Monday, 22 September 2014

The West Lothian question

We keep hearing this statement being thrown around at the moment, so what is the West Lothian question?

The question was posed by Tam Dalyell in 1977 over non-English MPs' role at Westminster.

Simply put, it asks why Scottish, Welsh or indeed Northern Irish MPs have the same right to vote at Westminster as any English MP now that large areas of policy are devolved to national parliaments and assemblies in areas such as health, housing, schools and policing.

The question itself is famously attributed to the then Labour MP for West Lothian, Tam Dalyell, who raised it in 1977 when Jim Callaghan's Labour government proposed a devolved assembly in Edinburgh. An anti-devolutionist, Dalyell argued it would be unfair for Scottish MPs to have equal rights to vote on English-only legislation. Callaghan's plan failed to win a large enough Scottish majority in a referendum, and collapsed.

After last weeks Scottish referendum this question has raised its head once again and it is possible it is more difficult for the Labour party that the coalition parties because Labour have 41 active Scottish MPs and if the current suggestions went ahead, Labour would have even less power in parliament than they have now and with just over six months to the general election next May, this must be very tricky for Ed Miliband and his team.

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