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Members' Voting Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2006.

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Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow 2:30 pm, 28th February 2006

What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies voting on the Education and Inspections Bill.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I have frequent discussions with my ministerial colleagues on a wide range of matters.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

Given the anticipated publication of the Education and Inspections Bill later this afternoon, has the Secretary of State been able to assure the Prime Minister that he will be able to rely on the votes of Labour MPs representing Scottish constituencies during the passage of the Bill, which has no jurisdiction over schools in Scotland? How many of those MPs support the alternative White Paper?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

We discussed this matter a short while ago, and our position remains exactly the same. I suspect that the Conservatives' interest in this issue stems not so much from principle, given that, in the last two general elections, they have managed to get only one MP elected in Scotland. The Conservatives spent more than £1.3 million in Scotland at the last election, and all they got for it was David Mundell. And to cap it all, they also want him to be a part-time MP.

Photo of Jim McGovern Jim McGovern Labour, Dundee West

We are given 30 minutes once a month to raise specifically Scottish issues. It would appear that the Opposition have conspired to ensure that we end up debating English issues today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that helps to illustrate why the Tories in Scotland have, to all intents and purposes, been wiped out?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

I am very pleased that so many Members from different parts of the country have come along today. That ought to be encouraged. As I have said, I believe that all Members should take an interest in every matter that is put before the House.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The right hon. Gentleman referred to principle a moment ago. Does he not understand that the basic principle of any democratic Assembly is that Members of Parliament should not be able to vote on matters that concern neither themselves nor their constituents?

Photo of Jim Devine Jim Devine Labour, Livingston

Surely the answer to the so-called West Lothian question is Bill Shankly. When a new offside rule was introduced, allowing a goal when a player was in the penalty box and not interfering with play, he famously retorted that if his players were not interfering with play for 100 per cent. of the time, he would want to know why. We are on the park and we are playing. We are from Scotland, we are from Northern Ireland, we are from Wales. I seem to recall that the Conservative party believed in the Union at one point. In this debate, the only logical conclusion—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this period should be devoted to the asking of questions.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend makes his point eloquently, and I agree with it. The difficulty for David Mundell—the solitary Conservative spokesman—is that in the past year he has voted on a range of matters relating to, for instance, English dentistry, English health care, English education and English local government. I find it hard to believe that he has now discovered a principle according to which he should not vote on those matters. He should recall that his predecessor, the previous Conservative Member, said that he did not vote on English matters, but we learned that he had voted on the Mersey Tunnels Bill.

The hon. Gentleman is getting into a huge amount of trouble. As I have said, it is all driven by the Tories' frustration at not being able to get anyone elected north of the border.