Do you think that the Union can be sustained without England having its own
parliament? TOM JACKSON, Stockport
Yes, I do. Politics and political parties are unpopular enough, without asking the country to pay yet more money for another group of elected politicians to argue in our very over-governed country. The present botched devolution settlement is unfair to England, and many more English people are now annoyed about that. I suggest we go to a system of English votes for English issues within the Westminster Parliament.
Compare the answer to THIS blogpost on John Redwood's blog, where he adopts an idea I put forward last year...
Let me try to explain my idea again. This is not official Conservative policy which is still being discussed. The official Conservative policy in 2005 was to create English votes on English issues in the Westminster Parliament to deal with the worst imbalance of Labour’s bodged and biased devolution “settlement”. My proposal goes further. I suggest that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved assemblies settling a range of agreed issues on the Scottish model. We elect MPs to Westminster who are dual mandate MPs in every case. Those sitting for Scottish seats sit in the Edinburgh Parliament part of the time to settle Scottish
matters, and sit in the Westminster Parliament to settle Union matters for the
rest of their working time with MPs from the other three parts of the UK. There
would no more Scottish elections for a different cast of characters to be MSPs -
instead Westminster MPs elected for Scottish seats would also be the MSPs.
Those sitting for English seats would sit in the English Parliament - meeting in the Westminster building which has been the home of the English Parliament for many hundreds of years, prior to it becoming the Union Parliament in 1707. They too will meet with colleagues from the rest of the UK to settle Union matters at Westminster, which would also remain the home of the UK Parliament. It would be up to the elected English MPs to decide what office holders they wanted to carry out their business. These proposals would
a) Restore symmetry and fairness between the different countries of the Union
b) Save money compared with a model which required yet more politicans to be
elected to a new English Parliament, and compared to the present model with the
current additional elected people in Scotland and Wales
c) Ensure full time use of the Westminster Parliament and facilities, and better value from all elected politicians.
d) Overcome some of the weaknesses of the Scottish (and English) Parliaments being the subsidiary bodies, dependent on tax and grant votes in the Union Parliament for the money they spend. If we carry on with two different sets of elected representatives, one in the each of the devolved bodies and one in the UK body, it provides every excuse for no accountability. The devolved representatives blame the Union for insufficient funds, and the Union MPs blame the devolved administrations for running things badly. No-one is to blame. if the same people carry out the devolved functions and share responsbility for the Union functions it is easier to establish accountability.
Of course the Union can only survive if enough people in all parts of it want it to. At some point we need a referendum throughout the Union on whether the settlement is working and whether the Union is still supported.
The longer we avoid dealing with this question, the more difficult it will be when we do finally come to discuss it.