[Relevant documents: First Report from the Procedure Committee, Government proposals for English votes for English lawsStanding Orders: interim report, HC 410; Oral evidence taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee on
We now come to the main business, which is a motion in the name of the Leader of the House on the Standing Orders (Public Business). Under the Order of the House agreed on Tuesday, the debate may continue till 4 pm, when the Chair must put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion, including the questions on any amendments selected, which may then be moved. A list of the amendments that I have selected for debate has been circulated.
We shall proceed—I hope this is helpful to the House—as follows. The Leader of the House will open the debate and move the motion in his name. The debate will then take place on the main motion. Those Members whose amendments have been selected may speak to those amendments in the debate, but they will not be called to move them formally until the end of the debate. The House will then have an opportunity to decide on the amendments moved in sequence, and finally to decide the main motion either as it stands or as amended. I hope that colleagues will feel that the choreography of this matter is now clear, and it should lend itself to the efficient management of the time available.
I beg to move,
(1) The following new Standing Orders and changes to Standing Orders be made:
(b) certify any such bill, or any clause or schedule of any such bill, which, in the Speaker’s opinion-
(i) relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales, and
(ii) is within devolved legislative competence.
(2) A clause or schedule relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales if (disregarding any minor or consequential effects outside the area in question) it applies only to England or (as the case may be) to England and Wales.
(3) A clause or schedule which relates exclusively to England is within devolved legislative competence if-
(a) it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to make any corresponding provision for Scotland in an Act of that Parliament,
(b) it would be within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales to make any corresponding provision for Wales in an Act of that Assembly, or
(c) it would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to make any corresponding provision for Northern Ireland in an Act of that Assembly and the corresponding provision would deal with a transferred matter.
(4) A clause or schedule which relates exclusively to England and Wales is within devolved legislative competence if-
(a) it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to make any corresponding provision for Scotland in an Act of that Parliament, or
(b) it would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to make any corresponding provision for Northern Ireland in an Act of that Assembly and the corresponding provision would deal with a transferred matter.
(5) A bill-
(a) relates exclusively to England and is within devolved legislative competence if every clause and every schedule of it relates exclusively to England and is within devolved legislative competence;
(b) relates exclusively to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence if every clause and every schedule of it relates exclusively to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence.
(6) In deciding whether a bill relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales, the Speaker shall treat any clause or schedule whose only effects are minor or consequential effects outside the area in question as relating exclusively to that area.
(7) In deciding whether a clause or schedule is within devolved legislative competence, the Speaker may take account of any amendments to the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly which-
(a) are not in force at the time of certification, but
(b) are to come into force on a day already fixed by law, if the Speaker considers that the clause or schedule is itself only likely to come into force on or after that day; and, for this purpose, an amendment which is in force but applies only in relation to a future period of time (or a clause or schedule which is likely to come into force but so apply) is to be treated as not being in force (or as not likely to come into force) until the start of that period (being a day already fixed by law).
(8) In deciding whether to certify a bill, clause or schedule under this order, the Speaker-
(b) shall disregard any provision inserted by the House of Lords which, in the Speaker’s opinion, has the sole objective of ensuring that
(9) The Speaker shall announce any decision under this order to the House.
(10) This order shall not apply to the following bills-
(a) a bill which is certified under
(b) a bill referred to the Welsh Grand Committee under
(c) a bill referred to the Northern Ireland Grand Committee under
(d) a bill which falls to be considered by the select committee appointed under
(e) a bill whose main purpose is to give effect to proposals contained in a report by a Law Commission,
(f) a tax law rewrite bill,
(g) a bill introduced under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945 or for confirming a provisional order.
(11) This order-
(a) shall not affect the right of every Member to vote on-
(i) the consideration of estimates, and
(ii) ways and means motions and motions for money resolutions (other than motions to which
83K. Committal and recommittal of certified England only bills
(1) A bill certified by the Speaker under
(a) a public bill committee (to which
(b) the Legislative Grand Committee (England).
(2) A bill whose current certification by the Speaker (whether under
(a) a public bill committee (to which
(b) the Legislative Grand Committee (England).
83L. Reconsideration of certification before third reading
(1) Paragraph (2) applies in relation to every bill which-
(a) was eligible for certification under
(b) has been amended since its second reading, and
(c) has completed the stages before its third reading.
(2) The Speaker shall, before a motion may be made for the third reading of the bill-
(a) reconsider the bill, and
(b) certify the bill, or any clause or schedule of it, if the bill or clause or schedule, in the Speaker’s opinion-
(i) relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales, and
(ii) is within devolved legislative competence.
(3) Paragraph (4) applies in relation to every bill which-
(a) was certified (whether in whole or in part) by the Speaker under
(b) has been amended since its second reading, and
(c) has completed the stages before its third reading.
(4) The Speaker shall, before a motion may be made for the third reading of the bill, certify any amendment made to the bill since second reading which, in the opinion of the Speaker-
(a) related to the bill so far as certified under
(b) was not made by the Legislative Grand Committee (England) or a public bill committee to which
(i) resulted in there being no certification under paragraph (2) when there would otherwise have been such a certification, or
(ii) changed the area to which a certification under paragraph (2) would otherwise have related.
(5) Any amendment certified under paragraph (4) shall be certified as relating exclusively to the area to which the certification under paragraph (2) would have related had that amendment not been made (and there shall be no certification as to devolved legislative competence).
(6) The Speaker shall announce any decision under paragraph (2) or (4) to the House.
(7) The Speaker shall, wherever possible, announce the Speaker’s decisions under paragraph (2) or (4) immediately after the conclusion of proceedings on the previous stage of the bill.
(8) Paragraphs (2) to (8) of
83M. Consent Motions for certified England only or England and Wales only provisions
(1) Paragraphs (2) and (3) apply where-
(a) a bill, or clauses or schedules of a bill, have been certified under
(b) a bill or clauses or schedules of a bill have been certified under
(c) amendments have been certified under
(2) A Consent Motion which gives consent to the bill, clauses or schedules or amendments must be passed by the legislative grand committee for the area to which the certification relates before a motion may be made for the third reading of the bill.
(3) If a Minister of the Crown indicates his or her intention to move a Consent Motion, the House shall forthwith resolve itself into the legislative grand committee which is to consider the motion.
(4) If a Minister of the Crown indicates his or her intention to move both a Consent Motion which is to be passed by the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and a Consent Motion which is to be passed by the Legislative Grand Committee (England)-
(a) the House shall forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) to consider the motion for that committee,
(b) on moving that motion, the Minister shall also inform the committee of the terms of the motion to be moved in the Legislative Grand Committee (England),
(c) any debate in the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) may also relate to the motion for the Legislative Grand Committee (England), and
(d) on conclusion of proceedings in the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales)-
(i) the House shall forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England),
(ii) a Minister of the Crown shall forthwith move the motion for that committee, and
(iii) proceedings in the Legislative Grand Committee (England) shall be brought to a conclusion forthwith.
(5) Standing Orders Nos. 83E (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration and up to and including third reading) and 83I (Programme orders: supplementary provisions) shall apply for the purpose of bringing proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (4)(d)(iii) above (whether or not those proceedings are subject to a programme order) as they apply for the purpose of bringing proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.
(6) On the conclusion of proceedings on a Consent Motion (or, in a case falling within paragraph (4), the conclusion of proceedings on the second Consent Motion), the chair shall report the decision of the committee (or, as the case may be, the decisions of the committees) to the House.
(7) Subject to paragraph (8), a Consent Motion shall be in the form either “That the Committee consents to the XXX Bill” or “That the Committee consents to [the following certified clauses
[and schedules] of the XXX Bill] [and certified amendments made by the House to the XXX Bill]…”; and in the latter case the motion shall identify the clauses or schedules or amendments in question.
(8) If a Minister of the Crown wishes to propose that a committee should not consent to certain clauses or schedules or amendments, the Consent Motion shall be in the form “That the Committee consents to [the following certified clauses [and schedules] of the XXX Bill] [and certified amendments made by the House to the XXX Bill]… and does not consent to [the following certified clauses [and schedules] of the XXX Bill] [and certified amendments made by the House to the XXX Bill]…”; and in any such case the motion shall identify the clauses or schedules or amendments in question.
(9) A Consent Motion may only be moved by a Minister of the Crown and may be moved without notice.
(10) Proceedings under this order may be proceeded with, though opposed, after the moment of interruption.
83N. Reconsideration of bills so far as there is absence of consent
(1) Where a legislative grand committee decides on a Consent Motion under
(a) the bill shall be set down for reconsideration unless a Minister of the Crown moves a motion for the bill to be reconsidered (and any such motion may be made without notice, the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith and, if the motion is passed, the House shall proceed forthwith to reconsideration), and
(b) any order for the third reading of the bill shall be discharged.
(2) Reconsideration of the bill shall be for the sole purpose of considering amendments to the bill to resolve matters in dispute as a result of the withholding of consent.
