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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 12:47 GMT
Conservatives: Constitutional affairs

Find out more about Conservative Party policies on constitutional affairs.


HOUSE OF LORDS

The Conservative Party says it is committed to strengthening the independence of the House of Lords as an effective revising chamber.

It would also establish an independent statutory appointments commission.

The party says that it would establish a joint committee of both houses of Parliament to "seek consensus on lasting reform in the House of Lords."

The Conservative's Leader in the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, said in January this year that Tory peers would not obstruct Labour's manifesto plans for the second stage of reform.


DEVOLUTION

The Conservative Party opposes further devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

However, it does promise to ensure that devolution is a "success" in both Scotland and Wales. The party also advocates retaining the cabinet position of Secretary of State for Scotland with "an enhanced United Kingdom role", including on occasion representing Scotland in Europe.

The party does not believe it is fair that Scottish MPs can vote on laws that apply to England and Wales, while English and Welsh MPs cannot influence the same issues in Scotland.

Under a Conservative government, all MPs should vote on issues affecting the whole of the UK.

But only English MPs should be able to vote on legislation affecting only England.

Similarly English and Welsh MPs should vote on laws affecting only England and Wales.

The Conservative party opposes the reform of the Barnett Formula - the complicated system in which Scotland and Wales receive money from Westminster.

The Scottish and Welsh Conservative parties endorse the position of Central Office on devolution.

The Welsh Conservatives in practice appear to want more devolution.

It was a Conservative motion to the Welsh Assembly which called for the fox hunting decision to be given to Cardiff.

Even though the Welsh Conservatives were ticked off by the Welsh Secretary and their own UK party, they are now calling for Assembly Members to be allowed to veto a Westminster-led ban on hunting.

Finally, the party says that it will strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, though the manifesto does not lay down specific measures.


REGIONALISM

The Conservatives are promising to scrap existing regional bodies and administrations and strengthen local councils.

It is strongly opposed to the idea of elected assemblies for the English regions.

Such assemblies would add to bureaucracy and remove powers from local authorities.

The party intends to abolish the eight regional development agencies set up by Labour and give the responsibility for enterprise and development to local authorities.

Further, those local authorities which prove they are doing a good job will become "free councils" given more scope to manage their affairs without interference from central government.

This would reverse what the Conservatives see as a trend towards Whitehall centralisation.

"Too much government from Whitehall is weakening communities, imposing an oppressive uniformity and reducing the opportunity for local initiative."

The party has previously said that it supports directly-elected mayors where they are wanted but has not included this as a manifesto commitment.


VOTING REFORM

The Conservatives are traditional supporters of the existing system.

In 1998 the party's deputy chairman Michael Ancram said ditching first-past-the-post voting would put democracy at risk.

He has attacked the Jenkins Commission, which recommended a new system of proportional representation, as "rigged".

Conservative MPs have variously criticised proportional representation for producing less stable, coalition governments, and MPs without links to a constituency.


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