The slumbering giant that is England is on the move. Until this month the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament were but mere irritants. As Ken Stephens, one of my readers might say, they were no more than two teenagers who had left home, with possibly a bit more cash than mother thought they should have, not spending their money as mother would like. And this would have rumbled on - if the little Scottish one hadn't decided to rub mother's nose in it.
Free prescriptions in Wales - stupid but at least they paid for it with longer waiting times for elective surgery. Their choice, daft b*****rs. Free personal care - annoying but manageable because most people don't quite grasp what this means. Especially annoying because mother would like this herself - but can't afford it. But free prescriptions in Scotland, blatantly populist and introduced by the dreaded 'Nats' turned out to be a step too far. The worm turned. The giant awoke and now its too late. Some sort of English devolved government is inevitable.
Peter Hain, part-time Secretary of State for Wales is much agitated by this turn of events - as his spin-driven Government loses control. One of the reasons I opposed devolution (before the people voted for it in Sept. 1997) was, in part, because of the constitutional instability it would create. Peter Hain and Gordon Brown may prefer that the West Lothian question not be asked - but the slumbering giant has awoken and is asking it. And today, Malcolm Rifkind has answered it.
Personally, I don't support the idea of an English Parliament. There is no reason why the MPs representing English constituencies should not sit as an 'English Parliament' or 'Grand Committee' on one day per week. There would be consequences. The National Assembly for Wales would assume the same powers as the Scottish Parliament - and the number of Welsh MPs would be reduced from 40 to 26. This reduction in numbers was Conservative policy at the last General Election. I remember Michael Howard telephoning me at home to tell me about it personally. I told him that I supported it then. Of course, this would remove at a stroke, the unjustified electoral advantage that Labour enjoys because of the over-representation at Westminster from Scotland and Wales. Its no wonder Labour are squirming. Just deserts I'd say.