Upper West Lothian Question
The historic vote in favour of a 100% elected House of Lords raises the prospect of the West Lothian Question being replicated in the upper chamber.
As you will know Westminster is a bicameral parliament which means that legislation is scrutinised by a secondary revising chamber. Due to our skewed constitution this set up results in English-only domestic legislation being scrutinised by Scottish and Welsh Lords - people like Neil Kinnock and Lord Falconer for example. Scotland, by contrast, has a unicameral system, meaning English Lords do not get to subject Scottish legislation to scrutiny.
In the past this glaring constitutional
anomaly unfairness has been dismissed by Government ministers and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. They tell us that although the lower chamber is elected on a territorial basis the upper chamber is appointed and full of individuals rather than representatives of particular nations, regions or territories. By this logic there is no comparison with the West Lothian Question that occasionally bedevils the House of Commons because the House of Lords has no territorial basis and their Lordships are not territorial beasts. Complete bollocks of course, but that's their logic.
However, this logic could fall down with an elected House of Lords. Why should Lords elected by Scots get to vote on English legislation? That's the question that I will be asking.
In all probability the Government won't care what I say, but the Conservative Party just might. If the Tories are proposing English Votes on English Matters for the House of Commons then it stands to reason that the same principle should apply to a directly elected House of Lords.
If a geographical factor is introduced into the Lords, as proposed by Hazel Blears, then things could get very ugly indeed. But it really doesn't matter whether the Lords is directly elected or indirectly elected, or elected proportionately, because somewhere, at sometime, Scots will be electing yet more Scots to vote on English legislation.
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I'm the proud owner of a letter from Mark Harper, in which he states "There is no link between the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian question".
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Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed,
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