A poll has revealed a surge in popular support for a separate English Parliament
The Ipsos MORI survey, released to The Observer last night, will add fuel to the controversy surrounding a Tory plan to strip Scottish and Welsh MPs in Westminster of their vote on purely 'English issues' now that the government has devolved large areas of policy to the Scottish and Welsh assemblies. The Conservative plan was denounced by Labour last week as an attempt to undermine Gordon Brown's prime ministerial aspirations.
Conducted late last month, the poll found a major shift away from past national surveys, in which just 16 per cent voiced support for an England-only legislature. Asked an identically worded question, 26 per cent were now in favour.
In response to a more detailed question, explaining that Scottish and Welsh MPs were voting on purely English issues in Westminster, 41 per cent said they favoured an English Parliament 'with similar law-making powers to the Scottish Parliament'.
Only 32 per cent said they were happy with an unchanged House of Commons - down from 57 per cent in the earlier surveys. Even in answer to the identically worded question, only 45 per cent now said they were in favour of leaving the Commons unchanged.
'This is the first time since devolution that less than half the public support the present system of governing England through the UK Parliament,' Ipsos MORI's head of political research, Mark Gill, said. The poll was particularly significant, he said, because 'when the public are told that under the current arrangements Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on England-only matters, support for an English Parliament rises considerably'.
The new poll was commissioned by a two-year-old pressure group called English Constitutional Convention, which favours an English Parliament and has been lobbying for a referendum on the issue. A spokesman, Robin Tillbrook, said: 'The issue isn't just about nationalism. It is about democracy and fairness for all the people of England. The poll shows there has been a dramatic shift towards support for this idea.'
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