I mentioned in my previous post that I had somehow omitted – i.e. forgotten – to discuss on the Blog many of the questions included in September’s BBC/ICM poll. This omission was particularly cloth-headed of me given that the BBC had actually consulted with me on the wording of some of the questions asked in their poll! Anyway, in that post and this one I am attempting to right this wrong by drawing your attention to some of the interesting findings in that poll.
As well as several questions on the basic devolution settlement and what powers should be devolved to Wales (which I discussed in my previous post), September’s BBC/ICM poll also included some interesting questions about political representation both at Westminster and in the Assembly.
For Westminster, respondents were asked for their extent of agreement or disagreement with two statements about how the House of Commons might function in the future:
‘Scottish MPs at Westminster should be prevented from voting on laws that only apply to England and Wales’
‘Welsh MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that only apply to England’
These questions were obviously responding to suggestions about the possibility of ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL) being introduced. They prompted the following answers from the BBC/ICM sample:
|Response||Scottish MPs||Welsh MPs|
|Neither agree nor disagree||12%||10%|
Thus, we see that the balance of opinions was similar on the two questions, though not identical. For both, the samples leaned slightly towards supporting the suggested exclusions. At the same time, in both cases the proportions supporting the idea fell short of an overall majority. And there was a slightly greater reluctance with regard to the idea of limiting the role of Welsh MPs.
For neither question were there enormous differences by party. However, for both, support for the propositions was lowest among supporters of the Labour party – something that is in line with the position on EVEL that has generally been put forward by that party. Supporters of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru tended to support the first proposition – relating to Scottish MPs; Tories and Plaid Cymru supporters also leaned in favour of the second.
Overall, however, the findings of this poll suggested that there was not a clear public position on EVEL; opinion was neither strongly in favour nor heavily against.
A later question in the same poll asked about members of the National Assembly – and, specifically, whether we should have more of them. This is, of course, an issue that has been rumbling along for years. Arguments have consistently been put by some that having a mere 60 members means that the Assembly is far too small to be able to do its job properly. Personally I am sympathetic to these arguments. But I’m also, of course, aware that arguing for more politicians is not an easy sell to the public at any time, and particularly not so during a period of austerity when important public services being cut.
The BBC/ICM poll made, I think, a decent effort to tap into this issue without asking an obviously slanted question:
‘If the Assembly is given more powers, some people think that there should be more Assembly Members so that those powers could be scrutinised more effectively while others think there are enough Assembly Members already. If the Assembly was granted extra powers do you think…’
The balance of responses obtained was as follows:
|There should be more Assembly Members||23%|
|The number of Assembly Members should stay the same||51%|
|There should be fewer Assembly Members||18%|
In short, the balance of opinion was well over two to one against increasing the size of the Assembly – although those wishing for more Assembly Members did at least slightly outnumber those wishing to reduce the Assembly in size. It is perhaps worth adding that here too there were not huge party differences in these attitudes. Even Plaid Cymru supporters failed to support the idea of increasing the size of the Assembly! It may be true that the size of the Assembly matters, but the evidence form this poll suggests that the public are not yet convinced of the case for