UK Politics

Tory MP Redwood leads calls for English Parliament

Chamber of House of Commons Image copyright PA
Image caption There are currently 59 MPs representing Scottish constituencies in Parliament

The House of Commons could double up as an English Parliament as part of a future devolution settlement for the entire UK, a Conservative MP has urged.

John Redwood said English MPs should meet to decide English-only issues, while the existing UK Parliament of all MPs would focus on "Union" matters.

The Scottish Parliament is set to gain major new tax powers even in the event of a No vote in Thursday's poll.

Mr Redwood said England should not be "fobbed off" with anything less.

There are growing calls for the devolution framework put in place under the last Labour government - which saw the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly - to be revisited whatever the outcome of the referendum vote.

'Home rule'

If Scotland rejects independence, Labour, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have said they will support giving substantial new powers to the Scottish Parliament in areas such as taxation, borrowing and welfare - a package ex-prime minister Gordon Brown has said will amount to "home rule".

But many English MPs have said this will necessitate wider constitutional changes, with some backing a federal model where all the different nations of the UK have the same financial autonomy.

Mr Redwood said giving English councils more financial freedoms and budgetary control in policy areas - as proposed by Labour and the Lib Dems - simply did not go far enough.

While he said the public had rejected the idea of a regional assembly in the North of England and were lukewarm about elected mayors, the idea of a English-only Parliament was very popular.

"As the Scottish Parliament is going to have the power to fix income tax in Scotland, we need an English Parliament to fix the level of income tax in England," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

In such an event, he said it would not longer be fair for MPs from Scottish constituencies to vote on devolved matters relating solely to England, including the setting of English-only tax rates.

'Justice and balance'

At the moment, Scottish MPs at Westminster can vote on matters relating only to England - such as health and education - even though their English equivalents have no say in the running of the NHS or schools in Scotland - which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

He added: "We English MPs are very happy to vote through more powers for Scotland... but our price is no more Scottish votes on English issues in the Parliament..

Image copyright PA
Image caption Advocates of an English Parliament to want it to have the same financial powers as Holyrood

"You have to form the English Parliament from the English MPs.

"I want them to meet as an English Parliament and have our own English ministers on English issues just as the Scottish Parliament meets."

Asked how this would work, Mr Redwood said the most "economical" solution would be for English MPs to be both members of a Parliament devoted solely to English issues and a Union Parliament that concentrated on matters reserved to the UK government such as foreign affairs and defence - in which Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs would also be represented.

"We have a Union Parliament meeting as it does today and on other days of the week English MPs within that Union Parliament would form the English Parliament," he said.

'Unsustainable'

While backing this idea, the ConservativeHome website has warned that such a solution is not without its difficulties and "controversial decisions would have to be taken about what exactly constitutes non-Scottish business".

None of the three main parties currently backs the idea of an English Parliament and ministers have said all such discussions need to wait until after the outcome of the referendum vote.

The Lib Dems did not mention the so-called "West Lothian question" in its pre-election manifesto published last week but pledged a "devolution on demand" approach to giving more powers to councils and new devolved bodies.

But former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell has said that if extensive further powers were given to Holyrood, then it would be "unsustainable" for Scottish MPs to continue to vote on health, education and other non-reserved issues in Westminster.

'Dissolution'

Labour is reported to be concerned about its ability to get future Budgets through the House of Commons if Scottish MPs are excluded from voting on English-only tax issues.

One Labour MP said the overlapping nature of economic decision-making meant having a separate English Parliament was "not the simple answer" its proponents believed.

"One cannot just have John Redwood and a few others deciding what the future governance of England should look like. It has to be determined by a very clear process set out in law."

But the MP welcomed the growing debate on the issue, adding that "acceptance among Labour's English MPs that the system will have to change is quite widespread".

UKIP has called for a "fully federal" UK, with similar economic powers for all the different nations while the English Democrats has claimed a Yes vote on Thursday is the "easiest way" to dissolve the Union and achieve the party's objective of independence for England.

Even if the event of a No vote, the English Democrats' chair Robin Tilbrook has said a "great surge of devo-max" for Scotland would have huge implications for the rest of the UK.

"England needs to be properly represented and the British political establishment is simply not doing that job," he says.

Related Topics

More on this story