The Con-Lib Coalition; English Votes on English Laws; or an English Constitutional Convention – Which Is It To Be?

british islesThe England First Party – and all English nationalists – would like clarification from the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government on the nature of their plans to address the governance of England.

The threat of an anti-English “Progressive Alliance” which called upon 58 Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs from Scotland; 3 SDLP MPs from Northern Ireland, and; 32 Labour, Lib Dem and Plaid Cymru MPs from Wales to provide a rainbow coalition majority that trumped the Conservative majority in England, threw the future of the “Union” into serious question.

It was not just the voting privileges of the non-English MPs that was of concern (the so-called West Lothian Question) it was the fact that these non-English MPs constitute a sizable proportion of the Commons’ electoral college that chooses the prime minister and government of the United Kingdom, and hence – because England has no parliament and government of its own – of England.

There was a fleeting possibility that these MPs elected outside England’s borders would impose upon England a government not of England’s choosing, that did not have a majority of English MPs, but could nevertheless formulate policy for England and bring it before the House. A government such as this, legislating on matters such as health and education that are devolved to the other nations of the UK, could not possibly claim legitimacy as the government of England.

To address the West Lothian Question the Conservative Party Manifesto promises that they “will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries”. This policy, referred to as ‘English Votes on English Laws’ until 2009 when it was revised to allow non-English MPs to vote on the Second and decisive Third Reading of England-only Bills, attempts to addresses the undemocratic voting rights of non-English MPs within Parliament but it does not address the question of who governs England and by what right.

muslims burn the union flagThe people of England deserve an English Government that governs in the interests of England, immediately accountable to an English Parliament, and ultimately accountable to the people of England alone.

The Conservative’s coalition partners make no mention of ‘English Votes on English Laws’ in their manifesto. Instead the Liberal Democrats pledge to “Address the status of England within a federal Britain, through the Constitutional Convention set up to draft a written constitution for the UK as a whole”.

The EFP favours* the Liberal Democrat policy because of its more holistic federal approach, which asks the people for resolution of the English Question, as opposed to the Conservative’s technical top-down Parliamentary mitigation of the much narrower West Lothian Question.

We call upon the new coalition Government to outline their joint policy on the future of England and we ask that a Minister for England is appointed with special remit to oversee that policy and to represent England’s interests in Cabinet, as the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales will do for their people in Cabinet discussions over reform of the Barnett Formula, Scotland’s Calman Commission proposals, and the plans for a referendum on a Welsh Parliament with primary legislative powers. England requires a voice in Cabinet.

The EFP welcomes the initiative reported on the BBC website for Scotland that there will also be a commission to discuss the possibility of setting up an Assembly for England and to look at the West Lothian question. However, the EFP will continue to campaign for an independent England, and a separately elected English Parliament within a federal British Isles.

* We qualify our preference for a constitutional convention on the proviso that the that the convention is preceded by a “National Conversation for England” so that the people of England can participate in a full and rounded discussion on the governance of England and England’s place within the “Union” (that is for as long as the “Union” lasts), and surveyed on the options before us, before a phalanx of politicians, union leaders, churchmen, self-appointed or government appointed civic leaders all begin pontificating on what’s best for “the people”.

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