Friday 24th July: The House of Lords defeated the government this week over its rushing through its plan for 'English votes for English laws'. Instead, their Lordships backed the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler's call for a joint parliamentary committee to consider the proposals.‘Surely’, he said ‘it is more important to get the proposals right than to rush them through'.
Professor David Abulafia, like Lord Butler, agrees on the aim of English votes, but explains that the House of Commons must be able to function ‘without tripping over its own feet’.
Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, Bart., (Eton and King’s), former President of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, who spent forty-three years in the House of Commons as a convert to socialism, once wrote a book entitled The Importance of Being Awkward. He never achieved high office, and had an impressive record of voting against the government when his own party was in power. Capable, to be sure, of some bizarre comments, he earns his place in history for something else – his sharp insight into the constitutional mess that was created by Scottish devolution. To say that is not to oppose devolution, but to make the point that fiddling with the political structure of the United Kingdom without thinking through all the consequences has been the trait of one government after another, not just in respect of the four nations but in respect of the House of Lords, our position within Europe (‘ever closer integration’) and perhaps even the judiciary (were the Law Lords really a problem?).