Prospect has an excellent quartet of articles on the subject of the “English Question” this month.Â The four authors have very different perspectives, but they all agree that breaking up the union would be bad and the Tory’s “English Votes on English Matters” proposal is no solution.
Malcolm Rifkind’s proposal for an English Grand Committee, for me, is an excellent fudge and one that Lib Dems ought to very much be pushing for.Â It allows a degree of nuance that EVoEM does not, which in turn means that Parliament will be the ultimate arbiters and not the courts.
Chris Huhne is right as well to point out that PR would be a very important mitigating factor.Â For me, both proposals would complement each other very well.
To summarise, my (continually evolving) approach to the problem would be:
- A sustained agenda for radical devolution to local authorities;
- Proportional representation to remove the exaggerated problems caused by FPTP;
- Rifkind-style English Grand Committee;
- A Spanish-style constitutional settlement allowing any geographical part of the UK (including England, but also including parts of England) to call for further devolution and autonomy, handled through a citizen’s initiative system.
This is an area that liberal unionists should be taking a keen interest in: so far the nationalists, including the Tories, have been doing all the running.Â The Lib Dems desperately need a position instead of burying their heads in the sand.
Huhne is correct but Rifkind is incorrect. His English Grand Committee would face all the same procedural problems as English Votes on English Laws. It does have an advantage over EVoEL, in that it keeps Westminster viable, but at what cost?