Blair on the Westlothian Question

The House of Commons Liason Committee, made up of select committee chairmen, quizzed Tony Blair yesterday about why MPs from the devolved nations can still vote on English issues.

Tony Blair faced criticism from leading MPs on Tuesday amid dismay at the way in which devolution is changing the role of Westminster.

Labour MP Dr Tony Wright said that "the cry is going up" from his constituents: "Why can’t we have English votes on English laws?"

Blair said that while he could understand the argument, there should be no change to current arrangements.

"I think if you try to have two classes of MPs it just doesn’t work," he told the Commons liaison committee.

"This is a debate obviously we are going to continue having over the next few years but I just don’t agree with it."

Another Labour MP, Alan Williams, told the prime minister that the situation was "not sustainable".

"The more you expand devolution, the more England-only legislation there is," he said. "You can’t dismiss it indefinitely."

To cries of "hear, hear" from his colleagues, the Swansea West MP added: "Eventually the English voter won’t put up with me coming and telling them what they can do or can’t do when I am not accountable for a single England vote." (

As Blair himself pointed out, it’s obvious that the Tories are likely to gain from any change from the status quo. The flipside of this, of course, is that Labour benefits from keeping things the way they are. That makes it doubly interesting that Labour MPs were prepared to take the lead in raising the issue.






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