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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
English 'unhappy' with devolution
House of Commons and Holyrood
Scottish MPs can vote on English-only issues despite devolution
Devolution may be causing an English backlash, according to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee.

The MPs said a recent poll for the BBC suggested there was increasing concern about whether Scottish MPs should vote on issues that affect England only.

They warned that the debate, known as the "West Lothian question", could undermine the devolution settlement.

More than half those surveyed in the poll said a Scottish MP should not become prime minister.

The figure rose from 52% to 59% in the south east of England.

The West Lothian question, first posed by Tam Dalyell in the 1970s, asked why Scottish post-devolution MPs should be allowed to vote on Westminster matters, like health or education, but could not vote on issues that would be devolved to a Scottish Parliament.

The issue has been fuelled by Scottish MPs, such as John Reid, leading ministerial portfolios that have the biggest impact on England.

Comprehensive debate

The committee's warning came in a report published on Monday on the Sewel convention, the process MSPs use to allow devolved issues to be dealt with by Westminster.

The report said: "It is a matter of concern to us that there are signs that English discontent with the current situation is becoming apparent.

"In order to address the West Lothian question there are usually four solutions proffered - the dissolution of the United Kingdom; English devolution; fewer Scottish MPs; or English votes on English laws.

"Although we make no recommendations on how to resolve this question, we considered it worth noting our concerns, with the hope that the matter will be comprehensively debated, and resolved, before the situation is reached whereby it could actually undermine the whole devolution settlement."

The next step is to put in place proper inter-governmental procedures to again replace a Labour old-boys network
David Mundell MP
Conservative MP

The committee, chaired by Mohammad Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, endorses recommendations by a Holyrood committee for procedural changes at Westminster relating to the Sewel process.

The report also floats the idea of a "Super Scottish Grand Committee" comprising Scottish MPs, MPS and MEPs to discuss matters of common interest.

The MPs said: "Although we do not make a formal recommendation that a 'Super' Scottish Grand Committee be introduced, we hope that the relevant committees of the House of Commons might pick up and consider our suggestion for one of their future inquiries."

Different parties

The Conservative Party welcomed the proposals.

Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP said: "The procedural proposals in the committee's report offer an important first step so that when we have different political parties in government in Scotland and London, the devolved arrangements will still work.

"The next step is put in place proper inter-governmental procedures to again replace a Labour old-boys network."

He added that it was time for other Scottish MPs to follow his lead by not voting on English-only legislation on devolved issues.

The Scottish National Party's representative on the committee, Angus MacNeil MP, said: "This balanced report drives a horse and coaches through government claims that the West Lothian question is not an issue.

"It must come as some discomfort that a report by a committee with a Labour majority would come to such conclusions."

Hear why MPs believe English frustration is growing

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20 Dec 05 |  Scotland
McLeish wants devolution debate
11 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Papers reveal devolution warnings
01 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Scots disappointed by devolution
06 Feb 04 |  Scotland
Faith in devolution 'slumps'
21 Apr 03 |  Scotland

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