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MPs back change for England

In the dead week between Christmas and New Year, IPPR has sneaked out some interesting survey results that could prove fateful in 2010.

In the dead week between Christmas and New Year, IPPR has sneaked out some interesting survey results that could prove fateful in 2010.

The report, entitled The English Question: The View From Westminster, provides a taster for a longer study due in the new year from Michael Kenny and Guy Lodge.

It found that of 114 MPs questioned, only 10 per cent believe that "England should be governed as it is now".

62 per cent of respondents said that the current distribution of funding between the nations of the UK was unfair. Among those who thought it was unfair, 74 per cent were Conservatives and 50 per cent were Labour MPs. Of the 29 per cent of MPs who felt the distribution of funding was fair, just 6 per cent were Conservatives.

When it comes to ideas for reform, the difference between parties became even more marked, with Conservatives tending to favour moves to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English legislation, while Labour MPs are more likely to prefer regional devolution within England.

Most Conservative MPs expect ‘English votes for English laws’ to be introduced which is broadly in line with recent developments within their party. A version of ‘English votes for English laws’ was recommended by Kenneth Clarke’s Democracy Taskforce in 2008, while William Hague reiterated the party’s commitment to reform in this area at their 2009 party conference, suggesting that should the Conservatives win power they will proceed with this reform. We also note that many more Labour MPs (20%) believe that this policy will be implemented than actually support it (6%). And far fewer Labour MPs believe that regional government will happen than those who support this reform.

It has often been suggested that the election of a Conservative government would kill off the English question in itself. Clearly this is not what the Conservatives themselves expect, and if they are elected with a small majority, English votes for English laws may look even more attractive.

If it happens, it is bound to strengthen demands for further powers in Scotland. Nevertheless, most MP are unconvinced by arguments that the UK is on a slippery slope to break-up. Almost 60 per cent believe Scotland will never become independent.

About the author

Tom Griffin is freelance journalist and researcher. He holds a Ph.D in social and policy sciences from the University of Bath, and is a former Executive Editor of the Irish World.


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