Harriet Harman

Letter to Lord Falconer - English parliament

This letter will be going to Lord Falconer:

Dear Lord Falconer

Last Friday, you appeared on "The Today Programme". In the interview you discussed many things, not least of which was the anomaly that is the lack of parity between England and Scotland with regard to representation. There was this exchange:

John Humphreys: Yeah, but, but you're ignoring the anomaly, and it is a clear anomaly isn't it?

Lord Falconer: It is a clear anomaly, yes,

You gave reasons why there should not be an English Parliament (namely that it would be bad for the Union), but you did not explain why the Scottish Parliament is not bad for the Union. As such I do not feel that you addressed these issues and so am turning to you in the hope that you have had time to deliberate upon your earlier statements.

One point of particular interest was that you said "That that is so is reflected by the fact that there is no demand at all for devolution to England or the English MPs only being able to vote on English issues."

This was interesting, as this was in direct contradiction to that exact demand from Oliver Heald.

In addition, since the broadcast there has been a poll on the BBC News website running at over 5 to 2 in favour of the English Parliament. As I write there have been some 2752 votes with over 72% in favour. Also, in the introduction to "Any Answers" on Saturday, Jonathan Dimbleby said "We have been deluged with calls and emails on this issue.”

We now have a situation where you have admitted that anomalies exist, though you did not indicate how you would solve them. We also have a situation where you have stated that there is "no demand" for a solution and this has been demonstrated to be incorrect.

I would be interested to hear what your next step will be in resolving this anomaly in our constitutional arrangements. If you do not deem that a solution is not needed, then I would ask how a Scottish parliament can be justified and yet an English parliament with similar powers cannot – and why one would necessarily lead to the break up of the Union and the other would not.

I look forward to your considered response.

Letter to Harriet 'no anomalies' Harman - English Parliament

This letter has been drafted for sending off to Harriet 'no anomalies' Harman.

Ten months ago I wrote to you after an appearance on "Question Time", a letter to which I never received a reply. To refresh your memory, there was a question about constitutional anomalies. At the time I was surprised that as a Constitutional Affairs Minister you said "What anomalies?".

This was surprising given the disparity between, for example, England and Scotland and the fact that one has the trappings of nationhood, and the other does not.

Last Friday, the Lord Chancellor appeared on "The Today Programme". There was this exchange:

John Humphreys: Yeah, but, but you're ignoring the anomaly, and it is a clear anomaly isn't it?

Lord Falconer: It is a clear anomaly, yes,

The Lord Chancellor gave reasons why there should not be an English Parliament (namely that it would be bad for the Union), but he did not explain why the Scottish Parliament is not bad for the Union. As such I do not feel that the Lord Chancellor adequately addressed these issues and so am turning back to you in the hope that you have had time to deliberate upon your earlier statements.

One point of particular interest was that the Lord Chancellor said "That that is so is reflected by the fact that there is no demand at all for devolution to England or the English MPs only being able to vote on English issues."

This was interesting, as this was in direct contradiction to that exact demand from Oliver Heald.

In addition, since the broadcast there has been a poll on the BBC News website running at over 5 to 2 in favour of the English Parliament. As I write there have been some 2752 votes with over 72% in favour. Also, in the introduction to "Any Answers" on Saturday, Jonathan Dimbleby said "We have been deluged with calls and emails on this issue."

We now have a situation where the Lord Chancellor has admitted that anomalies exist, though he did not indicate how he would solve them. We also have a situation where he has stated that there is "no demand" for a solution and this has been demonstrated to be incorrect.

I would be interested to hear your views on these matters and, in particular, how a Scottish parliament can be justified and yet an English parliament with similar powers cannot.

I look forward to your considered response.

Letter to Harriet Harman

Last night, Harriet 'What anomalies' Harman appeared on Question Time, where electoral reform got a good airing. Boris was on top form, though his idea of 'electoral reform' amounted to pushing the boundaries around a bit, thereby completely missing one of the main points.

Ms. Harmen annoyed me greatly when a panellist mentioned constitutional anomalies in the UK and she said 'What Anomalies?'

She will shortly receive the following letter:

Dear Ms. Harman

Last night you appeared on "Question Time". There was a comment about constitutional anomalies. In an astonishingly unaware comment from the Constitutional Affairs Minister you said "What anomalies?"

Please allow me to explain just a few of them.

In the UK, the government launched into a system of constitutional change, despite your statement on Question Time that this is not something to be rushed.

Your Government emasculated the House of Lords without having adequately thought through what would take its place, or consulting the public on a question which affects our governance - one item in a manifesto does not make a consultation. To date, the House of Lords question still remains unresolved. Any resolution should build in the ability of the Lords to be independent. My ideal would be three member constituencies, with one member elected via STV every three general elections. Thus the individual Lord is not continually looking for their next election and can scrutinize legislation without personal worry for their post.

Your Government also started on a process which weakened the UK government by devolving power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Island. Whether this was a right move or not is incidental at this stage. The situation as it stands is that, for example, Scottish MPs can vote upon matters which affect English constituents but not vice versa.

I fully accept that the UK parliament is for the whole of the UK - and so it should be for UK matters. Nevertheless it is fundamentally unjust that English constituents can be affected by votes from Scottish MPs and the reverse is not true. I do not personally want the UK to split up, but this imbalance can only grow with time - for the long term stability of the UK, balance is needed.

A failure to address this matter appears to be driven purely by concerns of party above country, especially given that the Conservatives won the popular vote in England - something which personally I'm not thrilled about.

Given that yesterday you were not aware of anomalies, I hope this letter has helped you to recognize some of them. I wish you well as you begin to address them.

I would be interested to hear your views on these matters and, in particular, how a Scottish parliament can be justified and yet an English parliament with similar powers cannot.