Saturday 6 June 2009

Is it unfair that a Scot sets policy for England?

My nan's been in Blackpool on holiday for a week and didn't really follow the news up there so when we had a long chat on Friday evening, I could catch her up on all the political news of the week. It's fair to say she's a bit less fond of Gordon Brown than I am, and she repeated something that one of her friends had said, "Why should Brown be our Prime Minister seeing as he's Scottish and they have their own parliament now". So I explained that the Scottish Parliament doesn't cover everything and for some things have to be dealt with by Westminster. That's why Scots MPs sit at Westminster and why it's fair that an MP for a Scottish constituency can be a Prime Minister.

Today, I ran into the same argument presented on Iain Dale's blog, claiming that every policy Brown proposes is undemocratic? Again, I pointed out that Westminster is the UK Parliament and so contains MPs for all of the UK. It's well established that an MP can vote on any bill whether or not it directly effects their constituents, though it might not be politically wise, I give the Community Charge (Scotland) Bill for an example.

Most bills that Westminster deals with are UK wide, finance and economic bills, foreign relations, immigration, pensions and benefits for example. The second largest group are local bills, bills of relevance to a particular local authority, national park or sometimes individual institutions (there's one at the moment about the British Museum). There's some of England and Wales only bills governing the legal system, (Scotland has always had a different legal system) and a smattering of England only, Wales only and Northern Ireland only bills.

Some bills defy neat categorisation, for example, birth certificates issued in Wales are in English and Welsh, but certificates issued in England only have English. But if you're Welsh, and you give birth just over the border (this particularly effects the Countess of Chester Hospital) then you might want a birth certificate in Welsh. So there's a bill to give the option to have the bilingual certificate available by request in England. So is that an England only bill because it only tells English local authorities to do something, or Wales only because it's only Welsh parents who will take advantage of the option?

So if it's democratic for the member for Witney to have his government propose a bill for Northern Ireland then it's got to be democratic for Brown's government to propose bills for England.

But the biggest issue is this, do the anti-Brownites really believe that no Scot, Welsh or Northern Irish MP should be allowed to become Prime Minister? How democratic would that be?

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