(3) Paragraphs (2) and (4) to (8) of
(i) the reference to any amendment since second reading were a reference to any amendment made on reconsideration, and
(ii) sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) were omitted, and
(b) in the case of any matter, there were a deemed certification in relation to the area or areas to which any relevant previous certification under
(4) If, following reconsideration of a bill and the steps taken by virtue of paragraph (3), a legislative grand committee withholds consent to the whole bill (whether or not amended on reconsideration), the bill may not be given a third reading and shall not pass.
(5) Paragraph (6) applies if, following reconsideration of a bill and the steps taken by virtue of paragraph (3), a legislative grand committee withholds consent to-
(a) any clause or schedule of the bill (whether or not amended on reconsideration), or
(b) any amendment to the bill, but does not withhold consent to the whole bill.
(6) The bill shall be amended so as to remove any provisions of the bill which are not agreed by the House and any relevant legislative grand committee; and it is the bill as so amended which proceeds to its next stage.
(7) A Minister of the Crown may move a motion for the bill as so amended to be considered again (“consequential consideration”); and such a motion may be made without notice and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.
(8) If the motion is passed, the House shall proceed forthwith to consequential consideration of the bill as so amended; and any order for the third reading of the bill shall be discharged.
(9) Consequential consideration of the bill as so amended shall be for the sole purpose of considering minor or technical amendments in consequence of the removal of provisions under paragraph (6).
(10) Proceedings on reconsideration or consequential consideration, or a motion for reconsideration or consequential consideration, may be proceeded with, though opposed, after the moment of interruption.
(11) References in the standing orders of this House to consideration of a bill on report shall, so far as relevant and subject to paragraph (12), include reconsideration or consequential consideration of a bill under this order.
(12) In its application by virtue of paragraph (11),
83O. Consideration of certified motions or amendments relating to Lords Amendments or other messages
(1) The Speaker shall consider any motion relating to a Lords amendment to a bill or to any other message from the Lords in respect of a bill.
(2) The Speaker shall certify the motion if, in the Speaker’s opinion, it-
(a) relates exclusively to England and is within devolved legislative competence, or
(b) relates exclusively to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence.
(3) For the purposes of paragraph (2) a motion relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence if it or any provision of it-
(a) relates to a Lords amendment, or an item in another message, which would, if agreed, result in-
(i) a clause or schedule as amended which relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence,
(ii) a new or unamended clause or schedule which so relates and is within devolved legislative competence, or
(iii) the omission of a clause or schedule which so relates and is within devolved legislative competence, or
(b) contains proposals which would, if agreed, so result.
(4) The Speaker shall also certify the motion if, in the Speaker’s opinion, it or any provision of it-
(a) relates to a Lords amendment, or an item in another message, which would, if agreed, result in a clause or schedule, which relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence, ceasing to so relate or to be within devolved legislative competence, or
(b) contains proposals which, if agreed, would so result.
(5) Any motion certified under paragraph (4) shall be certified as relating exclusively to the area to which the clause or schedule relates (and there shall be no certification as to devolved legislative competence).
(6) The same motion may be certified in relation to different areas under paragraphs (2) and (4) or either of them.
(7) If a division is held on a motion certified under this order, the motion shall be agreed to only if, of those voting in the division-
(a) in the case of a motion certified in relation to England, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England,
(b) in the case of a motion certified in relation to England and Wales, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales, and
(c) in the case of a motion certified both in relation to England and in relation to England and Wales, a majority of Members, a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales, vote in support of the motion.
(8) The Speaker shall, in selecting motions relating to Lords amendments or other messages, have regard to the extent to which such motions are drafted so that they can be certified under this order by virtue of every provision of them meeting the test in paragraph (3)(a) or (b) or (4)(a) or (b).
(9) If a motion relating to a Lords amendment or other message is disagreed to under this order because one of the groups voting in the division has not voted in support of it while another has, the decision of the House shall be-
(a) in the case of a motion to disagree (or agree) to a Lords amendment or an item in another message, to disagree with it, and
(b) in any other case, such decision as would have the effect of leaving the bill so far as it relates to that matter in the same position as it was before the Lords amendment or other message was received from the Lords.
(10) The Speaker shall announce any decision under paragraph (2) or (4) to the House.
(11) This order does not apply in relation to-
(a) any motion relating to a bill which was not eligible for certification under
(b) any of the following motions-
(i) any ways and means motion or motion for a money resolution,
(ii) any programme motion,
(iii) any order of consideration motion,
(iv) any motion of, or relating to, the Reasons Committee, and
(v) any other motion of a similar kind to a motion falling within any of paragraphs (i) to (iv).
(12) In this order-
(a) references to motions are to be read as including, so far as relevant, references to amendments to Lords amendments and references to amendments to the bill, and
(b) the reference in paragraph (3)(a)(i) to clauses or schedules as amended includes, in particular, a reference to clauses or schedules which would be amended by virtue of their territorial application being modified otherwise than in the clauses or schedules themselves.
(13) Paragraphs (2) to (4), (7) and (8)(a) of
CERTIFICATION OF INSTRUMENTS AND MOTIONS: GENERAL
83P. Certification of instruments
(1) The Speaker shall-
(a) consider every instrument to which this order applies, and
(b) certify any such instrument which, in the Speaker’s opinion-
(i) relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales, and
(ii) is within devolved legislative competence.
(2) An instrument-
(a) relates exclusively to England and is within devolved legislative competence if every provision of it relates exclusively to England and is within devolved legislative competence;
(b) relates exclusively to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence if every provision of it relates exclusively to England and Wales and is within devolved legislative competence.
(3) Paragraphs (2) to (4), (6) and (7) of
(a) references to a bill were to an instrument, and
(b) references to a clause or schedule were to a provision of an instrument.
(4) In deciding whether to certify an instrument under this order the Speaker may consult two members of the Panel of Chairs who are appointed for this purpose by the Committee of Selection on a session by session basis.
(5) The Speaker shall announce any decision under this order to the House.
(6) This order applies to any instrument (whether or not in draft) upon which proceedings may be taken in pursuance of an Act of Parliament where the instrument-
(a) meets any of conditions A to C, and
(b) is not a report within paragraph (1)(a) to (c) of
(7) Condition A is that the instrument-
(a) stands referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee pursuant to paragraph (3) of
(b) does not stand so referred because sub-paragraph (a) of that paragraph applies to it.
(8) Condition B is that a member has given notice of a motion of the kind mentioned in paragraph (4)(a) of
(a) stands referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee, or
(b) has been set down for consideration in the Chamber on a particular day.
(9) Condition C is that the Regulatory Reform Committee has made a recommendation of the kind mentioned in paragraph (1) or (2) of
83Q. Deciding the question on motions relating to certified instruments
(1) This order applies to the following motions-
(a) a motion to approve a certified instrument;
(b) a motion of the kind mentioned in paragraph (4)(a) of
(c) a motion to disagree with a report of the Regulatory Reform Committee that contains a recommendation of the kind mentioned in paragraph (2) of
(d) an amendment to a motion within sub-paragraph (a) or (b).
(2) If a division is held on a motion to which this order applies, the motion shall be agreed to only if, of those voting in the division-
(a) a majority of Members, and
(b) a majority of Members representing qualifying constituencies, vote in support of the motion.
(3) In this order-
(a) “a certified instrument” means an instrument which has been certified under
(b) “qualifying constituencies” means constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom to which the instrument has been certified as relating exclusively.
83R. Deciding the question on certain other motions
(1) This order applies to the following motions-
(a) a motion to approve-
(i) a report which has been laid before the House under paragraph 5 of Schedule 7B to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (local government finance report) and which contains a determination under section 78 of that Act (revenue support grant), or
(ii) a report which has been laid before the House under section 84A of that Act (revenue support grant: amending report);
(b) a motion to approve a report which has been laid before the House under section 52ZD of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (referendums relating to council tax increases: principles);
(c) a motion to approve a report which has been laid before the House under section 46 of the Police Act 1996 (police grant);
(d) a motion for a resolution under section 26(2)(b)(ii) of the Higher Education Act 2004 (student fees);
(e) an amendment to a motion within sub-paragraph (d).
(2) If a division is held on a motion to which this order applies, the motion shall be agreed to only if, of those voting in the division-
(a) a majority of Members, and
(b) a majority of Members representing qualifying constituencies, vote in support of the motion.
(3) In this order “qualifying constituencies” means-
(a) in the case of a motion within paragraph (1)(a), (b), (d) or (e), constituencies in England;
(b) in the case of a motion within paragraph (1)(c), constituencies in England or Wales.
CERTIFICATION OF FINANCE BILLS, INSTRUMENTS AND MOTIONS
83S. Modification of Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83N in their application to Finance Bills
(1) In their application in relation to a bill within paragraph (2), Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83N shall have effect with the modifications in paragraphs (3) to (5).
