Newspapers and blogs today are full of stuff about an English Parliament or an English Grand Committee. Malcolm Rifkind has made a major speech in which he suggests an English Grand Committee of Parliament with English Members of Parliament only sitting and voting on matters which only concern England, and it looks as though the Party may be backing the idea.
As an interim measure, an English Grand Committee is a good idea, but we should be aiming for an English Parliament.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of four countries:- England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The last three of these have a recognized identity, culture, nationalism and, importantly, their own legislature, whether it be called Assembly or Parliament, which determines domestic matters.
The fourth, England, does not have its own legislature. That must mean we are an oppressed, discriminated against minority! Our domestic matters are determined by a Government made up largely of Scots, and voted for by Members of the UK Parliament representing Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland constituencies.
Let’s look at a hypothetical case:- prescription charges. The national legislatures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland could decide to abolish charges and allow free prescriptions. Then UK MPs from those three countries could consider a similar measure for England, and could vote against abolition of charges, against the wishes of the English people and the English MPs, thereby putting the English at yet another disadvantage.
As an aside, why is it that Scottish, Welsh and Irish culture and traditions, however nationalistic, are considered charming and an important part of the country’s life and history, whereas in England such things are castigated as nastily xenophobic?
Another extremely important point on this subject is that we must oppose any suggestion of regionalized Parliaments or Assemblies. If Labour feels that public opinion is so strong they must do something, it is likely they would opt for Parliaments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Regional Assemblies for the various parts of England. This is quite unacceptable and illogical. Scotland has regions, Strathclyde being a case in point, but there was no suggestion there should be anything other than a national Parliament.
England, too, must have a national Parliament. There must be Parliaments for each of the four nation states of the United Kingdom.