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Commission established to tackle the 'West Lothian Question'
Commission aims to solve long-running dispute about the ability of certain MPs to vote on issues which don't directly involve them
Megan Wells
Wednesday, 01 February, 2012 | 09:00
West Lothian Question
Credit: Daniel Stone

A newly-announced panel is set to look at the debate concerning the right of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs to vote on legislation that concerns England alone.

The UK Government has revealed that a commission has been established "to consider how the House of Commons might deal with legislation which affects only part of the United Kingdom, following the devolution of certain legislative powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales,” commonly known as the 'West Lothian Question'.

A response to the West Lothian Question was part of the coalition agreement, but the UK government only released plans for a commission in September of last year. The results of the commission could give greater voting powers to English MPs on certain issues.

The six–strong panel will be chaired by the former House of Commons clerk Sir William McKay. The other members are the Head of Social and Political Science at Edinburgh University, Professor Charlie Jeffrey; senior parliamentary lawyer Sir Stephen Laws and his predecessor Sir Geoffrey Bowman; former UK Ambassador to the UN Sir Emyr Jones Parry, and from Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Yvonne Galligan, a leading researcher in gender politics.

However, a statement from the SNP’s Constitutional Affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart, expressed concern as to the members of the panel, primarily that none of them have “direct experience or involvement with the devolved administrations”.

Mr Wishart also said: “There is only one clear answer to the West Lothian Question and that is for both Scotland and England to be fully in charge of their affairs by becoming independent and equal nations - that is the best and fairest solution and one that the commission should be able to consider”.

On the other hand, Labour’s Margaret Curran, shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, has stated that it “is a fundamental principle of devolution that decisions are taken in the right places to reflect our different nations that make up the UK, but that our House of Commons operates together as a country. It strengthens Scotland and I think it strengthens the whole UK”.

Mrs Curran also voiced concern that the commission could create inequalities between MPs, saying: “It can't be right to create second-class MPs based on what part of the UK they come from”.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathon Edwards has also given his voice to the debate, saying: “The reality is that a parliament where more than 80 per cent represent one country is always going to be skewed in one direction, with or without Scottish Independence".

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