Getting real about English votes for English issues

There are still plenty of misunderstandings about the English question after the Scottish referendum. It's not rocket science. Broadly, the English want the same devolved powers as the Scottish. Does Labour not get that?

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The Yorkshire Dales: the heart and soul of England
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Sir John Redwood MP
On 20 September 2014 08:04

I was glad the Prime Minister announced his support for this measure from the doorstep of 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. Mr Hague, the former Foreign Secretary, has a crucial task to pilot this through the political difficulties ahead.

Listening to media voices, there are still plenty of misunderstandings about the English question after the Scottish referendum. The first is the question of what happens if the majority of English MPs is in a different party from the majority of Union MPs? Far from posing a problem the answer to that is the English majority chooses the Ministers, makes the laws and settles the policies in the devolved areas.

In this it would be the mirror image of Scotland. They have an SNP government. There will never be a Union SNP government, as they never fight seats outside Scotland. The Union government can still govern in Westminster, even though a rival party is busily making decisions and passing laws about the devolved matters in Scotland. England needs the same arrangement.

Then there is the question how do we define an English issue which Scottish MPs can’t vote on. That too is easy. It is any issue which is defined as a devolved issue for the Scottish Parliament. We just want the same list for England.

They ask how would the Chancellor of the Exchequer still run the economy if England had devolved budgets. In the same way as he does at the moment with devolved Scottish budgets. The Union could still control overall levels of spending and borrowing, and would still control considerable tax revenue.

They ask why don’t we devolve power to cities? Because not every one lives in cities, and we all in England want a fair settlement for us in an age of Scottish devolution. We will want one English Income tax rate when that is devolved to Scotland, not many. English MPs could of course decide to give more powers to English cities if that is popular and sensible.

Labour still hankers after the break up of England through regional governments. That EU plan was decisively rejected by the voters of the North East when they were offered regional government. I note Labour does not propose splitting Scotland and Wales into regions though that could also be proposed.

So why not agree England wants to make more of her own decisions just like Scotland? The cheapest and easiest way to start down that road is English votes for English issues.

If Mr Hague cannot get agreement to that from Labour then we need to shame them into accepting that Scottish MPs voting on English business is simply no longer acceptable. If Labour wishes to win in England as it has in the past it too needs to speak for England on this matter.

Mr. Redwood's writing is re-posted here by his kind permission. This and other articles are available at  johnredwoodsdiary.com

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