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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tories in confusion again

David Cameron's ambition to redress the balance so that the English might enjoy some of the benefits of devolution have hit the rocks after the man tasked with finding a solution for the Tories dismissed the idea of an English-only committee at Westminster.

The Western Mail reports that former Chancellor Ken Clarke believes that there is a more straightforward solution. Unfortunately, his plan to allow only English MPs to vote on English-only legislation is not as straightforward as it might seem. Mr. Clarke appears to have missed the fact that just because a clause in a bill purports to only impact upon one part of the nation, that does not mean that it does not have implications elsewhere.

The oft-quoted example of tuition fees is a case in point. Many people argue that it was wrong that legislation impacting only upon England should have been passed due to the votes of Scottish and Welsh MPs. However, although the devolved nations are following their own course the cost of negating English legislation is immense. That is because the Higher Education systems of the three countries are intertwined, more so in the case of England and Wales with 50% of students in Welsh HEIs coming from across the border.

My point is that even in devolved matters what happens in one nation impacts on the others. It is in fact very difficult to find any legislation that can stand alone in the way that Ken Clarke envisages. Maybe the Tories should go back to the drawing board again and try and find some more democratic solutions such as an English Parliament or Regional Assemblies with real powers and responsibilities.
The only solution is an English Parliament within the Union, or separation.

But in fairness to Clarke policy in Scotland and Wales also impacts upon England. The impact is only more apparent the other way around because of England's size and the fact that English spending dictates spending in Scotland and Wales.

But the Barnett Formula and the size of England as a federal unit is no excuse for the denial of fair democracy and representation to an entire nation.
scrap the welsh assembly, scottish parliament and stormont, then set up regional assemblies instead.
banish the words Wales and Welsh, scotland scots and scottish and call it all britain. then the English might accept regional assemblies. if wales and scotland are countries then so is England.
I have some sympathy for Ken Clarke over this. The issue of fair votes for England is a hell of a one and we don't seem to have any brilliant ideas short of full federalism, which I support but which is not going to happen any time soon.
Agree with toque. It's a bit of a Horlicks at present, to which the only sensible solution is an English parliament.

However, that would mean abolishing the London Assembly and the Regional Assemblies - which would not be popular with the Tories on them, some of whom are quite powerful and influential (Bob Neill, for instance) despite the basic uselessness of the institutions. Turkeys do not like Christmas.

Can Cameron show real leadership and risk upsetting these people? After grammar schools somehow I doubt it.
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