Representation in a Union State
This chapter analyses what is now called the West Lothian Question (WLQ) after its persistent poser Tam Dalyell MP (formerly for West Lothian). The WLQ asks: Given partial devolution, why can an MP for a devolved territory become involved in devolved matters in England, but not in his own constituency? It has been said that ‘the WLQ is not really a question: every time it is answered, Tam just waits for a bit and then asks it again’. But that merely shows what a persistently nagging question it has been since long before Tam Dalyell. In fact, it was sufficient (although not necessary) to bring down both of Gladstone’s Home Rule Bills (1886 and 1893). The chapter shows how problematic all the proposed solutions are, especially when dealing with divided government where one UK-wide party controls a territory and the other controls the UK government. However, if devolution is to be stable, the governments and parties will have to live with the WLQ. New conventions for cohabitation will arise, and the UK and devolved party systems may diverge, even if party labels do not. The UK electorate treats everything except UK General Elections as second-order.
Keywords: Home Rule Bills, Government of Ireland Bills, W.E. Gladstone, West Lothian Question, Tam Dalyell, over-representation, Parliamentary Boundary Commission, West Lothian Answers, Sewel motions, Prayer Book controversy
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