More than two months ago we reported that Ken Clarke was set to recommend that MPs from all parts of the UK should retain the final say on laws only affecting English constituencies. Mr Clarke confirmed that that was his Democracy Taskforce’s conclusion during a 7.35am interview for this morning’s Today programme. We understand that David Cameron is minded to accept it.
Mr Clarke does, however, propose that only MPs from English seats will be able to amend legislation that is introduced in the normal way by the UK government. There will then be a Convention that at the final stage of Commons scrutiny all MPs will either endorse or reject the amended legislation as a whole rather than picking and choosing the amendments made by MPs from English constituencies.
Mr Clarke confirmed his view that the Conservatives were wrong to oppose devolution in 1997 and that this diluted (our word) version of ‘English votes for English laws’ was a necessary step to prevent a crisis in the Union that could be caused if MPs from outside of England sided with a minority of English MPs to impose legislation unwanted by the majority.
Mr Clarke’s proposals do seem to meet the principal concerns of Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Sir Malcolm had proposed a more radical answer to Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian Question but had said that two things were needed for Mr Clarke’s idea to be acceptable: (1) At Committee and Report stages MPs from English seats would need to be represented in proportion to all MPs from English seats and (2) ‘English amendments’ could not be undone at the final stage of Commons voting.
Mr Clarke’s recommendations come at a time when the heavily Scottish identity of the Labour Government has been questioned by its own MPs. Stephen Ladyman has called for more ‘English voices’ in Government and Frank Field has discussed the "fiscal discriminations" facing the English. The Barnett formula – that lies behind the "fiscal discriminations" – is overwhelmingly opposed by the next generation of Conservative MPs. A survey by ConservativeHome found that 83% of adopted candidates want it to be substantially reformed.