Devolution (Scotland Referendum)

Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 14th October 2014.

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[Relevant Documents: The parties’ published proposals on further devolution for Scotland, Cm 8946; First Report from the Communities and Local Government Committee, on Devolution in England: the case for local government, HC 503; Third Report from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Session 2012-13, on Prospects for codifying the relationship between central and local government, HC 656, and the Government response, Cm 8623; Fourth Report from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Session 2012-13, on Do we need a constitutional convention for the UK?, HC 656; Oral evidence reported by the Welsh Affairs Committee on 29 April 2014, on Silk Commission Part II: devolving legislative powers to Wales, HC 1239.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Before I call the Leader of the House to move the motion, I should inform the House that, on account of the very large number of Members seeking to catch my eye, I have imposed a six-minute limit on Back-Bench contributions, which will start with the fifth speaker in the debate.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons 1:07 pm, 14th October 2014

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered devolution following the Scotland referendum.

I am delighted to open this debate on devolution, following the clear decision of the Scottish people to remain part of this great United Kingdom. The referendum campaign electrified politics in Scotland, and we saw one of the most remarkable demonstrations of democracy in British history, which I believe showed an unmistakeable strength and vitality in our politics.

With similar energy, we have to build a better and fairer constitutional settlement for all in the United Kingdom, working together as a family of nations, bound by a rich history and the strength of our democracy—and we have to do so with that sense of renewal across the country. Make no mistake, Mr Speaker, the need and demand for renewal is palpable and serious. Across the United Kingdom, we must find that better and fairer settlement. I believe that dither or delay is not an option on these issues.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

Today sees the funeral of Angus Macleod, and I am sure that the Leader of the House and Members of all parties will pay tribute to the doyen of Scottish print journalism. I would like to pay tribute to everyone who took part in the referendum and respect its result, especially the 1.6 million people who voted for independence. A great many people voted no because of “the vow” that promised “extensive” new powers. Why is there no mention of extensive new powers in the Government’s Command Paper, and where is the Prime Minister?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will come to the political and partisan points of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, but first I join him in paying tribute to Angus Macleod, a journalist respected by all Members and known to all, particularly for a very distinctive Scottish voice on the radio. We all remember his family and friends at the time of his funeral today. As I say, I will come to the other points the hon. Gentleman raised—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Well, I was hoping to come on to the other points, but I will give way again at this early stage.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee

Before my right hon. Friend gets to the political and partisan points, may I ask him to involve the Procedure Committee in discussions going forward, as there will be huge procedural implications to what is being talked about today?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to make that point as Chair of the Procedure Committee. I certainly give him that guarantee.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland set out yesterday, it is vital that we unite Scotland within a United Kingdom. The cross-party process being undertaken by Lord Smith of Kelvin is the first step in finding the common ground that will create something that is better and fairer for Scotland and that cements its place in our family of nations.

I want to say at the beginning that we must not only meet the vows that were made to Scotland, but deliver a balanced settlement that is better and fairer for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is why, in addition to the cross-party process being undertaken by Lord Smith of Kelvin, the Prime Minister has asked me to chair a Cabinet Committee to look at the devolution—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I have not even had a chance to respond to Angus Robertson yet, so I will do that before giving way.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will make just one more point.

The Prime Minister has asked me to chair a Cabinet Committee to look at the devolution of powers across the United Kingdom. There will be every opportunity for decisions on the future rights of England and devolution to Wales and Northern Ireland to be made on a cross-party basis, unless, that is, any party chooses not to participate in the discussions. That is a point to which I will return.

The hon. Member for Moray made the point about 1.6 million people. We should pay tribute to all those who voted in the referendum. He might not want to remember so easily that more than 2 million people voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. They voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament, backed by the strength and security that comes from being part of the United Kingdom. Before the referendum, the three pro-Union parties of the United Kingdom made clear commitments to devolve further powers to Scotland on a clear timetable that was put forward by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), who is in his place. That was supported by the three party leaders.

Yesterday, the Government published the Command Paper on Scotland ahead of schedule. It sets out the published proposals of the three UK political parties on further devolution in Scotland. Lord Smith will oversee a process that takes forward those commitments. He has already begun his work and has written to the groups that were formed during the referendum campaign, inviting them to give their views on further devolution. I welcome the fact that, for the first time, all the major parties are involved in shaping devolution for Scotland, with the Scottish National party and the Green party tabling their proposals too. Lord Smith will talk simultaneously to the political parties, civic institutions and the public, with a view to reaching the heads of agreement by 30 November. As the House heard again yesterday, draft clauses will be published by the end of January, so that the legislation is ready to be implemented after the next general election.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

The Leader of the House will know that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, which I have the honour of chairing, has produced extensive work on a written constitution, devolution to English local government and the need for a constitutional convention. Will he ensure that Parliament is represented on and has input into his Cabinet Sub-Committee, which will discuss those much bigger and much more important issues than the one on which, I suspect, many Members will focus, which is English votes for English laws?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Absolutely, I will. The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and the Procedure Committee need to be fully involved in the process. It is certainly our intention that they will be. I will make arrangements for that to happen.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Education)

It is true that on devolved matters, English MPs do not have a vote, but neither do Welsh MPs, Scottish MPs or MPs from Northern Ireland. However, SNP MPs have traditionally resiled from voting on some such matters because they believe that that will help to lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. Would not any such proposal be part of a slippery slope towards the break-up of the United Kingdom?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Let me come to that matter. I propose to work briefly and logically through the nations of the United Kingdom in my remarks and I will come to the question that has become known as English votes on English laws. However, I reject from the outset the idea that fairness for England is disruptive or dangerous for the United Kingdom. It is part of the effort to keep the United Kingdom together, just as fairness for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has always been.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of us in England, including many of my constituents, were willing the Scots to remain part of this great United Kingdom? However, we do want fairness for England. We still have a procedure in this place, Standing Order No. 97, that allows Scots MPs to deal with Scots legislation. Why on earth can we not do that for England? That is a simple solution to a simple problem. It is a matter of fairness.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

That is, indeed, one solution that could be adopted. I will come to the alternative solutions in a moment.

Let me finish what I was saying on Scotland. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said in his statement, the three main pro-UK parties made a vow that will be delivered whatever the outcome of the election next year and whatever deliberations we have about England. I know that it suits the Scottish National party to pretend that it has already been betrayed somehow, but the proposals for Scotland are not tied to our deliberations on other parts of the United Kingdom in the sense that they are conditional on them. It is right to consider those things together, but there was a vow. The British Government—this Administration and past Administrations—have delivered on devolution commitments in the past and will do so again.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will give way in one moment.

This Government delivered the Scotland Act 2012 and introduced the Wales Bill that is being debated in the House of Lords. We believe passionately in the United Kingdom. We recognise the benefits that it brings to all its citizens. We will deliver on the commitments that were made to the people of Scotland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will confirm that the SNP will stop pretending that we are not seeking to deliver on those commitments.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way eventually. If the vow swayed 6% of the Scottish people, it served its narrow political purpose at the time. It was an unconditional vow that became conditional as the hangover set in. Why was the Prime Minister not straight with the Scottish people about the vow before the referendum? Where is the Prime Minister this afternoon?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the vow is unconditional. I think that I can also speak for the official Opposition on that. It was an unconditional vow from the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister. The Scottish nationalists should stop pretending that people are reneging on the commitment when they are not.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Liberal Democrat, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

I thank the Leader of the House for making it clear that the vow is unconditional and that the process for Scotland will go ahead as promised. Are not the interventions from the Scottish National party Members very telling in that they do not recognise the result of the referendum? If anything, the result of the referendum showed a clear desire to stay part of the United Kingdom. The merits of whatever happens in the process should be judged against that.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The referendum was described by people on all sides as the decision of a generation or a lifetime. That is how it should turn out.

Photo of Mary Macleod Mary Macleod Conservative, Brentford and Isleworth

As someone with a strong Scottish highland heritage, I want a fair settlement for everyone in the United Kingdom. Has my right hon. Friend received the commitment from all political parties that they will participate fully in the process?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The Scottish process will be presided over by Lord Smith of Kelvin, not by me. The Cabinet Committee that I chair will ensure that the British Government feed in information as necessary and when it is requested by Lord Smith. I believe that all parties are committed to taking part in that process—the three main UK pro-Union parties, as well as the Scottish National party and the Greens. I welcome that.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

May I say gently to my right hon. Friend that Mr Brown did not speak for me or my constituents when he gave that undertaking? Although I fully understand that the leader of our party is entitled to make that commitment, because he is responsible for policy, it was not the mandate on which I was elected. I and my constituents expect the issues of differential expenditure and English votes for English laws to be addressed at the same time and before devo-max is delivered.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

All the party leaders supported that, but it is the great joy of our democracy and the House that all 650 of us can give our views on those matters. Provided I do not take too long, many of us will do so today.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will make a bit of progress. Otherwise we will stop on that point.

As in Scotland, the Government have been making good on our promise to deliver further devolution to Wales, with the referendum on law-making powers, setting up the Silk commission and introducing the Wales Bill. The Bill takes forward almost all the recommendations of the Silk commission’s part I report and devolves a significant combination of tax and borrowing powers to the Assembly and to Welsh Ministers. It is important that Wales, too, is at the heart of the debate on how to make the United Kingdom work for all nations.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

As the right hon. Gentleman is from Wales, I will give way to him.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

One third of my constituents are currently served by hospitals in England. The railway service goes from England to Wales. In their thousands, people in my constituency work in businesses in England, which are governed by English Departments. Are the Leader of the House’s proposals to stop me voting and speaking on those issues right and proper?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

As I have said, I will come to the position of England, although the right hon. Gentleman might want to reflect that one reason why Welsh people use

English hospitals is the record of the Labour party on the NHS in Wales. Of course, there are important connections. There are and always will be a mass of transport and public service connections between all UK nations, particularly between England and Wales, and between England and Scotland, but that has never stopped people from advocating devolution in Wales and the Welsh Assembly having greater powers. It has never stopped advocacy of greater powers for the Scottish Parliament. Therefore, we reach a point at which it is necessary to provide fairness for England, bearing in mind his point.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

When one looks at Welsh devolution, is not one problem that the legislation has been so badly drafted that it is unclear what has been devolved and what has been reserved? Does that highlight the fact that, if we are to carry out a proper revision of our constitutional arrangements, we must look at the totality of them, while at the same time honouring the commitment we have made in Scotland?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

There is a good case for that. The structure of the devolution settlement in Wales is an important matter for our consideration, particularly as the Silk commission recommended a move to a reserved powers model in its part II report, partly for the reasons that my right hon. and learned Friend gives. It will fall to the next Parliament to introduce legislation to make that change, but my right hon. Friend the Wales Secretary has made it clear that he wants to hear views from across the political spectrum in Wales. He has invited the leaders of the Welsh parties to discuss the way forward, and I believe he held a productive meeting yesterday. As he has announced, the first step in giving further devolution to Wales is to amend the Wales Bill by scrapping the lockstep and allowing the Welsh Assembly the power to vary income tax rates. The new income tax powers are a tool to help the Welsh economy potentially to become more dynamic and to make the Government in Wales more accountable. If used correctly, we hope they can boost economic growth, meaning more people in Wales in jobs and enjoying a better standard of living.

Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I want to pick up on the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the health service in north Wales. As a former Secretary of State for Wales, he knows that, for good demographic reasons, specialist services are supplied to the people of north Wales, including Wrexham, by excellent hospitals such as the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt orthopaedic hospital in Shropshire, Christie’s, and the Walton specialist centre in Liverpool. The right hon. Gentleman should not therefore suggest—I am surprised he took such a cheap shot—that such provision is a matter of choice. It is how the health service works for the people of Wales and for the United Kingdom.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

As I was saying a moment ago, it is of course true that there are a mass of connections in public service and transport, although it is also true that the NHS in Wales has not been performing as well as the NHS in England. Both points are true. There are a mass of connections, but I reiterate that that has never stopped the hon. Gentleman and others from making the case for devolution in Wales and for greater control in Wales over, for instance, health and education services. It is therefore not surprising that English Members want greater control of health and education services in England, acknowledging that services on both sides of such a border must continue to serve those on both sides.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, National Policy Statements Sub-Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

May I point out to my right hon. Friend that we are having increasing difficulty accessing services across the border between England and Scotland, and that increasingly, barriers are being erected? I express the hope that the settlement that Scotland is staying in the United Kingdom will mean that people can continue to cross borders for the best health provision.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, that is important for all of us in the UK.

As is well understood in the House, the devolution settlement for Northern Ireland is different from the ones for Scotland and for Wales. It has emerged out of cross-party talks over a very long period. At its heart is power sharing between Northern Ireland’s two main traditions. The provision of additional powers to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly would involve changes to the Belfast agreement. It is therefore essential that any changes to the settlement have the support of parties in the Assembly. One area on which we have had discussions is the devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland. As the Prime Minister has made clear, we will make an announcement on that no later than the autumn statement.

It is more important that the three devolution settlements I have discussed work in the best interests of the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland than that they are identical, but the nature of the development of devolution in the past two decades has left the UK with an asymmetrical Union.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

No, I think I will make progress.

Hon. Members completely respect the legitimate need for greater autonomy and devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but let us be clear that there is no widespread demand for regional government in England. Indeed, voters in the north-east emphatically rejected that in 2004. The public do not want an extra tier of burdensome politics that increases the cost of government overall.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

That has flushed out quite a few hon. Members, but let me begin by giving way to my hon. Friend Mr Stuart.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

My right hon. Friend is right that there was no appetite in Yorkshire for that proposal, but there is a sense of neglect and frustration that the votes of people in Yorkshire are being diluted by those who represent areas where decisions have no effect. That cannot be allowed to continue and it must be tackled now. Further delay is not acceptable to my constituents.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I agree with my hon. Friend. Hon. Members on both sides of the House need to listen to that point.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

The Leader of the House is right to remind us that regional assemblies were rejected wherever they were considered, not just by the ballot in the north-east. However, there are 2.5 million people in Greater Manchester. It is almost exactly the same size by population as Wales, and half the size of Scotland. There is a real desire for both resources and powers to be devolved to Greater Manchester. Is he considering that?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s point. Much of what we must do is make what we have already work better what we have already rather than invent new tiers of government anywhere in the UK.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will first answer the point made by Graham Stringer.

There is a legitimate demand for greater autonomy at a local level. We have an excellent record in recent years of devolving powers to the cities and regions, including to Manchester. I, like other members of the Government, hope that more can be done on decentralising power from Whitehall. In this Parliament, we have introduced city deals. Eight core deals were signed in the first wave, and we are close to finalising the conclusions on the second wave—18 of the 20 contracts have been signed. We have delivered local growth deals, and £2 billion will be devolved per year to local enterprise partnerships from next year. Many hon. Members would like more such progress, building on the excellent work of the Department of Communities and Local Government. That is part of what we need to do in the United Kingdom, including in England, but it does not resolve the basic issue of fairness that my hon. Friends have raised regarding decisions on legislation affecting England.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

We share a constituency boundary and the Leader of the House knows, as I do, that our constituents feel that too many decisions are London-centred. They want more power closer to them. Is not the problem with English votes for English laws that it changes the job description of Members in this House, but does not actually take power nearer to people?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

These issues are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to believe that there should be greater autonomy at the local level, including for the hon. Lady’s constituents and mine. However, if she is talking, as she did at the beginning of her intervention, about what people feel, I think she will have to acknowledge that they also feel, whether it be in Yorkshire or County Durham, that Scottish Members should no longer be voting on matters that have been devolved to Scotland. That is the local opinion.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

The Leader of the House is absolutely right that we should have English votes for English Members of Parliament on English affairs. With regard to further devolution to the localities within England, I would ask that we do not just talk about cities but the historical counties of England, which deliver a lot of responsibilities already.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, absolutely. Some of the city deals already signed include, for instance, parts of Lancashire outside the cities, so this is a very important point. Localism and decentralisation are crucial to revitalising our cities.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Let me introduce the next part of my speech, because a lot of Members wish to speak.

