Monday, October 29, 2007

Scottish votes for English votes for English laws?

The ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) idea being kicked around by the Tories ought to be subject to a referendum – as were the devolutionary changes in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

But not a referendum in England.

Last week, I argued (in the context of the EU treaty) that in a representative democracy, “a referendum would be justified when a proposal would significantly weaken the link between people and policy by removing significant power from [their elected representatives]”. Hence the devolution referendums we’ve had were appropriate.

But what people-policy link would be weakened by EVEL? Not the link between English voters and policy outcomes, but rather the link between Scottish, Welsh etc., voters and policy outcomes. The people who would lose power are the ones who deserve a say: the loss of their MPs’ voting rights at Westminster was not part of the devolution settlements they voted for. A fresh mandate would be needed. Sure, an English referendum could be reasonable as well, but it’s not required on such moral grounds.

I’m sure the idea won’t catch on, but the logic of it seems pretty solid.

My own view on this is still pretty much as it was in a pair of posts last year: the House of Commons needs to stay unified and MPs procedurally equal in order to ensure the coherence of the Government – which derives its authority from the Commons. But that still leaves us the House of Lords to play with.

[Update: interesting takes on this issue can be found at Cassilis and Big Sticks and Small Carrots.]

1 comment:

"Darth Maul" said...

Found this via Google! Interesting point of view. Problem is, at the moment, laws affecting only England, can be carried by Labour using votes from people who's constituencies are not affected by the proposed changes in the law. Something like EVEL does, crudely, redress this inbalance.

Surely, if we are going to have real equality between the home nations, the answer would be to have a proper federal system? clearly defined powers handed to a home nations parliament, with Westminster looking after British issues. Should we do that, then we dont need so many MP's in Westminster, and the savings can be passed over to help fund the home nations governments.

It could work.