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Rifkind's answer to the West Lothian Question

SIR Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign and Scottish Secretary, said yesterday he had come up with the "East Lothian answer to the West Lothian Question"; he has a house at Inveresk in East Lothian.

SIR Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign and Scottish Secretary, said yesterday he had come up with the "East Lothian answer to the West Lothian Question"; he has a house at Inveresk in East Lothian.

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His proposed solution to the issue whereby, post-devolution, Scottish MPs can vote on English matters but not on Scottish ones, is to create an English Grand Committee at Westminster in which only English MPs would debate and vote on England-only issues.

The Herald has been told that David Cameron has been impressed by Sir Malcolm's idea - he presented a paper on the issue - and that he is looking "favourably" upon it.

At a fringe meeting Sir Malcolm said the West Lothian Question was not just a constitutional issue but one "about fairness". Nor, he said, was it a "Scotland versus England" issue but a UK one.

The Kensington and Chelsea MP accused the government's approach to the issue as being "spineless, indefensible and unworkable".

He said: "You cannot have a Nationalist solution to a Unionist problem. You cannot create two classes of members of parliament in the House of Commons."

He said it would not work and could be the first stage of the break-up of the UK.

He explained it was important that when MPs debated issues on the floor of the House, all had equal rights.

Therefore, he proposed an English Grand Committee similar to the current Scottish Grand Committee, on which only MPs from that particular country sit and debate.

However, it would be different in two regards: members of the committee would be able to vote on England-only issues and, having voted on them, there would be a new convention that the House as a whole would not seek to overrule it on English-only business.

Asked if his answer to the West Lothian Question was not "too clever by half" and would simply create a dominant English parliament, Sir Malcolm insisted an English Grand Committee would be different because a Scottish Parliament had an executive.

He added: "What it can't do is introduce new legislation unless it can persuade a majority of English MPs that it is in the interests of England.

"That is not too clever by half, it's just clever."

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