Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Flawed arguments

Peter Hain, with the support of the Western Mail editorial writer, is apparently worried that ‘English votes for English MPs’ would create two different classes of MP, and threaten the future of the Union.  I’ll leave aside the way in which the continuance of the Union is perceived to be such a good thing that it can be used as a reason for opposing anything with no further justification; there are enough problems with his argument without bringing that one in.
In the first place, only someone completely immersed in, and constrained by, the institution of which he is a member could fail to see that there are already two classes of MP.  Being able to vote on every issue that comes before the House of Commons is not the same as being equal; and Welsh and Scottish MPs are already effectively prevented (quite properly) from voting on a whole range of issues affecting their constituents.  There are already two (or more precisely, four, given the different settlements) classes of MPs.
Secondly, he argues that England can’t have a parliament of her own, because England is too big in relation to the size of Wales or Scotland.  I wouldn’t presume to tell England how she should govern herself, let alone that her pattern of government has to be based on units which are of a size closer to that of Wales and Scotland.  It’s a sensible argument only for those who see Wales and Scotland as being simply ‘regions’ of the UK, with no ‘national’ dimension.
And thirdly, he calls for regional assemblies in England without specifying their powers.  I don’t know what he has in mind, but I find it hard to imagine that he is proposing legislative assemblies on the Welsh model, let alone on the Scottish model.  And introducing yet another variant on the model actually makes the initial problem (who in Westminster votes on what) worse.  I really can’t believe that he’s thought through what he’s saying.
Having a UK legislature where all members have equal voting rights on all matters requires as a starting point a symmetrical settlement between the various nations.  It is for England to decide whether that symmetry takes the form of an English parliament or the regionalisation of England, but an asymmetrical solution will always leave a difference between MPs as to who can vote on which issues affecting their constituents.

2 comments:

stuart said...

Typical English wanting to continue their rule of their neighbours from within.

Glyndo said...

Nice one.