"The Prime Minister is getting bogged down in a farcical debate on “English Votes for English Laws”by Carwyn Jones / October 24, 2014 / Leave a comment
The debate on the constitution of the UK was once the preserve of geeks, anoraks and wonks. Now, energised by events in Scotland, it seems vital. Radical change is on the way and all political parties are rethinking their approach to the UK question. When I spoke about the need for a “New UK” in Cardiff after the Scottish referendum, Sky News were there to do a live brodcast. When I spoke to the Institute for Government on these issues earlier this month, there were media there from across the globe. The constitutional debate is now alive, and to ignore it would be catastrophic for the future of the Union.
After the Scottish vote, we are faced with a fundamental question, which the mainstream parties will be judged on in the years to come: can we meet the challenge of reforming the Union? Or will we do the minimum necessary to honour the pledges given to Scotland and hope the problem goes away. The latter approach would simply repeat the mistakes of the past and reinforce the notion that Westminster simply “doesn’t get” devolution.
Already, we have the Prime Minister moving from a position of saying Wales would be at the centre of constitutional debate, to allowing himself to get bogged down in a farcical debate on “English Votes for English Laws.” The truth is, there is hardly such a thing as an “English Law”—this is a solution looking for a problem, and is designed more to keep Ukip down, than to introduce meaningful devolution to England. My predecessor as First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, recently noted that to try and address a perceived problem on English votes, instead of first reforming the House of Lords, would be to ignore the elephant in the room.
Real devolution, the kind we have seen in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has fundamentally changed the governance of the United Kingdom. Public support for the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies has created a presumption of popular sovereignty in the different parts of the UK, which has challenged assumptions about a centralised British state. Those challenges must be met with meaningful engagement, a constitutional convention that will bring certainty, stability and fairness to a more federal UK.