Ian Paisley Jr warns against equal rights for the English.

 This week the  Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill, at first sight  a rather innocuous private member’s bill, got a second reading in the House of Commons:

The Bill applies to draft primary legislation and to secondary legislation published before the parent Act has gained Royal Assent. In these cases, it requires that the draft Bill should contain a statement setting out its legal effects on each nation of the United Kingdom, and that a memorandum accompany the draft showing its financial effects on each nation.

The Bill would also create new rights for citizens to see how proposed changes in the law would affect them, and for MPs to see how the changes would affect their constituents. The Bill requires that the provisions of draft legislation are compatible with these rights, referred to as “the principles of legislative territorial clarity”. The Secretary of State must make a statement to this effect, or a statement that he/she is unable to do so, but that the Government wishes to proceed nonetheless.

As I said, mild in the extreme. On first reading of the intentions behind the bill, my instinctive reaction was “So what?”

However, as this House of Commons Library research paper points out:

The Bill relates to the ‘West Lothian Question’, whereby Members representing constituencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may vote on legislation that applies only to England. If this were addressed by having a special way of voting on ‘England only’ legislation, then this Bill would provide a means of identifying some of those Bills

My second reaction, having read that part, was “OK, not quite so innocuous but still, this might just sort out the West Lothian Question without anybody actually noticing or the Union being any further weakened”. 

Ian Paisley Jr would disagree with that interpretation and gave his alternative opinion in his customary understated and tactful manner:

The North Antrim MP said any imposition of “English votes for English laws” out of a fear the English are becoming “bad unionists” would create a two tier House of Commons and risk the break up of the United Kingdom.

“I appeal to my Conservative friends…they should recognise they should not play party politics with constitution of this nation,” he said.

“We will have a House of little Englanders,” he said. “That does not serve this nation.”

“You have a responsibility to lead the people of England into believing passionately in the union as I do.

“You only do that by not encouraging this view that we need another Parliament for the English only.”

Oh dear, where do you start with that?

The threat to the Union is not the “Little Englanders” or even English Conservative “bad unionists” but the whole concept of asymmetrical devolution which is wholeheartedly supported by the “good unionists” including Ian Jr, his party and almost all of the pro-Union Political Establishment in N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Unionists have been lucky so far that English nationalism, in the words of Arthur Aughey, remains more of a “mood than a movement“…. but we have no room for complacency because at its core  asymmetrical devolution and its inevitable consequences is constitutionally (and in more practical terms) unfair to the English and ultimately damaging to the Union.  

If you agree with the principle of separate parliaments or assemblies for N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales, then you really do need to deliver a much more coherent argument than Ian Jr has given here to say why the English shouldn’t have that exact same privilege.

  • The Word

    ” A nation”

    Ian Paisley JNr is starting to suspect that the GFA undermined British sovereignty in Northern Ireland. Clearly this is a smokescreen to cover for the fact that they were nobbled and just didn’t realise it in 1998..

  • Ian Paisley Jnr does not have any analysis behind is expressed view. It is pure hot air.

    You are absolutely right that the best way to pacify the threat of English Nationalism is to find a way of resolving the West Lothian problem in a fair manner. A requirement that only English MPs could legislate on English matters is a good start.

  • Paisley Jr has “Conservative friends”?

  • fordprefect

    Word
    Again, are you on “something”? I personally think that this whole thread is a load of gonads.,

  • fordprefect

    I couldn’t care less if Ian Paisley jnr. was calling for a united Ireland.

  • DougtheDug

    Devolution isn’t asymmetrical because the aim of devolution was to give some power to British provinces not to recognise the two nations and two provinces of the UK. Devolution failed to deliver provinces within England but a single English Parliament was never part of the devolution process.

    Ian Paisley’s got a point because he recognises that if the UK Parliament starts to differentiate between England and Britain people in England will start to recognise the difference. The internal boundaries between Britain and England have always been weak and fuzzy in England and if they get clearer then there’s the danger that Britain/the UK stops being regarded as a nation and starts being regarded as a less attractive political union in the minds of the English.

  • faldocourt

    Call me stupid if you wish, but can someone advise me why all the political commentators and most leading politicians continually state that the formation of an English Parliament would break up the union; didn’t we the English give birth to the union? Could it be they are afraid that we the English are now a little tired of supporting bickering and in fighting and lack of positive unity that we might wake up and want to get out of it, which if we were in a true democracy! would be our right……………………….

  • ttappy

    England must have not only a fair voting system, but must get its own parliament. We are the largest country in the union , yet we have the least rights. We have to pay unjust extra funds to Scotland, Wales and Ulster.
    Come on England wake up !! It is time to fight for jutice !!

