Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I didn't realise David Aaronovitch was a gardener

There is an interesting piece in this morning's Times by the commentator David Aaronovitch on the West Lothain Question. He says,
The snag is that the idea of fairness suggested by the West Lothian Question is essentially childish. It was a big, big problem that a House of Commons in which English MPs outnumbered Scottish ones by eight to one (it is now ten to one) could decide all domestic policies for Scotland. It is not, under almost all foreseeable circumstances, a comparably big problem that 59 Scottish MPs might vote on English matters, given that there are 533 English MPs. The English cannot be outvoted by the Scots, period.
Sounds all so plausible doesn't it? But notice the hedge in the middle of it? No? look right there, it says "almost all foreseeable circumstances". A classic rhetorical device to protect against the "forseeable circumstance" that the hedge itself concedes he knows exists. What could it be?

It couldn't possibly be the fact that whilst the total number of Scottish MPs cannot out vote the total English ones, there can, have and no doubt will be future incidents where the Government passes legislation affesting England where it is the Scottish MPs votes which carry it into law, could it?

Mr Aaronovitch Sir, I tip my hat to a marvelllous piece of hedging work in your English country garden. You managed to cut it just short enough to allow others to see over the top.


Anonymous said...

Of course it is conceivable that Scots MPs could carry a vote or defeat it for that matter. But also consider that almost all English legislation concerns Wales as well which again disfavours Scottish voting influence. And also consider that the SNP has a policy of not voting on entirely English bills which reduces the influence further.

I've heard people mention the Higher Education Bill as a case where a fully English matter was decided by Scots votes. Unfortunately the Higher Education Bill was not a solely English bill because it contained provisions for the Arts and Humanities Research Council which covers the whole of the UK. So Scots MPs (and NI) were perfectly entitled to vote on the bill. It could be argued that the New Labour government engineered the situation instead of separating out the relevant UK wide provisions. Unfortunately when you're in power, regardless of party colour, you're allowed to use these sort of tactics to win a vote. I may be wrong but the Tories haven't adopted a policy of restoring tuition fees after all its a policy straight out of Tory philosophy to get universities to be more independent and to operate more like businesses (as US institution do).

Barnacle Bill said...

I thought Mr Aaronovitch was being a bit dis-ingenuous where he mused that we could never have a Scottish MP as prime minister in his article.
I don't see why not. After all it is only one vote we are talking about.
So we could have a Scottish PM proposing legislation that only affects England. Withdrawing from the actual vote, and if the force of his argument/legislation is strong enough, convincing a majority of English MPs to vote for it.
We would probably have to get used to allowing a free vote on this so that it does not get hijacked by "party" politics.
On the whole I thought Mr Aronovitch left more questions than answers in his article.

Anonymous said...

What a muppet. 59 MPs can do some serious damage either for or against legislation, so to pretend they aren't important is laughable.

It would be nice if he could focus on the principle of the issue, which is that there is a gross imbalance in voting rights that must be addressed.

Alex said...

So what is the problem with the Scottish MP's being out numbered? That is the principle behind democracy. The Welsh MPs are outnumbered by the non-Welsh MPs, the Cornish MPs are outnumbered by the non-Cornish MPs, my MP is outnumbered by the rest of the HoC, and I am outnumbered by the other voters in my constituency.

What is the problem?

Garbo said...

It is not so much that there will never been any occasions when the minority of Scots MPs will have an impact - it's that no-one has come up with a sensible alternative. What the Tories suggest is riddled with far more problems.

Either we have full independence or we just make do with a relatively, but by no means entirely, faultless system.