It does not and cannot answer what we have known as the West Lothian question for the past 30 years. For a long time we have seen prevarication, postponement and delay. With further devolution to the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it is not unreasonable—indeed, it is a basic matter of fairness—to say that the voice of England should also be heard.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I need to emphasise this point. It is no longer fair or just for Scotland to be able to decide its own laws in devolved areas, only for Scottish MPs to cast decisive votes on similar matters that affect only England, or only England and Wales.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I will give way again in a moment; I am trying to give way a lot.

We must establish the principle that when this House makes decisions affecting only the people of England, or only the people of England and Wales, those decisions should be made only by, or with the consent of, the MPs elected to represent them. There will be considerable debate on how to do this. Many reports have been published and solutions proposed, but this issue must be confronted now.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Before the right hon. Gentleman moved on to that structural point, he mentioned the question of legislation. Some Members in the Chamber will leave at 2 o’clock to go back to the Modern Slavery Public Bill Committee, including myself and a Member from Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman will know that I have been involved in that campaign long before this Government came in. Would it be right for Members from Scotland and Northern Ireland to be denied the right to sit on what is a piece of English legislation that will have worldwide repercussions if it is passed in its correct form?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I believe that where a matter only affects England, then key decisions should be made, one way or another, by those MPs elected for English constituencies. The hon. Gentleman believes that for Scotland decisions on such matters should be made by Scottish representatives. We are not asking for anything greater than that. This is not a question that can be ignored or prevaricated over for the next decade. It is right we should address it now without establishing additional layers of government and without increasing the cost of politics.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee

I thank the Leader of the House for giving way. He said that devolution within the United Kingdom would not be symmetrical, but asymmetrical. Is it not true that it is likely that devolution within England will be asymmetrical as well? It might well be that powers are given to the Mayor of London or the combined authority in Greater Manchester that will not be provided to all local authorities up and down England. Therefore, should MPs in London and Greater Manchester be prevented from voting in this House on matters that are devolved to their local authorities?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I think across the House we want to be practical and pragmatic about the devolution of powers. [Interruption.] Well, I think we do, except in one respect in relation to the Labour party, which I will come on to in a moment. I hope Labour Members will not consider themselves too pragmatic until I come to the relevant part of my speech. Of course, the powers will vary from one local authority to another, but that can also be true within Scotland and within Wales. That still does not address the basic issue of fairness in the United Kingdom as a whole.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Denham John Denham Labour, Southampton, Itchen

I am grateful to the Leader of the House. A few moments ago he said that the way in which English votes on English laws is delivered would be the subject of a great deal of debate. Why is he not proposing to involve the people of England in a discussion about how England should be governed? Why is he saying that he has all the wisdom to force this through in a Cabinet discussion without any wider debate whatever? What is he scared of and why will he not listen to the people of England?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

First, I am not claiming to have a monopoly on wisdom. The people of England are already having that discussion and they may well have to have that discussion in the general election, but we are not claiming any monopoly on wisdom. Indeed, I have invited those on the right hon. Gentleman’s Front Bench to come to the Cabinet Committee to put forward their ideas. I have not had an official reply, but it has been dribbled out in the media this morning that they are proposing not to accept that invitation to the Cabinet Committee. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to come in place of those on his Front Bench, because he has many more ideas than they have developed so far.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

Labour has 31 MPs in Yorkshire. Has he had any representations thus far from them on their views about the importance of English votes on English laws for Yorkshire people?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I have not had any representations from any of the Labour MPs in Yorkshire; that is true. I was hoping that the Labour party would attend the Cabinet Committee on devolution and that it would put forward its ideas, but evidently it has decided not to do so. It could have come with superior ideas and innovative solutions that it might be happy with. It could have come to say that the constitutional convention would be its policy. All these things are still open to it. It could have come and pretended to have some ideas to demonstrate the unity that the Leader of the Opposition is desperately calling for at the moment. It could have come and done all these things, but instead it has evidently decided—Sadiq Khan may wish to confirm this in his speech—not to join in the work of the Committee. I therefore hope that nobody on the Opposition Benches will lecture us about not listening to other ideas when they are not prepared to come and give their ideas at the Cabinet Committee that has been established.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are looking for a consensual approach with Opposition Members that is highly researched, intelligent and focused on the issue of English votes for English laws without giving up the principle of the Union Parliament, we should gather together around the McKay commission proposals?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The McKay commission proposals are a very good starting point. They are very well thought out, after a great deal of research. Many of the proposals are about how to insert an English stage into the legislative process, and I know that my hon. Friend has expressed his support for that.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

Is it not the case that today’s debate is on devolution following the Scottish referendum, rather than a general debate on English votes for English laws, which many of us have great sympathy with? Why are we not debating the future of devolution in Scotland, instead of being sidetracked by Tory Back Benchers?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Far be it from me to chide a figure of such exalted status in the House as the hon. Gentleman, but I think he is being a tad precious if I may say so. This is a general debate on devolution following the Scottish referendum. There will be a very ample opportunity for his views to be heard. I feel sure that we await that with eager anticipation.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

This debate is about the whole of the United Kingdom after the referendum in Scotland. Within 10 minutes or so I shall conclude my remarks so that others have the—

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland)

The annunciator reads, “Devolution (Scotland Referendum)”, but at the moment we are debating English votes for English laws. Why are we not having a debate about the subject set out on the annunciator?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I can observe the annunciator just as well as the hon. Gentleman. I simply advise him that the title of the debate is, “Devolution following the Scotland referendum”. The debate is about devolution. Nothing disorderly has happened. The Leader of the House is entirely in order—[Interruption.] No amount of hand gesturing, waving and excessive excitability on the part of the hon. Gentleman will change the fact that the debate is perfectly in order.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It might be good if the Scottish National party, taking heed of the referendum result, avoided new divisions in the UK and this House. We are entitled to discuss matters concerning the whole UK, including Scotland, and that is what we will do. I will try to conclude my remarks in the next five or 10 minutes so that all Members can talk about what they wish to address.

It has been proposed that there be a constitutional convention to discuss these issues—the Labour party could come to the Cabinet committee and put that forward, but seems unwilling to do so—and indeed the Government will consider proposals for the establishment of such a body. However, it must be on the right terms and at the right time. In my view, there is merit in the idea, given that the British constitution is a living entity and no one is pretending that it will have reached a perfect form in the coming months, whatever we decide, on Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England. However, no one is suggesting a delay in the commitments we have made to Scotland while we wait for a constitutional convention or a delay in the amendments we make to the Wales Bill and other commitments to Wales; and it is equally right that we address the needs of England without delay in the coming months, which is why we propose to do so.

Some Members argue that to address that question is to put the UK itself at risk. I say to them that the UK is in greater danger if the legitimate arguments and expectations of English decision making on matters that affect only England are not responded to. Insensitivity and indifference to all nations, including England, are the danger to the Union.

Photo of Jim Sheridan Jim Sheridan Labour, Paisley and Renfrewshire North

The Leader of the House might wish to know that the separatist party has consistently argued that voters cannot trust the Westminster parties, yet the day before the referendum it denied that there would be a significant cut to the health service in Scotland, but the day after it admitted there would be, so we know that under an independent Scotland there would be an immediate £400 million cut to the health service in Scotland.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

That was one of the arguments put powerfully in the referendum, and clearly the voters took heed. Now, we have to unite people to ensure they have the best health service possible.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I wish to explore with my right hon. Friend the idea of going in tandem and at the same pace. As the owner of a tandem myself, may I challenge him to join me on my tandem and show how we can go forward without being dependent on each other?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Without getting into the finer points of cycling, I can say that it is the Prime Minister’s view, as it is mine, that the proposals should proceed in tandem, meaning that just as Lord Smith will aim to produce cross-party agreement on Scotland by the end of November, so I will test to the full whether there is any cross-party agreement on these other issues by the same time.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady does not represent the only other party in the House of Commons. There might be cross-party agreement between others—I am looking forward to such a lot of agreement with the SNP, for instance.

Legislation on Scotland will follow the general election, and if there is no agreement, I have no doubt that the party to which my hon. Friend Mr Chope and I belong will put forward its own plans at the election. That is what we mean by “in tandem”.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I do not think I will give way again, because more than 40 hon. Members wish to speak.

Some have argued that to address the issue of English votes for English laws would create two classes of MPs, but that does not reflect the fact that we already have two classes of MPs with different rights, because under the current system of devolution, Scottish MPs are voting on matters in England that are already devolved to Scotland.

Those issues, affecting all the nations of the UK, now have to be addressed, and it is important that it be done on the parameters I have set out—a better and fairer settlement for the whole of the UK. We are absolutely committed to the timetable set out for further devolution to Scotland; we are committed to providing further powers to Wales; and we are committed to meeting the special needs of Northern Ireland; but let no one think they can ignore the need to confront the needs and rights of England. There will be a place and a time for a constitutional convention, but not one that is simply a device to prevent those issues from being addressed now. It is time for the way decisions are made to be fair to all the constituent parts of the UK. The next few weeks will make it clear who is prepared to build a constitutional settlement that is better and fairer to all.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 1:45 pm, 14th October 2014

We are faced with an anti-politics mood in the country that should alarm each and every one of us, and it is particularly directed at us in Westminster. People have a growing unhappiness with the Westminster elites. The Leader of the House made a characteristically excellent and witty parliamentary speech, but he failed to grasp the feeling in the country.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I will give way in a moment. Let me get past my third line.

Today’s debate is an opportunity for Members to respond properly to this growing cynicism. I say at the outset, however, that the problem will not be solved by Westminster imposing a solution on the British people.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate, however, that the matter of English votes for English laws is a boil that has festered for far too long, and does he appreciate the frustration of my constituents, who see Scottish MPs voting on matters that affect North West Leicestershire, when, quite rightly, the corresponding legislation has been devolved to Scotland, and I have no say over it?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I will do my best, as did the Leader of the House, to make a rational speech and address that very point later in my speech.

The Scottish referendum was a shining beacon of democracy at its best. Faced with a crucial choice about their future, registration and turnout among the people of Scotland was unprecedented. No one can have failed to be impressed by the millions of people coming out to vote and being so passionate about the future direction of their country. By a clear majority, the Scottish people voted to pool and share resources across the UK, and I would like to pay tribute to the enormous hard work of some involved in the Better Together campaign from across the political spectrum. In the Scottish Parliament, I pay tribute to Johann Lamont for Labour, Ruth Davidson for the Conservatives and Willie Rennie for the Liberal Democrats.

I also pay tribute to Mr Kennedy, to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr Carmichael, and to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, who all played a big role, and to my right hon. Friends the Members for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) and for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), my hon. Friend Margaret Curran, my right hon. Friends the Members for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy) and for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander) and my hon. Friend Anas Sarwar. I also pay tribute to campaigners on the Yes campaign for their passion and hard work and to all those who voted.

The referendum sent a clear message, from both yes and no voters, that the status quo is unacceptable—that we cannot keep running the country the way we do—and this groundswell is not restricted to Scotland but has been repeated the length and breadth of the country. The country wants to break the stranglehold of Westminster, and it wants power shifted away from this place on a grand scale. People want to feel they genuinely have a say. They are fed up with feeling powerless and they are frustrated that powerful vested interests are not faced down. They want decisions and power close to where they live, in towns and cities up and down the country. That is why we need to grasp this opportunity and reshape the country in the way the people want, not the way we in Westminster want. Westminster does not always know best—

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

Has the right hon. Gentleman spoken to many of his own constituents? Are they telling him that they do not believe in English votes on English laws? I do not believe that that is true. The right hon. Gentleman’s party is going to set itself on the wrong side of the people, at a time when, as he has rightly said, there is a real sense of neglect and frustration as a result of the failure to listen. He is taking a great risk here. He should listen to this: English votes for English laws is right. Everyone else—Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Scottish nationalists—knows that, and so should he.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

All that I will say to the hon. Gentleman is that that did not work very well in Clacton.

The United Kingdom has undergone nearly two decades of constitutional change. The Leader of the House mentioned the most recent changes: the Scotland Act 2012 and the Wales Bill, which is currently before the other place. Vernon Bogdanor, the Prime Minister’s former tutor, described Labour’s recent 13 years in government as

“an era of constitutional reform comparable to that of the years of the Great Reform Act of 1832” or the Parliament Act 1911. That era included the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly, a Northern Ireland Assembly and a London Mayor and assembly, and of proportional representation in elections to all those bodies and in European elections. It included House of Lords reform and the ejection of all but 92 of the hereditary peers, the introduction of people’s peers and an elected Speaker, and the introduction of the country’s first-ever legislation requiring political parties to publish lists of their donors. We established an independent electoral commission. We introduced the

Human Rights Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gave the public a legal right to gain access to Government information, and we established the separation of powers through the creation of the Supreme Court.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, right to acknowledge that some important changes were made during those years, but the answer to the English question that Labour chose was to describe England as “the regions”, and to work on the basis of regional devolution. That has been rejected by the people, because the people say that England is a nation, and the demand from them is that England should have its say. There should be fairness for England, too. What is Labour going to do about that?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I am trying my best—as did the Leader of the House—to follow the rational plan and structure of the speech, but I shall return to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s question in a few moments.

I am proud of Labour’s record on constitutional reform. We can justifiably claim to be the party of constitutional reform, although it was not plain sailing. We learned from our experiences. We know a thing or two about what works and what does not work. We know about the importance of cross-party consensus to the success of constitutional change. The Leader of the House, as leader of the Conservative party, opposed the removal of any of the hereditary peers. We worked with him, and there are still 92 left, although we hope that they too will be gone soon. We learned from things that did not work, such as the failed referendum on a regional assembly in the north-east of England. We also know that there is unfinished business, most notably in regard to House of Lords reform.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Let me make some progress first. I will give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman shortly, because he has been very patient.

We have long known that devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have an impact on England, and would require a response to help to address the imbalances in our constitution. We can call it the West Lothian question or the English question—we can call it whatever we want—but there is undoubtedly an issue, and it will need to be addressed. It is not a new issue; it was around in the 1880s during the Gladstone home rule debates, in the 1960s when home rule in Northern Ireland was debated, and in the 1970s. However, we need to address the present-day declining trust in Westminster, and the widespread feeling of disempowerment.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I participated in the debates on devolution in the late 1990s, and the West Lothian question was discussed then. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, Lord Irvine said that the best solution to the West

Lothian question was not to ask it. In fact, one of the reasons the devolution settlement has not worked overall—and this applies throughout the United Kingdom—is that the right hon. Gentleman’s party, when in government, consistently refused to look at the total picture. The question now is whether, in opposition, his party will be willing to face up to the consequences, and try to create something that will command support throughout our country. We on this side of the House are prepared to do the work, but it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is avoiding that question.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I have a huge amount of respect for the former Attorney-General, but I am afraid that it is inconsistent to accuse us on the one hand of failing to look at the total picture and on the other hand to suggest a Westminster stitch-up.

Clearly, part of the solution is greater devolution within England, and that has been at the centre of Labour’s policy review: reversing a century of centralisation with radical plans to devolve power and responsibility downwards.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I will give way to the Select Committee Chair in a moment. I want to make some progress first.

