The Conservative Manifesto for 2010 said:
“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.”
Earlier this year a YouGov poll for the University of Cardiff, with a large sample size asked for views on the following proposition:
“Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only to England.”
63 per cent agreed. 12 per cent disagreed. There were big majorities of Labour and Lib Dem voters who agreed. However their party leaderships have not so far. Of course UKIP agree but they are not in a position to deliver.
So it is not true that this policy has suddenly been adopted by the Conservatives – although, of course, if yet further power is devolved to Scotland the case for it becomes even stronger.
Nor is it true that the unfairness of the current arrangement, which allows Scottish MPs to impose laws on the English, is only of concern to UKIP supporters.
The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan calls for powers to be devolved to counties and cities. Surrey could set a different level of income tax to Kent. Whitehall would have no involvement in the running of hospitals or schools.
Mr Hannan points out that in the United States such a level of local autonomy would be regarded as unremarkable.
Certainly more localism would be part of the answer. If Kent County Council is giving the same powers as Holyrood it would, indeed, be the whole answer. But that seems unlikely. In any event unless and until it happens the safeguard for English democracy is that the principle of English Votes for English Laws is applied to the House of Commons.
If Scottish MPs feel they are “second class” by no longer being able to vote on matters which are nothing to do with them, then too bad. They can spend less time in Westminster and more time talking to their constituents – with whom they often seem to have become disconnected.
Labour and the Lib Dems won’t agree to the West Lothian answer.
Therefore it will be decided at the General Election. Labour will go into that election as the anti English party and the anti democracy party. Not only will Labour oppose an in/out EU referendum – and thus deny the chance for British self government. Labour will also oppose allowing the English their fair democratic rights.