Commission looks at limiting voting rights

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Only English MPs should normally get a deciding vote on laws that just affect England in the House of Commons, an independent commission concludes in a report published on Monday.

The McKay Commission said English people were unhappy that, as power had been devolved to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, decisions on matters that only affected England could still be swung by MPs with constituencies in other regions.

Sir William McKay led the commission set up last year to consider the so-called “West Lothian Question”, named after the constituency of Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP who first raised the issue. He said the status quo “clearly cannot be sustained”.

“There is a feeling that England is at a disadvantage, and that it’s not right that MPs representing the devolved nations should be able to vote on matters affecting England,” he said.

The commission recommended that decisions which would have a “separate and distinct” effect for England should normally be taken only with the consent of the majority of English MPs.

But it stopped short of suggesting that any MPs should be prevented from voting on any bill and said the right of the House “as a whole” to make final decisions should be preserved.

“Our proposals retain the right of a UK-wide majority to make final decisions where they believe UK interests or those of a part of the UK other than England should prevail,” Sir William said. “We expect that governments will prefer compromise to conflict.”

Separately, John Swinney, Scottish finance minister, launched an attack on the Westminster government’s handling of the UK economy. Addressing the Scottish National party conference he said Scotland was in the “last days of the union”.

“The real risk to Scotland comes from staying part of the United Kingdom,” he said. “By any measure the chancellor’s plan isn’t working.”

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