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Northern Ireland's MPs facing voting bar on Scots and Welsh matters

A commission of experts are set to tackle the thorny issue of whether Northern Irish MPs should vote on issues that only affect England.

As a result, the province's representatives in Westminster could find themselves barred from voting on devolved matters, vastly reducing their Parliamentary activity, a possibility branded "a very dangerous road" by one MP.

The so-called West Lothian Question has been baffling politicians since it was first asked 34 years ago. Yesterday, Cabinet Office Minister Mark Harper gave some brief details of a commission to consider it, finally honouring a Coalition agreement pledge.

It came the day after Northern Irish MPs voted on the Westminster Government's health reforms, which will have no impact on patients in the province.

The commission will not look at financing for Northern Ireland, or the number of MPs - which is set to be reduced from 18 to 16 under boundary changes to be unveiled next week.

The West Lothian Question - named after the Scottish constituency whose MP Tam Dalyell, first raised the issue in 1977 - has led to growing calls for "English votes for English laws" since Scotland and Wales were granted devolution in 1997.

English MPs are not allowed to vote on many matters which are now devolved to other UK assemblies and there has been a debate on whether the same should apply the other way round.

Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru said England deserved to have its own Parliament.

However, the plans were slammed by Nigel Dodds, DUP MP for North Belfast, who said: "It's a very dangerous road for any Government to go down. To create different classes of MP within a sovereign national Parliament presents constitutional difficulties and should be avoided."


The phrase "West Lothian Question" was first coined by Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell. He was responding to Labour MP Tam Dalyell, whose constituency used to be called West Lothian. In 1977, Mr Dalyell had asked how it could be right that a Scottish MP at Westminster could vote on matters like education that affected English seats.

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