(2) A bill is within this paragraph if-
(a) it is a Finance Bill, or
(b) it is a bill which, before second reading, only contained provision which would be within the ordinary scope of a Finance Bill (or would be if the provision was to take effect in the current financial year).
(a) in paragraph (1)(b)(i) after “Wales” insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”;
(b) in paragraph (2) after “Wales” (in both places) insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”;
(c) after paragraph (4) insert-
“(4A) A clause or schedule which relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland is within devolved legislative competence if it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to make any corresponding provision for Scotland in an Act of that Parliament.”;
(d) in paragraph (5) after sub-paragraph (b) insert “;
(c) relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is within devolved legislative competence if every clause and every schedule of it relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is within devolved legislative competence”;
(e) in paragraph (6) after “Wales” insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”; and
(f) after paragraph (11) insert-
“(12) The test in paragraph (3)(a), (4)(a) or (4A) is also met if the clause or schedule concerned sets a rate of income tax in respect of any kind of income for a person who is resident in the United Kingdom for tax purposes but is not a Scottish taxpayer where the corresponding rate for a Scottish taxpayer may be set by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament under Chapter 2 of Part 4A of the Scotland Act 1998 (and the reference in paragraph (7) to the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament includes a reference to that Chapter)”.
(a) in paragraph (1) after “Wales” (in each place) insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”;
(b) for paragraph (4) substitute-
“(4) If a Minister of the Crown indicates his or her intention to move Consent Motions which are to be passed by more than one legislative grand committee-
(a) the order in which the Consent Motions are to be considered is:
(i) any motion to be considered by the Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland),(ii) any motion to be considered by the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales), and(iii) any motion to be considered by the Legislative Grand Committee (England),
(b) the House shall forthwith resolve itself into the legislative grand committee which is to consider the first Consent Motion,
(c) on moving that motion, the Minister shall also inform the committee of the terms of any other Consent Motion to be moved in any other legislative grand committee,
(d) any debate in the first legislative grand committee may also relate to any other Consent Motion to be moved in any other legislative grand committee,
(e) on conclusion of proceedings in the first legislative grand committee-
(i) the House shall forthwith resolve itself into the legislative grand committee which is to consider the next Consent Motion,(ii) a Minister of the Crown shall forthwith move that motion, and(iii) proceedings in the second legislative grand committee shall be brought to a conclusion forthwith, and
(f) on conclusion of proceedings in the second legislative grand committee, sub-paragraphs (e)(i) to (iii) shall apply in relation to any third Consent Motion and a third legislative grand committee as they apply in relation to the second Consent Motion and the second legislative grand committee.”;
(c) in paragraph (5) for “(4)(d)(iii)” substitute “(4)(e)(iii) and (f)”; and
(d) in paragraph (6) for “second Consent Motion” substitute “Consent Motions”.
83T. Modification of Standing Orders Nos. 83P and 83Q in their application to financial instruments
(1) In their application in relation to a financial instrument, Standing Orders Nos. 83P and 83Q shall have effect with the following modifications.
(a) in paragraph (1)(b)(i) after “Wales” insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”;
(b) in paragraph (2) after sub-paragraph (b) insert “;
(c) relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is within devolved legislative competence if every provision of it relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and is within devolved legislative competence”; and
(c) in paragraph (3) for the words from the beginning to “apply” substitute “Paragraphs (2) to (4A), (6), (7) and (12) of
(3) In Standing Order 83Q(3)(a) after “Wales” insert “or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.
(4) For the purposes of this order an instrument is a “financial instrument” if it is made or proposed to be made in exercise of powers conferred by (and only by)-
(a) an Act which resulted from a Finance Bill;
(b) a provision of an Act which would have been within the ordinary scope of a Finance Bill.
83U. Certification of motions upon which a Finance Bill is to be brought in which would authorise provision relating exclusively to England, to England and Wales or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland
(1) This order applies to any founding motion which, if passed, would-
(a) authorise a bill to include provision which would be within the ordinary scope of a Finance Bill, or
(b) authorise a Finance Bill to include provision which would not be within the ordinary scope of a Finance Bill.
(2) The Speaker shall-
(a) consider every motion to which this order applies, and
(b) certify any such motion which, in the Speaker’s opinion, falls within paragraph (3), (4) or (5).
(3) A motion falls within this paragraph if it would, if passed, only authorise a bill to include provision which-
(a) relates exclusively to England, and
(b) is within devolved legislative competence.
(4) A motion falls within this paragraph if it would, if passed, only authorise a bill to include provision which-
(a) relates exclusively to England and Wales, and
(b) is within devolved legislative competence.
(5) A motion falls within this paragraph if it would, if passed, only authorise a bill to include provision which-
(a) relates exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and
(b) is within devolved legislative competence.
(6) In deciding whether to certify under this order a motion to which this order applies, the Speaker may consult two members of the Panel of Chairs who are appointed for this purpose by the Committee of Selection on a session by session basis.
(7) The Speaker shall announce any decision under this order to the House.
(8) Paragraphs (2) to (4A), (7) and (12) of
(9) In paragraph (1) “founding motion” means a motion upon which a bill is to be brought in.
83V. Deciding the question on motions certified under
(1) If a division is held on a motion which has been certified under
(a) a majority of Members, and
(b) a majority of Members representing qualifying constituencies, vote in support of the motion.
(2) In this order “qualifying constituencies” means-
(a) in a case where the motion concerned was certified as falling within paragraph (3) of
(b) in a case where the motion concerned was certified as falling within paragraph (4) of that standing order, constituencies in England or Wales;
(c) in a case where the motion concerned was certified as falling within paragraph (5) of that standing order, constituencies in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
LEGISLATIVE GRAND COMMITTEES
83W. Legislative Grand Committees
(1) There shall be-
(a) a Legislative Grand Committee (England),
(b) a Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales), and
(c) a Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
(2) The Legislative Grand Committee (England) shall consist of all Members representing constituencies in England.
(3) The Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) shall consist of all Members representing constituencies in England and all Members representing constituencies in Wales.
(4) The Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) shall consist of-
(a) all Members representing constituencies in England,
(b) all Members representing constituencies in Wales, and
(c) all Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland.
(5) A Deputy Speaker or a member of the Panel of Chairs may chair a legislative grand committee.
(6) The functions of the Legislative Grand Committee (England) shall be-
(a) to consider any bills committed or recommitted to the committee in accordance with
(b) to consider any Consent Motions under
(7) The functions of the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and the Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) are to consider any Consent Motions under
(8) Any Member who is not a member of a legislative grand committee may take part in the deliberations of the committee but shall not vote or make any motion or move any amendment.
83X. Legislative Grand Committees: supplementary
(1) The procedure of this House applicable to a committee of the whole House shall, so far as relevant, be applicable to a legislative grand committee.
(2) Accordingly, references in the standing orders of this House to a committee of the whole House or to the House in committee, or similar references, shall be read as references to the relevant legislative grand committee.
(3) Paragraphs (1) and (2) do not apply to
“(5) In the case of a bill certified by the Speaker under
(a) committal under this order is subject to
(b) committal under this order to a public bill committee is accordingly to a public bill committee to which
(6) Nothing in this order enables a bill to be committed to any legislative grand committee other than to the Legislative Grand Committee (England) in accordance with
(a) in line 2, after “reading” insert “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration”, and
(b) in line 14, after “reading” insert “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration”.
(a) in line 22, after “and” insert “up to and including”,
(b) in line 62, after “and” insert “up to and including”, and
(c) in line 75, after “and” insert “up to and including”.
(a) in the title, after “House” insert “etc.”, and
(b) in line 2, after “bill committee” insert “, in the Legislative Grand Committee (England) when exercising functions under
(a) in the title for “or” substitute “and up to and including”,
(b) in line 2, after “and” insert “up to and including”, and
(c) in line 22, at end, insert-
“(5) In the application of this order to proceedings on a Consent Motion in legislative grand committee, the references to the Speaker in paragraph (2) are to be read as references to the Chairman of Ways and Means or either Deputy Chairman.”
“(8) Where a single question would be put under paragraph (3)(a), (4)(a) or (7) in circumstances where some or all of the amendments concerned are certified under
(a) a single question on any amendments for which the certification is in relation to England,
(b) a single question on any amendments for which the certification is in relation to England and Wales,
(c) a single question on any amendments for which the certification is both in relation to England and in relation to England and Wales, and
(d) a single question on any amendments for which there is no certification.
(9) Where a single question would be put under paragraph (6) in circumstances where, if there were (or are) separate motions to agree in relation to each of the remaining Lords amendments, some or all of the motions would be (or are) certified under
(a) in the case of any remaining Lords amendments for which there would be (or are) motions certified in relation to England, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those amendments,
(b) in the case of any remaining Lords amendments for which there would be (or are) amendments certified in relation to England and Wales, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those amendments,
(c) in the case of any remaining Lords amendments for which there would be (or are) motions certified both in relation to England and in relation to England and Wales, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those amendments, and
(d) in the case of any remaining Lords amendments for which there would be (or are) motions which would not be (or are not) certified, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those amendments.
