English democracy is representative democracy. The people who make the laws that govern a country must represent the people they govern and be answerable to them. On that basic principle England’s Parliament was founded almost 800 years ago in 1253. That same principle lies at the heart of English Common Law and the jury system. When Scotland united with England with the Act of Union in 1707, it accepted the English way of democratic government.
‘But the ‘Programme for ‘Britain’ announced yesterday by Gordon Brown in England’s ancient House of Commons is nothing less than outright repudiation of England’s way of democracy’. That is the declaration of the Campaign for an English Parliament. The main proposals of the Programme cover housing, health and education. Not one of them will apply to Scotland because Scotland through its parliament is self-ruling in all matters of housing, health and education. In these three important areas of government Brown is proposing legislation for England only.
Yet Brown is MP for the Scottish constituency of Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath in Fifeshire. He does not represent one inch of England’s territory and not one single English voter. And he is not answerable in any election to any English man or woman. He is the principal legislator for England, yet he does not represent England in any of these very important matters and he is not accountable to any English person.
What is more, when at next year’s General Election he stands for re-election in Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath, because he is not a member of the Scottish Parliament, he is not answerable even to his own electorate for any matter concerning housing, health and education. Our system of government has become twisted and deformed.
In terms of what is most basic to the very meaning of English democracy, to have an MP representing a Scottish constituency making legislation for England in matters on which he was not elected by and is not accountable to any electorate is not just wrong, it is politically and constitutionally perverse.
In the statement of the ‘Constitution Unit’ to the House of Commons Justice Committee in November 2007, what is ‘closest to a complete answer’ to this situation created by the nature of the 1998 devolution legislation ‘is an English Parliament?’
Michael Knowles CEP Media Unit
Tel: 01260 271139