  • By and large your average English wants to keep the Union. Barnett is the price the English are willing to pay for a colourful occasionally entertaining sometimes violent Celtic fringe ,second homes and the maintenance of the parent child relationship.

    If you can’t be superior in your own back yard how can you be so on the world stage.

    It could just as easily be argued that asymmetrical devolution is a pressure relief valve rather than a slippery slope. Paisley is right to speak out, some things are best left alone which is why this is a private member’s bill with no visible government support.

  • pippakin

    ” Devolution failed to deliver provinces within England but a single English Parliament was never part of the devolution process.
    The internal boundaries between Britain and England have always been weak and fuzzy in England and if they get clearer then there’s the danger that Britain/the UK stops being regarded as a nation and starts being regarded as a less attractive political union in the minds of the English.”

    The so called ‘provinces’ were seen as a way to diminish England and that in the minds of many is the main reason they were rejected out of hand. It was seen as another very expensive talking shop with no real power to do anything other than separate one part of England from another.

    There is a real chance that the apathetic, sleepy, English could be the ones to split the union. The British parliament has avoided real civil unrest for hundreds of years by giving the British just enough change to keep the lid on the unrest in any part of the union. I think there will be a recognition that MPs from outside England must not vote on specifically English matters, and that might be enough, at least for a while but times are changing and why should anyone assume the English want the union anymore than the Scots, Welsh or us.

  • The essential flaw in the whole concept of asymmetrical devolution (at least as it applies to the UK) is failing to recognise that “Let me tell you, my friend: the 600lb gorilla sits exactly where it wants to” (oh, the old ones are the best ones!). England is 84% of the population. It elects 533 of the 650 MPs — a mere 82%. Lest we forget: the voting reform bill, currently trapped in the Lords, aims to restore the full octane-value of an English vote.

    Harriett Baldwin’s Bill (the topic of this thread) is an attempt to define which legislation affects England alone. I gather the current proposal coming from the Tory “Democratic Task Force” (yukkh!) is only English MPs would amend measures relating only to England, but all MPs would vote on the proposals at second and third reading. In all truth, that’s pretty well what happens now in practice.

  • Fair Deal

    How is introducing assymmetry to Westminster a solution to assymmetry in the devolution settlement?

  • How dare the MP for North Antrim tell us, in England, how we should be governed. That is our choice not his. We are sick of being the milch cow for the rest of the UK. The British Government consistently doles out to us less per head on services that it makes available to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. NI receives a great deal more per head than all the rest. So, perhaps, we must see more than a little self interest in his denial of a democratic voice for England in a devolved UK.

  • Independence4England

    The Union was created by England as we needed to control these other nations in order to stop the threat of French and / or Spanish backed Catholic invasion.
    We, the English, will now break the Union, as we no longer need it.
    The unproductive, under performing nations of Wales, Scotland and N.I cost taxpayers in England vast sums of money.
    Wales, Scotland and N.I will be given full financial and political independence.

  • Fair Deal,

    Do you think there needs to be a solution to the assymetry in the the devolution settlement?

  • joeCanuck

    Democracy can be prettty messy at times but , as Churchill said, the other systems are much worse. Ask any arab.

  • Tweedybird

    Ian Paisley Jr is nothing but a hypocrite,“I appeal to my Conservative friends,” I know its maybe only a bit of HoC etiquette but he has no love for the Conservatives. Furthermore, didn’t he leave the Unionist party in the middle of negations regarding the GFA and now he is doing everything he castigated the Unionists for.
    On the subject of the Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill he is talking a load of bulls**t, the ‘West Lothian Question’ is a valid and logical point.

  • madraj55

    Tweedybird. IPJ seems to have had an irony bypass operation, and can’t what this outburst makes him look like. So much for NI being as British as Finchley.

  • “gave his alternative opinion”

    Here’s a link to the primary source for those who wish to reflect on the whole debate.

  • Neil

    It’s an argument whose time has come I reckon. Anyone would think that Northern Ireland’s worth holding onto, but as our English Nationalist folks have pointed out we cost a lot and contribute very little.

    It again underlines that daft view that English people are basically Unionists by default, due to them liking the same flag. Bullshit. They may salute the Union Jack and stand for God Save the Queen, but most of them find mad Unionists just as hard to fathom as mad Republicans.

    The English will ditch us eventually, as common sense dictates, I just hope that given the economic times in which we live can lead to a proper debate around the issue of whether this 1.5 million people is worth the trouble, or whether those English pounds would be better spent on English people, or on keeping the Orange Order safe while they march through majority Catholic populated areas.