(10) If a division is held on a question put under paragraph (8) or (9), the amendments shall be agreed to only if, of those voting in the division-
(a) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (a) of that paragraph, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England,
(b) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (b) of that paragraph, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales,
(c) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (c) of that paragraph, a majority of Members, a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales, and
(d) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (d) of that paragraph, a majority of Members, vote in support of them.
(11) Paragraph (9) of
(a) in line 12, after “shall” insert “, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7),”, and
(b) at the end of line 14 insert-
“(6) Paragraph (7) applies where, if there were (or are) separate motions to agree in relation to each of the remaining Lords proposals, some or all of the motions would be (or are) certified under
(7) The Speaker shall put forthwith-
(a) in the case of any remaining Lords proposals for which there would be (or are) motions certified in relation to England, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those proposals,
(b) in the case of any remaining Lords proposals for which there would be (or are) motions certified in relation to England and Wales, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those proposals,(c) in the case of any remaining Lords proposals for which there would be (or are) motions certified both in relation to England and in relation to England and Wales, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those proposals, and(d) in the case of any remaining Lords proposals for which there would be (or are) motions which would not be (or are not) certified, the question that this House agrees with the Lords in those proposals.
(8) If a division is held on a question put under paragraph (7), the proposals shall be agreed to only if, of those voting in the division-
(a) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (a) of that paragraph, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England,(b) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (b) of that paragraph, a majority of Members and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales,(c) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (c) of that paragraph, a majority of Members, a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and a majority of Members representing constituencies in England and Wales, and(d) in a case falling within sub-paragraph (d) of that paragraph, a majority of Members, vote in support of them.
(9) Paragraph (9) of
“(iv) for the consideration of any bill certified by the Speaker under
(2) The new Standing Orders, and the changes to Standing Orders, made by this order do not apply in relation to-
(a) any bills which have had a Second Reading in this House on or before the day on which this order is made,
(b) any bills introduced in the previous Parliament which have been carried over into this Parliament,
(c) any instruments or draft instruments laid on or before the day on which this order is made, and
(d) any motions agreed to on or before that day.
This is the third time that the proposals have been debated by the House, and the second occasion for debate that I promised back in July. I have endeavoured throughout this process to listen to the views expressed by hon. Members about the way all this is conducted and to respond as positively as possible, notwithstanding the timetable commitments in our manifesto.
I should add that the reason why we have timetabled votes for 4 pm is that I was aware there were likely to be a number of Divisions, and I was particularly concerned to ensure that Members from constituencies a little further away could get away to catch planes and trains to get back to their constituencies this evening.
I will endeavour to keep my remarks relatively short so that all Members who want to speak can do so, and I hope other Front Benchers will do the same. I want to start by setting out briefly why we are pursuing this strategy. If Members will forgive me, I will do that before I take interventions. I will obviously be happy to take interventions a little later.
I am a staunch Unionist. I support the devolution of powers to the different parts of the United Kingdom. I want the United Kingdom to remain secure and intact. I was delighted when the Scottish people voted clearly to stay in the United Kingdom. The whole is greater than the sum of our parts. Indeed, I have great affection for all the countries of the United Kingdom, so I cheered when Wales and Northern Ireland secured their places in Euro 2016 and was dismayed last Sunday when Scotland was so narrowly pipped at the post at Twickenham. I will always cheer the home nations in competition.
I have, however, listened with concern to some in England who have expressed less enthusiasm than me about the future of the UK. I am sure I am not alone in having experienced strong views from an English perspective about the nature and extent of devolution, and the sense that somehow the other parts of the United Kingdom are getting something that the English are not. It is clearly not in the interests of the Union for us to see mounting resentment in any part of the United Kingdom. That is why I looked carefully at the polling evidence that suggests a majority of Scots think the approach we are taking is fair.
To all of those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who share my concern for the future of the Union, I say this: it cannot be in the interests of any of us to see the English people becoming cynical about the Union and even perhaps wishing for its end. That is why I think these proposals will help to secure what most reasonable people would think was a fair settlement across the United Kingdom.
I will give way in a while, but I will just make some progress before I do.
When the Prime Minister asked me to take over dealing with the issue of English votes for English laws—I should emphasise that it is sometimes English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws—I looked very hard at the proposals I inherited from my predecessor. I found what I believe to be a sensible set of proposals, which fit well with the Government’s strategy on devolution. I found a package that, taken overall, should strengthen the Union through giving greater devolution to all parts of the United Kingdom—the Scotland Bill and the draft Wales Bill, which has been published in the past few days. I found a package that creates fairer Parliaments and fairer Assemblies, and that gives the English a strong voice on English matters without—I emphasise, without—excluding MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom from participation in this House.
Order. If the hon. Member for Cardiff West had whispered that remark, I would not have heard it. As he made it very loudly, I could not help but hear it, and I must ask him to apologise to the House for using that language.
Of course I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope we are not going to be second-class MPs in this House with that sort of attitude. [Interruption.]
Order. We will have a calm and sensible debate this afternoon, and I hope that tempers will now be kept under control.
I did say that I would give way in a moment but just wanted to set out some remarks first; that was all.
This has been one of the frustrations of the debate on this issue. Anyone who reads these proposals will know full well that they do not exclude any Member of Parliament from any vote in this Chamber in which they can currently take part. It is simply not the case. Yet I keep hearing about MPs being excluded. That will simply not happen. I hope we will not hear that error repeated in today’s debate.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way on that point. Will he explain why, for example, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who has fought four elections in north-east Wales and lost every one—he has never won an election—but sits in another place, will have rights over my constituents in moving motions on an amendment, whereas I—I have won six elections to this place—will not have the same rights?
The answer to that question is that in 1997, in the wake of the general election, the right hon. Gentleman’s party passed a devolution package meaning that, on issues such as health and education, he had no right to vote on issues affecting his constituents, but that people sitting in the Assembly did. Members of the House of Lords can vote on English matters, but it is of course for the Assembly in Cardiff to vote on matters affecting his constituents in areas such as health, education and transport.
If the Leader of the House does not think it is unfair for Lord Thomas of Gresford to be able make a judgement on legislation on which my right hon. Friend Mr Hanson cannot make a judgment, what about Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who has fought five general elections for the Liberal Democrats and lost all five, but will be able to make laws on which Welsh MPs cannot have a say?
The irony of this, as I keep saying, is that both the hon. Gentleman and Mr Hansonwill continue to be able to vote on matters relating to health, education and other issues in relation to the constituencies of Government Members, with the exception of those who represent Wales and Scotland, whereas they cannot vote on those issues in relation to their own constituencies. That is the point of the devolution settlement that Labour set up.
I cannot confess to being the greatest fan of the acronym, but, sadly, that had been set before I came along. I rather like my hon. Friend’s alternative. Certainly, as I always say to my friends in the Scottish National party in this House, we may disagree violently about the future of our Union and we may disagree on a whole range matters, but I value our debates and their presence in the House. We will continue to have a lively time, but I hope also a friendly time, working together.
I was shocked to hear on Radio Scotland this morning, across my porridge, a senior member of the Secretary of State for Scotland’s team criticising the involvement of SNP Members in the debate on assisted dying. He picked out those who voted and particularly those who spoke. I understand that there are Members in the Chamber who feared we would come down with claymores to smash up the furniture, but when we speak up for Scotland in Committees and in debates, I and my colleagues do our best to be constructive and professional. As I was the only SNP Member who spoke in that debate, I was very upset and hurt to hear that said. I have to say that if someone thinks the introduction of assisted dying here would have no impact in Scotland, that shows the difficulty of picking the Bills from which we should be excluded.
That is precisely why I am not proposing that the hon. Lady should be excluded from any debate or vote that she may currently take part in.
I say to the hon. Lady today, as Leader of the House, that I do not want her to be excluded from any debate or vote that she may currently take part in on the Floor of this House. Nothing in the proposals will make that happen. As I keep saying to the SNP’s shadow Leader of the House, I would not take a step that prevented us, in the rare moment when it might happen, from walking through the Division Lobby together, perhaps because we had all come to the view that some of the views of the Labour party were beyond the pale. There are quite a few these days that look like they might be just that.
Several hon. Members rose—
I rather agree. It is simply not tenable for us to say that devolution for Wales is good, devolution for Scotland is good and devolution for Northern Ireland is good, but that the English should have no powers at all. All we are saying is, should a future United Kingdom Parliament, or indeed this one, seek to impose something on the English that the English do not want for their constituencies, when it is a matter purely for England, it is surely not unreasonable that they should grant their consent before it happens. We are using the same principle of a legislative consent motion that applies in the devolution settlements.
Several hon. Members rose—
No, I do not accept that at all. Indeed, it has already happened. The former Member of Parliament, John Reid, was Health Secretary while representing a Scottish constituency over which he had no jurisdiction in health matters. I happen to believe that we want the best people in this House to do the jobs. Nothing in the proposals will prevent that.
