Thursday, 26 July 2012

Kim Howells on the English Question"

In its continuing role of being the paper of Unionism in Wales reports that Kim Howells has emerged from wherever his bunker is now to claim that Tony Blair’s government deliberately ignored the contentious issue of Welsh and Scottish MPs voting on English laws when drawing up devolution plans,
The ex-Pontypridd MP told the Mckay  commission examining the so-called West Lothian question that Labour decided to “stay away from it” because it was “difficult”.

A startling admission or a stating the bleeding obvious?

With no real clamour for an English parliament at the time or regional devolution there.What wouls be the solution?  impose a Parliament on England (and notice they always talk about an English parliament not Assembly)  or insist that devolution to Wales and Scotland would fall if The English failed to support a call for their own Parliament.

The call came from Wales and Scotland to include England at the time whether by creating a Parliament or regional Assemblies would have been pointless.

This does not mean the "West Lathian" question  or as it has become "The English Question should not have been addressed since 1997

In a response to Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, the former All Wales Convention chair who now sits on the McKay Commission suggested to Dr Howells:

“I’m tempted to say, when you say you ignored the question at the time, the thought process wasn’t perhaps as deep as you said earlier.

But the former minister responded:

No, it was a conscious decision, Sir Emyr, not to. Stay away from it.”
Dr Howells said that, while he was opposed to the establishment of an English parliament – one of the solutions which has been suggested to the question – he believed it might be inevitable.

I’m not sure I can see an alternative, really, to an English parliament,” he said.
“I’m not in favour of one, by the way, because I think we are on the slippery slope of breaking up Britain, but I hope the kinds of settlements that we’ve designed, which have evolved since, will hold us back from that, but I fear that, if it becomes an issue. I don’t think it is, by the way, at the moment, probably amongst some interested individuals and academics, amongst some parliamentarians, but it’s not an issue which fills the front page of the Daily Mail.”

Is this what he reads now?

I support an English Parliament but in the meantime the parties in the Westminster parliament should should issue a Red White or Blue line whip if there are Bills or parts of a Bill that affect only one of the members of the UK

Red Line Whip Only Welsh MPs to vote on parts of legislation that only really affect Wales that are not currently devolved such as "West Glamorgan question", cited by Rhodri Morgan where English Conservative MPs who rebelled against local government re-organisation in their own constituencies, but voted for it in Wales.

White Line Whip . Only MPs vote on Legislation which only affects England this would be by far the most common

Blue Line Whip Scottish MPs only to vote on any Part of Legislation that only affects Scotland (This would be rare).

But this I admit would be a messy compromise and not resolve the issue entirely but I can't see why it shouldn't be agreed.

The problem for Unionist like Kim Howells is not so much that a English Parliament would lead to the inevitable break up of his precious union but an admission that Wales and Scotland exist as nations and that Westminster which for Unionist is the place where they want to achieve their political ambitions.

Its been argued that part of the reason for the SNP success in Scotland is that they send thier best people to Holyrood where Labour send their best to Westminster.

Howells' is a political dinosaur who never really supported devolution  and who still thinks he has something relevant to say . But telling a commission what we already know and offering no solution is not worth it. 


Anonymous said...

I have placed a 'white line' whip under this comment to demonstrate how it would work in practice.


maen_tramgwydd said...

My understanding is that the greater part of legislation (which has a financial impact) for England, has direct or indirect consequences on Wales (to a greater extent) and Scotland (to a lesser extent).

I don't think that such a system is workable, even in the medium term. But it wouldn't surprise me if the unionists try it, if only because the alternative (for them) is deeply unpalatable - that is a federal UK, with an English Parliament.

A federation has to be created and entrenched with a written constitution. That would involve ditching the entire so-called unwritten constitution of the UK. Parliament, and its sovereignty, the relationship of the Monarchy with Church and State, the electoral system and the legal system would all have to be codified, and much more besides. The Tories (and to a lesser extent Labour) would rather English independence, and maintain the current system of parliamentary sovereignty there.

I suspect that there's a tendency towards ambivalence within the Tory party regarding Scottish independence. Scotland's exit would leave the rUK more or less intact constitutionally.

The current system of devolution (devised on the back of a fag packet) was designed to maintain the notion of parliamentary sovereignty indefinitely, and in George Robertson's words, "to kill nationalism stone dead". It's failed in Scotland, but thanks to the stupidity of some of Plaid's leaders, it's damaged their party deeply. IWJ succumbed to the lure of Labour's devo strategy, and Plaid is paying the price for it today. ("Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly") What staggers belief is that there are some who still haven't learned that lesson, not the least of which are DET and Dafis.

My advice to Leanne is to use devolution to best advantage when it suits Plaid, but not when it benefits Labour - Labour is Plaid's real opponent, which it has to defeat at the ballot box. It's easy for me to say it, but it will be difficult to achieve. Salmond did it, and I hear the cynics say "but Wales isn't Scotland". No, but Plaid is a nationalist party, same as the SNP, and it has to use similar strategies. Labour can be defeated. Their record in the UK and in Wales is abysmal. Plaid has failed to illustrate that clearly to the people of Wales. Say it, and keep saying it, loud and long. Labour has to be attacked and undermined at every opportunity, when in power in Westminster, and when in opposition. A good example is Carwyn Jones' call for Trident subs to be based at Milford Haven. Was he nailed on that one?

If Plaid continues as it has done over the last decade, since IWJ became leader, it will cease to exist as political party, and return to being a pressure group. Let's have some clear thinking, kick out the spoilers before they do any more damage.

Anonymous said...

There wasn’t a clamour for an English Parliament in 1997, but since then Polls have consistently shown 60-odd% in favour.

Recent polls have put demands for English independence at 35%. This is an incredible statistic considering such a proposal would have been unthinkable pre-1997 and it shows the depth of feeling regarding the democratic deficit here.

Finally, it would be a Parliament and not an Assembly because the Act of Union dissolved the English and Scottish Parliaments. Devolution resulted in the Scottish parliament being reconvened and the same would have to happen for England