Monday May 7th 2007
In a new Briefing Paper the Adam Smith Institute has called for an English Parliament, but in a novel form. Unlike proposals which involve a new layer of representatives, a fresh set of elections, and a new building to house it, the ASI proposal uses existing institutions. Under the ASI plan, following the next general election the MPs representing English constituencies should meet in the Palace of Westminster as the Parliament of England, having equivalent powers over health, education, policing and transport as the Scottish Parliament presently has.
They would elect a First Minister, as the Scots do, who would then put together a cabinet which would govern England in the designated areas of responsibility. The UK Parliament would remain responsible UK-wide matters and would control the various departments in charge of them: security and immigration, foreign affairs, international development, defence, employment and social security, energy, constitutional affairs, and tax and the economy.
The English Parliament would meet and do its work in the same building as the UK Parliament, with each of the two bodies meeting at different times. Part of the attraction of the proposal is that it does not involve the expense of a separately-elected body meeting in a separate building. Taxes would continue to be set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the revenues collected by HM Revenue & Customs and then divided between the home nations.
The ASI tested the popularity of this proposal by asking YouGov to conduct a survey. That survey found a huge majority in favour. When the 30 percent "don't knows" were eliminated, the figures showed 69 percent in favour, versus 31 percent against, a better than two-to-one majority.* The Institute notes that there is a widespread feeling that the present asymmetrical devolution is widely perceived to be unfair and unsustainable, and suggests that an English Parliament, constituted along the lines suggested, would be the simplest way to redress that unfairness.