I will make a few points about the Procedure Committee and then take more interventions. I recognise that this is a change to the workings of the House. I have therefore sought to ensure that the views of the House about the process are taken into account. I have given evidence to the Procedure Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee. I am grateful to the members of both Committees for their work. I have met representatives of the parties across the House and many individual Members over the past few weeks. I listened to the comments that were made earlier in the summer and provided extra time for debate. I extended the timeframe beyond the original 100-day commitment. I also ensured that this debate took place after the Procedure Committee had completed its work.
I will just make some points about the Procedure Committee’s recommendations, then I will happily take my hon. Friend’s intervention. I thank him and other members of the Procedure Committee for the work that they have done since July. The interim advice they gave me in September, which was published this week, contained some valuable thoughts. I have made amendments to the proposed Standing Orders to take into account many of their recommendations.
I have accepted the Procedure Committee’s proposal to give Mr Speaker discretion over whether to give his reasons for decisions during the trial period. I have accepted its proposal to allow the Speaker to appoint two senior Members to assist him in the task. I have accepted that it should be set out formally in Standing Orders that Members who represent constituencies other than those in England and Wales should, subject to the decision of the Chair, be able to take part in debates in the Legislative Grand Committee stage, should they choose to do so. I have accepted its proposal to strengthen the guidance notes to make it easier for all Members to work with the new process.
The Procedure Committee made a point about trials and pilots. In practice, we are embarking on the kind of trial process that it asked for in the report. My estimate, subject to confirmation through the new certification process, is that the change will affect three or four Bills in the next few months, as well as statutory instruments, before we get to the review that I have committed to undertaking. We will effectively have a trial period to road test the proposals and will then review them in discussion with the different Committees of the House.
I am really grateful to my right hon. Friend for the careful way in which he has listened to our representations. He is a model Minister in that respect. He knows that I have raised on many occasions the problem of Barnett consequentials. It might be argued in Scotland that its Members do not have exactly the same voting rights and that that affects spending in Scotland because of the Barnett formula. As part of the piloting process, will he undertake to review that matter and report back to the House, so that if there are Barnett consequentials, we can think again about that point?
I have looked carefully at that issue, as my hon. Friend knows. I have not identified measures outside the estimates process that create a Barnett consequential. I have been very clear in the proposed changes to Standing Orders that the estimates process remains outside the proposals. I have asked officials to continue to monitor this matter over the period leading up to the review and to produce information that can be presented to the House in due course. I give my hon. Friend and the House a commitment that if we identify a problem in this area, I will return to it as part of the review.
I intend this to be a process of development, rather than a one-off. The House will undoubtedly take decisions over the next 12 months about how we want to modify the system to make it work. That is right and proper with a new approach. I give my hon. Friend an absolute commitment that that information will be provided to the House ahead of the review.
I am very grateful for all the things the Leader of the House has said about the idea that this should be a pilot that we should engage in for a period and then review. We tabled amendment (e), which would mean that the changes to Standing Orders would be in place until the end of the parliamentary Session—that is to say, until next May. That seems perfectly in line with what the Procedure Committee said. It would provide the opportunity, as the Leader of the House has just said, to review the operation of four or five Bills and several statutory instruments. If the Government then wanted to come forward with another set of measures, whether they were identical measures because everybody thought that they were working wonderfully or different measures, they would be able to do so. Would that not be a sensible way to proceed that would allow him to take the whole House with him?
I studied the hon. Gentleman’s amendment carefully. There are two problems with it, or two reasons why our approach is right. First, it prejudges the length of the Session. We have not announced the length of the Session. Opposition Members will remember that the first Session of the last Parliament was two years long. Therefore, in some circumstances, his proposal would extend the trial period rather than reduce it. We do not know the date of the end of the Session, so it is difficult to commit to a pilot of that length.
Secondly, if the Session does finish next spring, we will not even, in my judgment, be able to test to the level recommended by the Procedure Committee, because not enough Bills to which these procedures apply would have been laid before the House. I understand the point the hon. Gentleman is making but, with respect, I think the approach we have taken is better and I intend to stick to it.
“We will jump over the cliff and grab a bush on the way down so that we can review our decision about whether we were right to do so”.—[Hansard, House of Lords, 21 October 2015; Vol. 765, c. 750.]
Why is the Leader of the House so resistant to the proposal from the other place that we should have a Joint Committee of both Houses to establish the best way of moving forward and building a consensus?
I cannot agree to the message from the House of Lords or amendment (a), which was tabled by the hon. Member for Nottingham North—I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, as he knows, and for the House of Lords—and I invite the House not to do so. To do so would be to remove this process from the first Session of this Parliament. We would not be able to trial the measures until the second Session. That would be a direct contravention of our manifesto commitment to introduce the measure within the first 100 days. It would also invite the House of Lords to be directly involved in shaping the Standing Orders of this House—something that would require pretty extensive debate here before we did it. I think many Members would doubt that that was the right thing to do.
I do recognise the concerns in the other place about constitutional change. I have therefore written to the Chair of the Lords Constitution Committee in response to those concerns. I am grateful that the Committee has responded to say that it has agreed to undertake its own review of the impact of the proposals, including their effect on the House of Lords and their wider implications for the constitution as a whole. I hope that the work of that Committee and the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will complement each other, that they will work in partnership in this area and that they will make recommendations ahead of the review that I have committed to carry out next year. I hope that we will also receive work from the other Committees in that time.
I therefore ask the House to reject amendment (a) and to graciously decline the request from the Lords. However, I want to send the clear message to the Lords—indeed, I have already done so—that I want their input.
England has waited 18 years to get some justice and power back under this lopsided devolution settlement that was forced on us against our will all those years ago. Can my right hon. Friend think of any good reason an English MP could give for voting against these very moderate proposals? Does he notice how few English Labour voices there are in the Chamber? They must be ashamed of their own party’s policy.
It baffles me that English Labour MPs seem to be set against these sensible and balanced proposals. They do not exclude anyone from debate, but they give the English a clearer voice so that they can say no to something being imposed on them against their wishes.
A few weeks ago, the Leader of the House was talking about English votes for English laws, whereas today it has been about English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws. Will he develop this a bit further: can we have Scottish votes for Scots laws? Might I hope that he will support a 10-minute rule Bill by the end of November containing a triple lock that would enable the Scots Government, the Scots Parliament and Scots MPs here to say what should be happening for Scotland and that it will not be blocked by Conservative Members?
The reason we have taken this approach and the reason we are concerned about England is because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own legislative Assemblies. The difference in Wales is that its devolution settlement is different from the ones in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. Key areas such as policing and justice are not devolved in Wales, and I would not countenance a situation where Welsh MPs were disadvantaged in debates on those issues. When I talk about this sometimes being English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws, it is to protect the interests of Welsh MPs as well. I hope that Chris Bryant, a Welsh MP, will bear that in mind.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that these modest proposals will still allow Welsh and Scottish MPs to have far more influence over policy in the health service in England than any English MP currently has over the health service in Scotland or Wales? Why does he think some Members are so determined to prevent English MPs from having the same powers as they fought for in Wales and Scotland?
This still baffles me, because Scottish and Welsh Members can vote on education in my constituency but not on education in their own. All I am asking for is the ability to say no if the UK as a whole tries to impose something on my constituents that my constituents and their counterparts around England do not want. That seems to be entirely reasonable.
Will the Leader of the House clarify, for the benefit of all of us in this House, the composition of the Legislative Grand Committee for England, Wales and Northern Ireland? As drafted, it appears to include
“all Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland.”
As he will know, there are MPs who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland who, shamefully, do not take their seats in this House and are absentee MPs—there are four Sinn Féin Members. Please reassure me that they are not going to be serving on this Legislative Grand Committee.
They cannot; if they do not turn up, they cannot participate. They are Members of this House but they do not turn up and so they cannot participate. That situation is not going to change, be it in relation to something that is before the whole House or to a Committee.
Can the Leader of the House explain how we would solve the conundrum of the health service in England being changed in the north-west of England, given that it serves so many people in north Wales? People in north Wales would be taking advantage of a service that had changed substantially but their representatives would have been excluded from the discussion.
I absolutely understand the hon. Gentleman’s frustration. He is not responsible for the Administration in Wales. He will know, rightly, that the Administration here in Westminster are doing a much better job of running the health service than the Labour
Administration in Cardiff. I can understand why Welsh constituents look longingly over the border into England on health matters, but I simply remind him that a consequence of devolution is that if health is devolved in Wales, it is the responsibility of Assembly Members to discuss and debate those health matters. The opportunity I am leaving him—I am not taking it away from him—is to speak on and vote on health matters across the border in England. All I am asking when he does so is that if he is part of a United Kingdom bloc of Members of Parliament seeking to impose change on the English, the English should have the right to give their consent before that change happens.
