Discussions in the Conservative Party about the creation of an English Grand Committee have been causing a bit of a stir in the last few days. As I’ve argued before, these sorts of issues need to be ironed out, but letting the Speaker of the House of Commons decide what is and and is not an English issue strikes me as being quite ridiculous. Even more ridiculous were the reactions of David Cairns, the Scotland Office minister, defended the old, staid Labour line in The Observer:

Once you breach the principle that all MPs should vote on matters before them in Westminster you get constitutional anarchy

Sorry, but the Labour government introduced a devolution settlement in 1997 with the massive constitutional anomaly – the West Lothian question – at its heart. I cannot imagine any other western democracy that would even have introduced a system in the manner that was done in 1997 (although I do support devolution as it is, West Lothian question and all).

Cairns continued:

This proposal is utterly unworkable. […] Where does it end? Do the Tories think only London MPs should vote on Crossrail, only countryside MPs vote on fox hunting, only coastal MPs vote on fishing?

All of that sounds strangely like the sort of arguments that were used by the Labour Party back in 1997 to defend devolution. It’s called subsidiarity – taking decisions at the lowest and most practical level possible. And the flip side of it is a logical and organised constitutional system, with a written constitution and a constitutional court. I don’t suppose the Conservatives or Labour will be proposing that any time soon.

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