Wednesday, October 04, 2006

English Parliament Remains a Fringe Issue for the Tories... But Not For Much Longer

Lasty night I addressed a fringe meeting titled ANSWERING THE ENGLISH QUESTION along with Sir George Young and Peter Riddell of The Times. George was the original architect of the English Votes for English Measures policy and continues to advocate it as the best way of solving the West Lothian Question. If that was the only objective, I would support it too. But it is a band aid, short term solution, which does nothing to address the wider constitutional imbalance which is emerging.

In my speech I advocated the creation of an English Constitutional Convention to examine the alternatives and the best way forward. My own view is that an English Parliament is the inevitable long term outcome. There are different ways this might work, but my preferred option would be to abolish MSPs and AMs and have Westminster MPs sitting for a week a month in their own Parliaments. This solution has the advantage of preserving the Union and reducing the number of paid politicians. It is also fair to each constituent part of the United Kingdom.

Peter Riddell wants to preserve the status quo because he thinks all the alternatives are divisive and would lead to the breakup of the Union. I was disappointed that he didn't articulate any change whatsoever, as the it is clear to most people that the status quo is just not sustainable.

I really don't believe the Conservative Party has yet woken up to this issue and is giving the attention it deserves. Perhaps it's time to crank it up a gear. Watch this space.


Jefferson said...

Good idea about getting rid of MSPs and AMs and having the Westminster MPs sit in their own regional parliaments. It would certainly give Scottish and Welsh MPs a greater sense of purpose and - as you acknowledge - it would cut down on the number of politicians. Surely a very popular move!

Anonymous said...

What do the English have to do, adopt the wolves in sheeps clothing tactics of the IRA to get notied in their own land ?

Man in a Shed said...

Yes agree here - an English Parliament could save the Union ( or as you say even better getting rid of the Celtic talking shops, which would be a lot cheaper for the English). Its the status quo thats running out of cords to play ;-).

The First Post ran an article on this yesterday. Don't agree with its conclusions.

Anonymous said...

This would be the issue which would actually get my off my arse and actively canvassing for a party (mainstream) that suport an English parliament.

Did you address the Barnett formula, the greatest tax on the english tax payers?

Anonymous said...

Alex Salmond expressed the view that as independent countries Scotland and England would be far better neighbours and with this happy solution in prospect my ,mind turned to sorting out the detrius of our long partnership . What do we do with the Nationality of Scots residing in England , what about the Oil They think its theirs as independent counties I would expect some hard nosed negotiations? What about the BBC and the Metropolitan Scots so prominent in Law Medicine , Politics and the Media . It looks like a messy divorce to me and imagine what being glued at the hip to your ex wife is going to be like.
I have an ex wife and I do not relish it . This is not going to be as easy as you think it is however inevitable. Take a look around Scottish nationalist web site and you will see that it is all about oil , to the English its all about the Barnett Formula .

The great regionalisation of voting patterns I have previously mentioned is obviously exaggerated here .

Anyone who is in favour of types of proportional representation should have a look at the mess that is the Scottish Parliament .

IT does frustrate me when I see this described as a minor issue. If Gordon Brown Government is propped up by Scottish votes then it will be the only issue that matters to Conservatives until the next election.

By the way Iain, I gave a speech last night to and a snippet may be on the television.
Fame at last

Glass House said...

Iain - What if you want one party to represent you in your scottish/welsh/english parliament and a different one to represent you in the UK parliament? Under your plan you would be unable to split your ticket.

strapworld said...


you criticise Riddell for not advocating change yet all you do is one almighty avoid the issue. It is a damned disgrace that now we have devolution English people are third rate citizens in their own land. You as an Englishman and hopefully an English MP should quickly assess your posaition as I do believe that this question will be paramount come the next election.

By allowing scottish mp's to sit in scotland etc. you are continuing the present situation. Calling for a Commission is another way of calling for an enquiry which is the normal fall back for any 'problem' politicians face.

I thought you had vision. This is just fobbing off the problem to others. You are (or will be) elected to LEAD. Either end devolution or create an English Parliament it is, in my view, as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Derek Wyatt's taken up your call to arms, I see

Anonymous said...

Crank it up Iain. At the moment the English are second class citizens, without a body to represent them, told by the Falconers of the world that any desire for an English parliament is nonsense, attacked for racism if we fly an English flag and ruled by a Scottish Raj that also dominates the Liberals.

