Cameron Promises More Power for England in Next Parliament

The British prime minister promises English autonomy weeks before a general election.

British prime minister David Cameron vowed on Friday that “English votes for English laws” would be in place for the first budget of a next Conservative government.

Cameron also promised an “English rate” of income tax and a veto for English lawmakers over issues that only affect their region.

The constitutional changes would follow the devolution of tax powers to Scotland, Cameron said.

English MPs will be unable to vote on the income tax paid by people in Aberdeen and Edinburgh while Scottish MPs are able to vote on the tax you pay in Birmingham or Canterbury or Leeds. It is simply unfair. And with English votes for English laws, we will put it right.

Conservatives first unveiled their proposal to give English (and possibly Welsh) lawmakers an effective veto in February. The tax proposal was new and seemed timed to boost English support for the Conservative Party ahead of the general election in May.

The BBC’s Jonny Dymond reports that the proposals are meant to play well in constituencies leaning toward Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party. It is especially popular is disaffected areas of England.

Under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system, Farage is unlikely to win more than a handful of seats in the House of Commons. But he could split the right-wing vote in dozens of constituencies and allow Labour to win.

The Conservatives are neck and neck with Labour. Although it is expected to fall short of an absolute majority as well, the socialist party could go into coalition with the Scottish nationalist SNP which is projected to win more than fifty seats.

Which is another reason for the Conservatives to talk of “English votes for English laws” now. As Dymond puts, “reminding voters of the SNP’s possible role in a future Labour government cannot be done too many times.” Many English fear it would be beholden to separatist demands.

England is by far the biggest part of the United Kingdom. It has fifty out of sixty million people for Britain as a whole and accounts for two-thirds of its economy.

Scottish lawmakers in the House of Commons are currently able to vote on legislation that only concerns England and other parts of the United Kingdom while English lawmakers have no say over many Scottish affairs.