MP WRITES: Don’t rush to change

CONSTITUTIONAL reform is hardly an issue that is going to set the pulse racing.

Should politicians be looking at this issue at a time when the majority of people in this country are facing continuing squeezes on wages when prices are rising?

Shouldn’t Westminster be focused on solving the problems of the economy and make it work for ordinary people, rather than thinking about the powers of parliament?

The Scotland referendum result last week was pleasing. Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom. That’s great news for all of the UK, but it seems like the start of something about the British constitution rather than the drawing of a line under an issue.

If Scotland is going to have more powers as part of a modern United Kingdom, surely England deserves the same?

Shouldn’t England have its own Parliament? Laws that affect England only should only be voted on by England MPs.

I think there’s some superficial appeal to these arguments, but it would be very wrong of David Cameron to rush recklessly into changing things without really thinking it through.

Any constitutional settlement could last for centuries, so it can’t be just hastily written on any scrappy piece of paper to hand. 

I have a number of concerns that any new settlement would need to address.

I’ve written recently about how many constituents have contacted me about the Bedroom Tax. Ed Miliband has pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax if Labour forms the next government.

It is entirely possible that if the Labour Party enters government, English MPs, which will of course comprise Tories and Liberal Democrats, who brought in the Bedroom Tax as part of the present Coalition, could vote down the wish of the Government.

How can it be fair that a Government of the United Kingdom is not able to fulfil its mandate from the British people, especially when it was a key plank of that party’s election manifesto?

Secondly, how far does this approach go? English MPs voting on English laws sounds great, but should I as a northern MP vote on matters that may exclusively affect, say, the South West?

And say a future government on any party wants to pass a law that enables the dualling of the A1 in the North East: why should MPs from Cornwall or Kent vote on this piece of legislation?

And that brings me to my key point. If Scotland gets more powers, and England has English-only lawmakers, that English parliament is going to focus ever more on London and the South East, because that’s where the economic power and a high proportion of the population currently lie.

The North-East has been fleeced by the present government, getting a raw deal in terms of transport infrastructure spend and public expenditure cuts.

It would get worse with a more powerful Scotland and an English parliament focused on the South.

That is why more powers have to flow away from Whitehall and into our own area.

l A GREAT and marvellous man, Matt Daley, died on Saturday.

He was 94 and had a long and worthwhile life. I’ve known Matt for many years, as my dad played bowls with him at the Mill House club.

Matt cared passionately about the welfare and condition of working class people – that’s why he was so good as a union official on the railways.

He was a lovely, passionate and gentle man. The twinkle in his eye revealed the spark in his character and his passing means that the world is a little darker in his absence.

He taught me a lot and I’ll miss him hugely.

Rest in peace Matt.