Wales politics

McKay Commission: Labour 'avoided devolution questions'

Kim Howells
Image caption Labour made a "conscious decision" to stay away from the West Lothian question, Kim Howells says

The previous Labour government decided to avoid dealing with the "very difficult" questions created by devolution, says a former minister.

Kim Howells said Labour opted to "stay well away" from the implications for MPs' voting rights.

The former Pontypridd MP gave evidence to the McKay Commission meeting in Cardiff into the West Lothian question.

The question asks whether Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs should have a vote on English-only matters.

'Small anomaly'

It was first posed in the 1970s by Labour MP Tam Dalyell, whose constituency at the time was West Lothian.

Dr Howells, whose ministerial posts included time in the Foreign Office and education, was on the cabinet committee that drew up the post-devolution settlement after the Labour landslide at the 1997 general election.

He told the commission that the then Labour government made a "conscious decision" to "stay well away from" the question.

He said: "We never discussed it. We had all heard of the West Lothian question.

"We all knew Tam Dalyell and knew the questions Tam was asking were very difficult questions."

Since the creation of the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies, and the Scottish Parliament, Dr Howells said he could not see an alternative to the creation of an English parliament - although he added: "I'm not in favour of one by the way."

Creating a grand committee of English MPs would be "just another way of avoiding the West Lothian question" and would "generate a demand for an English parliament", he said.

Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan told the commission: "On a scale of anomalies I would call it a pretty small one."

Mr Morgan posed an alternative "West Glamorgan question", citing the example of English Conservative MPs who rebelled against local government re-organisation in their own constituencies, but voted for it in Wales.

Most bills which pass through parliament affected public spending, he said, making it difficult to ring-fence English-only votes.

Asked if that meant all MPs should be allowed to vote on bills with resource implications, he said: "I can't see how they can be excluded."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites