MPs reject plan to end abuse of Scots and Welsh

DEVOLUTION
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The Independent Online
"JOCK", "TAFFY" and "Sassenach" are all likely to continue as terms of Parliamentary abuse after MPs yesterday rejected plans to ban offensive remarks about their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

The Commons Procedure Committee attacked as unworkable Government moves to bar English MPs from criticising their colleagues in the Sottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. In its report on procedures in Parliament in the wake of devolution, the committee concluded that members of the Scots and Welsh assemblies should have no greater protection from abuse than other members of the public.

Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the House of Commons, had suggested that new rules should be introduced to bar "offensive expressions" about the two new chambers.She proposed a plan that would allow MPs to criticise Scots and Welsh representatives only in the form of substantive motions. Similar conventions currently apply to the House of Lords, the judiciary and the Royal Family but MPs decided against a ban because it was "unlikely" that Scots and Welsh politicians would refrain from criticising Westminster.

Nicholas Winterton, MP for Macclesfield and the chairman of the committee, said in the report that members were concerned that the Government proposal would curtail the Commons' much-cherished tradition of freedom of speech.

"We are reluctant to restrict the freedom of speech of Parliament by giving members of the devolved legislatures greater protection than that available to members of the public or other politicians," the committee's report stated. Although MPs should still refrain from personal attacks, they should not be prevented from criticising the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly.

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