Debate on the Address — [First Day]

Part of Outlawries Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 6 November 2007.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 4:58, 6 November 2007

I think that that was a much better Queen's Speech remark than the Government's position today, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House about it.

My first recommendation on the Queen's Speech is to amend it to include a referendum Bill, because that is the way both to give power to the people on an issue on which they want a voice and to settle the European issue. If the Government are so confident about their position, they should put it to the electoral test, which is the way to start to restore confidence in politics and politicians. Confidence in politics and politicians is damaged by all sorts of things, but it is certainly damaged by the impression formed by many people outside this House that they were offered a referendum that has now been taken from them.

The second big constitutional problem that the Queen's Speech does not address under the excellent rubric of giving power to Parliament and the people is the lack of proper representation of the people of England. There is now devolved government in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that is capable of making decisions over a range of issues on which English MPs can pass no comment or have no influence, whereas Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish MPs can come here to settle our affairs, which form a lot of the substance of this Queen's Speech. This Queen's Speech is partly a programme for the Union—it includes areas such as foreign affairs and benefits, which run across the whole Union—and it is partly for the people of England, where it deals with issues such as planning, housing and education.

We desperately need a solution to the problem of England. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made the perfectly good suggestion of moving towards more decision making in this House by the body of English MPs, so whatever is settled for Scotland in the Scottish Parliament would be settled here in Westminster by the English MPs of the Westminster Parliament exercising their jurisdiction as English MPs.