UK to give English lawmakers veto powers in British parliament
LONDON: English lawmakers will be given a veto in Britain's parliament over legislation that only impacts England, the government said on Thursday, removing the ability of Scottish lawmakers to have a decisive say on laws that do not affect them.
Decades-old grievances over imbalances in the way laws are made in Britain came to the fore last September after a last-ditch promise to hand powers to Scotland's devolved parliament helped swing Scottish opinion in favour of keeping the United Kingdom together in a referendum.
Thursday's announcement follows a pre-election promise by Prime Minister David Cameron to address the situation whereby Scottish parliamentarians are allowed to vote on laws affecting only England, while English lawmakers cannot vote on similar Scottish matters handled by Scotland's devolved parliament.
"No law affecting England alone will be able to be passed without the consent of English MPs(lawmakers)," senior government minister Chris Grayling told parliament. Similar rules will also apply to laws affecting both England and Wales.
The changes have stirred opposition from rival lawmakers because they are seen as a way of consolidating Cameron's political power base, which is almost exclusively in England.
Grayling said new legislation was not required to implement the changes, and that parliamentary rules would be amended subject to a debate and vote on July 15.
"This change is only a part of the wider devolution package, but it is a vital next step in ensuring that our constitutional settlement is fair and fit for the future," Grayling said to jeers from opposition lawmakers.
Lawmakers from the Scottish National Party oppose the plan because they say it will downgrade their status within parliament, while the Labour Party say the changes are being rushed through without proper debate.
"This is no way to make profound constitutional change, and it's an outrage that this government thinks it is," Labour spokeswoman Angela Eagle told parliament.