Yesterday at ConservativeHome Mr. Mark Field, a Conservative MP, proposed, though with an distince absence of any detail, that we now have an English Parliament. I was profoundly depressed at the number of posters who supported this idea which I believe to be utterly misguided, dangerous to the interests of our country and born of gutless defeatism.


One wonders if any of those who support the idea have actually sat and watched either First Minister’s Questions or perhaps a debate in the Scottish Parliament? Or, even worse, any proceeding of the Welsh Assembly?


These are, with some honourable exceptions, the most excruciatingly embarrassing and numbingly second-rate experiences you will ever have.


That is what awaits you if you go down the path advocated by those calling for an ‘English Parliament’.


Given how low has fallen the stock of the politicians we already have in the eyes of the public, do we really really believe that having another huge talking shop full of them is going to prove anything other than a panacea for the supposed ills of Westminster, which are, I submit, of such a kind that can be fixed by some sensible evolutionary steps in the way in which Parliament.


For there is a question to be posed here which those advocating the radical step of an ‘English’ Parliament must answer? Is Westminster really so broken that it needs not merely fixing but replacing wholesale in respect of a significant part of its work?


Or is it the case that with some quite simple adjustments, some legislative and some procedural, which cost next to nothing compared with the horrendous cost and constitutionally destructive effect of a new, separate ‘English’ Parliament.


The things which have most animated this debate seem to me to be the West Lothian question and the Barnett Formula which overly favours Scotland and, to a lesser extent, Wales at the expense of England. These are matters which are easily fixed by dealing with them internally rather than with the highly risky alternative of having four national Parliaments. The West Lothian question might be dealt with by the establishment of an English Grand Committee for all Bills which affect England only and a similar one for legislation which is intended to apply to both England and Wales. Whilst notionally such an arrangement would still leave it open for Scots MPs allied with English and Welsh Contras to vote down the committee’s conclusions on Third Reading in practice such a breach of what would become a convention of Parliament would ensure electoral oblivion of the offending party in England and would thus not be attempted. This might require the employment of a number of clerical/administrative posts but that would pale into insignificance against the cost of a full blown Parliament.


The Barnett formula is even easier and merely requires the political will and a pen to alter it. Given that Labour, because of its national electoral interests in Wales and Scotland will not make anything other than cosmetic changes to the Formula, this will require the election of a Conservative Government [for which the advocates of an English Parliament should be expending their energies rather than planning for the creation of an institution which will threaten not strengthen the Union] to effect. Altering the Barnett formula will, as far at least as Scotland is concerned, force them either to dispense with all the luxuries they enjoy as a result or fundamentally to alter their whole approach to how their budget is is expended. In other words it may force them to join the real world and undergo those bits of the post-79 revolution which have, because of Labour’s dominance there, somewhat passed them by. If Scotland is forced to come up with the money from its own pockets, the voters there might well start to understand the virtues of a party which espouses conservative virtues once again. This Scotsman’s desire for thrift has not entirely disappeared and radically overhauling the Barnett formula may force him to reassess the wisdom of a high-tax, pubic sector job supported economy.


Quite apart from all that an English Parliament along Mr. Field’s lines, the detail of which is strikingly absent from his piece, will not solve the problem for a moment. The nature of tax-raising and funding in England has not been explained in the least. Nor has the issue of how remaining matters would be dealt with at Westminster proper. Indeed Mr. Field’s piece is very much “Wow, here’s a good idea, let’s have an English Parliament Chaps, that will solve all our problems, ok!”. There is absolutely no sense that the knock on effects of such a proposal have been thought of let alone answered. Anyone with a knowledge of the US Constitution will know that the conflict between States Rights and Federal law is one of the most productive and extensive areas of litigation before the US Supreme Court and that awaits us if this daft idea ever gets into operation.


The EU will be the first to be delighted. They will see this as a fatal weakening of our body politic and will lick its lips in anticipation of being able to play one off against another and the chance to pick us off one by one: just wait to see how Scots fishermen get favoured over English ones when the EU is looking for support from Scotland for some project, to give an example.


Let us be clear: this proposal is a defeatist one, which some on the right are pushing because they have lost heart at the prospect of ever being able to govern the UK again. Our political enemies must be heartened by this series of posts. They will understand that the morale of some is rock-bottom.


But the worst of this is the strong sense that England will, for the first time since the 14th Century be divorced from the centre of power. England’s laws have, since there has been a Parliament, been made at Westminster in a form we can still recognise, by the Lords and Commons assembled. Let the Little People go, if they will, but the governance of England has, for better and sometimes for worse, been done from Westminster.


One thing that a Conservative administration can address and which will also reduce the democratic deficit is to deal with the electoral imbalance that requires a far greater number of voters to elect a Conservative MP as compared with a Labour MP.


It ain’t broke, so why fix it?

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