Friday morning, 9 o’clock- just a bit too early for N.Ireland’s MPs…

I’ve written before about Harriett Baldwin’s Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill and in particular Ian Paisley Jr’s opposition to its provisions,  here

Amongst other things, 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”. 

As pointed out here, initially it wouldn’t prevent “non-English MPs voting on English-only legislation, it merely sought to clarify the territorial extent of bills (or clauses within bills) and the financial implications of that bill for the individual nations of the UK”. Nevertheless, if passed there would most probably be future implications for the United Kingdom’s form of governance and not necessarily in a way which would strengthen the Union. 

That being the case, the fact that only 69 MPs (including the Speakers and Tellers) bothered turning out for the Report Stage of Harriett Baldwin’s Bill was disgraceful… the fact that not one N.Irish (or Welsh for that matter) Unionist MP was amongst that figure is even more disappointing.

Fortunately for (but no thanks to) Ian Paisley Jr et al, it was defeated.

Unfortunately for him and Unionism generally, The West Lothian Question, however, remains.

  • Delta Omega

    Ian Jr was on radio last week on this issue. There is indeed some merit in the legislation in that it would give MPs from NI, Scotland and Wales some understanding of the impact of any legislation, and if that legislation was only applicable to England then those that are not affected can choose whether to contribute or not. Harriett Baldwin is not trying to impose a restriction on who can or cannot speak on a piece of legislation but rather to give a reasonable defence to e.g. an NI MP who can state that they didn’t need to speak against a bill (or be there for a vote) as it didn’t apply to NI.

  • O’Neill,

    I’m curious. If the West Lothian Question is of concern to you, then anything that stimulates debate on the matter should surely be welcome? As you pointed out, this bill had no teeth, but did appear to provide for transparency. I see no reason why anyone should object, other than those who are quite happy to muddle along.

  • Drumlins Rock

    With regards the WLQ, how many instances have there been since devoloution that it has proved critical in a vote, ie. how many bills have passed or failed due purely to the votes of the devolved regions MPs? Going down the same route, why should Urban MPs have a vote on rural issues? and vice versa. I strongly suspect that if the question was looked at seriously the answer would be No, there is no real issue in reality, espically when the constituency balancing act comes into place.

  • Drumlin’s Rock,

    During the second last Labour government in both establishing foundation hospitals and agreeing student tuition fees (for England), Scottish votes were needed to get the measures through.

    Also this time on tuition fees, whilst it did not directly affect the outcome, we had the ridiculous situation of a Scottish LD MP voting for the measure in England whilst claiming credit for her party helping to prevent Scottish students having to pay n of the border!

    Andrew,

    “If the West Lothian Question is of concern to you, then anything that stimulates debate on the matter should surely be welcome?”

    Sure and that’s one of the reasons why I posted this.

    In my summary I said fortunately *for* IP Jr et al it was defeated at this stage; my mind has changed several times on this but at the moment I would not necessarily have been against the Bill becoming law.

    The question remains and there will be debate whether Unionism wants it or not.

  • Harriett Baldwin’s bill was a very responsible initiative which the Government ought to adopt.

    “why should Urban MPs have a vote on rural issues?”

    That is a completely irrelavant question or comparison. This discussion is about territorial legislature and the voting rights on matters which have potential to concern all or none of the constituents of an MP.

    The question everybody should be asking is “what is wrong with dealing with the West Lothian question in this way?”

    It is also nonsense to suggest that it is not a potential problem. You only have to look at the disparity between seats which the Conservative Party has in Scotland and in other parts of the UK to appreciate the scale of the problem. Let us suppose that a Labour Government is elected with enough MPs in Parliament for form a Government but not enough for a majority in England (btw on present voting intentions, that is exactly what would happen). The Government then decides to push through a highly controversial Education Bill which is opposed by more English Conservative MPs than English Labour MPs.

    Does anybody seriously believe that English resentment would be negligible?

    Mr. Ian Paisley Junior does not appear to have thought the matter through properly.

  • iluvni

    NI MPs not bothering to turn up to vote..there’s a shock.
    Lets, for example, look at the record of Sammy Wilson, on publicwhip..

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpc=East+Antrim&house=commons

    He’s voted only 35.8% of the times he could.

  • iluvni @ 4:55 pm:

    I think we (certainly I) had a nibble at this only last week.

    The Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill was scheduled for 9:30 am on Friday morning — Hansard records the debate started at 9:34 am. The vote came at 1:20. 64 (and four tellers) MPs voted — that’s not quite 10% of the House. It’s a private member’s bill, so has not s snowflake’s chance of making it to the statute book without active support from the government. And the government want this right now as much as coke-stains detected on George Osborne’s Savile Row sleeve.

    So, two questions:

    Unless a NI MP was prepared to say overnight in London, how could he/she have been present? And before you leap in with the “Why not?”, there is the small matter of convincing IPSA. And, even when IPSA endorse the expense of a room at Travelodge, there’s the follow-up of someone (even here in Sluggerdom) whingeing about MPs’ expenses.

    Why pick on the NI MPs when 560+ non-NI MPs couldn’t make it either?

  • iluvni

    My beef with the likes of Sammy Wilson is that his unavailability at crucial votes and woeful record of 35.8% is in part due to his fulltime job(s) in the Assembly.
    Its an abuse of the constituency he is supposed to represent.

  • iluvni,

    I don’t like double jobbing either but it’s not solely Sammy’s fault. The people who elected him have a large share of responsibility.

  • iluvni

    I agree with that. Most who elected him couldnt give a fiddlers unfortunately.

  • ayeYerMa

    Allowing more clear-cut regional designations on legislation and regional voting in Westminster is IMO the most pragmatic short to medium term solution to the WLQ. While not perfect, these type of designations do address the imbalance and allow time to think about the future constitutional model of the UK. We may eventually see further devolution starting in northern and western regions of England – the regional designation in Westminster gives these regions the space and time to think about whether or not they actually want to devolve, and (unlike Labour’s rushed regional assemblies plan) allows them time to think about the optimum way to do it properly if that’s what they so wish. It’s political reform in typically ad-hoc and flexible British way!

    I predict we’ll have a fully federal UK within the next 50 years, though I doubt an English Parliament will happen as the English regions will have little more say in it than they do in the present UK parliament.