Plaid Cymru strengthens its call for an English Parliament

Plaid strengthens its call for English parliament after Welsh questions anger

26 Apr 2013 06:00

Plaid Cymru believe English MPs are asking too many questions during Commons’ Welsh session, strengthening the case for a dedicated English parliament

Welsh Secretary David Jones
Welsh Secretary David Jones

Plaid Cymru says English MPs are asking too many questions during Commons’ Welsh session.

Just six of the 15 MPs who won a slot to ask the Welsh Secretary a question in the House of Commons represent a constituency in Wales, sparking concern from Plaid Cymru about a lack of effective scrutiny.

The session has now been cancelled because parliament has broken up ahead of the Queen’s Speech on May 8, but Plaid argues the present system of holding the Welsh Secretary to account is not fit for purpose.

Plaid’s Arfon MP Hywel Williams argues the case for the creation of a dedicated English Parliament is growing stronger.

If Welsh Questions had gone ahead, the first seven would have been asked by English MPs, with Harlow’s Robert Halfon kicking off with a query about what discussions Secretary of State for Wales David Jones has had with the Welsh Government about reducing the cost of living.

Mr Williams said that the current system was “constitutionally unsatisfactory” and called for the launch of an English Parliament with similar powers to the legislatures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Arfon MP said this would allow English MPs to “debate their own problems without hampering the accountability of the ministers responsible for the other nations of the UK.”

He said: “This ballot draw for the next Welsh Questions is the latest in a string of events and reports highlighting the UK’s constitutional impasse. Plaid Cymru MPs do not vote on matters which pertain only to England.

“It is perfectly reasonable for members representing Welsh constituencies to question the eagerness of some English MPs to participate in debates on issues that don’t impact them. Plaid Cymru have long-called for an English Parliament as a simple solution to address the UK’s democratic deficit.

“This would tackle the problems stemming from the fact that the House of Commons is currently trying to do two jobs – being the English Parliament and the UK Parliament. This would not only answer the West Lothian Question over whether non-English MPs should vote on English-only matters and vice versa, but also remove any obstacles to the true accountability of ministers who are currently getting away with light scrutiny.

“With only 30 minutes per month granted to Welsh MPs to raise their concerns about Welsh matters, and these 30 minutes currently being dominated by MPs from English constituencies, the flaws in the current constitution of the UK could not be clearer.”

However, A UK Government spokesman defended the status quo, saying: “Plaid Cymru are a party of separatists and want to break up the country. This is the United Kingdom and we believe that all Members of Parliament should have an equal right to raise whatever issue they wish at whichever First Order Questions they choose.

“Plaid Cymru can continue in their separatist vein if they wish, but this Government believes we’re better together.”

Newport East Labour MP Jessica Morden also opposed changing the system, saying: “We’re a UK parliament. I don’t think the system should change and there’s a strength in having voices from across parliament.”

She said that MPs with seats near Wales had raised important issues, such as the safety of cockle-pickers.

“It’s up to MPs to use their own sense,” she said. “If they have a genuine interest in Welsh issues that’s good.”

However, she doubted the motivation of some MPs taking part, saying: “We welcome if people are genuine but sometimes you wonder if they are being asked to fill up the time.”

Plaid’s call for change comes in the same week that Ukip leader Nigel Farage said it was “completely unacceptable” for Welsh MPs to vote on issues such as education and fox-hunting in England.

Urging English voters to demand further devolution, Arfon’s Mr Williams said: “As Plaid Cymru ensures that Wales isn’t left behind in this debate, the people of England must also embrace their right to determine their future through an accountable institution of their own.”

English Parliament Plaid Cymru SNP English Democrats

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