New legislation which could have an impact on the role of Welsh MPs and the weight of decisions made over the border, were yesterday voted through in the House of Commons.
Yesterday the Government won the backing of the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ proposal with 312 to 270 MPs voting in favour of the law.
At present MPs from Scotland and Wales can vote on issues that do not necessarily impact their countries. However English MPs are unable to vote on laws regarding things such as health, as they are devolved issues, so for us in Wrexham are handled by the Welsh Assembly.
Under the new ‘English Votes for English Laws’ an additional stage in the Westminster law-making process will mean that MPs in English constituencies can vote on things which are seen to only affect England.
English MPs will also be able to veto legislation before MPs from across the country can vote in the final stages of the legislation.
More powers will also be given to the Speaker, currently John Bercow, who will decide if a bill constitutes as English only, or English and Welsh. TheyWorkForYou notes Bercow’s voting track record, saying Mr Bercow “Has never voted on transferring more powers to the Welsh Assembly” and “Has never voted on transferring more powers to the Scottish Parliament“.
However concerns about where the law leaves Welsh MPs have been raised, with the new law calling into question the role of Welsh MPs in the House of Commons. Currently devolved issues, such as health services, education, highways and housing (amongst others) are decided on by Welsh Assembly Members down in Cardiff Bay.
With regards to North Wales and Wrexham there are cross-border issues which do have an impact on the area. For example there are patients who receive treatment in the Countess of Chester and the infamous A483/A55 roadworks, despite being dealt with by Highways England had a considerable impact on North Wales commuters for several months.
Earlier this week Wrexham MP Ian Lucas claimed the law would mean that ‘Welsh MPs will be treated as second class citizens’.
Mr Lucas believes the Secretary of State for Wales has failed to defend the rights of MPs from Wales and the interests of Welsh patients in the NHS.
He said: “North Wales’ patients are treated, day in and day out, in hospitals in England and even have representation on their Boards.
“Yet their MPs will now have a second class say on the futures of those hospitals. The Secretary of State has let down those patients badly. He is content to place their interests behind those of MPs from England. Wales been sold down the river by its own Secretary of State.
“North Wales MPs know that the people we represent are treated in England. It is a disgrace that our say on laws affecting those patients is to be limited.
“All North Wales MPs, from whatever Party, need to oppose these proposals which are a major constitutional departure detrimentally affecting the interests of those we represent.”
Mr Lucas did point to some of the humour evident in the halls of power this evening, perhaps echoing the feeling mentioned by some of ‘second class’ MP’s :
In the Commons, a colleague told me I was not allowed to use those toilets tonight because I’m from Wales…. I think he was joking.
— Ian Lucas (@IanCLucas) October 22, 2015
Speaking about the new law, Andrew Atkinson, Conservative Party candidate for Wrexham in the forthcoming Assembly Elections, who also lost the Westminster election to be the town’s MP, suggested that there should be a cut in the number of Welsh MPs due to the devolution of powers to Wales.
Mr Atkinson added: “Something has to be done to address the unfairness in the system and the duplication brought about by devolution.
“I support devolution but it cannot be right that one part of the UK can vote on English matters and English MP’s can’t vote on devolved matters.
“Devolution has brought about duplication with Welsh and Scottish MP’s having a significantly smaller work load than English MP’s who have to deal with everything that is devolved to the Welsh Assembly or Scottish Parliament.”
“This is unfair. It’s unfair and it needs addressing so that English MP’s can have a stronger voice on English only matters just as we have in a devolved nation.”
Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP from Carmarthen has strongly criticised the passing of ‘English Votes for English Laws’ proposals by claiming that the change consigns Welsh MPs to ‘a second-class status within the UK Parliament’.
Mr Edwards said: “The passing of the proposals that will enforce ‘English Votes for English Laws’ in the Commons signals a seismic shift in how Parliament operates.
“We are used to the injustice of Wales being treated as a second-class nation by Westminster. Now our representatives will be demoted to the same status.
“The change is set to block Welsh MPs from voting on legislation that may be designated ‘England-only’ but will have financial implications for Wales.”