Making an English Parliament work


I was surprised to read on ConservativeHome that 60 percent of Tory members surveyed did not agree that there should be an English Parliament. Odd since opinion polls tend to suggest that a majority of the public would back the creation of an English Parliament, while the Tories would probably benefit most from the existence of one, since their support is concentrated in England. Perhaps a sense of British patriotism explains the result of the survey, or perhaps it's just not representative.

Either way, I myself whole-heartedly favour of an English Parliament. As it stands, the UK's lopsided devolution severely disadvantages England. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote on issues that only affect English voters, while their own constituents are governed by devolved institutions. This means that legislation can be forced through Parliament by non-English votes, even though it only applies to England. Throw in the fact that the English are relatively under-represented in parliament anyway, and you are dealing with a basic issue of fairness.

That said, I don't want hundreds of new politicians, thousands of new bureaucrats, and millions spent on an ugly new building to house them. But there are a couple of ways around that - firstly, you could simply have the English MPs already elected to Westminster sit for part of the week as an English Parliament, with their own executive. Alternatively, if you are going to start electing the upper house anyway, the House of Lords could become a unicameral parliament for the UK, while the House of Commons becomes a unicameral parliament for England.

Either way, there is a further step that needs to be taken if devolution is to work properly: the various home nations should be responsible for raising the money they spend themselves, which is to say they should be fiscally autonomous. This could be accomplished fairly easily – if the UK parliament retains the right to set and collect VAT and National Insurance, and everything else was devolved, the sums more or less work out.