My Front-Bench colleagues have already announced ambitious plans that will be implemented should Labour form the next Government. My right hon. Friend Hilary Benn has unveiled a new English deal in which the equivalent of £30 billion of spending would be transferred from Whitehall to city and county regions. My noble Friend Lord Adonis has outlined the way in which a future Labour Government will give local areas and city regions more powers over economic growth, transport and skills. There are other examples. In the context of my own brief, justice, I have announced plans to give local authorities more control over youth justice. They are closer to the issues, and the structure of incentives to cut crime and reoffending works much better on that scale.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I have been hearing heckling and chattering behind my left shoulder for the last five minutes. The Scottish nationalists are claiming that every sentence I utter is relevant to the points that they wish to make. Let us now see whether that is really the case. I give way to Mr MacNeil.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, let me remind him that he embarked on an apprenticeship to become a statesman. That apprenticeship still has a considerable distance to travel. I simply appeal to his more public-spirited instincts, and advise him now to assume the posture of a statesman.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Your words of guidance are for ever precious.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Westminster elites. Well, we did see them in Scotland before the “vow”, but we need to ask where they are today. The Conservatives would not tell us where the Prime Minister was; can the right hon. Gentleman tell us where the Leader of the Opposition is this afternoon?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

All that I can say is “Was that really worth it?” The hon. Gentleman has been a royal pain for the last 10 minutes.

In London we have a Mayor and an assembly, but we are ambitious to do more. The city still has too little control over its own destiny. Only 7% of all taxes raised from Londoners and London businesses are spent by the different levels of London government, whereas the figure is nearly 50% in New York. Labour has committed itself to devolving significant public service funding and responsibility to London’s government, as well as more fiscal autonomy. All that has added importance given the agreement among the leaders of the three main parties on a further package of devolution for Scotland.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland published a Command Paper three weeks early. The Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have made a commitment to strengthening and empowering the Scottish Parliament. The Labour party will take part in the process under the leadership of Lord Smith of Kelvin, in a spirit of partnership and co-operation with the other parties. Every commitment that we have made must be honoured.

We accept that the devolution settlement has also thrown up anomalies in Westminster, and the question of how to ensure that there is an “English voice” in our legislative process is definitely one of them. That is why it is right for us to examine greater powers for English Members of Parliament to scrutinise legislation. However, on many levels and on many occasions, Parliament faces a situation that is similar to the West Lothian question. We have asymmetric devolution, both within the nations and between them. Let us take the London situation. As a London Member of Parliament, I can vote on transport issues in Yorkshire and in other parts of England, yet English MPs, even Yorkshiremen, cannot vote on transport issues in London as they are the responsibility of the Mayor. In a non-federal system such as ours, that is going to happen.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration Committee, Chair, Public Administration Committee

We have to understand that dealing with the English votes on English laws question is more difficult for the Labour party because it has a vested interest in the power of its Scottish MPs over English matters, but it is wrong to pretend that the delegation of powers and functions to local authorities, which are Crown bodies, is equivalent to legislative devolution to Scotland. That is what makes the English votes on English laws question altogether different from what the right hon. Gentleman has just been talking about.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

With the greatest respect, the best way for the hon. Gentleman’s party to resolve the West Lothian question is to win more seats in Scotland. That is the issue. Win more seats in Wales! He has failed to grasp the crisis in this country.

On some levels, we have to accept that the situation I described earlier is part and parcel of how Parliament has evolved and works, but on other levels we need to look at what can be done to accommodate the new, changing make-up of the country and I shall shortly come on to how we address this. Although we may acknowledge that there is an issue to resolve, that does not for one minute mean that we agree with the process that the Government have proposed for finding a resolution. Nor do we necessarily agree with some of the proposed solutions being floated. There can be no rushed, cobbled-together solutions and certainly no self-serving and partisan fixes.

When the Government were not scared of UKIP, they agreed with us. The coalition agreement published in May 2010 stated that they would

“establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’”.

The McKay commission report was published in March last year, when everyone knew there would be a referendum in Scotland in September 2014 and all the mainstream Westminster parties were developing their own plans to give greater devolution to Scotland. Did the Government respond to the McKay commission by setting up a Cabinet committee led by the Leader of the House? Did they then make a veiled threat to have a vote in the House of Commons by a certain deadline? No. The response from the Government last year was:

“Given the significance of the recommendations for both England and the UK as a whole, it is right to take the time required for a thorough and rigorous assessment.”

We could not agree more. What we need to guard against is a situation that could lead to two tiers of MPs.

We also need to be honest about how few Bills that are debated in this House are truly for England only, or for England and Wales only. Some estimates suggest that in 2012-13 there was only one England-only Bill. The House of Commons Library is rightly reluctant to put an exact figure on it, given how complex a job that is. It is not as simple a categorisation as some might think because even when the clauses in a Bill are just relevant to England and Wales, there can sometimes still be financial ramifications for the rest of the UK. Votes on individual clauses in Bills decided by whether MPs were English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish would lead to an almighty mess in the way this place works—something akin to a legislative hokey-cokey.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Labour, Caerphilly

My right hon. Friend is right. There are enormous conceptual problems with the idea of English votes for English laws, but there is another huge problem: we cannot talk about the issue as though it is confined to this place; we have to talk about the other place, too.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. What is remarkable is the speed with which the Leader of the House has been willing to form a sub-committee and chair it to look at the issue of “English votes, English laws”, yet one of our Parliaments is unelected and fully appointed, and 85% of those in the other place are from London and the south-east. There is no sense of urgency in relation to that issue from the Leader of the House of Commons.

We do not want inadvertently to create a system that might contribute to the arguments of those who favour breaking up the UK. There is a good reason why the Scottish Nats are in favour of English votes for English laws. They want two classes of MPs because they want to break up the UK.

I give way to Julian Smith, who has been very patient.

Photo of Julian Smith Julian Smith Conservative, Skipton and Ripon

Will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that there is not a cat in hell’s chance of Labour coming to a conclusion on the issue of English votes for English laws by the next election—yes or no?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

The way the question is premised demonstrates that the hon. Gentleman does not understand that he is part of the problem. It is not a Westminster elite solution. He fails to grasp the crisis that there is in this country.

England makes up over 80% of the UK. There is no easy federal answer to the problem, and it does a huge disservice to disillusioned voters to pretend that there is. The Leader of the House may be one of the finest historians in the palace but he has learned the wrong lessons from history. We need to be clear about the stitch-up that is taking place.

The unhappiness with the way the country is run is an opportunity to make some truly radical changes. The British people want to reshape the country and the way it is run, but they will not put up with a top-down, imposed settlement because that would be a stitch-up and that is precisely the kind of response from Westminster that the anti- politics mood is railing against.

I give way to the former Leader of the House.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

If the shadow Secretary of State is talking about the detail, he must surely come to it first by enunciating what principle he is applying. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said what principle he applied to the question of English votes for English laws. The shadow Secretary of State has had plenty of time to look at the McKay commission report. It said:

“Decisions at the United Kingdom level having a separate and distinct effect for a component part of the United Kingdom should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of the elected representatives for that part of the United Kingdom.”

Will he or will he not accept that principle? If he has another principle to apply, what is it?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

If this had been the position of Her Majesty’s Government before UKIP was a threat, one would have expected that response when the McKay report was published last year. That was not the Government’s response last year. Their response was, “Let’s properly consider this and assess the consequences.” The right hon. Gentleman is trying in a piecemeal manner to pick off the various challenges that we face as a country. That is one of the reasons we are so hated by the public.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole

The right hon. Gentleman keeps using the phrase “Westminster stitch-up”. Sometimes people try to use language to accuse others of what they themselves are doing. The biggest Westminster stitch-up would give the English a few scraps off the plate, a few extra powers and a few quid for local government, while at the same time denying them what they clearly want, according to every opinion poll conducted in this country: they simply expect to be governed by the people they elect, which means English votes for English laws. Does he think it is acceptable for a Scottish MP to vote on a matter that only affects my constituents, while I do not have that option in return?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the £30 billion being devolved from Whitehall to the cities and regions as “scraps”. If he can give examples of just five English-only Bills in the past couple of years that his constituents are not happy about, I will be happy to respond directly to his points.

It was disappointing that, within minutes of the final votes being counted in the Scottish referendum, the Prime Minister was on the steps of Downing street setting out a top-down response to the biggest vote of no confidence in the Westminster elite for a generation. At the moment when we needed a Prime Minister to show some statesmanship, the day after our country voted to stay together, what we got instead was a short-term, partisan fix that had more to do with fighting UKIP than what was in the best interests of the UK.

The Tories used to be a one nation party—it is after all the Conservative and Unionist party—but now it is a party of narrow, sectional interest, desperately chasing UKIP votes. There was no prior consultation with the Deputy Prime Minister, no discussions with the Leader of the Opposition, and no views of the British people were taken. Let me be clear—a Cabinet sub-committee, meeting behind closed doors in Westminster, made up of MPs and led by the Leader of the House is not the way to go about this. The country deserves better than Westminster closing ranks. It certainly deserves better than the Executive dictating to the country what the solution should be. The Government have spectacularly failed to address the concerns of millions of people, who are turned off by such a blatant tactical manoeuvre.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

The right hon. Gentleman keeps referring to a Westminster stitch-up or a knee-jerk—[Interruption]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Will Margot James sit back? Iain Stewart has the Floor on an intervention, and one conversation is enough from the Floor officially.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman keeps referring to a Westminster stitch-up or a knee-jerk reaction. Will he not accept that the McKay report draws on substantial evidence that the people of England are not satisfied with all MPs voting on English-only legislation and they wish to have some form of English votes on English laws? It is not a knee-jerk reaction; there is a substantial body of evidence to show that that is what the people of England want.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I have said that we need to address the issue of how English MPs scrutinise legislation.

I called this a Westminster stitch-up; actually, a No. 10 stitch-up is what it was.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

There is some noise from my left which I will try to ignore in order to make some progress.

Instead, we need a wholly radical solution to the country’s challenges that is part of a much wider and deeper reform of the way power is distributed in our country. We need a different way of working that involves, and is led by, the people and civil society—not top-down solutions imposed by Westminster, but bottom-up solutions driven by the people, by communities and by civil society.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

There are examples of this being done well. Ireland’s post-2008 constitutional convention is a model worth exploring. Scotland’s pre-1997 convention laid the strong foundations for long-lasting constitutional change.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Conservative, Gosport

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I represent a constituency in the south of England; he might be aware of it—it is a place without very many Labour MPs. He keeps talking about this being a Westminster stitch-up—something coming down from Westminster—and saying that there is no requirement for it and there is nothing that is being driven bottom-up from the people in the constituencies, but I get letters about this every day of every week: English people want English votes.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I did not say there was not an issue; I have said there is an issue, but I am also saying there are other issues as well, and rather than us imposing a solution, we should be speaking to the people who are raising those concerns. There are other issues as well. How can it be that we have a Parliament that is fully appointed—completely unelected—with 85% from the hon. Lady’s part of the country and London? That is unacceptable.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and thank him most graciously. At least the Leader of the House devoted 14 minutes of his 45-minute speech to Scotland, but the right hon. Gentleman has barely mentioned Scotland. The Scottish people who are watching this debate—and very many of them are—will be horrified by the way it has become about nothing other than English votes for English folks. Will the right hon. Gentleman now talk about Scotland—about the vow and what has been promised to the Scottish people?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Shadow Minister (London), Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

I dearly hope the people of Scotland are watching the behaviour of the Scottish National party Members of Parliament during the course of this debate.

As I said, there are examples of this being done well. Ireland’s post-2008 constitutional convention is a model worth exploring, as is Scotland’s pre-1997 convention. In fact, the Lib Dem manifesto in 2010 called for a constitutional convention to address this very issue. There are blueprints of success out there, and we would be foolish to ignore them. That is precisely why the Leader of the Opposition has committed Labour to launching a constitutional convention, and it was good to see the Deputy Prime Minister at today’s DPM questions agree that this is the best way forward. I urge all parties to put aside partisanship and work with us to deliver a convention that has true cross-party support and the support of civic society and our citizens. This would be a national conversation in which the politicians would be in a minority and in which the public would have the loudest voice. We would harness the energy of civil society and of the great British public.

This has the potential to bring about deeper change, rooted in the nations, regions, cities, towns and villages of this country, and not just within half a mile of this place. It has the potential to get to grips with a raft of interrelated issues such as how we create a second Chamber that is representative of the regions and nations, how we devolve even more power in England, and the merits of codifying the constitution—a topic I know my hon. Friend Mr Allen and the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee have done a considerable amount of work on.

In short, we are at a fork in the road. In one direction, we can follow the usual Westminster route of the establishment closing ranks, deciding what is best for the British people; or we can choose a new direction—one in which we put the people in charge of deciding their future. I believe this will deliver a new and refreshing constitutional settlement fit for a modern, 21st century UK.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 2:15 pm, 14th October 2014

We in Scotland have just enjoyed the most amazing democratic moment. It is estimated that 97% of the population registered to take part in the referendum; there was a record turnout of 85%; and for the first time in a major election in the United Kingdom 16 and 17-year-olds participated and—dare I say it—excelled themselves in doing so in the build-up and in the referendum itself. At the conclusion, we have a clear outcome: Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom, which I very much welcome.

However, we would be foolish not to recognise that Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom have changed in recent times. More than 100 years of debate about “home rule” and independence swirled around the decision we in Scotland took a month ago, but wider issues were in the mix as well. A generation of aggressive globalisation and the whirlwind of the financial crisis have raised questions, too, about how we are governed. In Hawick or Dundee, Alkrington or, indeed, Clacton, people are asking whether the political structures and system of governance are right for them, their family or their community, and for rather a lot of people the answer is a resounding no.

It is clear to me that people in Scotland support devolution and want more of it. There is a lot of talk about the “settled will” of the people of Scotland, but determining what that is depends on one’s perspective.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Paragraph 30 of the Edinburgh agreement—in which I had the privilege to be involved—was clear about respecting the outcome, and I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government have done that and said the right things about the process going forward.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I respect the fact that the hon. Gentleman who is trying to intervene and his colleagues will continue to argue for independence—that is their right and I am sure they will do that with their traditional energy, which they brought to the referendum campaign and have already brought to this afternoon’s debate. Some, of course, seem to wish to challenge the result, and occasionally we might think we had lost the referendum in Scotland and we had voted for independence, but we should not denigrate the spirit of what has gone on and the importance of what we have been involved in for these past few years, and we must make sure we now respond to the democratic will of the Scottish people.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and it is good to hear him praise the referendum, in such great contrast to the criticisms of the referendum we often heard at the Dispatch Box two or three years ago. It has turned out to be a very energising event in Scotland. On the vow, the right hon. Gentleman’s party leader signed that vow, but where is his party leader this afternoon? Why are he, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition not in this Chamber? Why are they not here? They went to Scotland to sign a vow, but they are not here today.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I know that SNP Members are the source of many conspiracy theories, but this is a pretty lame one. I hope the hon. Gentleman will relax a bit and perhaps wait for the chance to advance his own argument. May I take issue with a point he made in his preamble, too? This Parliament respected the victory of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament in 2011. The constitution is very firmly reserved to the Houses of Parliament, yet, recognising the will of the Scottish people in the Scottish elections, we took measures to devolve the power to hold the referendum to Edinburgh—something that was done peacefully and straightforwardly—and, rather than object, obstruct or get in the way of the referendum, we were active and positive participants in it. I shall come to the question of the vow in a moment.

The aspirations of the people of Scotland have been expressed in many different ways over many years. We have seen a cycle of devolution in which people have argued their case and set out their ideas for new powers, followed by a moment in which people came together and found common ground. Those proposals were then put to the people, to determine and implement more powers.

The vow was important. It underlined what had been happening in Scotland for some time. It was not new; people did not suddenly come up with stuff that had not previously been put forward. The commission that my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Menzies Campbell led on behalf of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland had looked at this issue and reported in 2012. The findings were updated in 2013. The Strathclyde commission, on behalf of the Conservatives, reported last year. The Labour commission reported earlier this year. The party leaders in Scotland came together to pledge more powers earlier this summer. There has been a clear programme, and a commitment from all the UK parties throughout the referendum campaign to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

That may be so—I am listening carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman is saying—but the vow made it clear that there would be substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that prior to this, the parties have never agreed on what those powers should be. That is still not clear; all we see in the Command Paper is three different schemes.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I respect the hon. Gentleman and I appreciate his contribution to the debate. The Smith commission has been set up to bring those different contributions together and to invite others into the process to ensure that people across Scotland can be part of creating the new settlement. The Smith commission fits exactly into the whole devolution cycle. We have set out the ideas, and Lord Smith has the slightly unenviable task of bringing us all together and sorting out a solution. I am delighted that the Scottish National party has chosen—for the first time ever in circumstances such as these—to be part of the process, and I look forward to working with John Swinney, Linda Fabiani and the others who have been appointed to work with Lord Smith to find the common ground that will be essential if we are to settle this issue in Scotland.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Liberal Democrat, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

I thank my right hon. Friend for the measured way in which he has described the history of how the further powers were set out for people during the campaign, correcting some of the impressions that were given in the later coverage of the campaign. It is important to recognise that the powers are all predicated on the fact that the people of Scotland have chosen to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those in the Scottish National party must remember that that was indeed the result.

