Segregating MP’s voting rights?

The Tory Party in the U.K. proposes that MPs elected from Scotland be prohibited from voting on issues that affect England. My reaction to the idea is pretty well summed up by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling:

I am a member of this government, I am collectively responsible for everything they do and it would be very odd if you said, well I can’t vote for it.

Granted, the partisan interest in this issue is clear (Labour is far stronger in Scottish constituencies than the Conservatives), Darling is right on principle.

0 thoughts on “Segregating MP’s voting rights?

  1. Matthew (and readers) – is anyone aware of any parliamentary chamber in the world in which there are different classes of member with different voting rights? And are there similar calls for such a thing in other countries with asymmetrical devolution such as Spain and Italy?

  2. “Is anyone aware of any parliamentary chamber in the world in which there are different classes of member with different voting rights?”
    Yes I have such an example: in my own Belgium, but it is rather difficult to explain.

    First I have to tell something about federalism belgian-style. In other federal countries you have a federal tier and ONE lower tier: the states in the US, the provinces in Canada, the Länder in Germany etc. In Belgium there are however TWO lower tiers: 3 Regions with territory-based responsabilities (local government, environment, urban planning,…) and 3 Communities with person-based responsabilities (education, culture, social support,…). The 3 Regions are: the Flemish region (dutch-speaking – 60% pop.), the Brussels capital region (bilingual – 10% pop.) and the Walloon region (mostly french-speaking – 30% pop.). The 3 communities are: the Flemish community (Flanders + powers over the dutch-speaking organisations in Brussels), the French community (french-speaking part of Wallonia + powers over the french-speaking organisations in Brussels) and the German-speaking community (70.000 inhabitants in Wallonia, a prize from WW I). (See with maps of regions and communities.)

    It seems compilcated but most people in Belgium aren’t aware of this because the institutions of both tiers (or the politicians in it) are the same: there is only one Flemish Parliament (and government) for the region powers and the community powers. Each voter normally votes only once for MPs who serve for both tiers: in Flanders for 118 MPs in the Flemish (Regional & Community) Parliament and in Brussels for 89 MPs in the Brussels (Regional) Parliament (17 dutch-speaking + 72 french-speaking). Brussels voters who voted for a dutch-speaking list in the Brussels Parliament can exceptionally vote twice: this time for 6 Brussels MPs in the Flemish Parliament. And those 6 Brussels MPs in the Flemish Parliament are the ones that cannot vote on regional matters.

    Why? It seems abundant to state that you should be able to vote for a parliament that has powers over you and – the opposite – that you cannot vote for a parliament that has nothing to say in your electoral district. In Belgium this principle is very important. So the french-speaking minority in Flanders living near Brussels cannot vote for the Brussels Parliament or the French Community Parliament (what they would like to), because these have no powers in Flanders. (they have however enough votes to elect 1 MP in the Flemish Parliament) So the 6 Brussels MPs in the Flemish Parliament can only vote on community matters, because the Flemish Parliament has only community powers in Brussels. (see p. 20 in an English brochure [PDF] of the Flemish Parliament.)

    In practise, it is sometimes difficult to make the difference between community and regional matters (every bill begins with “this affects a regional / community matter”): what to do with votes on general matters (civil service, money bills, confidence in government,…) Usually those 6 MPs do not make a difference, party strength is roughly the same, but it could happen that a government (a coalition) has a majority without them (60-61 out of 118) and not with them (60-61 out of 124) or the other way around…

    The same rule goes for ministers: in 1999 the minister in the flemish government initially responsible for housing, a regional matter, had been elected in Brussels. Later on, when the government discovered the mistake, that matter had to be switched to another minister (of the same party).

    It is very complicated indeed – don’t try to convice me of that!

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