Tuesday, January 16, 2007

300 Year Maintenance for the Union - English Edition

At the English end what can be done which might restore the health of the Union? The crucial problem would seem to be the inequity of finance and political representation between Scotland and England. To a certain extent there is, therefore, no single political fix but there must, instead, be an increasing recognition that England cannot be relied upon to accept such inequities and that the cross border subsidy must be reduced and the borders of seats redrawn to make each MP represent a similar number of electors. However, that still leaves the big inequity of Celtic votes on English matters; the devolution hangover. I think this inequity is the most novel and, as such, the most significant cause of falls in support for the Union in England.

The solution that appears most likely to be adopted by the major parties is to have Scottish members not vote on matters relating exclusively to England. However, this would seem to pose huge problems to the operation of government via the House of Commons. For one thing it would make a Scottish Prime Minister's position extremely difficult as any role they play in huge areas of legislation is an imposition by a Scottish MP. Secondly, it removes the equality between MPs within the House of Commons which would seem necessary in its role as the sole source of ministerial talent. These problems are largely why I am now coming around to the idea of an English parliament.

I have had reservations over the idea of an English parliament; hence my being in the rare position of a British right wing blogger not a member of the Witanagemot club. Firstly, I think that it will have the same corrosive effect as other devolutions in weakening people's ties to the United Kingdom. Particularly if an English parliament does what the Scottish and Welsh parliaments have not and performs well. Secondly, I think that part of the problem in the Scottish parliament is that a minor parliament attracts those without the ambition or ability to succeed in Westminster and that a similar problem could occur in an English parliament. The quality of its legislative work may be lower than if that work is left in the hands of the current Houses of Parliament.

However, as I do not think the House of Commons can function with formal distinctions between members of different regions and I do not wish to see it drastically restructured to make such inequities less problematic I think an English parliament is the less bad response to the constitutional problem created by devolution. Also, I think that some of the problems I have discussed above would be less problematic in an English parliament. The effect of dulling loyalty to the union is less significant because the English have less of a problem with the dual identity of English and British than the Celts do and are therefore less likely to lose their attachment to the remaining United Kingdom institutions. The quality of the parliament is also likely to be higher as England is still a large nation and the issues an English parliament would discuss would therefore be less parochial relative to the work of the Commons.

So, an English parliament it is. I've taken a while to be converted to the idea but the case for it now seems almost unavoidable.


Anonymous said...

wy can't one use the english mps in the parliament to be the parliament and where necessary have a separate executive for england? what's the fundamental problem with that?

alterly you could solve it by replacing Welsh and Scottish overepresenation with English and Northern Irish

Gareth said...

Good for you. The Witanagemot door is always open.

There are dangers with pursuing an English parliament but it has been apparent to me, for several years now, that those dangers are lesser dangers than we will face if we do nothing.

Anonymous said...

I'm an English Celt! Watch the olde worlde ethnicity thing!