  • Fair Deal

    “Do you think there needs to be a solution to the assymetry in the the devolution settlement?”

    1. Yes (based on the guiding principle of equal citizenship but not because I share the fear of the assymmetry being a threat to the Union (that has not been the experience of the Union.))
    2. Now I’ve done the decent thing and answered your question perhaps you would be so kind as to answer mine rather than avoid it with a question. How is introducing assymmetry to Westminster a solution to assymmetry in the devolution settlement?

  • Is “assymmetry” a synonym for “booticious”?

    O.K. Sorry! I’ll find my own way out.

  • “The threat to the Union”

    [aside]I’m posting this here as it seems to be the most relevant thread.

    There’s a threat to a number of Coastguard Co-Ordination Centres, including the local one in Bangor, and the privatisation of the helicopter Search and Rescue operation is in a shambles.

    Is the co-operative approach adopted by our elected representatives not worthy of recognition?

    There appears to be no overall strategy to deal with major issues of public safety across these two islands.

  • Fair Deal,

    Point1) Ok, I know you do, I don’t think IPJ sees it as presenting any problem in terms of either threatening the Union or the more abstract concept of equal citizenship.

    On the basis that I think its logical outworkings does potentially present a real threat (look at the increasing furore over the tuition fees issue to take but one example) then I think some sort of measure will be needed sooner or later to reduce its impact.

    From a Unionist perspective, what are the alternatives to solving the underlying weakness of devolution?

    Dismantling the present system isn’t going to happen and a fully fledged federal system, with the attendant English parliament would work only if England as a nation wasn’t the disproportionate size it is.

    Which leaves not a perfect but the least worst alternative.
    Harriett Baldwin’s bill in its basic form doesn’t propose a full “English votes for English measures” but even if it did, it would only be codifying what is the present situation with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and generally speaking all NI MPs, for either reasons of conviction or lack of interest, not voting on measures which directly affect only England. That leaves Scottish and Welsh Labour but even there I didn’t see much protest at the debate last week.

  • Fair Deal

    1. An English parliament is not obligatory as part of a federal solution – however the lack of desire in england for any (whether one or seven) is the stumbling block to that.
    2. English measures are not easy to define (territorial extent isn’t enough because of financial inplications etc)
    3. Also how does turning Westminster into a part-time English parliament do much for identification as a national institution?

  • joeCanuck

    Are there many laws enacted at Westminster that are applicable to England alone?
    For those that do, it could be dealt with by convention; any MP could speak in a debate but there would be a simple understanding that MPs from the regions, except for Cabinet members, do not vote.

  • Temeraire

    IMO the British National Party is an oxymoron.
    The UK of GB is made up of seperate nations.
    It is also the last outdated vestige of the British Empire.
    It is history.Some good times,some bad times but in the past nonetheless.Time to move on.
    The Celtic nations deserve the opportunity to go their own way.
    In England,we have our work cut out dealing with the 4th Reich.Again.
    We really want to leave this colonial nonsense where it belongs.In the history books.
    P.S.Any help dealing with Brussels would be greatly appreciated but we won’t hold you to anything.

  • FD and Joe,

    Re the definition of what measure applies to England alone, that’s the prime purpose of the Bill:

    “…draft Bill should contain a statement setting out its legal effects on each nation of the United Kingdom, and that a memorandum accompany the draft showing its financial effects on each nation.”

    In practice I’m guessing it would be a small minority which would be “English only”.

    FD,

    1.Any Federal system, by definition, surely must give England separated legislative powers, whether those are emerging from a fully-fledged parliament or not.

    3.Devolution has already damaged the identification of Westminster has a national institution and that same devolution in the other parts of the UK has already turned the parliament into a de facto English one. As I said that fact is already shown by the reluctance of NI, Scot and Welsh MPs to get involved in issues which they see as English ones. This bill, if ever passed, would merely codify the existing reality.

  • Fair Deal

    “1.Any Federal system, by definition, surely must give England separated legislative powers, whether those are emerging from a fully-fledged parliament or not. ”

    The powers can be given but it doesn;t have to be at an English level but regional.

    “Devolution has already damaged the identification of Westminster has a national institution and that same devolution in the other parts of the UK has already turned the parliament into a de facto English one.”

    So when in a hole stop digging, don’t add to the problems by emphasising them.

    “the reluctance of NI, Scot and Welsh MPs to get involved in issues which they see as English ones. This bill, if ever passed, would merely codify the existing reality.”

    Individual discretion has greater flexibility to it than law and thus preferable.

  • vinty

    The English were a Race who don’t exist anymore just as the Scots were a race. the British are a nation, the irish are not a race either.