Belfast Telegraph

Ministers mull English votes report

Expectations of a form of "English votes for English laws" at Westminster have been heightened after Downing Street said ministers were looking "constructively" at the proposals of a commission set up to consider the balance of powers after devolution.

The McKay Report recommended in March that legislation that affects only England should normally need backing from a majority of English MPs, ending an "unsustainable" imbalance created by the establishment of devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Reports in the Independent and Daily Mail suggested that English MPs will be given the power to veto any Westminster laws which do not relate to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland - such as those involving education, health and the environment - even if they have been passed by a majority of all MPs in the House of Commons.

The move, reportedly to be announced in the autumn, could restrict the ability of a future Labour administration to force through controversial legislation for England, as the party usually has a high proportion of MPs from Scottish and Welsh constituencies.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman declined to say when the Government would respond to Sir William McKay's report. The spokesman added: "We think Sir William's work is a positive step forward. The Government is going to look very carefully and constructively at it and respond in due course."

Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart said the so-called West Lothian Question about MPs from north of the border voting on English laws could only be resolved by independence for Scotland.

"The West Lothian Question will not be resolved by fiddling with procedures in the antiquated old system at Westminster," said Mr Wishart. "There will always be anomalies under the current set-up. There is one clear answer to the West Lothian question - independence for Scotland."

He added: "In the meantime, our MPs at Westminster address the West Lothian question by applying a self-denying ordinance. We only vote on issues which impact on Scotland. This is in stark contrast to Labour, Lib Dems and even the single Scottish Tory who are happy to be used as a lobby fodder time and again, on issues like academy schools and foundation hospitals which don't affect their own constituents."

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said: "As a rule Plaid Cymru MPs do not vote on England-only matters, therefore in principle we support the UK Government's intentions to provide a fourth and final reading to each Bill which applies to England-only matters in which only English MPs will be allowed to vote."

But he said the proposed system was certain to lead to a constitutional crisis unless there was "symmetrical devolution of powers" to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs at Westminster.


From Belfast Telegraph