Some concerns have been expressed about the timetable for the Smith commission, but we cannot win on that one. It will be seen either as far too short and too urgent, or as being kicked into the long grass and not being treated urgently enough. Lord Smith has a huge challenge on his plate, but I and my colleagues, including the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and

Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont), are committed to ensuring that his job is made as easy as possible, so that we can get this new settlement.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the constitutional convention embraced the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats, civic society and trade unions but that, for reasons of its own, the Scottish National party declined to join it? It is worth remembering that we now have a Scottish Parliament as a direct result of the efforts of John Smith, Donald Dewar and now Lord Steel of Aikwood, as well as the efforts of the many others who, after the failed referendum of 1979, kept the faith.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

My right hon. and learned Friend rightly points to the history of engagement by the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and, later on, the Conservatives. Now, we must hope that the SNP will engage in the process in the right spirit. The interventions from SNP Members this afternoon seem to being going against the spirit of welcoming the Smith commission; they seem to have prejudged it and decided that it will not work. I believe that John Swinney and Linda Fabiani will enter into the work of the commission in the right spirit to ensure that we can reach common ground; I hope that that is the correct judgment to make. It is the responsibility of all participants to create a package that will meet the ambitious aspirations of the people of Scotland, that will maximise the common ground between the political parties and those not of any party, and that will prove stable for Scotland and the UK more widely.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration Committee, Chair, Public Administration Committee

Have we not seen SNP Members demonstrating in the House this afternoon that they are interested not in reaching solutions or long-standing agreements but in wrecking, in spoiling and in taking slight and injury in order to destabilise whatever settlement is agreed on here among the main parties?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I certainly think that any attempt to create grievance about the process goes against the grain of what we understand to be the SNP’s willingness to be a full participant in the process. I believe, however, that John Swinney and Linda Fabiani will enter into their work with the commission in the right spirit and that they will be determined to work with others and respect the outcome of the referendum, which made it clear that Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom.

The different parties debated and set out their proposals for what they seek from the commission, according to the different principles that Lord Smith asked for, by the end of last week. It is important that we should adopt those principles, so that we can have a Parliament with the maximum range of powers to fulfil our ambitions for it. Those ambitions include an ability for the Scottish Parliament to raise more than half the money that it spends, while retaining at UK level sufficient fiscal capability and responsibility to allow the UK Parliament, and all the MPs who are part of it, to perform the functions that are best secured across the whole UK, including defence, the provision of a unified international presence, fiscal transfers and solidarity, social protection and equity, and the macro-economic foundations of our economy.

It is important that we entrench the Scottish Parliament to make it clear that there is no danger of its ever being taken away, which would be a political disaster. Now is a good moment to entrench it in the United Kingdom constitution. We must ensure that we maintain what is valuable about the United Kingdom, what people have argued and fought passionately for over the past three years, including the single market for businesses and a single welfare system whose core elements are available across the whole UK.

There is another dimension to this, which has formed part of the debate in England and in Scotland. Although it is not part of his official remit, I hope that Lord Smith will look hard at the issue of local devolution in Scotland, because the cries for decentralisation within Scotland are every bit as strong there as they are here.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as we wish Scotland to have substantial tax-raising powers in its own right, it would be quite wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on taxes for England or the rest of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I shall come back to the issue of English votes for English laws in a moment.

I believe that there is a lot of support across Scotland for a modern Scotland within a reformed United Kingdom, and it is important that we should be serious about that reformed United Kingdom as well. Let us look at the inner workings of the United Kingdom, and particularly at the civil service. I am proud to have worked with some immensely talented people in the Scotland Office, the Cabinet Office, the Treasury and elsewhere. I saw for myself what could be achieved when people put their minds to working together in common cause. I saw the limitations as well, however. I saw the hollowing out of the United Kingdom Government’s presence and capacity in Scotland and, at times, a lack of understanding and sclerotic responses.

I plead for forgiveness for previously arguing for the abolition of the Scotland Office. I confess that I did that when I believed that the rest of the United Kingdom Government had a strong presence north of the border. Three and a half years in the Scotland Office disabused me of that notion. However, the resources, the policy-making capability and the stakeholder engagement in Scotland improved substantially in response to the referendum campaign. We must seize the moment and ensure that there is a step-change in Scotland on the back of that. We must not go back to the old days.

We must also look afresh at how we resolve disputes within the United Kingdom. We need greater openness and engagement in the joint ministerial Committees, and quicker resolution of disputes before they are elevated to constitutional crisis level. All of that is about more openness and a greater understanding of what is done in people’s names across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

May I take the right hon. Gentleman back to his remark about greater independence for local government in Scotland? One thing I hear is that in Scotland there has been great over-centralisation at the Scottish Executive level. Will he underline that in any written settlement that comes forward for Scotland—and, hopefully, in time in the UK—it will be very clear that there is double devolution? By that I mean devolution that goes not only to the Scottish Parliament, but down to a lower level. That is equally applicable in the United Kingdom. One falsehood of English votes for English MPs, because there is a lower level—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Interventions are supposed to be brief. The hon. Gentleman is waiting to speak and I am sure he will be able to expand on his point. May I say to Michael Moore that he does not have a time limit, as the Speaker ruled, but he has been speaking for 15 minutes and a time limit will apply after the fourth speaker opening the debate. Although he has been generous in taking interventions, may I therefore ask him rapidly to draw his conclusions in his remarks so that we can move on to the next speaker?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Liberal Democrat, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Madam Deputy Speaker, you make a very fair point and I will endeavour to conclude shortly. Let me pick up on the point raised by Mr Redwood about English votes for English laws. As the shadow spokesman said, it was a mistake for the Prime Minister to link the issues of Scottish devolution and more powers for England on the same day, in Downing street, just after the referendum result. I recognise that giving further powers to Scotland requires making changes elsewhere, including here. If the West Lothian question were simple to answer, it would have been answered many years ago. We should avoid turning this place from a United Kingdom Parliament into an English Parliament simply by changing Standing Orders, rather than by giving it thorough consideration. We must also avoid any suggestion that English votes for English laws is really about Conservative seats for English laws and seeking to rule out other parties in the process. If the right hon. Gentleman and others are talking about fair votes, that is a fine idea and I look forward to hearing his proposals.

North and south of the border there has been a strong cry for democratic renewal. It has to be real change for Scotland, as well as for elsewhere in the country. We are not going to get away with turning our backs on the questions raised by people the length and breadth of the UK. The voters have spoken and we must respond urgently.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 2:32 pm, 14th October 2014

In thanking the Leader of the House, the shadow Justice Secretary and Michael Moore for introducing this debate, may I join all three of them in congratulating all those Conservatives, Liberals, Labour supporters, all those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those in Scotland, who were part—

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I am seeking your guidance on a particular issue, Madam Deputy Speaker. We can understand why the Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople have no time limit on their speeches, but what is the precedent for Back Benchers being given no time limit in a debate such as this? How were they selected?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It is quite simple, Mr Wishart. I thought you knew the rules of the House, because you have been here for some time. The Speaker has discretion in these debates. He made it clear what he intended to do for the first four speeches, and I am now taking that through. I hope, therefore, that you will remain in your seat so that the debate can proceed, and you will be called in due course.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Madam Deputy Speaker, I wanted to congratulate all those who had contributed to the historic and clear decision of the Scottish people to stay part of the United Kingdom. As someone who has had time to reflect—four years, courtesy of the decision of the British people—may I say that I believe there is also common ground on not just the timetable for the delivery of further devolution to Scotland, but the powers themselves? I believe that when the Conservative, Liberal and Labour parties get together to look at the possibility of delivering a stronger Scottish Parliament, they will find that, in addition to moves on powers over housing benefit, attendance allowance and other matters that they have talked about already, it is possible for the Conservatives to accept some of the Liberal proposals and some of the Labour proposals that would strengthen the Scottish Parliament as part of the United Kingdom, without breaking the United Kingdom but while being in line with the wishes of the Scottish people, and without giving an unfair advantage to the Scottish people.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will pursue my argument and then I will give way. It is a bit much for the hon. Gentleman to want to intervene on me before he has heard what I have had to say.

I have to tell the House that the fundamental question is not the one the Leader of the House was trying to raise; the fundamental question affecting the British constitution is not the West Lothian question. That is a symptom of a more fundamental problem. The fundamental question in the British constitution arises because England is 84% of the Union, Scotland is 8%, Wales is 5% and Northern Ireland is 3%, and the reality is that at any point the votes of England could outvote Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, individually or collectively. So the real issue is about getting a fair distribution of power that respects not only majority rule—I am sensitive to the needs of England and English votes—but the rights of the minorities, so that we have stability and harmony in the British constitution.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will give way in a minute, but I want first to develop this argument. Every generation has had to come to terms with how we get that balance right between majority rule and protecting the needs of the minorities that are part of the United Kingdom. Although on 19 September there was contentment and satisfaction, including, I am told, right up to the centre of Buckingham palace and Balmoral—we have that on the highest authority, or perhaps I should say the second highest—the problem then arose with the Prime Minister’s announcement at 7 am on the Friday after the vote. Without telling people beforehand, on a matter that was absolutely material to the vote that people were casting in the Scottish referendum, a new plan was imposed on Scotland. A vow written on the Tuesday was being rewritten on the Friday morning, because although he said the proposed change was in the English constitution, the practical effect of it was in Scottish constitutional affairs: to restrict the voting rights of Scottish Members of Parliament in this House of Commons on an issue, as he said on that morning, as fundamental as taxation.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will give way in a minute. Clearly that was a change in Scotland’s status in the United Kingdom. Clearly it was highly material to the vote people had just had. Should not the people of Scotland have been told prior to the referendum, which was on Scotland’s status in the United Kingdom, that the downgrading of Scottish representation in Westminster was one of the proposals that he now wishes to make to the people of the country?

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will give way in a minute. What makes for a lethal cocktail—the Leader of the House did not even appear to recognise this—is that the Conservative party, as confirmed by Mr Redwood, wants to devolve 100% of income tax to the Scottish Parliament. This is not the nationalist policy or the Labour policy; it is the Conservative policy to devolve all of income tax to the Scottish Parliament and then immediately end the right of Scottish Members of Parliament to vote on income tax, on a matter as substantial as the Budget, in this Parliament of the United Kingdom. Until now, any income tax rise has been based on the principle that all contribute and all benefit. Now, under the Conservative proposal, all, including Scotland, would benefit from such a tax rise, if it were ever to happen, but only some, excluding Scotland, would contribute. [Interruption.] This is the Conservative party proposal. It is a radical proposal to devolve all income tax in Scotland and then preclude Members of Parliament in this House from voting on the Budget. [Interruption.] Before I give way, I want to say that no state in the world, federal or otherwise, devolves all income tax from the national Exchequer to regional, local or national assemblies, and no Parliament in the world would impose a national income tax on only some of the country but not on all of it. There are very good reasons why that is. We have to understand that this is the Conservative party proposal that has been put forward subsequent to the referendum.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will give way to the man who is the author of English votes for English laws.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for endowing me with that honour, but he should remember that the idea of English votes for English issues was in the Conservative manifesto in

2010 and that I expressly raised it before the referendum in Prime Minister’s questions, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) was standing in for the Prime Minister who was in Scotland. Everybody knew that this was the will of the Conservative party. More importantly, it is the settled will of about three-quarters of the English people.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Why then, when the McKay committee reported, did the Government say that it needed only a thorough and rigorous investigation and did not support that view? The Prime Minister did not tell the Scottish people before the referendum that that proposal would come on the morning after the referendum.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I will give way in a minute. It is the combination of the two proposals to devolve 100% of income tax and then to remove the right of Scottish MPs to vote on the matter in Westminster that is absolutely lethal to the constitution. Let us be clear about the impact of this plan. The Leader of the House is free to intervene and to confirm whether this is indeed his plan. Scottish representatives would be able to vote on some of the business of Westminster, but not all of it. They would not be able to vote on some Budget decisions on income tax and thus would undoubtedly become second-class citizens at Westminster.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is there now a convention that those Members of Parliament who attend this place the least often are not subject to the Back-Bench time restrictions that apply to all other Back Benchers?

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Just a minute, Mr Brown. That is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know about the convention of this House. If he does not, I will be happy to tell him if he would like to approach the Chair, rather than waste the time of the House.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

It is whether one talks sense in this House that matters.

I believe—I am happy for the Leader of the House to confirm this—that there is a basic truth that this restriction on one group of MPs from voting on central issues such as Budget tax decisions ignores, and that is that we cannot have one United Kingdom if we have two separate classes of Members of Parliament. We cannot have representatives elected by the people who are half-in and half-out of the law-making process. The gospel according to Mark in the New Testament, which was quoted by Abraham Lincoln, says:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand...and a kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation”

That is the truth of what the Conservative party is now doing.

This diminished status for Scotland would also have to apply to Wales, which also wants income tax powers. It would possibly apply to Northern Ireland and then—the

Leader of the House did not rule this out when asked about it—it would have to apply to London. It would then have to be applied to the House of Lords to create two classes of representation. A Government who one day owed their authority to all Members of the House would the next day owe their authority to just some Members of the House. They cannot be servant to two masters, owing their authority and legitimacy to one set of votes one day by one group of people and another set of votes another day by another group of people.

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland)

Is the right hon. Gentleman telling this House that he signed up to a vow without knowing the details of it?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I signed up to a vow that I will keep. It was the Prime Minister, on the day after the referendum, who qualified the promise. We would be better off in this House if we had some humility from Members of the Scottish National party, who in their own constituencies found that 55% to 60% voted no and not yes.

Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. May I thank him for the impassioned defence of the Union that he made in the last few days of the campaign? In that spirit, may I say to him, as someone who was christened by his father and who grew up in the central belt of Scotland during the devolution arguments of the 1980s, that there is a similar growth of demand in England for a say in her own affairs. If that is not addressed quickly, we may endanger the very Union that he and I both want to preserve.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I am coming to that and to the proposals that might solve that problem without creating two classes of representation in this House of Commons. The answer has to be that when one part of the Union is 84% and the others are 8%, 5% and 3% respectively, we cannot secure the status of each nation through a blanket uniformity of provision. Indeed the rules needed to protect the minority—I would hope that the Leader of the House who used to be Secretary of State for Wales understands this—are bound to be different from the rules to protect a majority who can always outvote the minority in this House. If that is not recognised by this Government today in this House, it is recognised in America where the rules of the Senate mean that Wyoming—a minority part of the country—with half a million people has two Members of the Senate, as does California with 38 million people. It is also recognised in Australia where Tasmania with 700,000 people and New South Wales with 7 million people have 12 members each in the Senate. It is recognised in the constitutions of Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico.

When we start from a profound imbalance in the numbers of people in a population and from a huge inequality of size, fairness of treatment is not secured by a crude blanket uniformity that requires exactly the same provision for the minorities as the majority. We need to accord some respect to minorities, because the majority can invariably, and always if they want, outvote at any opportunity. The answer is not to say, “no representation without taxation.” The answer is certainly not to say no to Scots paying income tax at a UK level and then no to Scottish representation in this House.

