Phil Taylor is a Conservative Councillor for Northfield Ward in Ealing. He blogs here.
This afternoon Harriet Baldwin’s private member’s bill was lost on third reading in Parliament. It went down by 24 votes to 40. Baldwin’s bill was an attempt to tackle the West Lothian Question although that is hard to work out from the bill’s title: Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill.
In what clearly a move to undermine and pre-empt Baldwin’s bill yesterday morning, Mark Harper, a junior Government Minister, announced that the long awaited commission on the West Lothian Question was inching forward. Harper’s big news was that we will hear more in October.
Well done to Harriet Baldwin, who has fought a valiant fight for England – but the Coalition government only deserves raspberries for its performance to-date on this issue.
Over the summer holidays I had a little spare time for clearing up and filing. In doing so, I came across the leaflet outlining David Cameron’s personal statement given out at the Conservative leadership hustings event at the end of November 2005 at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. I had been meaning to dig this out for a while as I was sure that I remembered seeing the phrase “English votes for English laws”. Sure enough, I was right.
There was a 2-page inside spread titled “The next election will be in 2009/10. Here are the challenges Britain will face, and how I believe we should meet them.” Then under the heading “Strengthening our constitution” and “Devolution” Cameron himself specifically makes the promise:
"Making devolution work, including English votes for English laws."
This promise did not quite make it into the 2010 Conservative manifesto in such direct language but it was there all the same:
"Labour have refused to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation of Scottish MPs voting on matters which are devolved. A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries."
Of course we do not have a Conservative government but a Coalition government, so what did the Coalition Agreement say? We had one line:
"We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question".
By October we will be 17 months into a 60 month term of office for the Coalition. In October we will hear the plan. It had better be good.
Many Tories will rightly feel that the promise of English votes for English laws got Cameron elected as leader of the Conservative party and that he shows his disdain for his own party by not more obviously prioritising some delivery on this pledge.