Experts: More consensus needed for progress

16th December 2014

Responding to William Hague’s statement in the Commons earlier this afternoon, Fellows of the Centre on Constitutional Change have made the following comments:

Professor Michael Keating, Director of the Centre on Constitutional Change:

“All parties now seem to have accepted that there is a ‘West Lothian’ question and that English MPs should have a special role in laws affecting only England. This is a change from the view previously held by many politicians that there should be no distinctions among MPs. On the other hand there is no agreement on how it might work, as the various options would favour different parties. Labour is unwilling to let English MPs have the last say on any bills. English Conservative MPs will continue to demand just that. The Liberal Democrats want any English vote for English laws to reflect not the balance of seats but the balance of votes. This is a way of bringing in proportional representation, although it is not clear that this would actually benefit them in the next Parliament. It is difficult to see a consensus emerging on this any time soon and without consensus progress could be impossible.”

Professor Paul Cairney, Fellow of the Centre on Constitutional Change:

"The principle of EVEL seems simple but, in practice, there is no simple solution. There is no such thing as English-only law, since most decisions made for England have consequences for the devolved territories, either directly through funding consequentials or coordinated governmental activities to minimise loopholes, or indirectly through the disproportionate effect of UK government policies on devolved decisions. Therefore, any solution will be a fudge and everyone knows it. Therefore, the big question is: Can we get cross-party cooperation to ensure that it is at least a fudge that can be implemented in a reasonably systematic way? If the solution is only proposed and agreed by the government of the day, I doubt it."

Dr Craig McAngus, Research Fellow, Centre on Constitutional Change:

“One of the most repeated maxims in recent months has been that considerations around EVEL do not reflect party interests. However, as constitutional developments in the UK often do, Hague's statement and Sadiq Kahn's response are wholly based on party interests. The Lib Dems are using the EVEL debate to bring up the issue of proportional representation, the Conservative party are proposing a number of routes through which they can nullify a future Labour government, and Labour are trying to maintain the influence of their non-English MPs. Today's developments simply represent historical concerns that each of the three main parties have. The only sensible and realistic way to dispel these accusations is to open the process up to the public through a truly inclusive consultation process.”

ENDS

Note to Editors

For further information or to arrange interviews, contact Nick Bibby, Communications Officer for the Centre on Constitutional Change on 07866 053359 / 0131 651 4735 or by email at nick.bibby@ed.ac.uk.

1)      The Centre on Constitutional Change is funded by the Economic and Social Research COUNCIL (ESRC) as the principle focus for scholarship into changes in the UK’s constitutional arrangements.

2)      The recent Future of England Survey, which examined the attitudes of English voters to constitutional change and found a clear preference for EVEL, is available at: http://www.futureukandscotland.ac.uk/news/study-english-voters-support-evel

3)      Michael Keating is Professor of Politics at Aberdeen University and Director of the Centre on Constitutional Change. He is widely considered Europe’s foremost expert on devolution and federalism.

4)      Paul Cairney is Professor of Politics at the University of Stirling and a Fellow of the Centre on Constitutional Change.

5)      Craig McAngus is a Research Fellow in the Centre on Constitutional Change.

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University of Edinburgh
16th December 2014
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