Several hon. Members rose—
Is the point not a simple one? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the people of Basildon and Thurrock will find it very hard to understand how people who are not affected by legislation can force it on those who are? What this measure does is resolve that issue.
I could not have said it better myself. My hon. Friend is absolutely right and puts his finger on the heart of these reforms. They are fair and sensible. Whatever Opposition Members say today, I am entirely comfortable, as a Unionist, in presenting them to this House.
Several hon. Members rose—
I am going to make some progress because I am aware that many people want to speak. I wish to touch on one point relating to the McKay report and how some Members of this House are interpreting what it says. I have thought about this very carefully. I have talked to Sir William and looked at his report, and I am very clear that our proposals are consistent with the recommendations made by the team who worked on it. In particular, I draw the House’s attention to his core recommendation:
“A principle common to the devolution arrangements for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales exists on which to base proposals for modifying the procedures of the House of Commons to mitigate the unfairness felt by people in England. The constitutional principle that should be adopted for England (and for England-and-Wales) is that: decisions at the United Kingdom level with a separate and distinct effect for England (or for England-and-Wales) should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs for constituencies in England (or England and-Wales). This principle should be adopted by a resolution of the House of Commons”.
That is what we are putting in place today. It is worth saying that Sir William’s report was produced before the Scottish referendum and before the new devolution changes set out in the Smith commission report existed, but we have still remained faithful to the principle.
I was delighted when I heard the shadow Leader of the House accept the need for English votes for English laws, but I was disappointed to see from his comments and his amendments that he wants a reform that is toothless and meaningless. Labour’s position appears to be that devolved powers are a good thing, as long as it is not in England. I gently remind him today that if he votes against these measures, he will be a Welsh MP voting against a measure that also provides Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws. He will therefore be voting against increasing the influence of Welsh MPs over matters such as policing and justice. His amendments would also have the effect of removing almost all the substance from these proposals. If the House were to accept what he is proposing today, we might as well pack up and go home now. He has proposed a set of wrecking amendments and they are the wrong thing to do.
Several hon. Members rose—
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for the conversations we have had on this matter. Why is he quite prepared to exclude Members from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the English Grand Committee but he will not exclude English Members from the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scots Grand Committees?
I am not excluding the hon. Gentleman from the English Grand Committee. He will be able to speak in that Committee and to vote on Bills. I am simply leaving the English with a requirement to give their consent before something can happen. Where we legislate in this House for a variety of issues affecting Wales, we require a legislative consent motion from the Welsh Assembly Government. That is no different from this House seeking a legislative consent motion from the English in order to proceed.
Like many Members, I have raised petitions on this issue and I have received enormous support from my constituents. One challenge with raising petitions in Worcester is that when we go out on the high street, we constantly meet day trippers from Wales. What I found was that when I explained to them that this was about English votes for English laws and English and Welsh votes on English and Welsh issues, they happily signed the petitions and gave strong support for the approach we are taking.
My hon. Friend makes an important point: the public are on our side over this. It is a perhaps a sign that we are in government and the Opposition are not that we are more in touch with what the public think.
Does the Leader of the House agree that these relatively modest proposals do something powerful, which is allow us to say to our constituents—I say this as a Member of Parliament born in Belfast but representing an English constituency—that in future there is no chance of the rest of the United Kingdom’s Members of Parliament imposing on them something that they do not want in England? The reason there is so much hostility from Scottish National party Members is that they realise this is a safety valve that will help to protect the future of the United Kingdom.
I could not have put it better myself. The proposed changes enable us to give an answer to the West Lothian question and to our constituents by saying that England will have its own piece of the devolution settlement, but we will achieve that without removing any Member of Parliament from the workings of this Chamber. We will hear much this afternoon about how these changes will create a different class of MPs, exclude MPs, and shut MPs out from the job that they do. The truth is that that is nonsense. Despite all the rhetoric, our proposals do none of that. Instead, they bring fairness to our devolution settlement, and it is fairness that will secure the future of our Union.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. Before I call the shadow Leader of the House, I should say that it will be obvious to Members that a great many people—more than 50 Members—have indicated that they wish to take part in this debate for which there is now really a very short time remaining. I will not impose a time limit on Back-Bench speeches quite yet, but I implore Members of the House, even very senior and terribly important ones, to seek to prove the power and quality of oratory by speaking for less than five minutes. Of course I am not making such a request of the shadow Leader of the House. I call Mr Chris Bryant.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for bearing in mind that I voted for you. However, I do take your stricture seriously, because I think that it applies to self-important Members as well.
Seriously, it is a real shame that the Leader of the House did not even bother to lay out what his measures will do, but there is a reason for that. Let me start first with four very simple principles. First, Government must be by consent, which means that no state should abrogate to itself decisions that could more properly be made closer to those whom they most affect. That is why I support devolution to and within Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is also why I support England having a clear and distinctive voice in this Parliament. For that matter, I also believe that power, responsibility and finance need to be devolved further within England, because we are, and have been for far too long, a very centralised state.
My second principle is that I passionately support the Union. It is in the best interests of my constituents and of all our constituents. I know that the people of this country agree with that—not everyone, but the vast majority. That is why I will do nothing that will undermine or imperil the Union. It has stood us extremely well through war and depression and in sickness and in health.
My third principle is that all MPs are equal. We all arrive with an equal right to speak, and to make our constituents’ voices heard. In the old writs of return for Members, it was called the full power—plena potestas—to debate, agree, legislate and tax. Overturning that equality of all Members, which has stood the test of 800 years, is a big step to take.
The Leader of the House quoted Lord Mackay. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the things in Lord Mackay’s report was that there should be absolutely no move whatsoever towards the creation of two classes of MPs, but that is precisely what this does?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point, which is that the Mackay commission lays out various different routes that one could go down, but makes it absolutely clear that one of his fundamental principles was that there should not be two tiers of MPs.
I asked the Leader of the House earlier on about how a Welsh Conservative MP could be appointed a Minister of the Crown in an area that is not devolved. Does my hon. Friend understand how that could practically be the case under these proposals if that Minister was not permitted to participate in the Committee stage of a Bill under his own jurisdiction?
If I am honest, the reason I was upset that the Leader of the House did not lay out his plans was that, in the previous debate that we had earlier this year which I did not take part in but which I read, I noticed that he made several mistakes about his own proposals. I do not honestly think that he fully understands them. It is certainly true that people would be able to take part in debates, but they would not then be able to table amendments.
It was a delight to see John Redwood telling us all how terrible it was that powers had been forced on other people by MPs from different parts of the country. When he was Secretary of State for Wales, despite not representing a Welsh seat, he introduced much against Welsh views the shape of local government that we have in England today.
Several hon. Members rose—
The thing is the right hon. Gentleman is not arguing for devolution in England; he is arguing for a completely different thing. He is arguing to change this Parliament. The devolution that was introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was on the back of a long process that gathered the views of the whole community. There were referendums, draft Bills and Bills.
Several hon. Members rose—
I love the hon. Gentleman, but I will make some progress.
Fourth, because our constitution is unwritten, we should enter into major constitutional change not unadvisedly or lightly but, in the words of the Prayer Book, discreetly, advisedly and soberly. That means that, when possible, the Government of the day should always proceed on a cross-party basis. Where it cannot do so, especially when one party alone holds a view, it should proceed with extreme caution. All these issues should be looked at in the round, in a proper constitutional convention. We cannot make these changes merely by altering the Standing Orders of this House. That is a thoroughly disreputable way of changing the constitution of this country.
I will give way in a moment.
My problems with the measures before us are many. First, they are far too complex, which is why the Leader of the House did not bother to explain them this afternoon. They introduce at least six new processes for each Bill. They will be incomprehensible to most Members of this House let alone the wider public. In years to come, people will be running competitions to see whether anyone can explain these measures in fewer than 1,000 words. I bet that nobody will ever win that prize.
The Procedure Committee produced an excellent report at the beginning of this week. It calls the proposals “over-engineered, complex and rococo”—that have more curlicues, arabesques and flourishes than the whole of the Vatican City put together. In any one day, we may be convened and reconvened as the full House, the English Legislative Grand Committee, the English and Welsh Legislative Grand Committee, a Committee of the Full House, and back again. There will be motions, money motions, programme motions, legislative consent motions, reconsideration motions followed by new legislative consent motions, followed by motions to agree or to disagree wrapped up in a majority and a double majority.
For the first time in our history, the tellers will become redundant, disappearing into the reasons room at the end of votes to be told the double majority result by the computerised Clerks. Some have described this as constitutional knitting, but at least knitting has a rhyme and reason to it. This will be a bowl of soggy, overcooked spaghetti.
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to intervene. I tried to intervene on the Leader of the House, but was not able to do so. If I had been able to intervene, I would have said that I genuinely have some sympathy for the points that he and the Conservative party have put forward. The current situation is not tenable. It has caused resentment and we should have tried to sort it out. My objection is to the process. This is a major constitutional change; it is not a change to Standing Orders. Having won the referendum, to do this without a convention frankly risks ending the Union in a way that the Scottish National party could only have dreamt of.