The answer must be to say yes to Scottish representation on equal terms here and not to devolve all forms of income tax to the Scottish Parliament. Scots should continue to pay income tax to the UK and to be represented in the UK. We will achieve the same level of accountability and local responsibility for decisions by devolving some but not all of income tax—perhaps 75% of it—and then assigning half of VAT, with the Scottish Parliament then raising the majority of its spending by its taxing decisions.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I am going to answer the point that I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman is about to raise.

I do not underestimate, and I have reason not to underestimate, the concerns of the English people. I also understand the sensitivities that have been mentioned. There are ways in which they can be dealt with in the Union, without disrupting the status of Members of Parliament in this House and by, at the same time, meeting the sensitivities of the English. The McKay committee offers one way forward, but I agree with the Government that there should be a rigorous examination of what it is proposing as a new element has been introduced, which is the decision on income tax. There are other ways that we can meet the needs of English Members of Parliament in this House without creating two classes of representation, because if we do that, the Union is all but over.

The Leader of the House has put forward a crude argument that needs to be answered. I say to him again that English votes for English laws will not solve the problem that he has raised. It will not bring stability and harmony to the United Kingdom or create the sense of fairness that he wants to see. That will be true even for the English representatives whom he wishes to support. As the McKay committee found, it is difficult to isolate a part of the constitution and say that it is exclusively, uniquely and forever English. There can be few laws passed in this place that do not have implications for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It will also not deal with the fundamental problem of fairness. Let us say that the UK Parliament votes a tax rise to pay for improved pensions and a better national health service or even to cover the national debt, does this House think that English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters will accept for long—even if the Scots have no voting rights—that they, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish, will contribute their income rises to UK-wide services, including funding the Barnett formula, if Scotland is exempt while continuing to benefit from the money raised? That is the Conservative policy. If the Leader of the House will not speak, let someone from the Back Benches defend the Conservative party policy, which will split the United Kingdom apart. Who will speak up?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

My constituents in Letchworth want to know why it is that the right hon. Gentleman should be able to vote in this place about education in Letchworth when I have absolutely no say on those matters in Kirkcaldy in his constituency. It is not right—[Interruption.] I have not finished my intervention. When he was Prime Minister, he consistently ignored this issue. He ignored the voice of England and it must be addressed. It is time he came forward with a positive proposal.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind you, Mr Brown—I said the same to Mr Moore—that the time limit will apply after you conclude your speech, but I would be grateful if you would now draw your remarks to a conclusion, please.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Sir Oliver Heald has not been listening to what I have said. I have been talking about the need to balance recognition of majority rule with sensitivity towards the minorities. What he is saying would apply to the United States of America, Australia and all the countries I have mentioned, where he would deprive the minorities of the power to influence decisions in their Parliaments.

A minute’s consideration of the Conservative party’s proposition, on which the Leader of the House has refused to answer, will show that the only sensible way forward is to devolve some but not all income tax and not to exclude Scots, or any representatives of minority nations in the United Kingdom, from voting at Westminster on issues such as taxation.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Labour, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I gave way once to a Scottish National party Member, and that was quite enough.

It has long been said that the British constitution does not work in theory but works in practice. Make the change proposed by the Conservative party—to devolve income tax to the Scottish Parliament in full and then deprive Scottish MPs of the right to vote on the Budget—and the constitution will not work in practice either. Nations can collapse by accident, even when a majority wants them to survive, and unions can disintegrate because of mistakes that are made.

I am more encouraged than Government Members and Ministers are by the reaction of people in England and the rest of the United Kingdom to the Scottish referendum. While the myth is perpetuated that Scotland and England are on completely different planets, that one is communitarian and egalitarian and the other is individualistic and libertarian, I find that no four nations in the world have managed what we in the United Kingdom have managed to do: to pool and share our resources together. That is the essence of the modern Union: to guarantee everyone in these islands, irrespective of nationality, the same equal rights to help when they are sick, disabled, elderly, vulnerable or unemployed.

A United Kingdom that was united in name only could not survive for long. What I see is reinforced by what we have seen and what we have studied in our history books: the United Kingdom in two world wars, coming together in a shared sacrifice, suffering together; that we Scottish, England, Welsh and Northern Irish are prepared to help each other and come to each others’ aid, to recognise the differences in each other and to be tolerant of what at times might seem like excesses or eccentricities in others. If we can avoid making the kind of mistakes that the Leader of the House is now making, if we can rise above narrow partisan interests and put country before party, and if we can remain statesmanlike in seeking unity, as the siren voices from the SNP try to wreak discord, then Britain can still be the Great Britain that we want it to be.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. There is now a six-minute time limit on Back-Bench speeches, although it might be necessary to review that during the course of the debate.

Photo of George Young George Young Conservative, North West Hampshire 2:53 pm, 14th October 2014

It is always a pleasure to follow the former Prime Minister and, in a moment, I will deal head on with the argument he has just made about two classes of MPs. I am delighted that this issue has been taken off the back burner and put on the legislative hot plate by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who as party leader some 15 years ago set out a very clear statement of our party’s policies on this.

Let me deal with the argument we have just heard about two classes of MPs. First, it asks the wrong question. We are here to represent our constituents, so the question is not whether there should be two classes of MPs, but whether there should be two classes of constituents, one of which would be for those who have a significantly more powerful democratic leverage than the other. Post-devolution, the Scottish voter has more democratic leverage than the English voter. Through his or her MSP, he or she has total control over the matters that have been devolved to Holyrood. That is fair enough. They have leverage over those matters that have not been devolved, such as defence. That is fair enough. But they also have leverage over matters that exclusively apply to England, and in some cases that influence is decisive. My voters have none of that. They have no leverage over devolved matters in Scotland, and they can be outvoted on matters that are exclusively English. That is indefensible and unsustainable, as some of us have been saying since 1999.

Let me deal with the question about all MPs being equal. MPs are not equal. Post-devolution, we have different case loads. Four Members of Parliament never vote. MPs who are Ministers cannot initiate debates on behalf of their constituents or ask parliamentary questions. Some MPs can speak for more than six minutes, and others cannot. Some are paid more because of their responsibilities in the House. It is not the case that all MPs are equal.

The McKay commission summed up the situation very well in paragraph 59 of its report:

“These survey findings suggest a potent combination of dissatisfactions in England. There is a clear and enduring sense that England is materially disadvantaged relative to the other parts of the UK, especially Scotland.”

What a disappointing response we heard from Opposition Front Benchers to that clear statement. They refused to answer the question from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on what the principle that the Labour party seeks to defend might be.

Photo of George Young George Young Conservative, North West Hampshire

Perhaps the hon. Lady will now tell us.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

I am quite taken by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is so focused on the role of Scottish Members of Parliament. In his principles and plans, does he intend to apply that focus to Members of the House of Lords as well, or is he only worried about the House of Commons?

Photo of George Young George Young Conservative, North West Hampshire

The proposition in my party’s manifesto was absolutely clear: it applies to Members of this House.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of George Young George Young Conservative, North West Hampshire

I want to make some progress and so will not give way.

In 1999, it looked as though we might make some progress on rebalancing the constitution post-devolution. The fourth report of the Procedure Committee in the 1998-99 Session looked at the consequences of devolution for this House. The report was unanimous and the Committee included a majority of Labour MPs. This is what they said, in paragraph 25:

“The main point of principle to be considered is whether it is appropriate to retain special procedures for bills relating exclusively to one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, as currently apply to bills relating exclusively to Scotland or Wales. On balance we believe it is.”

That was the proposition put forward unanimously by a Select Committee of the House, and it provided the building blocks for resolving the West Lothian question.

However, for the rest of that Parliament, and for the subsequent two Parliaments, we had nothing but obfuscation by the Labour party. First we were promised regional assemblies, and when they imploded we were offered a Standing Committee on Regional Affairs. That, in the polite words of the Library, “met infrequently”. It met infrequently because the previous Government never actually set it up. After it was abolished, we then had the fiasco of the regional Committees at the end of the last Parliament, which often could not meet because they were inquorate.

Throughout the previous three Parliaments, some of my right hon. and hon. Friends harried the Government time and again to do something about the West Lothian question. The flimsiest of arguments were produced in response. On one occasion, the then Deputy Leader of the House said:

“The arguments are new and opportunistic, and they were not heard when the Conservatives were in government.”—[Hansard, 6 January 2004; Vol. 416, c. 60WH.]

Of course they were, because Scotland did not have its own Parliament when we were in government. In response to the Procedure Committee’s clear recommendation, which I have just referred to, the Government said:

“If…it were possible to identify some Bills as relating exclusively to England, it is not clear what benefit that would have for the House.”

That was an absolutely astonishing statement. They put the telescope to the blind eye.

To bring us up to date, my party made a clear commitment in our manifesto to put that right:

“Labour have refused to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation of Scottish MPs voting on matters which are devolved. A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries.”

That did not make it into the coalition agreement, as a result of caution on the part of our Liberal Democrat colleagues—having listened to the Deputy Prime Minister during Question Time, however, I think that they might be reviewing that position.

What should we do now? There have been a number of imaginative suggestions from right hon. and hon. Friends, including my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind and my hon. Friend Sir William Cash. One possible solution was in the Scotland Act 1978, which would have introduced devolution had it been carried in a referendum. It stipulated that if it turned out that a measure that impacted only on England was carried by Scottish votes, there should be an interim period for reconsideration. That recommendation was never implemented because the referendum produced a negative vote.

I would suggest that a Bill should get a Second Reading with all Members of the House voting, then go to a Public Bill Committee composed solely of English MPs, and then come back on Report during which everybody can vote. However, if it turned out that a specific amendment had been carried only with the votes of Scottish MPs, the relevant section of the Bill should be recommitted back to the Public Bill Committee. We would then have a process that we are familiar with through, for example, negotiating with the House of Lords. If we can negotiate to get a Bill through with the Lords, we can negotiate with elected English MPs to get it through the Commons.

Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 3:00 pm, 14th October 2014

What we recently saw in Scotland was a historic vote. We now have to recognise that Scotland’s commitment to the Union is obviously far greater than that of England and Wales, which have never yet had a vote on whether to remain in the Union. I was reminded earlier that Northern Ireland has in fact made such a commitment. Perhaps that lack of commitment to the Union is behind the Conservatives’ proposal on EVEL—English votes for English laws.

The referendum was an exciting vote. I congratulate everybody from the Conservatives, from the Liberals and from my own party who participated in our campaign. I also congratulate those from the SNP, the Greens and others who participated in their campaign. As an interested observer, but I hope an impartial one in this regard, I thought that the yes campaign had a better campaign than we did. They had better propaganda, better presentation, and even better music; all we had were better arguments. The fact that we had better arguments was demonstrated by the fact that we prevailed. The fact that oil has now dropped to about $80 a barrel, that we have just started cutting steel for ships in my constituency, and that the level of intake of income tax has fallen across the UK as a whole demonstrates the correctness of the decision that the people of Scotland took.

This is a time to try, if we can, to put behind us the divisions that we had during the referendum. It is appropriate to remind ourselves that the referendum campaign was an exceedingly bruising experience for many of us. I will not forget, though I hope to forgive, being described on a number of occasions as a traitor or a Judas. The suggestion that there was a Team Scotland that I was not part of because I did not support separation was deeply offensive to all of us who were proud Scots but did not support separation. In the spirit of peace and reconciliation, we ought to move forward and try to put those things behind us. I think—I did not at the time, but I do now—that the experience of the referendum has been a positive thing. It has moved forward the debate and discussion on the constitution of the United Kingdom such that I am now more firmly than ever before in favour of a referendum on the European Union in order that we can similarly move forward those issues—but I digress.

The vote was not simply a vote to remain part of the United Kingdom—it was very much a vote for change, in two areas: first, on the question of devolution and more powers. I am committed to the concept of more powers for the Scottish Parliament, even though, with the powers that it currently has, it takes some decisions that I do not like. Recently it got the power on rail and continued to have it in the private sector when it could have looked at having it in the public sector. It transferred ScotRail’s contract to a company that previously used to be known as NedRail, which is perhaps appropriate in some parts of Scotland but not necessarily all. Through its powers on the budget and capital spending, the parliament has made substantial cuts in capital for new schools. Again, I regret that, but I respect its right to do it and think that the decision to transfer those powers to it was correct.

People in Scotland were not simply voting about more powers; they were also voting for a better society. That places a burden on my party and the other parties that support the Union to be more specific not only about which powers we want to transfer but what use we want to be made of them. Those who want to see the transfer of all income tax, some income tax or some other tax powers also have an obligation to tell us what they would do with those powers should they be actually transferred. That would result in a much more constructive debate about political aims and objectives rather than the sterility we sometimes have whereby it is just about whether, like a stamp collection, people want to collect powers for their own sake.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

I very much agree with my hon. Friend that this should be start of a new debate about the changes that everyone in Scotland is looking for, regardless of whether they voted yes or no. Does he agree that part of that debate must be not just about devolving power between Westminster and Holyrood but devolving power to local communities and local authorities, which have seen increasing centralisation in Scotland over the past decade? We need to move the balance strongly towards local communities instead.

Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I very much support that, as do, I think, the vast majority of people in the Labour party and many of the other parties that participated in the referendum.

We had a tightly fought and strongly argued debate on the referendum, and we are now all entitled to accept that there was a clear and decisive result. It now appears that no form of devolution will satisfy those who are in favour of separation. We are starting to see not only unhappiness about the result but a rejection of the result. The myth of betrayal is being put forward. We are starting to see the “grievance a day” mentality. That will potentially poison Scottish politics unless those of us who are in favour of settlement move forward in a positive and constructive fashion.

I recognise that, as a result of what has happened in Scotland, there are issues for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We ought to adhere to two principles: first, all MPs are elected equal; and secondly, we must respect the integrity of the Union. We cannot have a situation where Scots are sent out of the room for some debates. As has been said elsewhere, we cannot have Scots MPs being sent out for some things, Welsh MPs being sent out for others, Northern Ireland MPs being sent out for different subjects, and London MPs being sent out for others still. I recognise that England is a nation, although I have to say that it is unfortunate, perhaps, that it must be about the only nation in the world that does not have its own national anthem.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman agrees with this:

“If it’s wrong and something needs to be corrected then even if in the short term it looks that it might be a disadvantage to our party, long term if you do the right thing it’s good for the party. What’s right for the country is right for our party.”

If Kate Hoey accepts that the West Lothian question needs to be addressed, why cannot he?

Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I do think that the West Lothian question should be addressed, but not by sending Scots out of the room.

I very much take the view that the disparity in scale between the different parts of the Union must also be accepted. I want to see a solution to what we can perhaps describe as the English problem, whether that involves an English parliament, regional structures, or city regions. I do not mind any of that if we have had a reasoned debate and discussion. However, it is inappropriate for people to suggest that EVEL should be introduced as a knee-jerk reaction without full consideration, debate and discussion within England itself. We have to remember that the process of Scottish devolution has been very lengthy, thorough, involving and all-embracing: it was not produced on the spur of the moment very much for party advantage. I understand to some extent why some Conservatives are doing this, but I appeal to them not to seek to pursue party advantage on this question at the risk of damaging the future of the Union.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Full Member) 3:09 pm, 14th October 2014

I think I know what my constituents do and do not want to see. They want to see a holistic solution that is fair to the whole of the United Kingdom. They do not want to see a piecemeal spatchcock solution that is pointed towards Scotland immediately, while not just England, but the rest of the United Kingdom are kicked into the long grass.

It is more than 20 years since I first suggested the abolition of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I suggested at that time that we should have four national Parliaments for Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members, each with a First Minister, and that we should then, to take the point made by Mr Brown, have a United Kingdom senate. Therefore, although we would break up the nations, we would retain the United Kingdom, with the Queen as the Head of State, a Prime Minister for the United Kingdom and a senate that would deal exclusively with macro-taxation, foreign policy and defence.

