be effected.
At the third and final reading, all MPs could once again vote, but a new parliamentary undertaking would prevent any party using Scottish votes to block amendments made by English MPs.
Well so what, I hear you say. Scottish MPs are not usually appointed to the committees looking at English bills (although in the good old days English MPs sometimes had to be dragooned onto committees looking at Scottish bills in order to ensure that the membership adequately represented the party distribution in the Commons as a whole). And, anyway, this arrangement is only likely to be adopted if the Tories gain power - in which case the scope for using Scottish votes to block amendments at report stage would be severely limited.

I don't suppose that this will prevent Labour and SNP from seeking to argue that Scots MPs are being discriminated against and that they will become second class Members (or at least that they will become more second class than they are at present).

In practice, the proposals seem fairly innocuous, but perhaps I'm missing something ...

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