Order. With 50 Members waiting to speak, we just cannot have long interventions. It is simply discourteous to those who are waiting to speak. We must have interventions to keep the debate flowing lest it becomes unlively.
I will try to keep it lively, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I might fail.
My hon. Friend Jonathan Reynoldsmakes a good point. I agree with him and with some of the points that the Leader of the House has made. I believe that England needs a distinctive voice in this Parliament and I personally have no objection whatsoever to an England-only Committee to do the line-by-line consideration of legislation that applies only to England. However, like the McKay commission, I believe that there is a real danger when a veto is given to English MPs only, as that creates two tiers of MPs.
There is a further problem. As McKay points out, if the Government or the whole House feel at some point that they have to override English MPs, which is perfectly legitimate, it should be absolutely clear that that is what they have done. The whole House or the Government would then take the political risk, just as the Government would take it on the head if they appointed a Welsh MP to a post that involved largely devolved responsibilities.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as I am aware of the time constraints. He has sympathy with the approach, but does he not appreciate that it originated in 1997 when I tabled an amendment on similar but much shorter lines—only seven lines long—to deal with the problem? At the end of the day, this is not about different classes of MP but about different functions conferred under the process of devolution.
I am not so sure. At first sight, the hon. Gentleman’s suggestions seem perfectly sensible, but I have often found when I examine them a little more carefully that they do not really work in practice. He is nodding his head; he agrees.
The hon. Gentleman said that he would give a prize to anyone who produced a short summary and said that it would be impossible. The House of Commons Library has managed it in three quarters of a page; would it have helped him to have read that before he came here today?
I have read the House of Commons Library summary, but if the hon. Gentleman looks carefully, he will see that it does not lay out all the processes. It lays out only half the processes—[Interruption.] I note that the hon. Gentleman has picked something up from the Library and feels that on the back of that he can come in to the Chamber and be awfully clever—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] There we are; the debate is lively enough now, isn’t it, Madam Deputy Speaker?
The hon. Gentleman’s point about two classes of MP is important and one that we should tread very carefully towards. I wonder whether this is not the same as MPs serving on a Committee, which is limited in number, meaning that not all MPs can be present, yet can still be overruled by the whole House through, in this instance, a suspension of Standing Orders rather than having a legislative method, which would make it much more complicated.
This is good, because the hon. Gentleman agrees with me. He is absolutely right to do so, but I do not think he has followed it through to its logical conclusion. He is right. For centuries, when the House has sent a Bill into Committee, it has decided that certain Members should sit on that Committee for the line-by-line consideration of the Bill. That is absolutely the sensible thing to do. In the past, it was done by those who were most interested in the subject, and then it was decided that it would be done by party political balance. Now, there is a suggestion that if the Bills are exclusively English-only, there should be English-only membership. I have absolutely no problem with that; the hon. Gentleman and I are as one. He should therefore support our amendment this afternoon, as I agree with him.
My second problem is that these measures will politicise the Speaker—[Laughter.][Hon. Members: “Oh!”]This is a Paddington bear stare—[Interruption.] All right, calm down—[Interruption.] You broke my leg; calm down.
Order. I am very glad to say that as far as points of order as concerned, that is about the same as your breaking a leg on the rugby pitch.
It was a hospital pass, though.
Let me return to the issue of the Speaker. I know that the Leader of the House thinks that deciding whether a Bill is exclusively England-only will be simple, but none of the evidence thus far provided by the devolved Administrations, any of the legal experts or any of the Members of the House of Lords who have legal qualifications suggests that that is so. I urge hon. Members to consider any one of the Bills before the House to see whether it is straightforward.
There is a major difference between the money Bill certificates issued under the Parliament Acts and these new certificates. Money Bill certificates affect only the Lords and prevent them from considering our legislation. The new certificates will affect elected Members of the House who are bound to try to tie the Speaker up in knots. Since certification has to happen before Second Reading, the Speaker will in effect be able to delay when Second Reading can take place. The Leader of the House tells me that the Government will provide clear instructions to the Speaker on how he should certificate, but surely that turns the Speaker into the creature of the Crown, not the servant of this House. What price Speaker Lenthall?
Surely it would be extremely simple to work out whether a Bill applied in England, Wales or Scotland, as we already have to do that. Whenever we pass legislation, we have to work out whether it will apply to the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament or not. A simple solution would be to ensure that if Welsh and Scottish MPs vote on it, it applies across the whole United Kingdom.
No one is giving any instructions to the Speaker. It is custom and practice for those drafting a Bill to set out its territorial extent. No doubt those who drafted the Housing and Planning Bill will know precisely the territorial extent of clause 44. I do not happen to remember what clause 44 is; perhaps he does.
I know clause 44 extremely well, but I am not going to let on to the Leader of the House. If he cannot be bothered to read his own legislation when it goes through the Legislative Programme Committee, which he chairs, that is a problem for him.
Although the measures seek to address one anomaly, which has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Wokingham, I believe that they will create many more. If Scottish MPs are not to be allowed to determine legislation that affects only England, why should English MPs be allowed to determine Westminster legislation that affects only Scotland or, for that matter, that affects only Wales or Northern Ireland? Plenty of legislation, clauses and schedules fall into that category. The Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Act 2013, for instance, applied only in Scotland but was driven through the House of Commons on the back of the Government’s majority. I tell the Leader of the House that this is a dangerous road to go down as it will set a worm of grievance into the hearts of many across the Union.
Not yet, because I am replying to my hon. Friend Mr Cunningham. The other problem is that, as several Members of the House of Lords have said, there is a danger that these certificates will become justiciable. I fully accept that under article 9 of the Bill of Rights any proceeding in Parliament should not be impeached or questioned in a court of law or any other place. However, it is clear that many legal experts believe that, by making such a sharp divide within the House, the new certification process will lead to the undermining of article 9 and to the decisions of the Speaker being questioned in a court of law. I think that that is another very dangerous route to go down.
Several hon. Members rose—
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can you inform the House of your view of Members who intervene and wish to be one of the 50 who are waiting to contribute to this debate? Good knockabout stuff though it is, some Members have already intervened two or three times. Will you take that into account?
Just for a change, I can directly answer the hon. Gentleman’s point of order. The view of the Chair is that if a Member has requested to speak but makes several long interventions, that Member’s place in the speaking order will go further down the list every time they intervene. I can make that absolutely clear. I hope the House is listening and will allow the hon. Gentleman to finish his speech.
I am not giving way for a while.
These measures will also not deliver the Government’s declared aim. The Library has examined every Division since 2001—some 3,000 Divisions in all. Library staff looked at what would happen if no Scottish MPs had voted in any of those Divisions. They found just a tiny proportion where that would have changed the vote— 25 in all. Yes, I admit that perhaps I could understand the Government if all the measures that we are debating this afternoon were intended to deal with those 25 cases, but of the 25, nine were on UK-wide or England, Wales and Scotland legislation, such as anti-terrorism legislation, so not affected; 10 were on non-legislative motions, such as whether the screen should be installed, so also not affected; three were on private Members’ Bills and, to answer the question from Dr Whitford earlier, would not have been affected by the measures under consideration this afternoon; and one would have been tied and would therefore have fallen.
The most contentious subject, which the Leader of the House rather inadvertently deceptively mentioned in the previous debate, was on
It would not have been changed, would it? He need only nod. It would not have been changed, would it?
Oh, he thinks it would. No. The vote was on Second Reading, and Second Reading is not covered, a point that he has made several times. He does not understand his own provisions which he introduced this afternoon.
No, it was not. There is no point in the Leader of the House intervening again if he does not understand his own proposals.
That analysis leaves us with a single vote in 14 years, which added the statutory pubs code and independent adjudicator to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to address the imbalance between large pub owning companies and tied tenants. I think even the Leader of the House would drink to that, and anyway, the Bill also had Scotland and Northern Ireland measures.
The true effect of these measures will be to make the Government split their Bills up into lots of little Bills. There will be more Wales-only and Scotland-only Bills clogging up the system, and the Report stage of any England-only Bill will be absorbed not with debates about the substance, but with wrangles about procedure. So all this constitutional jiggery-pokery will be for nothing. I ask the Government: what’s the hurry? The Government have a majority of UK seats, of English seats and of English and Welsh seats. It will make not a jot of difference in this Parliament.
Several hon. Members rose—
I was simply going to point out, as the hon. Gentleman and I were both Members at the time, that the top-up fees Bill in 2003-04 would not have secured a legislative consent motion because the English were opposed to it. Therefore, under these measures, it would not have happened.
That is not correct. The right hon. Gentleman needs to look back through the record. The vote was on Second Reading and the Bill was carried very healthily on Third Reading by English MPs as well. The measures this afternoon have nothing to say about Second or Third Readings.
