Labour may cut number of Scots MPs

Tony Blair is to order a high-powered internal review of the impact of Scottish devolution on English politics and the right of Scottish Westminster MPs to decide political issues south of the border.

The party is expected to establish a commission in the new year to examine possible answers to the so-called "West Lothian" question, which formed the intellectual basis of the most coherent attack on the devolution proposals of the Callaghan government.

The inquiry's remit will reflect the party leadership's determination to press ahead with plans for a Scottish Parliament, with tax-raising powers, early in a Labour administration.

But it will seek to establish whether an answer can be found to the question posed repeatedly in the late 1970s by Tam Dalyell, an anti-devolutionist, and the then MP for West Lothian - whether it was justified for Scottish MPs to vote on English and possibly Welsh legislation which no longer applied in Scotland, because it covered issues to be determined by the Scottish Parliament.

The commission is likely to be headed by a high-ranking Scottish Labour figure with UK-wide shadow responsibilities, like Donald Dewar, the Chief Whip, or Lord Irvine, whom Mr Blair will appoint as Lord Chancellor if he wins the election. It will almost certainly include other senior front- benchers, including George Robertson, the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and Ann Taylor, the shadow Leader of the Commons.

The Labour leadership is open-minded on the outcome and Mr Blair has made it clear that he has no intention of backing down on the detailed commitment to a Scottish Parliament - already drawn up with the Liberal Democrats - whatever the conclusions.

But its existence raises the possibility for the first time that the present total of 72 Scottish MPs at Westminster - the large majority of whom are at present Labour - could be reduced to compensate for new powers which will be devolved under Scottish home rule.

So far, even though there are more Labour MPs per head of population in Scotland than in England, Labour has not suggested that the numbers should be reduced. But the Liberal Democrats are already committed to reducing the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster.

John Major is certain to press the arguments raised by the West Lothian question in the run-up to the general election, as he did in the 1992 campaign, when he warned that devolution meant that the "future status and number of Scotland's MPs at Westminster would inevitably be diminished".

The Tories are already preparing to question the potential role of Gordon Brown as Chancellor, sitting for a Scottish seat but fixing tax rates for England and Wales. Such tax rates might not be the final levels for Scotland - at least in theory - because of the Scottish Parliament's right to add or subtract up to 3p in the pound to or from UK tax rates.

The terms of reference of the Labour inquiry are likely to be wide-ranging and could include an examination of whether there is any case for allowing some business for England and Wales to be decided only by English and Welsh MPs. Although Labour is committed to setting up a Welsh assembly, this would have more limited powers than the Scottish Parliament and no right to levy taxes.

The inquiry is less likely to re-open the question of regional government in England as a possible answer to the West Lothian question. While Mr Blair is committed to a regional elected authority for London, the party has made it clear that it will only agree to regional assemblies elsewhere where there is clear public demand tested in a referendum.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?