English votes for English MPs
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has made a constitutional statement. Unfortunately, that statement does not address the matter of English votes for English MPs for English issues, it does not address the matter of a referendum on a European Constitution and it does not discuss the matter of the erosion of our liberties. So it's a pretty poor piece of work!
Far from recognising the right of English MPs to have an exclusive right to vote on matters affecting solely England the Prime Minister has said that he does not accept English votes for English laws because to do so "would create a two-tier parliament".
But we do, of course, already have a two-tier parliament! Our Scottish Prime Minister is allowed to vote in the House of Commons upon matters relating to the schoolchildren of Kent but he is not allowed to vote on matters relating to the schools in his own, Scottish, constituency because those powers belong to the Scottish Parliament!
This is a nonsense. It is all very well and flattering for Mr. Brown to borrow from the Conservative Party proposals for the restoration of powers to parliament, the removal of the Royal Prerogative in matters relating to, for example, the declaration of war and the recall and dissolution of parliament, but what about the issues that matter to real people?
The "European Treaty" is a constitutional wolf in sheep's clothing but this Prime Minister, who wants to give power back to the people, will not allow the people the right to vote on it in a referendum. Why? Why will the Irish vote but the English be denied that right? (Answer: because the Prime Minister knows that he would lose!)
And then there is the small matter of personal liberties.
It may have escaped your notice but this has been "British Pubs Week". In the course of parliamentary duty, therefore, I visited an excellent constituency hostelry in which mine host tells me that post the July 1st smoking ban his trade has been hard hit. His pub is a real pub. Not a plastic- coated ghetto-blasted emporium designed for children drinking out of bottles but a traditional boozer selling traditional beer and hitherto attracting significant numbers of smokers.
His clientele are adults. They know that smoking is bad for their health but they choose to do it and the landlord would like to choose to permit it inside as well as in his smoking yard. Only the law now says that he cannot do so.
When the Nation's Nanny sought to promote the ban I advocated, as a non-smoker myself, a simple solution. Pubs and restaurants are already licensed to sell alcohol. Why should they not, also, be licensed to be either smoking or non-smoking so that customers and staff have the right of choice?
Choice! Not under this Prime Minister, not under this Government and not under the proposed constitution. Under the guise of change we shall, before long, have about as many freedoms as a Saxon serf unless we say, at the earliest opportunity, that we will not elect or re-elect any government that seeks to inhibit our right to choose. Mr. Brown's current constitutional proposals have more to do with political manipulation than they do with democracy. Not a promising start.