MPs have suggested the UK Government should adopt the EU’s decision-making model for devolved policy to stop farmers outside England getting a raw deal.
In a parliamentary debate on the future of Britain’s agriculture policy, Alistair Carmichael, who represents Orkney and Shetland, and Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, called on Ministers to copy the system of qualified majority voting (QMV) used by the EU’s Council of Ministers in a beefed-up Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC).
The JMC was created to allow the UK Government and the devolved regions to discuss issues relevant to devolution and consider any disputes between the administrations.
If the EU’s model of QMV were to be adopted for the JMC, each UK nation would be given a certain number of votes in the committee, weighted according to size and population.
This would give England the most votes, followed by Scotland, Wales, then Northern Ireland, but more than half of the UK’s nation states and population would have to support any given measure for it to pass.
The plan is supported by the Welsh Government.
Mr Carmichael said: “The Minister should consider the proposal for the creation of a strengthened JMC.
“As we move to the next phase of our constitutional change, it is pretty clear something of this sort will be necessary.
“The idea posited to get a commonly agreed mechanism is something such as qualified majority voting could be engaged.
“The advantage would be to create something which was genuinely a common agreement, rather than a top-down approach where control would still be vested in Defra and London.”
The UK Government has previously been criticised for insisting on bilateral discussions with the devolved regions instead of convening the JMC – something only it has the power to do.
In October last year, Richard Rawlings, professor of public law at University College London, told MPs on the Welsh Affairs committee it was ‘disgraceful’ that the JMC had not met for over seven months.
Further problems for the committee arose when its chair, former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, was forced to stand down in December.
David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, was announced as Mr Green’s replacement in January.