The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ken Clarke, has headed the Democracy Taskforce; a Conservative think-tank designed to propose solutions to outstanding problems. The idea would then be that these solutions may become Conservative policy for the next Conservative Government.
One of the outstanding problems Ken Clarke has been looking at is the West Lothian Question; since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, MPs from Scotland can vote on English laws but MPs from England cannot vote on Scottish laws. This is because it is the Scottish Parliament and its MSPs now pass the majority of Scottish laws, not the Westminster MPs. Only the non-devolved powers like defence and foreign policy are retained by Westminster.
Ken Clarke’s solution is that although Scottish MPs can vote on English only legislation, they are barred from voting at the committee stage and amendments can be made by English MPs; everyone can once again vote in the final third stage with an undertaking from the Scots that they won’t vote on the English amendments.
It has been dubbed ‘English pauses for English clauses’.
One of the main drawbacks of this plan is that it in effect creates a two-tier class of MP; the Scottish MPs being the lower class. How long the union could last in such an arrangement remains to be seen.
It would lead to a situation where Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, could no longer vote on English matters. Fair enough you might say. But what are the chances that a Scottish MP could ever become Prime Minister of the UK in the future under this arrangement? That a UK political party would elect a Scottish leader knowing that he would be removed from legislation affecting England? Chances: nil.
In such a situation, it would thus make such a democratic deficit for the Scots that the Union would have to end. It would effectively say to the Scots, well you could stand as MP in an election or you can vote for whatever MP you want but you or they will never become Prime Minister. Not only would our MPs be treated as second-class MPs at Westminster, but our vote and our citizenship of the UK would also be second-class.
Ken Clarke’s Democracy Taskforce proposes to limit our democracy!
There are many objectors to the proposal though. Fellow blogger Iain Dale saysthis:-
“The phrases ‘half baked’ and ‘dog’s breakfast’ come to mind. This is not a long term solution to something which even Scottish politicians recognise is a problem and it’s not even a half way house. It reeks of a measure designed to placate rather than solve. And as usual with these things it won’t even do that.
Those of us – and there a growing number – who believe that England deserves parity in the constitutional settlement will think it decidedly odd (and wrong) that Scottish MPs will retain ANY say in English only legislation. To trumpet the fact that they won’t be able to vote on the Committee Stage of a Bill or reverse any amendments on Third Reading is a sop.”
To my mind, there are only two ways forward. For England to receive parity in the constitutional settlement, there must be an English Parliament.
The other alternative is of course independence for Scotland, and if they want it the other nations of the UK.
‘English pauses for English causes’ will create two-tiers of MPs, and make Scots second-class citizens of the UK.
If the Conservatives do adopt this as policy, the Union will be all but over when the Conservatives win the next Westminster election as predicted.