[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 16:23 GMT
English parliament 'unworkable'
Tony Blair
Mr Blair said the Union was 'tremendously beneficial'

Tony Blair has said that setting up a separate English parliament would be "unworkable" and "unnecessary".

The population of England accounted for the "vast majority" of people in the UK and did not need more representation, he told his monthly news conference.

Keeping the Union with Scotland was "crucial" to national security and the economy, Mr Blair added.

But the Scottish National Party reiterated its call for a referendum on Scottish independence.

A BBC Newsnight poll suggests 61% of people in England, 51% in Scotland and 48% in Wales support an English parliament.

It also suggests that 73% of people in England and 56% of those in Scotland want the Union to remain.

'Catastrophic'

Mr Blair said: "There is a UK Parliament. There should be one class of UK MP.

"It's a completely unworkable situation to have two different classes of MP."

READ THE FINDINGS

Most computers will open this document automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

The current constitutional settlement, including Scottish devolution, was the "right type of partnership for the future", Mr Blair said.

He said a break-up of the Union would have "catastrophic consequences for the Scottish economy" and be an "incredibly regressive and reactionary step".

Mr Blair said: "In commerce, in trade, in security and above all in shared values, the Union of England and Scotland continues to be good for England, good for Scotland and right for the future of Britain so we should celebrate today with pride."

But Steve Uncles of the English Democrats, a group campaigning for an English parliament, told the BBC: "When something has this much momentum, there's only one way things can go.

"The current situation is unfair and English people, who have a sense of fair play, want a change."

'Running sore'

He added: "It's rather pathetic that the government hasn't really got an answer as to why it thinks an English parliament is unworkable.

"Until a solution is reached, this issue will be a running sore."

Shadow Constitutional Affairs Secretary Oliver Heald said: "We welcome the results of the Newsnight poll showing strong support for continuation of the Union throughout Great Britain.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I strongly support home rule for England. If the only way to achieve this is for us to separate then so be it.
John Smith, Leicester

"But this does highlight the need for a constructive unionist response... so giving English MPs a greater say over purely English matters."

The Scottish Parliament election in May is expected to focus on the issue of independence.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "There's far more support for independence than there's ever been."

He added: "People feel far more Scottish than British."

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander, who is running Labour's campaign for the Scottish Parliament election, said: "The great outcome of devolution is it allows people to demonstrate their identity within the United Kingdom and, at the same time, not break up the United Kingdom."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Will this be the year the union is strengthened or fatally weakened?
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Scottish identity was not "one-dimensional", he added, while there were "serious questions" to be asked about the affordability of independence.

"This would respect the devolution settlements in Scotland and Wales and tackle the remaining imbalances in the Union, without going down the road of an English Parliament."

For the Newsnight poll, carried out by Opinion Research Business, interviewers spoke to 883 adults in England, 543 in Scotland and 527 in Wales.

Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark will host a BBC Newsnight debate on independence on BBC Two at 2230GMT on Tuesday.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Britons give their views on an English parliament



SEE ALSO
UK's future climbs political agenda
16 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
Quick guide: Act of Union
15 Jan 07 |  Scotland
'Most' support English parliament
16 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
More poll questions than answers
16 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Anniversary of north south Union
16 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Blair rejects England-only votes
07 Feb 06 |  UK Politics
Davis wants England-only voting
10 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific