Cameron Creates Veto for English MPs

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a change to the standing order of the House of Commons, the rules by which the chamber operates. When sections of proposed legislation affect England only, or in some instances England and Wales only, or when the Speaker judges an entire bill to be an England only affair, MPs from other regions will be excluded from committee stages of the bill. Moreover, such a bill will not pass if a majority of English MPs do no support it. Set for July 15, the House will debate and then likely vote to change the British constitution.

Commons Leader Chris Grayling stated on behalf of the government, “Today we are answering the West Lothian Question.” Posed by Tam Dalyell in 1977, the MP for West Lothian asked “For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate … at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?” It would appear that the answer is 38 years.

The issue of fairness lies at the heart of the matter. Even in the dark and awful 1970s, Scotland had a separate legal and educational system. With devolution in both Scotland and Wales, there are more and more areas of public policy to which the West Lothian issue applies. Devolution in the Celtic fringe is de facto devolution for England if there is any justice in the British system.

The BBC observed

There will be no changes in the House of Lords, Mr Grayling said. But where Lords amendments are certified as England or England and Wales only, a “double majority” system applies, meaning it will need a majority of both the whole House of Commons and MPs representing English or English and Welsh constituencies.


Tablet computers will be used to count MPs’ votes as they walk through the voting lobbies so officials can instantly register whether they have used their veto in votes where the “double majority” rule applies.

There is one unfortunate (from a Unionist viewpoint) side effect to this idea of “English votes on English laws.” Reducing the influence of MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will create an impression that there are two classes of MP. A better, though more costly and controversial solution, would be an English parliament separate from Westminster. This journal would go so far as to suggest regional parliaments, but neither suggestion will come to fruition while Mr. Cameron is in office.


Because of the apparent two-class Commons, independence advocates have yet another reason to withdraw from the UK. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (the third largest in Westminster), stated, “I have been very clear that, at least in part, the level of support for independence will be determined by what the Tory government at Westminster does, as well as what the SNP Government does. And there is no question that the great disrespect shown to Scotland in these proposals is likely to have more people asking whether Westminster is capable of representing Scotland’s interests at all.” She exaggerates, but her sound bite is much more convincing than an accurate explanation is going to be in an age when in-depth news reports last two minutes.


Mr. Cameron was one of the leaders of the No campaign in last autumn’s Scottish independence referendum. His EU referendum could lead to a second such plebiscite if the UK votes to leave while Scotland is for staying. However, if that does not come to pass, he is still risking the Union with his change to the standing orders.