What would happen if an MP for an English constituency were the first minister of Scotland, or the chief law officer, or the Scottish minister of transport? Shudder at the mayhem. Yet the first is what we will have in England soon and the latter two we already have.

If anything is breaking the union it is this inequality and the immediate attacks in the Scottish press on any English MP who says anything negative about Scotland or its current special status within the UK ( see the Scotsman today on Boris).

Iain Dale said...

Strapworld, you deliberately misunderstand me. I am very happy to accept English Votes as a short term solution. My point is that it is not sustainable in the long term.

Alfie said...

Well done Iain, you're right.

Out there, in everyday England, this issue and the failure to seriously address it is beginning to grate...... But it's a pity that politicians (and the media for that matter) are giving it such a low priority - apart from a few notable exceptions...

I must admit I was fairly disheartened when Boris made his comments about Jamie Oliver and Gordon Brown's impending coup of England....

Jamie, pies and stodge got all the headlines - his very real outrage at Brown's non mandate to govern England was completely ignored by the media pack - and that just cannot be right.

Anonymous said...

Why do so many people see preserving the union as the overriding issue?
Dissolution of the union, particularly as we would all be within the EU, seems completely sensible to me. Actually even without the EU aspect it seems a desirable outcome.

Toque said...


I'm just uploading the video of this fringe event. I'll email you the link when I have it.

Anonymous said...

Tories seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to Scotland - Union Good. Why? Separation would be good for England, good for Scotland and utterly catastrophic for Labour.

Anonymous said...

There already is an English Constitutional Convention

It commissioned an Ipsos MORI poll this year on an English Parliament

Within the framework of a federal UK 41% of people want an English Parliament, only slightly less than the 44% of Scots who achieved a Scottish Parliament by voting 'yes' in their referendum.

Rowners said...

Hi Iain,

This situation is one of the reasons I started my blog, I'm working on a piece to propose a solution. My line of reasoning was similar to your won, but I divided the time spent in each parliament between a week i.e. Friday-Sunday; constituency: Monday Tuesday; devolved parliament: wednesday thursday; westminster. If it was judged that there wasn't enough parliamentary time for each then I propose cutting back the summer recess a bit.

As far as the Conservatives are concerned though the one big problem with any solution of this nature is the Scottish Conservatives. I think the 17 sitting MSPs have been poor but trying to create a situation where they all lose their jobs would create massive friction. The current devolution settlement has existed for too long for this to be an easy transition. I want to go into more detail in my blog so I'll leave it there for now.

Also if you're interested keep your eyes peeled for a piece I'm going to do about why I think the general election will be a lot sooner than people think.


Anonymous said...

When the oil runs out what will the Scottish Nationalist campaign be based on?

Mark McDonald said...

nla, there's more oil to be taken out of the North Sea than has already been extracted, as anyone who lives in the North East or works in the oil industry knows.

The question is how to utilise it best, and using it to fill in the blanks on Gordon Brown's budget is not a good use of it.

Boris was partially right, the Scots shouldn't be subsidised, and when you look at the actual figures (not the GERS "fix") we are not subsidised, but if Boris wants to let us run our own fiscal affairs, and give us control of our own resources, then that's fair enough by me.

Platform9 said...

Home rule for England - nothing else will do for me.

Anonymous said...

Why does the Parliamentary union have to be saved anyway?

It only benefits career politicians and any shared matters can be dealt with through cross-border agreements or transnational organisations?

Just what is the point of it any longer? The idea of it as a "nation" only causes confusion and conflict between those nations within it that matter more to the people of those nations.

antisophist said...

Why is preserving the union such a sacred cow? Greater influence on the so-called world stage?

I think this is bogus, any influence comes from history, culture, the superior training of British soldier (if not their equipment and the appalling MOD) and the importance of the City of London. Not the valleys and the highlands.

If the Scots and Welsh want independence under the EU umbrella, and this solves the W Lothian qu and the barnett formula so much the better. Could still have a unified military.

Interested to hear any arguments in favour of the union (other than nostalgia) appropriate for the way the UK and the world is now.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is still under the illusion that EVoEL is even half workable, please read the following critique of this Conservative policy....

Sir-C4' said...

There are different ways this might work, but my preferred option would be to abolish MSPs and AMs and have Westminster MPs sitting for a week a month in their own Parliaments.

