Britain passes lawmaking reforms

2015-10-22 20:56
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street to go the Houses of Parliament. (Matt Dunham, AP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street to go the Houses of Parliament. (Matt Dunham, AP)

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London - Britain on Thursday approved its biggest constitutional change in decades, giving English lawmakers a veto over legislation that only applies to England, despite fierce opposition from Scottish nationalists.

Critics say the plan, part of a wider scheme of devolution among Britain's constituent nations, deepens the divide between England and Scotland at a time when question marks hang over the future of their 300-year-old union.

Reject independence

After an impassioned debate, lawmakers voted 312 to 270 in favour of the reforms, which primarily seek to resolve the fact that lawmakers representing regions in Scotland can vote on legislation that only affects England.

The Conservative government promised ahead of May national elections to address the imbalance, saying that it was unfair to English voters and fuelled resentment.

The issue, which has simmered in British politics since 1977, came to the boil last year after the government promised to expand the remit of Scotland's devolved parliament, in a late bid to persuade Scots to reject independence at a referendum.

That decision reopened old grievances over the balance of lawmaking power across the United Kingdom. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved administrations with varying degrees of authority, whilst English laws are solely determined in the overarching British parliament.

Strengthen animosity

Under the arrangements passed on Thursday, legislation which is deemed to affect only England will have to be approved by a committee of lawmakers based in English constituencies before being voted on by all members of parliament. The new stage hands an effective veto to English lawmakers.

That has been strongly opposed by Scottish National Party (SNP) lawmakers who say it will give them second-class status in parliament and strengthen animosity in Scotland towards the British government.

The opposition Labour Party also voted against the proposals, which it said were poorly constructed and had been pushed through parliament without enough scrutiny.
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