Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Christmas comes early

Christmas has come early for constitutional anoraks. There's enough in Gordon Brown's statement to Parliament and The Governance of Britain green paper to keep policy wonks happy for years.

The new Prime Minister is proposing wide-ranging reforms - but he's already ruled out one idea consistently floated by his opponents since devolution - stopping Welsh and Scottish MPs from voting on English issues at Westminster.

Gordon Brown told MPs: "But while we will listen to all proposals to improve our constitution in the light of devolution, we do not accept the proposal for English votes for English laws, which would create two classes of Members of Parliament—some entitled to vote on all issues, some invited to vote on only some. We will do nothing to put at risk the Union."

Tory leader David Cameron said: ""We already have two classes of MP. Is it not the case that the only effective way to solve that problem is to give MPs in English constituencies the decisive say in the House on issues that affect only England?"

Gordon Brown's solution to the West Lothian question is to create English regional Ministers and regional select committees. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said in a statement: “The changes in the UK constitution, including regional select committees, would create a closer symmetry with Wales and would dispel any calls from opposition members for an England-only parliament or a two-tier system of MPs.”

There's little chance of the new settlement dispelling calls for an England-only parliament and some would argue we already have two classes of MPs - there are clear limits to the influence of Welsh MPs in their local schools and hospitals.

It will be interesting to see whether the Tories practise the principle they preach. Will Conservative MPs abstain the next time the Welsh Assembly Government makes a request for law-making powers.

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