That suggestion was greeted with derision at the time and I have no doubt that the response will be the same today. However, prior to The Great Reform Act 1832 it was the duty of Parliament to raise the money to fight the wars and enforce the foreign policy, and everything else was dealt with parochially. The issues were not quite the same then, but I envisage that health, education and social services should be dealt with on a national basis, while the unity of the United Kingdom would be retained through the senate.

I do not expect Government Front Benchers to leap up and say, “Gosh, Roger, yes, you’re right. Nobody’s ever thought of that before.” Nevertheless, I want to end by saying—I can do this very quickly indeed—that if we attempt to deliver the issues contained in some vow in which I, my constituents and this House of Commons did not have a say, and do so without at the same time addressing the matters that relate to Northern Ireland, Wales and specifically to England, I do not doubt that at some point the matter will go through this House, and to that I say, quite simply, “Not in my name.”

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee 3:12 pm, 14th October 2014

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to address the federal Parliament today. Like many colleagues, I want to start by congratulating the Scottish people as a whole—whether they voted yes or no—for the way in which they gave many of us an exciting and euphoric democratic experience. I suspect that those who were out there on the day will not share that view, but as someone who was external to the process for most of the time, I think it was a great tribute to the concept of democracy.

It would be a great shame if we let that go and did not surf the wave of democratic feeling unleashed by the referendum but lapsed back into good old Westminster intrigue and internal politics. That is why the referendum had the legs that it had—people had thought that all we were concerned about were things such as who sat next to whom on these Benches and whether they were able to vote or not. We have been given the most fantastic opportunity, with the Scottish people leading the way, to improve our democracy.

As an English Member of Parliament, I congratulate Scotland on the way in which it managed, perhaps hairily, to get what will be an incredibly strong devolution package. All I would say to this House is that what is good enough for Scotland is good enough for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We should treat this as a launch pad for devolution for the whole of the United Kingdom. That is the key lesson for us. I am afraid that none of our party leaders covered themselves in glory the day after the referendum result was announced.

They did not take that lesson to the extreme and address the journey we could all begin to take so that everybody else can do as well as Scotland has done.

All I am asking is that Britain be allowed to join the family of western democracies, with a devolved settlement and a constitution that guarantees, as has been said, what happens with local government. It is good to give local government some authority and a package of proposals, but the experience of Scotland has shown how a Government can suck powers from the localities if they are not entrenched and guaranteed in writing—not just in law, but in a constitution.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton

My hon. Friend is making some profound points. In 2010, public expenditure in Greater Manchester was £23 billion, and in 2014 the figure was exactly the same. There have been huge cuts in public services, local government and elsewhere over that period. Does that not show that the centralised model does not work, and that if people in Greater Manchester had been in control of that money, we would have had a better outcome?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

I strongly support my hon. Friend’s record of achievement in pressing the case for Manchester and many other places that need that liberation. Our country’s localities, regions and nations can do far better than simply rely on the man in Whitehall telling us what to do. My only caveat to my hon. Friend’s comments is that we all have to get this. It is not just a matter of having a great campaigning council or a strong council with the right connections; everybody, including, as has been said, the counties, non-core cities, parishes and rural areas, has to benefit from that liberation, and I think that is what a written settlement will be able to do.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the powerful speech he is giving. Does he agree that it is also vital that we focus not just on the delegation of powers but on collaboration among the cities and the counties, to bring about economic benefit for all involved?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

The independence of local government to do things appropriate to its level will actually encourage interdependence, interrelationships, treaty-making, sharing and co-operation in a way in which we are all currently constrained from doing, because all we can do at the moment is implement the stuff that comes down the pipe from Whitehall. That will be liberating with regard to relationship-building, and it will give local government the sensitivity to engage with local people and spend money more accurately locally.

I have been worried that the vision needed to get on this road has been lacking. I think that has happened in Scotland to a degree over the years. I think Donald Dewar led at such rocket speed that perhaps it has been difficult to keep up the pace of that engagement with people. That has certainly been the case at the UK level: our respective Front Benchers seem shy of engaging with the British people on the subject of democratic change. Above all, not engaging with people in England on how they can run their own affairs more effectively has led to the ghost of UKIP appearing at the feast to fill the vacuum. All of us, regardless of party, have a role to play in bringing such things back to the English people, as well as to the Scottish people and the rest of the people of the Union.

We have had high levels of complacency and short-termism, and we are now being paid back for that. We must not forget that that led us to the brink of failure: however excited the people in the no campaign are now, we came within an ace of destroying the Union. Going back to business as usual is not the way forward. We must ensure that the whole range of democratic measures are considered in any settlement, rather than just English votes for English laws. In saying that, I am criticising those on both Front Benches.

It is close to arrogance to assume that devolution in England means just talking to English MPs. That is where we previously went wrong. It is why people do not like us and think that we are corrupt, to a degree, in wanting to move the deckchairs around on the Westminster Titanic, rather than reaching out to them with double devolution—not just in relation to us as English MPs, but as people who run local authorities, which should be vested with much more authority than they currently are. We need to be very careful to avoid such arrogance.

There is lots of stuff that people can use to make this work. The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not want to do anything on the back of a fag packet, so I have brought a few fag packets along from my Select Committee—they are on the Table—showing how we can build a written constitution, have a constitutional convention, and have independent local government in England as the vehicle for devolution. A lot of smoking went on in my Select Committee to produce them.

Lots of parliamentary colleagues have made individual contributions, as have several think-tanks on the left and the right, and many local authority leaders of all parties, from Boris Johnson to Sir Richard Leese, and including George Ferguson. Loads of people have engaged with this subject—for example, Jim O’Neill’s recent Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce project on cities—and a lot of thinking has been done. The idea that we cannot now decide on a package to put to the people of this country ahead of a general election therefore beggars belief. History will not forgive any of us if we do not take this chance on the back of what the Scottish people have led us towards.

If we look at what all the parties are proposing on the package before us, I must say, as a former trade union negotiator, that with such a package from three different parties, we could make it work and reach agreement. There is more room for agreement than for disagreement. We or, rather, Lord Smith can make a great package to offer Scotland on income tax assignment—putting on every wage slip the amount of money that goes to Scotland or, in our case, to English local authorities—and on the entrenchment of local government powers, which has also been agreed, as well as having a written constitution so that things are in writing and cannot be repealed by somebody else at a later point and so that we all know the rules of the game. That is the package and the common ground—

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 3:21 pm, 14th October 2014

In answer to Mr Brown, I simply say that although he stressed fairness, he did not talk about proportionality. It is very important in this context to remember that the 1.6 million voters in Scotland who voted yes—we have heard a lot about them today—represent, on a turnout of 84%, only 2.5% of the population of the United Kingdom as a whole. I hope that SNP Members will bear that in mind.

Furthermore, in regard to the total population of the United Kingdom of 64 million, England represents 84%, Wales 4.8%, Northern Ireland 2.8% and Scotland 8.2%. In fairness to the United Kingdom as a whole, there has to be a point at which we respond to the degree of proportionality and the extent of unfairness for the English constituent parts of the United Kingdom made manifest by those figures alone.

When the question of total tax revenues is taken into account, the proportions are England 85%, Wales 3.5%, Northern Ireland 2.6% and Scotland 9%. On redistribution, and taking into account the Barnett formula as well, we have ended up with something wholly disproportionate that must be remedied within the framework of the United Kingdom as a whole. That equally applies, of course, not only to the distribution of money and functions, but to the manner in which they are redistributed through services provided to constituents throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

In order to deal with the West Lothian question, I considered this matter back in 1997 when—on 3 June, I recollect—I proposed an amendment and had a debate with Tam Dalyell and Margaret Ewing. That debate was civilised and our debate can continue to be civilised, although we should bear it in mind that a much greater degree of devolution is now being considered than was then the case.

The need to resolve the question has now become imminent and absolutely essential. I therefore profoundly believe that the question should be dealt with by changing our Standing Orders within the framework of the United Kingdom itself. After all, it was the United Kingdom that decided, with the consent of the voters of each of its constituent parts—including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—to devolve some functions. That was done as a matter of democratic consent and with everybody’s agreement. Hopefully, as we move forward, the other parts would be accorded the same consent. It absolutely follows, however, that this has to be done within the United Kingdom as a whole, and the best and most appropriate context for that to happen is, I believe, within the framework of a change to Standing Order No. 39.

Let me briefly read out what the Standing Order would say:

“Where a Bill…or part of a Bill, or a Motion, is expressly stated to apply only to England, and the Speaker or, in Committee, the Chair, before the commencement of business, rules that this Standing Order applies, he shall declare which category of Member may vote in any division and that a Member representing a constituency in a part of the United Kingdom to which legislative power has been devolved, may speak”— so the Member would be involved—

“but not vote in proceedings relating to that devolved matter.”

The devolved matter would obviously be one

“in respect of which legislation has been enacted devolving the exercise of functions to a Parliament or an Assembly within the United Kingdom.”

I have sent a copy to the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister. I hope it will be given fair wind. However, there has been another proposal—Sir Menzies Campbell signified yesterday that the matter should be dealt with by primary legislation. I was deeply concerned to note the response of the Secretary of State at this point, and I hope he will look again at the reply he gave. The idea that the capacity of Members of Parliament should be dealt with by legislation prescribed in statute would be a recipe for endless litigation. We need only look at what happened in the Jackson case or at the issue of the Parliament Act to realise that this would be a disastrous route.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Does my hon. Friend accept that when we recently looked in detail at the issue of privilege, although it had been thought at the outset that this was an area on which to legislate, in fact the Committees of both Houses that looked at it came to the conclusion that that would be a grave mistake, for the very reason he suggests—that it would all become justiciable?

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

My hon. Friend Mr Jenkin, I and others were on the Committee, and those were indeed the conclusions we came to.

As for the charter of fundamental rights—now reckoned to be within the framework of our own constitutional arrangements, although I do not have time to go into it now—the bottom line is that that would mean these matters being adjudicated by the European Court of Justice, which really would be a very dangerous situation.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Does my hon. Friend recall that when Enoch Powell was a member of the Procedure Committee, he used to say that in the absence of a written constitution, the procedures of the House and our Standing Orders are our constitution, so to call for changes to the Standing Orders is not to call for them in any subordinate form of legislation, but in a very important form?

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

Absolutely. To his great credit, Tam Dalyell admitted that it was Enoch Powell who first raised the West Lothian question—that is a fact. It is an especially important point, because it is this House’s inherent power to regulate its own internal business on behalf of the United Kingdom. As my right hon. Friend Sir George Young clearly stated, there are many differentiations already. I would like to say that it is not just a question of classes of Member; it is about the differentiation of legitimacy and democratic functions. That is the way I prefer to put it, because we perform different functions in different circumstances. It is not about creating two completely different classes.

I add that opinion polls indicate that 61% now strongly support the idea of English laws exclusively for English issues. I do not think there is any doubt about it. With respect, I was appalled at the speech of the shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, who said almost nothing. When he did say something, it sounded as if it was based entirely on trying to avoid the issue at all costs.

When the Bill is introduced, it must specify its territorial extent if it is not to apply to the whole of the UK. If the Bill is silent on that, it will be presumed to apply to the UK as a whole. My amendment would effectively provide the power to declare the category of Member who would be voting, so that Members of the Welsh or Northern Ireland Assembly or the Scottish Parliament would know whether or not they were able to vote. It is also a convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate on devolved matters.

Finally, another idea that is floating around, which comes from the McKay proposals, is that a Standing Committee should consist of only English or only English and Welsh Members. Something similar has been happening under Standing Order No. 97 since 1948. My objection is that Second Reading, Report and Third Reading would still be considered by the whole House and that all MPs would vote. That would take us back to square one. I strongly urge the House not to go down that route.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution) 3:30 pm, 14th October 2014

What an extraordinary and remarkable event the referendum was. It was absolutely fantastic. None of us, whether on the no side or the yes side, will ever forget what we have been through over the past few months. It became almost a festival of politics towards the end. There were impromptu flash mobs, gatherings and get-togethers. It energised and engaged the Scottish people in a way that we never foresaw or imagined. It was absolutely incredible. I just wish that we could do it again.

We probably now have the most engaged and educated population on political issues anywhere in Europe. People want to remain engaged. They are joining political parties. We have bucked the trend on that. There are now more than 80,000 people in the Scottish National party. We have trebled our membership since the referendum, as have the Greens. All the other parties that took part have seen massive increases. I cannot speak for the no parties—they will be able to say what has happened to their memberships—but what has happened in the yes movement is incredible.

Many people in Scotland, because they are interested and want to be engaged, will be watching this debate. A lot of them will be watching in horror and will be appalled. The Scottish people thought that in the week that we came back after the independence referendum, we would have the Floor of the House to discuss these issues. We thought that the referendum would have the exclusive attention of the House. Surely the solemn vow, the promise, the guarantee of extensive new powers for Scotland deserves a full day’s debate, without the consideration of any other issue.

I sympathise totally with English Members. Of course they should have English votes for English laws. We do not vote on England-only issues. There are several reasons for that. First, we respect English Members. They have every right to demand exclusive rights to vote on England-only legislation. Secondly, it would be a waste of my time. What would be the point of me, as the Member for Perth and North Perthshire, voting on policing arrangements in Peckham or Plymouth, when that issue is handled by another Parliament? Of course English Members should have that.

Hon. Members:

Give way!

Photo of Pamela Nash Pamela Nash Labour, Airdrie and Shotts

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. People in Scotland will know that the SNP and the yes campaign spoke about the fact that any vote on NHS policy in England in this place has an impact on the block grant to Scotland. Will he therefore say why SNP Members did not vote on those policies in the past? Can he name any Bill that has passed through this Parliament in the past year that has not impacted on his constituents and mine?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

The hon. Lady raises an important point. When we talk about England-only legislation, we are talking about legislation that does not impact on Scotland. Our group of MPs discusses that issue every week. I could explain to her our Whip on legislation that significantly impacts on Scotland. For example, we voted on tuition fees—[Interruption.] I am answering the hon. Lady’s question. We voted on tuition fees because that vote had a massive impact on Scottish higher education. It was right that we did that. However, there are other issues that should not concern us one ounce.

This House made one of the most important and solemn vows that has ever been made by a Member of Parliament in modern political history. It was signed by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is in danger of saying something that is not entirely in concert with the facts. He suggested that the vow was made by Parliament. It was not made by Parliament.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

This is what it is all about. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. The Scottish people thought that they had secured a solemn vow, a promise, a guarantee of more extensive powers. That is what they thought they had secured. To hear my Conservative friends, some of whom I respect dearly, confirm that they were not consulted and would have difficulty getting the proposal through the House, tells me everything. The Scottish people were influenced by the vow. There is some very good evidence that the vow might just have swung it. It was the key thing. It was presented on the eve of the referendum—the solemn vow, promise, guarantee of more powers—and already we are hearing the backtrack. It is in full view.

The Prime Minister should have been here for this debate, and I will tell the House why: he was the key signatory to that vow. He should have been here to speak to the Scottish people, to look them in the eye and say, “The vow—the promise and guarantee—will be delivered in full, without condition, with absolutely no caveat and without consideration of any other external issue.” But he is not here. It is a massive dereliction of duty.

Before I move on from English votes for English laws, let me introduce the House to its little brother, SCVL—Scottish votes for Scottish laws. It has come to my attention that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the only Conservative Member of Parliament with a Scottish constituency, votes on England-only legislation. I do not know whether the House knew that, but he does. Perhaps the Whip should have a quiet word so that there is no possibility that a charge of hypocrisy can be extended to the Conservative party. Tomorrow, five English Members are down to ask a question to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Others will be looking to catch the Speaker’s eye. Come on, Tory friends! If it is good enough for English Members of Parliament for Scottish Members to absent themselves from English-only business, let us ensure that Scottish Members of Parliament have exclusive rights to their legislation. There will also be a package for more devolution. Will our Tory friends be voting on that? What is good for EVEL—English votes for English laws—is equally good for SCVL. I hope Conservative Members of Parliament remember that.

