English Devolution and the West Lothian Question

West Lothian
West Lothian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back in 2004, 46 Labour MPs representing Scottish constituencies were pivotal in passing The Higher Education Bill through Parliament at Westminster. The final vote was 316 for and 311 against.

What this meant was that both of my children when they came to enter university were saddled with astronomical debts. The passing of the Bill enabled top-up fees to be levied on English resident students going to English universities. However, Scottish students going to Scottish universities were exempt from fees as this has been decided by the Members of the Scottish devolved Parliament.

So we ended up with Scottish Labour MPs voting to impose charges on English students when students in their own constituencies were exempt. Tim Yeo the Shadow Education Secretary at the time described the situation as an 'utter humiliation' for the Labour government.

And there was a similar situation when it came to the creation of Foundation Hospitals. Again the votes of the Scottish MPs were crucial in passing legislation that did not affect their constituents but had a massive impact on other parts of the UK.

This whole issue was described as the 'West Lothian Question' by the MP Enoch Powell in response to it being raised as a question by the MP Tam Dalyell.

And you can also throw in the annoying situation where both my wife and I have to pay for subscriptions upon which our health depends when Scottish residents (and Welsh) are exempt.

So with the recent failure of the vote for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom it's a good time to look at ways to ensure that such injustices can't be imposed by MPs whose constituencies are totally unaffected. The current debate evolving over and English Parliament or English Regional Assemblies can't come soon enough and I look forward to seeing how the parties work this one out.