Believe or not, I've been proposing this measure for some years now. Over the summer, I proposed this idea to Cheryl Gillan (Shadow Welsh Spokesperson), but she wasn't keen on the idea becuase she believed that Labour would kick up a fuss. Even if Labour were to complain, their complaint would backfire on them as such a measure if it were introducted would show the Celts that the Tories are trying to make devolution work better for the Scots and the Welsh and would lead to more Celtic Tory MPs.

I also proposed this idea to a university lecturer in March, but he dismissed on the ground that there is "no desire from the English for greater autonomy, let along an English Parliament". Somehow, I find this hard to believe.

Anonymous said...


The policy you are advocating is just like UKIP's. The reality is that Scotland and Wales will never vote for a sitting 1 week a month Parliament, if it were even to get to a referendum in those countries - which it would have too. It is in the interest of the Conservative Party in England (I dare to say it!) and most importantly the people of England, for England to have its own Parlaiment sitting every working day.

Scipio said...

If we are gpoing to remain within the EU, then there is nothing to stop us having a federal Britain.

My preference however is to pull out of the EU, scrap the Scots/Welsh parish councils, and bring everything back under Westminter - but that ain't goona happen either.

Therefore, an English Parliament (based at Westminster - to avoid a new capitol building white elephant like the Scots one) is the only way forward. Then the Palace of Westminster can be used (on the rare occassion it will be needed)as the UK Parliament as well!

Afterall, that was it's original purpose before the act of union in 1703 (I think it was)!

Anonymous said...

Salmond: Independence Only Answer To West Lothian Question
Commenting on reports that David Cameron will attempt to address the West Lothian question, SNP Leader Alex Salmond MP has declared that independence offers the only feasible solution.

Mr Salmond said:

"I agree with Mr Cameron that English MPs must have the final say on English only laws. That is exactly why SNP MPs only vote on matters that have a direct impact on Scotland.

"However, it is deeply hypocritical that the Conservative's only MP in Scotland, David Mundell has previously taken part in debates and voted on issues that only affect England.

"The anti-Scottish bile that emanates from the rank of Mr Cameron's MPs doesn't disguise that a parliamentary device within the Westminster Parliament to prevent Scottish MP's from voting on Scottish only issues, would be impossible to define.

"Only independence for both England and Scotland offers a clear and realistic answer to the question. What is required is the establishment of two self-governing countries with responsibility for their own resources, working together with neither telling the other what to do.

"With the SNP neck and neck with Labour for the 2007 elections there is obviously a mood for change in Scotland. That change can help bring about the only realistic answer to the West Lothian Question - independence."

Anonymous said...

Here is something for you to think about chaps; All of the nuclear armed submarines are in Scotland, all of the air-borne nuclear bombs are at Scottish bases, so you better be nice when we split up don't you think. Possesion is 9/10ths of the law after all.

Sir-C4' said...

I totally agree with Adrian!

Anonymous said...

Why do you need to CREATE an English Constitutional Convention - there is already one existing, created by the Campaign for an English Parliament and the English Democrats, the next meeting is on 24 October 2006.

david kendrick said...

There should be no more than 30 Scottish MPs at Westminster, with constituencies about twice the size of English ones. This makes due allowance for the number of issues settled in the Scottish parliament. A smaller reduction in the number of Welsh MPs.

Respect thus given both to the WLQ and DC's desire to reduce the overall number of MPs.

HM Stanley said...


As someone familiar with the history of "constitutional conventions", I cannot think of a more unconservative solution. As always, the law of unintended consequences dictates that you get out of such a convention something very different from what you intend. [FYI, the American constitutional convention was called to fix a few problems with the existing Articles of Confederation, and ended up with an entirely new country].

And I suppose it is a sign of the times when so called "Conservatives" ask why preserving the Union is an instrinsic good. God! It is called the Conservative and Unionist Party!!

neil craig said...

PR spoiler warning.

If you are just going to turn the various nationalities' MPs into regional representatives too with the Westminster types elected by the FTPT system you are going to have a Scottish Parliament with 80% of the seats being Labour on 39% of the vote & presumably something similar in Wales. Having tasted PR I very much doubt if the Scots or Welsh would put up with this, I know I wouldn't, which would force both to choose independence.

Aany system that dictates their internal rule to Scotland & Wales will destroy the Union. You could choose to have all Westminster seats chosen by PR (England had a very slightly larger Tory than labour vote last time). I think any party that that prefered to break up Britain rather than having a proportional electoral would be considered almost treasonous by many, probably most, voters.system

Anonymous said...

