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A devolved English parliament or assembly is a proposed institution that would give separate decision-making powers to representatives for voters in England, similar to the representation given by the National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. A devolved English parliament is an issue in the politics of the United Kingdom.

Public opinion surveys have resulted in widely differing conclusions on public support for the establishment of a devolved English parliament.

Background

The future prospects of a devolved English Parliament have been raised in relation to the so-called West Lothian Question, which came to the fore after devolutionary changes to British parliaments. Before 1998, all political issues, even when only concerning parts of the United Kingdom, were decided by the British parliament at Westminster. After separate regional parliaments or assemblies were introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1998, issues concerning only these parts of the United Kingdom were often decided by the respective devolved assemblies, while purely English issues were decided by the entire British parliament, with MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fully participating in debating and voting. The establishment of a devolved English parliament, giving separate decision-making powers to representatives for voters in England, has thus become an issue in British politics.

The question of a devolved English parliament was considered a minor issue until the Conservative Party announced policy proposals to establish English votes on English legislation, thus raising the profile of the issue.

Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected simultaneously in general elections all over the United Kingdom. There are 533 English constituencies, which because of their large number, form an inbuilt majority in the House of Commons. However, there have been notable occasions - Foundation Hospitals, Top-up fees and the new runway at Heathrow, for example - where MPs elected in England have been outvoted by MPs from the rest of the UK on English-only legislation that is devolved outside England. As the British Government considered Scotland to be over-represented in relation to the other components of the United Kingdom, Clause 81 of the Scotland Act 1998 equalised the English and Scottish electoral quota, and London now provides more MPs per capita than Scotland does.

Surveys of public opinion on the establishment of an English parliament have given widely varying conclusions. In the first five years of devolution for Scotland and Wales, support in England for the establishment of an English parliament was low at between 16 and 19 per cent, according to successive British Social Attitudes Surveys. A report, also based on the British Social Attitudes Survey, published in December 2010 suggests that only 29 per cent of people in England support the establishment of an English parliament, though this figure had risen from 17 per cent in 2007. One 2007 poll carried out for BBC Newsnight, however, found that 61 per cent would support such a parliament being established.

In January 2012 Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, supported calls for a devolved English parliament.

On 19 September 2014, the day after the referendum on Scottish separation, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a solution to the problem, in the form of "English votes for English laws"- where MPs in English constituencies, will only vote on matters concerning England, this will prevent MPs from the rest of the UK voting on matters which only relate to England. The Labour Party is opposed to the idea, citing that this will create two classes of MPs in the House of Commons, and that a regional approach should be taken, in the form of regional English devolution.

In July 2015, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Chuka Umunna, suggested that the Labour Party should support the creation of a separate English parliament as part of a federal United Kingdom. He also called for a federal structure to the Labour Party with the creation of a distinct English Labour Party.

Campaigning

Several groups are working to raise this issue of a devolved English parliament, including the Campaign for an English Parliament and the English Constitutional Convention. The English Democrats Party also supports the creation of an English parliament. Electoral support for English nationalist parties is low, however, even though there is public support for many of the policies they espouse. The English Democrats gained just 64,826 votes in the 2010 UK general election, accounting for 0.3 per cent of all votes cast in England.

Public opinion

Surveys of public opinion on the establishment of an English deliberative assembly have given widely varying conclusions. In the first five years of devolution for Scotland and Wales, support in England for the establishment of an English parliament was between 16 and 19 per cent, according to successive British Social Attitudes Surveys. A report, also based on the British Social Attitudes Survey, published in December 2010 suggests that only 29 per cent of people in England support the establishment of an English parliament, though this figure had risen from 17 per cent in 2007. One 2007 poll of 1,953 people throughout Great Britain carried out for BBC Newsnight, however, found 61 per cent support among the English for a parliament of their own, with 51 per cent of Scots and 48 per cent of Welsh people favouring the same. An earlier ICM poll of 869 English people in November 2006 produced a slightly higher majority of 68 per cent backing the establishment of such a body.

Academic Krishan Kumar notes that support for English votes for English laws, or measures to ensure that only English MPs can vote on legislation that applies only to England is generally higher than that for the establishment of an English parliament, although support for both varies depending on the timing of the opinion poll and the wording of the question. Kumar argues that "despite devolution and occasional bursts of English nationalism – more an expression of exasperation with the Scots or Northern Irish – the English remain on the whole satisfied with current constitutional arrangements".

A 2014 poll by Cardiff and Edinburgh universities found that 54% of English people surveyed agreed with a devolved parliament, while 20% neither agreed nor disagreed, 15% disagreed, and 10% were undecided.

Opinion polls

Polling data for English devolution, English votes for English laws and independence may be found in the table below. Note: Responses with the majority of the vote are outlined in bold and are coloured in, those with at least 50% of the vote have more saturated colours.

Date Independence (%) Status Quo (%) English parliament (%) English votes for English laws (%) Regional Assemblies (%) End Devolution (%) Don't know/None (%)
20/09/14 N/A 19% N/A 65% N/A N/A 16%
20/09/14 N/A 11% 59% N/A N/A N/A 20%
13/01/12 N/A 16% 49% N/A N/A N/A 35%
06/12/11 N/A 21% 52% N/A N/A 14% 13%
15/04/10 N/A 20% 68% N/A N/A N/A 12%
30/04/09 N/A 15% 41% N/A N/A N/A 44%
09/09/09 N/A 20% 58% N/A N/A N/A 22%
06/12/07 15% 32% 20% 25% N/A N/A 8%
19/04/07 N/A 24.25% 67.32% N/A N/A N/A 8.43%
05/04/07 N/A 12% 21% 51% N/A N/A 16%
08/01/07 N/A 32% 61% N/A N/A N/A 7%
07/01/07 N/A 41.22% 51.42% N/A N/A N/A 7.36%
23/11/06 N/A 25.35% 68.43% N/A N/A N/A 6.22%
08/07/06 N/A 32% 41% N/A 14% N/A 13%
23/02/06 N/A 23.76% 11.88% 46.53% 10.89% N/A 6.93%
07/04/02 N/A N/A 47% N/A 28% N/A 25%

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