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Devolution and Growth Across Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 3rd June 2015.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 4:44 pm, 3rd June 2015

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. I want clarity from the Government about what English votes for English laws means, because, in a border constituency such as mine, things that happen in England matter to my constituents. They work there, use services there and travel there, and their constituency is part of the United Kingdom Parliament. What happens in—dare I say it?—Scotland matters considerably to my constituency. The current funding settlement for local government in England, as well as spending on culture and transport there, matters to my constituents in Wales, because we have the Barnett formula. Yet, because of English votes for English laws, I might not be able to participate fully, as an equal Member of this House, in certain debates. That is important.

There are real problems and challenges. Devolved Administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own mandates. I understand the need to ensure that people in England cannot have a say on some of those issues, but I ask the Government to consider our election proposal for a constitutional convention to narrow down the issues and to get consensus and focus. The real concern is that, from the Conservative and Unionist party, we are driving our way forward to an increased nationalist, independent, inward-looking agenda. What would have happened to the many Members of Parliament representing constituencies in Wales or in Scotland who have served as leaders of their parties, and who in the past have led the United Kingdom and have sat in the Cabinet as Prime Ministers—for example, James Callaghan in Cardiff South East, Lloyd George in Carnarvon, Andrew Bonar Law in Glasgow Central, Gordon Brown in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, or Winston Churchill in Dundee? Are the Government saying those that Members of Parliament, elected on equal terms to every Member in this Chamber today, cannot contribute as Prime Minister in this Chamber on such issues—because they represent constituencies in Scotland or Wales, for instance, they could not answer questions on the health service in England?

This is about driving forward an agenda to divide, not to build public services. I say to the Government: please think this through, and please look at the definition of these issues, because they matter. Currently, all Members of this Parliament speak as equal Members, regardless of majority, region, experience and whatever they bring to this House. If this Government plan goes forward, we will not speak as equal Members. If the SNP wishes not to take part in debates, it is part of its democratic mandate not to do so, but if its Members are forced not to take part, this Conservative and Unionist party will be pushing Scotland—and Wales—to further independence, and it will do so over my vote and over my voice.