Crank it up a gear Iain!! The English have historically always been sold on the idea of Britishness. The other home nations however, whilst enjoying the benefits of the union, have never committed fully to the idea. Why then, when the English begin to stir and ask for equality as a distinct nation are we labelled 'sour little Englanders' or 'petty nationalists' who are determined to break up the union? We have always been pro-Britain. If the Union was to fall apart then blame it on the 'petty nationalisms' of Wales and Scotland who have always been desperate to distinguish themselves apart from England. An English parliament is the way to go. EVoEM doesn't go far enough.

Anonymous said...

Can you please just go away and leave us alone - please?

Scotland rejected the Tories and have continually done so, we don't want you, and if the truth be told most Scots really want rid of the union with the English as well. To be completely honest I'd rather be in union with the Papua New Guineans.

And even now with Cameronian Conservatism even more left wing than New Labour, you aren't offering us in Scotland anything new, but more of the same - probably worse. The Scottish Tories are on their way to becoming fossils - there will be no Tory revival in Scotland, ever.

Independence for Scotland, then we can the policies we need to govern Scotland properly as an independent nation with its own seat at the UN. England can be left to whinge, whinge, whinge. Anything less is a fudge.

Anonymous said...

You can only have a "Union" if all member NATIONS (NOT "regions") have Parity!, at the moment the dont, England needs an Englisj Parliament and it WILL get one, Cameron and the Conservatives will miss the biggest Political own goal of all time if they dont offer England a vote on its own Parliament, and while we are speaking of "Unions" we need a referendum on EU MEMBERSHIP!, seperate referendums for England, NI and Scotland!.

Anonymous said...

"Why is preserving the union such a sacred cow?"

Quite. Even Tories are beginning to see that there is a contradiction between arguing for less state control in Scotland whilst also, rather loudly, arguing that Scotland must stay within the a state currently called the UK.

Where is is written in stone that the UK must always continue as a state and nothing less?

Simon Jenkins has articulated this quite well and we've seen Tory commentators come out for independence like Michael Portillo, Michael Fry and Niall Ferguson.

They realise you can't argue for less state control whilst dogmatically saying Scotland can't exist as a sovereign country without the state.

It's far morre in keeping with the traditional ethos of the old Scottish Unionist Party which was pragmatic on the issue like the example of John Buchan shows. Their unionism was based on the larger empire and commonwealth and not a narrow definition of the UK state.

Instead we have the the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party flatlining because it ties itself dogmatically to a constitutional position whose reasons have come and now gone.

Anonymous said...

Bloody cheek for ID to suggest replacing MSPs (elected by a form of PR) by MPs(no doubt still elected first past the post). PR has given Labour a fright in Scotland and has resulted in minority parties gaining representation. I believe this is called democracy.
In case you've forgotten, the people of Scotland voted for the Scottish Parliament and the system of voting. Very patronising of you therefore to suggest tearing it up just like that.

Anonymous said...

An English Parliament will mean the Labour Party will have no say in England - to get a say they would be forced to merge with the Lib Dems. I guess it would take 3 elections for this to sink in.

If this were a game of chess the first move David Cameron should make after winning an election (and before proposing an English Parliament) is to pre-empt this.

Frank Lee Speaking said...

Anthing is better than English REGIONAL assemblies, a la John Prescott.

Anonymous said...

Weren't we promised a referendum by the labour Leader in their manifesto regarding the EU.

Anonymous said...

Any relation to Mrs Dales Diary.

Anonymous said...

The solution for me is to have a proper English Parliament. Why should England be forced to accept the current democratic deficit? If a parliament is the solution for Scotland it is only fair and just for England to have a parliament.

neil craig said...

I could take some exception to John George's remark
"The English have historically always been sold on the idea of Britishness. The other home nations however, whilst enjoying the benefits of the union, have never committed fully to the idea."

Not only has Scotland provided more than our proportional share of the political & scientific leaders of Britain but we have also in almost every occasion, since 1707, provided more than our share of war dead.

If the Tories decide that they should, for electoral advantage, separate from Scotland & join with Papua New Guinea, whose traditiions may be more congenial to some backwoodsmen of the formerly Conservative & Unionist Party, then it may come to pass.

If so better to part with respect.