The British government has finally got round to launching the Commission on the West Lothian Question that it promised over a year ago but why do we need an expensive commission to state the obvious?
Is it not plainly obvious that it is wrong that the MP for Thomas Telford’s constituency of Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland can vote on health, education, environment, etc. in Telford but neither the MP for Dumfries & Galloway, nor the MP for Telford can vote on the same things in Scotland?
There is clearly a problem – there are 532 MPs elected in England but 551 MPs voted on changes to the English NHS this week and 629 voted on tuition fees in English universities last year. Tuition fees are only charged in English universities because enough MPs elected in Scotland voted for them to overturn the narrow majority of MPs elected in England who said no.
There is clearly a desire to deal with the problem – opinion polls consistently show 7 out of 10 people want to stop MPs elected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from voting on English laws, either by way of restricting voting rights or by creating an English Parliament.
There is clearly a solution – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had devolved governments for over a decade and they have certainly seen the benefits while England has picked up the bill.
So if there is a problem, the desire to put it right and a ready-made solution, what exactly is the purpose of this commission? The answer lies in the call by Ministers for Harriet Baldwin MP to withdraw her private members’ bill that would force the British government to specify which country a bill applies to now that the commission has been established.
The commission hasn’t been set up to find a solution to the institutional discrimination against the English, it’s been set up to find an excuse not to create an English Parliament. If the British government has been diligently identifying English-only laws while the commission is looking for excuses, they can’t use the usual one that it’s impossible to disentangle English laws from British.