Tory members back English votes

The vast majority of Conservative party members believe only English MPs should be able to vote on issues affecting England, according to a new survey.

A poll of 1,519 members by finds that 82 per cent of respondents supported English votes for English laws, a policy mooted last week by the Conservative party’s democracy task force.

It comes after an Ipsos/Mori survey of the whole population revealed that just 45 per cent want the current structure of the House of Commons to remain unchanged. Just 32 per cent said they were happy with the status quo, down from 57 per cent in earlier polls.

Yesterday’s poll revealed that 41 per cent wanted an English parliament with similar powers over domestic issues such as health and education as the Scottish parliament has.

In the Commons last Wednesday, Tony Blair repeated his belief that English votes for English laws was “completely wrong”, but the Conservatives are hoping to use an opposition day debate to raise the issue’s profile later this month.

Last week, Ken Clarke, the head of the Tories’ task force on the issue, said Britain was in a “constitutional mess” after devolution, with Scottish MPs voting on legislation such as tuition fees and foundation hospitals that would not affect their constituents.

“If a man landed from Mars and saw the current system, he would not say that democracy was working properly,” he told The Observer.

Today’s survey also reveals that 63 per cent of Conservative members want the subsidy that English taxpayers pay to Scotland scrapped, although the Scottish National party (SNP) insists the proceeds from North Sea oil more than make up for it.

Members were completely divided on whether there should be a separate Scottish Tory manifesto at the next general, with 39 per cent backing the idea and 39 per cent against. Currently, the Conservatives have just one Scottish MP.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent said they favoured an independent English parliament, which would operate in a similar way to the devolved Welsh assembly and Scottish parliament.