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the Leader of the House for replying so positively to my request for a full day’s debate. It is unfortunate that it has not become a debate about the referendum and other things. It was an absolute and utter disgrace that we were left with one half-hour Adjournment debate on a Thursday afternoon in the hands of Mr Brown. We saw in his behaviour today his lack of generosity in debate, so I am glad that we are having this debate.

The right hon. Gentleman almost casts a surreal shadow and presence on the debate. Such is the ridiculousness of the situation that he feels the need to secure a petition signed by 100,000 people to guarantee more powers to be given by a Government on whose behalf he was speaking. How absurd is that? He came close today to saying that he had been duped—I was hoping to push him into saying that he felt duped by the Conservative Government, but we could have told him that that would happen.

Just because we lost the referendum narrowly does not mean that I have stopped believing in independence. Just because we did not secure the referendum does not mean that I have stopped believing that the people best placed to run our fantastic country are the people who live and work there. We are now engaged in the fight for more powers; it is to that we will apply ourselves. We will make sure that we get the maximum devolution that the Scottish people now want.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West 3:40 pm, 14th October 2014

It is clear that the sound and fury generated by the referendum campaign has still not entirely dissipated. What appears to be coming out of this debate is a general agreement that, although Scotland should not become independent, there should be greater devolution not only for the people of Scotland but for the people of the other parts of the United Kingdom. Yesterday’s Command Paper was a further step along that route. I am sure we all wish Lord Smith well in his endeavours.

Entirely understandably, the outcome of the referendum has generated calls for English votes for English laws. I will come on to that in a moment, but since we have been overlooked thus far in this debate, I would like to mention Wales. The Wales Bill has completed its passage through this House and is now passing through the other place. However, it cannot be said that the Wales Bill is the end of discussions on devolution in Wales. It was always intended to be a modest measure implementing most of the recommendations of part I of the Silk Commission report, as well as making minor changes to such matters as the title of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Last summer, however, the decision of the Supreme Court in the Agricultural Wages Board case made it absolutely clear that the Welsh devolution settlement was, in reality, always unfit for purpose. Unlike the Scottish reserved powers model, the Welsh settlement was a conferred powers model. It was always assumed under that model that unless powers were specifically conferred they were not included in the competence of the Assembly. That, the Supreme Court made absolutely clear, was not in reality the case. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales therefore indicated that Wales should move towards a reserved powers model. From the point of view of improving clarity, a change in the model is not necessarily the end of the process. What was defective about the two Government of Wales Acts was not so much the model of devolution, but that there was so much uncertainty about it: the edges were fuzzy. Moving to a reserved powers model will solve the problem identified by the Supreme Court only if there is crystal clarity about what is to be reserved. That is an exercise that has to be carried out with a high degree of precision. Indeed, one of the criticisms made by one of the Silk commissioners in evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee was that the Government of Wales Act had been a “rushed job”.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Will my right hon. Friend clarify whether Wales will want to have devolved power to set its own income tax rate when Scotland gets that power?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

That matter is already covered by the Wales Bill. It will be a matter for the people of Wales, in a referendum, to decide whether they want such powers. My own view, frankly, is that it is debatable.

More than four years in Gwydyr House taught me that the most problematic aspect of devolution is the cross-border effect. This matter was referred to a little earlier by Mr Hanson. Take, for example, specialist hospital care. At present, there are disparate health systems in place in England and Wales, which mean that, effectively, Welsh patients are treated less favourably in many respects in the English hospitals where they need treatment. Waiting lists are longer and it is a source of concern to Welsh patients that although they pay their taxes at precisely the same rate as English patients, they wait much longer for treatment. That cannot be right. This is one of the matters that a new Government of Wales Act has to address.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Labour, Caerphilly

A moment ago, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the reserved powers model. Can he explain why the Conservative Government have changed their position very recently on this issue?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

I thought I made that clear a moment ago: it was as a consequence of the judgment in the Agricultural Wages Board case. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but he thought as well that, under the conferred powers model, if the powers were not specifically referred to they were actually excluded. That, of course, is not the case, and that is why we need to change the model. More importantly, we need to proceed towards greater clarity, because that is what the present model lacks.

On other aspects of the devolution settlement, we now have an opportunity to address, under a new Government of Wales Act, the issue of transport. Although highways are devolved in Wales—they are the only type of major transport that is devolved—the fact is that the two major Euro routes, the A55 and the M4, are, for European purposes, the responsibility of the member state. However, given that the upkeep of the roads is in the hands of the Welsh Assembly Government, this Parliament has no direct control over the matter, so that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, there is the problem of providers of undevolved services being required, through Welsh legislation under the current settlement, to comply with orders made by the Welsh Assembly Government. That cannot be right either. We must take the opportunity afforded by this discussion, on the devolution settlement in all the constituent parts of the country, and seize the issues that have become all too apparent after 15 years of devolution in Wales.

I wish to touch briefly on English votes for English laws—given the complexity of the devolution settlements in this country, that usually means English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws. I absolutely agree that such arrangements should be put in place. It is wholly wrong that Members of this House representing parts of the country to which the relevant legislative competence has been devolved can exert their influence in areas where it has not been devolved and on issues that affect England or England and Wales only—that goes as much for Welsh MPs as for Scottish Members—subject to the major proviso that the subject of the vote relates wholly to England and Wales.

The difference between Wales and Scotland is that Wales has a highly populated, porous border—some 50% of the population of Wales lives within 25 miles of the border. If someone needs hospital treatment and happens to live in Flint, they will go to the Countess of Chester hospital. If, in my constituency, someone needs cancer care, they will go to Clatterbridge. If they need neurosurgery, they will go to the Walton centre in Liverpool. These are fuzzy edges and they highlight that the problems of cross-border care were never properly addressed in the original devolution settlement. We now have an opportunity, under the arrangements to be put in place, to put that right and to ensure that the people of Wales get the care they need. It is important, however, that it not be a crude system that precludes Welsh MPs from voting on issues that are properly their concern.

The Scottish referendum has triggered a huge debate across the country. For my own part and from a Welsh point of view, I want to ensure that the people of Wales are properly served, as indeed are the people of the rest of this United Kingdom.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 3:47 pm, 14th October 2014

Tempting though it is, I shall not rehearse the arguments we heard again and again during the referendum campaign. Instead, I shall address the issues arising out of the vote on 18 September, bearing it in mind that a clear majority of the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom, but not ignoring the 45% who took a different view, some of them, I have to concede, in my own constituency. Given the passion of the campaign—that is putting it politely; some of the events I observed in my constituency are perhaps best forgotten—I appeal to SNP Members to accept that the Scottish people have taken a clear decision to remain part of the UK. It is right that the House respects their decision.

It was accepted in the Edinburgh agreement, however, that there would be changes. I do not object to it; John Smith himself regarded devolution as an evolutionary process. It is right, therefore, as Sir Menzies Campbell observed, and given the approach to devolution, the setting up of the convention and so on—

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

Devolution was not supposed to end at the front door of the Scottish Parliament; it was supposed to be passed down to local authorities. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the worst decisions made by the Scottish Executive was the decision to freeze council tax, which meant that, for instance, disabled children did not receive the services that they should have received, and need?

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

I absolutely agree. Let me say, as a former president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, that I would never have agreed to the freezing of council tax. It meant that council services were cut, and, during the referendum campaign, it was used against those who were in favour of supporting this United Kingdom and was cited as a reason for voting “yes”. I should have liked to deal in some detail with the issue of disability, which my hon. Friend rightly mentioned, but I think that the House has heard from me on that issue before. I do not think that it was dealt with very well by the Scottish Government.

A vow was given to the Scottish people. That vow was clearly endorsed by the leaders of the various parties, and I am convinced that it will be kept. I am not sceptical. However—I say this with all candour, and with great respect to Government Members—if there is any suggestion that the vow will not be kept, they will put the future of the United Kingdom at risk. I know that that would delight the Scottish National party. That is why, for example, they have today made it clear that they welcome what are described as English votes for English laws.

I speak as one who fought for the United Kingdom, and fought for the right of this Parliament to remain, dealing with the powers that it has. Incidentally, every single one of the powers for the people of Scotland that were mentioned by Sir George Young—who has now left the Chamber—was decided by this House. I ask my friends in the Scottish National party to understand that when we recognise, quite correctly, that there are implications for the rest of the United Kingdom, it should be remembered that we did what we did because we believe in this United Kingdom Parliament. In the days of the constitutional convention, discussions took place in Scotland—not for weeks, not for months, not for years, but for a very long time—during the preparations for the legislation that led to the Scottish Parliament.

For that reason—again, with great respect—I ask two things of Government Members. First, I ask them not to rush into conclusions on the basis of the results of recent elections. My own view of UKIP is that it will come and go. Some of the issues that influenced people in England to vote for UKIP were, I concede, also issues in my constituency. People there decided to vote “yes” because they were worried about Westminster. The perception of this Parliament is, to say the least, not good. That does not mean that it is our fault. A very small number of Members brought this place into disrepute, but, my heavens, was that not exploited in the referendum! It is no surprise that the White Paper referred again and again to the “Scottish Government” and “Westminster”.

Secondly, let me say this in particular to Government Members. I understand their right, their absolute right, to feel that they should bridge the gap between Westminster—this Parliament—and the people whom they represent, not least because I believe that the concerns that they express on behalf of their constituents are largely shared by mine.

Let me end by saying that last night I listened to a very interesting Adjournment debate. I pay tribute to Mr Turner: he made an excellent case against increased ferry charges. However, he also chose to attack Scotland by saying that CalMac services were receiving grants that could not really be justified. Time does not allow me to go into detail, but the truth is that there is a big contrast between the Isle of Wight and here, and the many islands served by CalMac. There are many arguments for doing what we are doing. I believe that one of the biggest influences in the vote in Scotland, accepting the majority view, is that people were worried about Westminster, people were worried about poverty, and they expect us to respond to their concerns.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife 3:55 pm, 14th October 2014

I have the advantage of having heard the most perceptive and well-reasoned speech by my right hon. Friend Michael Moore, the former Secretary of State. Much of what he said I would have sought to say at this stage of the debate, but there is no need.

Sir William Cash said that the rights of Members to vote could be resolved by recourse to the Standing Orders. I was elected to this Parliament on the basis of the privileges and rights that my constituents believed I would continue to enjoy as long as I was a Member. If those rights or privileges are taken away by Standing Orders, not just I, but the constituents who voted for me on a particular basis will be affected.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

No, I am going to make some progress.

I had the advantage, if that is the right way to put it, of hearing the First Minister this morning on the radio. To say that he was concerned about the timetable being properly met would be something of an understatement, but his response to questioning, and some of the contributions by the SNP in the Chamber today, have left me, perhaps erroneously and perhaps unfortunately, with the perception that, if the timetable were not met, they would regard that as a considerable political advantage.

I have believed for a considerable time that the present constitutional settlement in the UK is unsustainable. That is why I was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland to chair what came perhaps a little unfairly to be called the Campbell commission. I chaired it. I did not write its report; other people did. However, I have had some false regard as a consequence.

Throughout that exercise, it was clear to me, and it is set out in the document that we produced—unhappily, it is not available in all good bookshops, although it can be found on the Scottish Liberal Democrats website—that federalism was the answer to quite a lot of the issues that were on our minds then. Nothing has caused me to alter my view that that is still the case.

There is one point I want to make as strongly as I can. We cannot all get what we want as a result of Lord Smith’s commission or the Cabinet Committee that will be chaired by the Leader of the House. There will have to be compromises that as far as possible take account of the competing interests. There is the question of the role of Scottish MPs when issues such as health and education are discussed here. I have felt slightly uncomfortable about that since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, but the fact is that, as I have already described, we came here on a particular basis. If that is to be changed, it will be a profound constitutional change; it is not one to be embraced simply by changing the Standing Orders. Therefore, that should be thought about, rather than there being a knee-jerk reaction to the result on 18 September.

The vow has been made. If the First Minister thinks that he will be holding the feet of the three leaders to the fire, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I will be holding their feet to the fire, as it would be —let me put it as mildly as I can—politically unhelpful next May were that promise not to have been implemented to the extent that has been set out.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

My constituents see the Labour party as having acted in self-interest by refusing to put right the West Lothian question, and since 2010 perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s party’s self-interest has been in play in the coalition. There is genuine anger at this inequality, and hitting it into the long grass will no longer do. People will not trust that we are going to act if we do not act soon.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

I am not suggesting we hit it into the long grass. All I am suggesting is that, before we make a change of such a profound nature, we give careful consideration. We should remember the theory of unintended consequences: there is hardly ever an Act of the kind we are talking about that does not produce a consequence that was never intended. Although in the past I have rehearsed, perhaps rather glibly, the view that as devolved powers were given to Northern Ireland and Wales and Scotland, it would be increasingly difficult for Scottish Members of Parliament to vote on, say, health and education—and I do not detract in any way from that—the argument put by my constituency neighbour in Fife, Mr Brown, was a substantial one and one that will have to be considered by the Cabinet Committee that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is to deal with.

Along with Mr Clarke, I am one of the few survivors of all three referendums—those of 1979, 1998 and now 2014. Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but I feel a great sense of resentment and reject the notion that I am less of a Scot and less of a patriot because in the course of the last referendum I argued as strongly and persuasively as I could for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom. If anyone thinks that has gone away they should read the letters columns of Scottish newspapers, in which people like me are accused of being either frightened, old or not patriotic. I may be one of those, but I am certainly not all three, and I regard it as deeply offensive. If the Scottish National party wants to make a proper contribution to what we now have on our agenda, one of the most powerful ways it could do so would be by condemning utterly the efforts to talk down those of us who felt that the Union was so important that only a no vote would do.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour, Glasgow Central 4:02 pm, 14th October 2014

I rise to speak after Sir Menzies Campbell to say that I feel as equally passionate and patriotic and proud to be a Scot today as I felt on 17 September. The big lesson from the referendum is that business as usual cannot continue in this place. Yesterday, we saw an example of the best of what we can do in this Parliament, but I fear that at moments today we have, perhaps, seen the worst of what this Parliament can do. Sadly, at times what we have heard from Scottish National party Members is a pre-referendum response to a post-referendum debate. There are people in Scotland watching this debate who expect much better from all their parliamentarians of all political parties, and that is why I want to focus my contribution squarely on those people watching in Scotland, whether they be yes voters or no voters.

First, I want to repeat what I said yesterday: no single political party won or lost the referendum. Scotland spoke and Scotland decided, and it is now the accepted sovereign will of the people of Scotland to work in partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom: to remain part of the UK and to work to make devolution work in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

I made it very clear before the referendum that if Scotland voted yes even by one vote, I would have accepted the result and worked with anyone to make that work in the best interests of Scotland, and I repeat my call that all those who voted yes should work with us now to make devolution work in the best interests of the people of Scotland, because our country is not broken, but our political system, economic model and social model are broken. We as parliamentarians have a responsibility to fix that, in the interests of the people we seek to represent.

Secondly, our country might not be divided but, sadly, many communities and families have been divided by the referendum campaign. That is why the tone that we adopt, in all political parties on both sides of the House, will have an impact on how we bring our country back together so that we can together take on the challenges that we face in creating a better Scotland and a better United Kingdom.

I want to send out a strong message from the Scottish Labour party to everyone, whether they are part of the 45% who voted yes or the 55% who voted no. I know that many of them asked the right questions about how we should build a fairer society, how we should fight poverty and how we should create opportunity. Many people asked the same questions but gave different answers. There are many people who share our Labour values. My request to all of them, whether they voted yes or no, is that if they share those values of social justice, solidarity, community, fairness and equality, let us work together following the referendum to create the changes that can improve the life chances of the people who live in my constituency in Glasgow and much further afield.

