Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Parliamentary Oath

Before taking his seat a Member of Parliament has to swear the oath of allegiance.   Many MPs are unhappy with the oath, some on republican grounds, others objecting to its declarations of faith and others because it makes no mention of a duty to Parliament or the people.   Some think that an oath is by nature objectionable because it is the people who should decide who they wish their representative to be not whether that person is prepared to swear an oath.
                The current wording of the oath is thus:
                I…………… swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.   So help me God.
                There are two further options available to Members.   One starts:
                I…………. do swear that I will be faithful…..
                Or for members who object to swearing the oath they are permitted to make a “solemn affirmation”.   The full wording of the Affirmation is:
                I…………. do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
                The problem of both the oath and the affirmation is that they are impossible to be made by somebody who believes in a Republic – a perfectly legitimate aspiration.   Equally impossible is it for somebody belonging to Sinn Fein that wants to see Northern Ireland as part of the Republic of Eire and wishes to follow the democratic route to achieve this.
                The oath of allegiance should either be abolished or it should be changed to “I swear that I will bear true allegiance to the people, Parliament and democracy according to law.”

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Devolution and Democracy

The most widely discussed dilemma posed by devolution is the West Lothian question, named as such by Enoch Powell after the then constituency of Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP who argued against the 1970s proposals.   This is about the anomaly created if a wide range of social and home affairs issues are devolved to a Scottish Parliament, but remain with the Westminster Parliament in England.   Consequently, Scottish MPs could vote in the Commons on such issues affecting England but not when it affects their own constituents north of the border.
                In order to overcome the West Lothian question England should have its own Parliament.   The total number of parliamentarians in England, Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland and Westminster (United Kingdom) should not exceed 650 including the devolved Parliaments.
                A Federal structure for the United Kingdom should be created with each country within the Kingdom having its own Parliament.

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