Scottish independence: A devolved Scotland would necessitate an English-only parliament, claims John Redwood
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Tuesday 12 August 2014
If Scotland votes to remain part of the United Kingdom and is given further devolved powers, including decisions over taxation, an “English” parliament which excludes Scottish MPs will need to be created in Westminster, a former Conservative cabinet minister has claimed.
The former Welsh Secretary John Redwood says that unanswered questions over devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has left Westminster constitutionally “lop-sided”.
With Scotland promised further control over its own taxation ahead of September’s referendum vote, Mr Redwood believes that “England will be left without a voice”.
Giving a lecture for the Freedom Association in London today, Mr Redwood predicted it would be unsustainable for Scottish MPs to continue voting through taxes that only applied to England.
Although the idea of a two-parliament Westminster has been discussed before – consisting of a “UK parliament” involving all MPs and a separate English-only chamber restricted to MPs from constituencies in England – Mr Redwood said a no vote in the referendum would reopen a wider constitutional debate on MPs’ powers.
Speaking to The Independent ahead of the McWhirter memorial lecture, Mr Redwood said “I do not believe that English people will accept that a majority can be constructed at Westminster using Scottish MPs to impose a tax in England that isn’t being imposed in Scotland. That does not make any sense.”
The former cabinet minister in John Major’s government suggested that a “convention will grow that will exclude Scottish MPs from certain ministerial jobs”. However he said that “wholly or mainly Union jobs, such a Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, could be held by future Scottish MPs.
He added “I strongly hold the view that it must be English representatives who do English business. And that will mean an English parliament in Westminster and a Union parliament in Westminster – and those selected for English seats will simply do two jobs.”
In 2008 Labour’s then-Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, admitted that devolution had created a “clear anomaly” but said the imbalance had to be resolved in a way that “most promotes the Union”. But he rejected the idea of an English parliament operating in a two-tier Westminster, saying that it could promote further separation.
None of the main parties has offered a recent opinion on the resolution of the “West Lothian Question”.
A Commons commission chaired by Sir William McKay, which began work in 2012, recommended that future legislation affecting England, but not other parts of the UK, should be required to have the majority support of MPs representing English constituencies.
However the issue was left undecided. Sir William accepted that future governments would prefer “compromise rather than conflict” in trying to resolve the political fall-out from further devolution.
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