My fear is that, if we allow this debate to focus purely on what politician has what power and in what building, we will have failed to learn the lesson that the electorate gave us on 18 September. They are sick and tired of politicians talking about what powers they want. They want politicians who are brave enough to use the powers they already have to make a real difference to people’s lives. I probably come at this question from a slightly different perspective from that of other Members. I am a member of what I call the devolution generation; I have never known anything other than the existence of a Scottish Parliament alongside a UK Parliament. I am proud of the fact that we have a strong voice in Scotland but still have the back-up and security that comes from having a stronger voice through being part of the UK. I want to see the Scottish Parliament strengthened in the interests of the people of Scotland.

As the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife said, the vow and the timetable are not the Conservative party’s vow and timetable. They are not the UK Government’s vow and timetable. They are certainly not the Scottish National party’s or the Scottish Government’s vow and timetable. They are the Scottish people’s vow and timetable, and we on this side of the House will hold the feet of whoever is responsible to the fire to ensure that we get what we have demanded—namely, real change for the people of Scotland. Throughout the process, our own devolution commission has reported extensively over the past two years. We will go into the Smith commission with our own proposals, but we will be open to the idea of building consensus and holding a constructive dialogue. In that way, we can bring together all the political parties and demonstrate to the public that we can put aside our petty party politics in the interests of Scotland and build that consensus and unity.

Let us not devolve power for power’s sake. Let us devolve these powers for a purpose. That purpose should be to create a stronger United Kingdom, a stronger Scotland and, from the point of view of my own constituency, a stronger Glasgow. That is what I will fight to do, because this is not some kind of game that needs to be won. Politics is about the opportunity to make a difference.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 4:08 pm, 14th October 2014

I speak as a Conservative and as a Unionist, and as a graduate of the finest university in Scotland. Indeed, I was an undergraduate there at the time of the Perth declaration in 1968 and I recall the birth of Scottish nationalist campaigning at that time. I was on the other side of that argument, as I am today. However, the recent referendum has been brilliant for democracy. It has been liberating, and I hope that in due course the parties on the Opposition Benches will join us in saying, “Let’s have a referendum on the European Union.”

I am delighted that the people of Scotland have reaffirmed their support for our Union. The Command Paper published yesterday states, on page 16:

“Proposals to strengthen the Scottish Parliament provide an opportunity to reach a strong and lasting constitutional settlement across the UK.”

One means by which that could be achieved permanently would be to require that no part of the United Kingdom could become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom without a two-thirds majority voting in favour. Many of us were nervous about the prospect of changing our United Kingdom constitution on a bare majority, given that even the rules at the local golf club cannot be changed without a two-thirds majority.

The leader of the Conservative party has made two pledges on devolution. The first was made on 10 September, and that vow was made without the authority or agreement of Parliament. I highlighted that in Parliament, and it was also highlighted by Nicola Sturgeon in the yes campaign. She argued that the vow was dependent on parliamentary approval, which could not be guaranteed—in one of her speeches she even referred to me as being a reason for that—and therefore nobody should be relying on it. Yet now we find the SNP saying that the vow was solemn and influenced the result. Surely the yes campaign is prevented from now relying on what it described at the time as “salesman’s puff”, which it denounced and persuaded its supporters to regard as not being of any importance whatsoever.

Photo of Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Labour, East Lothian

On having a two-thirds majority for constitutional change, is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would require such a majority on a vote to leave the EU?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

No, I am not saying that. I would put the question round the other way and require a two-thirds majority for us to stay in the EU. What the hon. Lady seems not to understand is that the United Kingdom is a sovereign country with a sovereign Parliament and that the European Union is an alien structure that has been imposed upon us as a result of the referendum carried out some time ago. Many people who are now electors have not had the chance to vote on the issue.

If what the Conservative leader said then was a vow, it certainly cannot be relied upon by the Scottish nationalists because they opposed it and ridiculed it at the time. The second pledge he made was made in his capacity as

Prime Minister on the steps of 10 Downing street at 7 am on 19 September. It is worth putting on the record exactly what he said:

“We have heard the voice of Scotland—and now the millions of voices of England must not go ignored…So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.”

Those words of the Prime Minister were more warmly received by my constituents and party supporters than any others he has offered us during the rest of this Parliament. That shows the extent to which he struck a chord with my constituents and, I believe, with the people of England. So there cannot be any going back on that commitment. I put my tandem challenge to the Leader of the House, and I hope that he will take it up, because how can the Prime Minister’s pledge on 19 September be delivered without constitutional change in Scotland being dependent on change being delivered in the rest of the United Kingdom? Indeed, that is exactly what the Chief Whip said in his article in The Times on 20 September.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

The hon. Gentleman, having quoted what the Prime Minister said on the steps of 10 Downing street, has spoken in favour of increased devolution in Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and he has also hinted at English votes for English laws—I believe he strongly supports that. I have no doubt that he is a committed Unionist, so how exactly does he think we keep the United Kingdom united?

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

We keep the UK united by ensuring that we have a strong United Kingdom Parliament, in which we have a fair division of powers and responsibilities. All I can say to the hon. Lady is that my constituents are very concerned that in Scotland there is free long-term health care for the elderly, free prescriptions, no university tuition fees and £1,600 for each person, paid for by taxpayers from the rest of the United Kingdom. They do not think that that is fair, which is why those issues must be addressed at the same time as looking at a wider United Kingdom constitutional settlement.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I will not, I am afraid.

That is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had in mind when he made his commitment on the steps of Downing street.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

I will not give way again because many Members wish to contribute to the debate.

If, as is argued, people voted against independence but in favour of change, they voted for less power for Scotland’s MPs in the United Kingdom Parliament over Scottish affairs. If Scotland’s MPs are to have less power over legislation affecting Scotland, why should they keep their existing power over legislation affecting the rest of the United Kingdom? There are two options. One is to relieve Scottish MPs of any power to legislate on matters in the rest of the United Kingdom for which they have no power to legislate in Scotland. The second is to reduce the number of Scottish MPs to reflect their reduced responsibilities as a result of that devolution settlement in their own constituencies.

On the basis of what Mr Brown was saying, if Scotland is 8% of the United Kingdom there should be only 52 Scottish MPs in this House. If each of them has less responsibility because they do not have responsibility for all those matters that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, there should be fewer of them because they have less work to do.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. Before I call the next speaker, it will be obvious to the House that a time limit of six minutes with all the interventions added would mean that not everyone who wishes to speak would have the opportunity to do so. I will therefore now reduce the time limit to five minutes after the next speaker.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen 4:17 pm, 14th October 2014

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the minute.

The previous speech exemplified what I thought large numbers of the Conservative party actually felt about the referendum in Scotland, which was that they were not too troubled about whether the Union was broken up. On 17 and 18 September, all of us who were concerned about the Union and its integrity were deeply worried that it could be lost. We were on the brink of our country breaking up. Happily it did not.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen

That was a bit quick, but I give way.

Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Conservative, Rossendale and Darwen

Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the biggest danger faced by our United Kingdom is failure to deal with the English question? Failure to take any action will put the United Kingdom at risk, as English nationalism will seek to break it up.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen

I do not accept that for one second. The biggest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom would have been for the yes campaign to win the Scottish referendum. I am saying not that the yes campaign was insincere but that I did not agree with it. On the following Friday morning, the Prime Minister effectively said, “Thank you very much, Scotland. You are now still part of the United Kingdom.” He then went on for the rest of that speech to talk about the West Lothian question, which struck me as extremely unusual. My right hon. Friend Mr Brown quite rightly referred to the fact that the Union itself is threatened by this constant sniping about the so-called great advantage enjoyed by Welsh, Northern Ireland or Scottish Members of Parliament. English Members make up 85% of this House of Commons. They can swamp all the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members put together.

I know of no country that has a system in which there can be either first or second-class Members of the federal or central legislature. Spain, for example, has an asymmetric system of devolution, but Members representing the Basque country or Catalonia, which have highly developed systems of devolution, have the same rights as those representing other parts of Spain. The reality is that we cannot separate Members of Parliament from the mandate on which they were elected.

Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Opposition Whip (Commons), Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons)

I represent a border constituency. Although health is devolved in Wales, our children’s hospital and our heart hospital are in the north-west of England. Neurosurgery for my constituents is done in the north-west of England. I have a view on behalf of the people I represent about what happens in the English health service.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen

Of course, and my hon. Friend should therefore be able to vote on matters affecting the hospitals in the English health service that most of his constituents go to.

I am fortunate enough to have seven general elections under my belt. I lost the first—quite rightly, too—which was for a seat in the west of England. Nevertheless, I would have been elected on the same mandate for the constituency of Wells in Somerset as I then was for my Welsh constituency in six successive general elections. I am a British Member of Parliament who happens to represent a Welsh constituency. I am therefore a Member of this United Kingdom Parliament in exactly the same way as any other Member representing one of the 650 seats.

I hope that the Leader of the House, when his Cabinet committee meets to discuss these matters, will consider the constitutional mess there could be after a general election. When the leader of a party who has the potential to become Prime Minister goes to the palace, the Queen will ask, “Have you a majority and a mandate in the United Kingdom?”, and they will say, “Yes, Ma’am.” Then she will have to ask, “Have you a majority in England?”, because we would have a separate system in the House of Commons in order to deal with matters for which we have all been elected. I was elected on a mandate that included dealing with the English health service and education system, so long as it is a British Parliament that represents people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I think that there is an enormous danger.

The Leader of the House said that the issue of English laws being dealt with by English MPs is simple, but it is not. We have been dealing with that for 30 or 40 years, even before devolution in 1998. The Leader of the House will remember, as an historian, that in the 1960s a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Thorneycroft—he represented the Welsh seat of Monmouth—said clearly that there cannot be two classes of Members of Parliament. Some years later, in the ’70s, the Kilbrandon commission said that regardless of what legislative assemblies are set up, British Members of Parliament must all have the same duties, responsibilities and rights.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

My hon. Friend Mr Chope was absolutely right when he pointed out that the Scottish people voted so that their Scottish Members of Parliament would have less say over affairs that do affect their constituents, but no reduction whatsoever in their say over what goes on in the primary schools, nurseries, hospitals and surgeries in my constituency in East Yorkshire.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen

I rather fancy that not one MP or MSP has had that argument raised with them when they go knocking on doors.

The issue of English laws for English Members of Parliament is also impractical. When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales, we always had to deal with the issue of whether a Bill was actually an English Bill. Of 400 Bills introduced over the past few years, only eight were purely English. There are clauses that affect Wales, for example, and Bills that overall affect Wales, so we cannot easily disentangle them. If it is only eight out of 400, it is hardly worth it.

Also, as my hon. Friend Mark Tami noted, the cross-border issues are hugely important, particularly in north-east Wales and north-west England, where there is huge fluidity on both sides of the border. We have not mentioned the Barnett formula, but Lord Barnett—we should mention him, as he is 91 today—would say that the formula is consequential on what happens to British spending.

Very few Members have mentioned the other place. A Welsh peer, a Scottish peer or a Northern Ireland peer would be prevented from voting on issues affecting England if the Government had their way, but over there, up the corridor, the peers can do precisely what they want to. People might say, “Ah, they’re unelected”, but what would have happened if there had been a yes vote in the referendum? We would have had to work out who was or was not a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish peer. All these issues are very difficult and complex, and I do not believe for one second that we can resolve them easily. I think there is an issue with the McKay commission. There are ways of dealing with our Standing Orders, perhaps at the Committee stages of Bills, that can perhaps address some of these points.

Ultimately, the only way to resolve the issue of devolution and English laws for English Members of Parliament is for there to be devolution for the English regions. It might not be the same in all areas—London would be different from Manchester, and Manchester different from the north-east of England—but there is undoubtedly a growing feeling that there should be devolution for our great English cities. The time to start looking at these issues will be when that happens, not when we need to emphasise, above, all, the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 4:26 pm, 14th October 2014

I am surprised that Paul Murphy said that the Conservatives, good Unionists that we are, had not supported the Better Together campaign. You will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you and I attended the first meeting of Better Together in London, strongly supporting—[Interruption.] No, we did attend that meeting. Conservatives took part in the campaign. I think that Ruth Davidson has been widely praised in that regard. Certainly in my constituency we were rooting for the Scots to stay in the Union, and it is insulting to say otherwise.

Even in Hertfordshire, in the middle of England—it is perhaps worth considering this if one is from a different part of the UK—my constituents were writing to me to say how important it was to them that the UK should stay together. One wrote that having come from a forces background, he had served with people from all parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and it was very important to him that we should stay together. Many others wrote with their memories of working and fighting together for the United Kingdom. There was real enthusiasm and pleasure in Hertfordshire that the Scots chose to stay.

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Labour, Torfaen

Let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that I was in no way suggesting that the Conservative party, as a party, was in favour of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom—far from it. He is quite right: the Conservative party in Scotland did a very good job. I was hinting—perhaps more than hinting—that a number of his party’s Back Benchers were not as in favour of the outcome as he is.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

I would not accept that.

The political parties have now promised even more powers to Scotland on a tight timetable. It is very encouraging that the document that was promised by the end of the month has come out three weeks early and that we seem to be making the sort of progress that we all would have hoped for with the so-called vow.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

No, not at the moment.

Devolution for England is not an arcane topic—it is a demand of the people. The same constituents who wrote to me very strongly in favour of the Union and Better Together are also writing to me saying, for example:

“We are very encouraged by David Cameron’s determination to put right the inequalities of the…UK.”

Another constituent says:

“English votes on English affairs has the advantage that it is the simplest and cheapest solution”.

Another says:

“The unfair treatment of England must be rectified.”

Yet another says:

“I am not a…Conservative voter, so this is not a Party political view, but it is about time the English were given some self respect…The Labour Party will not like this but the present situation regarding Scottish MPs voting for English issues cannot continue. What’s sauce for the goose has got to be sauce for the gander.”

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Chair, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee

I have listened very carefully to the words that the hon. and learned Gentleman has used. He talked about “devolution” in England. Frankly, for my constituents in Sheffield it is not devolution if all that changes down here is that English MPs in this Chamber vote on English matters instead of UK Members voting on English matters. That is not devolution as far as Sheffield is concerned.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

I bet that the people of Sheffield want English votes for English laws, and now is the time for that.

One way of resolving this would be completely symmetrical devolution for England and Scotland, with an English Parliament and an English Executive, perhaps located in Birmingham. Some people argue for that, but my view is that it would be costly and that it is unnecessary, given that we have a perfectly good Parliament here.

Since the second world war, Standing Order No. 97 has allowed procedure for Scottish MPs in this place to pass laws for Scotland. It would be easy to adapt that for England. I spent time as a Conservative constitutional affairs spokesman and helped develop a form of English votes for English laws based on that approach. The various commissions that have looked at the issue—from the Conservative democracy taskforce to the recent McKay commission—are all on the same page. It is all about English votes for English laws.

The British public will listen to the arguments deployed by the right hon. Member for Torfaen and some of his colleagues who say, “Oh, it’s all impossibly difficult, technical stuff,” but the fact is that the public are not very interested in academic constitutional arguments; they want a practical solution. English votes for English laws, and English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws, is not complicated. It is a simple solution to a simple problem.

As I put it to the former Prime Minister, there is no reason why a Scots MP from Kirkcaldy should vote on education in Letchworth when I do not get a vote on what happens in his constituency. At the moment there are two categories of Members of Parliament: there are those such as the former Prime Minister, who is not allowed to vote on domestic matters in his own constituency, and there are those like as me who are able to vote on such domestic matters. In fact, he is in a category all on his own, because there are things he can vote on in my constituency that he cannot vote on in his own. [Interruption.] He is not here, but if he was he would be able to do that.

We all understand that the Labour party has a lot of Members of Parliament in Scotland and it is obviously concerned about its ability to win a majority in an election. However, English votes for English laws is a demand of the people. If it is not done in the context of this Parliament with our Standing Orders, we will end up with a demand for an English Parliament and an English Executive, which would undercut and sideline this Parliament and be bad for the United Kingdom. Labour should think on that.