Iain Stewart MP’s argument against an English Parliament

! This post hasn't been updated in over a year. A lot can change in a year including my opinion and the amount of naughty words I use. There's a good chance that there's something in what's written below that someone will find objectionable. That's fine, if I tried to please everybody all of the time then I'd be a Lib Dem (remember them?) and I'm certainly not one of those. The point is, I'm not the kind of person to try and alter history in case I said something in the past that someone can use against me in the future but just remember that the person I was then isn't the person I am now nor the person I'll be in a year's time.

On the 11th of February this year, Iain Stewart MP (the carpetbagging Scottish MP for Milton Keynes South) spoke on the Territorial Extent Bill – a welcome but ultimately doomed attempt to force the British government to specify the territorial extent of an Bill that gets published.

In his speech he acknowledges the need to do something about the West Lothian Question and sums up the problem pretty well.  He also sums up the three “perfect” solutions pretty well – abolishing devolution, replacing devolved bodies with Grand Committees of British MPs based on the country they were elected in and a devolved English Parliament.

So far so good but what’s this you say Iain?

One option would be to have a separate English Parliament with the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington said, and as others have argued, the difficulty with that is that England would represent more than 80% of the population and more than 80% of the gross domestic product in one unit. I cannot think of a stable modern democracy with an advanced economy where there is such an overwhelming dominant part in a federation. Any other country with a federal system contains two or more big states that balance each other out. For example, Canada contains Ontario and Quebec, and Germany contains Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. If England were to be a separate entity in a federal system, the arrangement would have too much of an imbalance.

That old chestnut. A few people have said that they can’t think of a stable modern democracy with an advanced economy where this is such an overwhelming dominant part of the federation.  Can anyone think of an unstable country with one?  Or any country of any description?  It’s never been tried so there is no evidence that it can’t work.  In 1497 no country had ever had an empire that covered one third of the globe and belonging to a country that is, relatively speaking, tiny.  Yet by the 18th century that’s what had happened with the British Empire.  Britain’s voice should have been drowned out by the likes of Canada, India and Australia – massive countries with huge populations – yet a succession of British monarchs reigned over one third of the planet and still today the Privy Council the final court of appeal for some former colonies.

The size of England compared to Scotland, Wales and NI is a moot point.  English politicians would legislate for England, Welsh politicians for Wales, Scottish politicians for Scotland, Northern Irish politicians for Northern Ireland and British politicians for Britain.  England need have no more influence than it has now in the British Parliament.  As seen with English university tuition fees and English foundation hospitals, the Scots are more than capable of swinging the vote in Westminster.  The English Parliament, as clearly defined as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, would be solely concerned with legislating for England on devolved matters.  It wouldn’t have the authority to pass laws in Scotland, Wales, NI or for the whole UK.

If the English Parliament proved to be as effective at lobbying the British government for English interests as the Scottish Parliament has been for the last decade at lobbying for Scottish interests then that is a welcome development but it’s hard to see what reserved matters would directly affect English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish interests to the extent that their governments would feel the need to lobby the British government over them and if national interests were so divergent on that subject then it should be devolved anyway.

The simple fact of the matter is that over a decade of devolution has resulted in a decrease in support for independence in Scotland and Wales whilst during the corresponding period, support for English independence has increased to 36% from only 1 or 2%.  In other words, devolution has reversed the increasing support for Scottish independence whilst a lack of devolution in England has started a trend of phenomenal growth in support of English independence. Clearly the way to save the union is to devolve power to an English government.  If MPs are uncomfortable with making the decision on which form that government should take then they could at least support the very reasonable solution of allowing the English people to decide for themselves in a referendum.  After all, if the Welsh and Scots are capable of deciding what the best form of government is for their countries, surely we English are equally capable of making the same decision?


  1. Daggs (55 comments) says:

    What a wanker! He’s even bought (on expenses no doubt!) a Union flag that flies upside down…………

  2. Wyrdtimes (31 comments) says:

    can we cross post this on the CEP?

  3. wonkotsane (1133 comments) says:

    Go for it Jools

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