West Lothian Question to be Examined by Commission
The UK Government has announced that later this year a commission will be set up to consider the ‘West Lothian’ question and whether the influence of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament (MP’s) should be restricted on matters that effect only England.
Since the devolution of Scotland and Wales unionist Members of Parliament (MP’s) in England have complained about their colleagues from Scotland and Wales being able to vote on matters that only effect England, whereas English MP’s have not been able to exert the same influence on matters that effect Scotland and Wales. The ‘West Lothian question’ was a term coined by former unionist Labour MP Tam Dalyell in the 1970’s who claimed that if devolution ever occurred it would lead to what he thought to be an unfair advantage for Scottish and Welsh MP’s over their English counterparts.
Since the announcement of the plan to form the commission by the Conservative Party, some Labour unionists are expressing concerns about how this development would affect the current Union between these countries. Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain was reported in the Western Mail newspaper on Tuesday (28th June 2011) that:
“The whole principle that underpins the Parliamentary system in the UK is that all MP’s have equal status. If Welsh and Scottish MP’s were not allowed to vote on matters that superficially seem only to relate to England, that principle would no longer apply and MP’s representing seats in Wales and Scotland would have an inferior second class status.”
Mr Hain also claimed that the Conservative Party was prepared to allow the development because they knew that if votes were restricted it would severely weaken the power of Scottish and Welsh Labour MP’s within the UK, adding:
“If that happened, there would be no question of any MP from Wales or Scotland ever becoming Prime Minister again.”
At the same time Mr Hain said that he was opposed to a Parliament for England:
“There are around 50 million people in England and 10 million people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. If therer were a Parliament covering the whole of England, we would have a very imbalanced constitutional settlement that in my view would be unsustainable.
“I am extremely concerned that David Cameron has a ruthless agenda that is not about what is best for Britain, but what is best for the Conservative Party…In pursuing this agenda, the Tory-led Government risks breaking up the UK.”
It must not be forgotten that the UK Labour Party is heavily dependent on voters in Scotland and Wales and without their support it is unlikely that the Party would win any general election in the UK. If voters in Scotland and Wales felt that the influence of their parliamentary representative was being restricted, then it would be interesting to see how that would affect the way they vote in general elections. It would therefore be extraordinary if it turned out that the UK Conservative Party, which champions itself as the defender of the Union, was in fact a catalyst in its speedy demise.
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