On the amendments, the Procedure Committee was clear that it wanted a proper pilot system for these measures. These are enormous constitutional changes and they should be properly piloted. The response from the Leader of the House suggests that he thinks this will be a pilot. He stated in a written ministerial statement that
“While this is not a pilot in the exact terms of the Committee’s Report, the outcome will be very similar.” —[Hansard, 20 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 43W.]
I gather the Government Chief Whip has been telling all his anxious colleagues not to worry as it is just a pilot, so I am taking the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip at their word. Our amendment (e) would mean that the Government would have to come back to the House in April if they wanted to continue the measures, or if they wanted to introduce other measures after we had had an opportunity to review how the processes had worked.
Talking of taking the Leader of the House at his word, he said earlier today that the Speaker is able to dismiss minor or consequential issues when certificating Bills. That is what he said—minor or consequential issues. He is wrong. It is minor and consequential issues. He knows that perfectly well and he went on to correct himself. Yet again, he does not fully understand his proposals. Our amendment (f) would make this “minor and consequential”, rather than “minor or consequential”, because that is the only way that Barnett consequentials could be taken into consideration when determining whether a Bill applies only in England or only in England and Wales.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. I understood that the Labour party supported devolution, but all I have heard is a line-by-line review—no veto, therefore no devolution for English voters.
The hon. Gentleman is not arguing for devolution either. This does not create devolution in any shape or form. It retains power here in Westminster and it is completely unnecessary because in this Parliament the Government have a majority in any venue they choose.
I am not going anywhere near the hon. Gentleman.
I say to Huw Merriman that it is right that there should be line-by-line consideration by an England-only Committee. There should be a voice, but not a veto.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He correctly identifies a problem. It is a minor problem and he goes back to 2004 to identify it. The problem is very different. When the Scotland Bill came through this Parliament this year, when 95% of Scottish MPs, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament backed amendments, they were blocked by English and Welsh Members, despite Scotland wanting its power. That is where the problem is for this Parliament. It is not English votes for English laws.
I am sympathetic to some of what the hon. Gentleman says, except that when we are discussing a constitutional measure, that is a matter for the whole House. Today’s proposals are also a constitutional matter, the biggest constitutional change for some considerable time, which is being introduced through one House without a constitutional convention, which would have been a better way of doing it. Why on earth did the Government refuse to reply to the Lords’ request for a Joint Committee to consider the constitutional implications first?
I will not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.
The Commons has not refused such a request for 104 years. And I am not going to take any nonsense from the Leader of the House about their lordships telling us what to do about Standing Orders. This is a major constitutional change. Devolution was brought in after a cross-party constitutional convention, a referendum, a draft Bill and a Bill. In this case, what do we get? The longest-ever amendment to Standing Orders—742 lines in all—driven through on a Government majority. That ain’t no way to treat Parliament. Nor will I take any lectures about the unelected Lords. I have always voted for reform. It is the right hon. Gentleman’s leader who has appointed nearly 10 times as many barons to the other House since he came to power in 2010 as there were sitting around Runnymede in 1215.
I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman. Much as I enjoy what he has to say, there are others who need to speak.
The honest truth is that this is not a conservative set of measures. It is quite a dangerous set of measures. It is a bureaucratic nightmare and hon. Members will regret it. As Lord Forsyth said last night in the House of Lords, it is like an Uber driver without a sat-nav. It is not a unionist set of measures, either. It is as if the Prime Minister had decided to fashion a new grievance for Scotland—God knows the Scots have never needed a new grievance—because he wanted to antagonise them.
If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is suggesting that 95% of Scottish Members looking for powers to be devolved to Scotland but being blocked by other Members is not a cause for grievance. If that is not a cause for grievance, what is?
I have just said that there are grievances, and there are English grievances too. I believe that we need to come to a proper constitutional settlement in this House—and across the whole of Parliament—that delivers an elected House of Lords so that the whole country is represented and so that we do not have the anomaly of a baron who was born in Scotland, lives in Scotland and claims expenses for travelling from Scotland to Westminster—[Interruption.]
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The shadow Leader of the House has been on his feet for half an hour. The House will not hear from a Scottish Member of Parliament until the sixth speaker. This is being done to us, because it is we who will become second-class Members. Is there anything you can do to speed up proceedings so that we can hear from Scottish Members of Parliament?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very reasonable point. Many Members are waiting to speak, and they have legitimate points of view that the House must hear, which is why I have appealed for brevity and for short interventions. The shadow Leader of the House has another minute until he reaches half an hour, at which point I will raise my eyebrows at him.
I am terrified of your eyebrows, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was on my perorating sentence, so I would have finished my speech by now had Pete Wishart not intervened. I think that Conservative and Unionist Members will ultimately rue the day if they vote for these measures, because this is a charter for breaking up the Union, not keeping it together.
I shall try to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, because although the 50 hon. Members waiting to speak are very interested in what I have to say, I know that they are much more interested in what they have to say. Now is not the time for great oratory.
I would first like to thank the Procedure Committee, which I chair, for working so hard and producing an excellent report. I also thank the Leader of the House, who has been open and straightforward in his dealings with the Committee, which makes a welcome change from his predecessor. I know that the issue ignites strong feelings in the House, which is another reason why I shall be brief, because we need to hear as many views as possible. Also, I do not understand why we cannot move the vote to 5 o’clock this afternoon, or perhaps later.
The concept of EVEL is easy to understand, but the proposals attached to it are extremely complex, and Members on both sides of the House should be in no doubt about that. The shadow Leader of the House said that 742 additional lines of Standing Orders are proposed. I disagree, because I make it 733, but who is going to quibble over nine lines. Between four and eight additional stages are potentially being injected into the legislative process, which may have huge consequences for the transacting of legislation in this place. We cannot have any truncation of Report stage or Third Reading.
The idea that certification will always be done smoothly, with one stage followed by the next, is for the birds. There will be times when the process of scrutinising Bills is interrupted for a significant period of time while finely nuanced decisions about certification are taken. I do not believe that the decisions taken by the Speaker will end up before a court. Someone might try to bring them before a court, but the proceedings of this House are protected by the Bill of Rights. The Speaker will be able to call on his Counsel, senior Clerks and two senior members of the Panel of Chairs.
We are entering new territory, so of course we will have to experiment. That is why the Procedure Committee will return to the House in a year with a review of the early stages of the process. We will be forceful in putting our view at that stage.
On the point about justiciability, is the hon. Gentleman aware of the views of Lord Hope of Craighead, a former Lord President of the Court of Session and Justice of the Supreme Court, who addressed that very point in the other place last night and said that the procedures would be subject to judicial scrutiny?
There are thousands of lawyers in this country, and they all have different views—that is how they earn a living. I am sure that Lord Hope’s views are sincerely held, but I disagree with them, as I am sure does my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg, who served with such distinction on the Committee. Is he seeking to intervene?
I was trying to be generous to my hon. Friend.
We are where we are. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said that he did not give enough consideration to the impact of devolution on England in 1998. What we are debating today is, in my view, the least worst option on the table. Would we start from this point in a perfect world? No, we would not.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I had a long and distinguished speech to give, and there are many things that I would like to say, but I am not going to do so on this occasion, because 50 Members wish to speak and we need to hear from as many of them as possible.
I pay tribute to Michael Meacher, who was a good friend, an excellent Member of Parliament and a colleague from Greater Manchester. He sat alongside me in this House for 45 years. I am deeply sorry that he is dead, but I am happy that he is not present for this ghastly debate, which I think is one of the nastiest and most unpleasant I have attended in 45 years. We have before us something called EVEL, and I say this: evil to him who thinks EVEL.
We have heard Members speak today about who are English MPs, and about who are Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland MPs, but that is not what we are. I am not an English MP; I am a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I was not elected by my constituents to be an English MP; I, like every single Member of this House, regardless of her or his party, was elected to represent my constituents in the United Kingdom Parliament, with the powers that this House of Commons has had for many centuries.
This Government, with the flip of a coin, have decided to alter what this House of Commons is about, and they have decided to do so for momentary political convenience, because they have a small majority and because a considerable body of the Members of this United Kingdom House of Commons are from Scotland. We have good and valued colleagues from Northern Ireland, from different parties, and they are here because Northern Ireland fought a war in order to remain part of the United Kingdom.
I am deeply saddened that it has come to this. We are looking at 20 pages of amendments to the Standing Orders. Heaven only knows how much it cost the
Government to pay the parliamentary draftsmen to draft them all. They are deeply confusing and can be analysed in many different ways. One thing is for sure: this House is being called upon to pass amendments to make the Standing Orders state, “The Speaker shall… ”. I do not remember that ever happening before, but hon. Members may correct me. Members might have different views about any particular Speaker, but the whole point of having a Speaker is that she or he should be impartial. That will end if the amendments are made this afternoon.
The proposals before the House are full of gyrations and complications. I challenge anybody reading through these Standing Order amendments to understand them. Previously, up until today—up until tonight—the House of Commons was very, very, very clear: every hon. Member of this House, regardless of when they were elected, whether they were elected 45 years ago, like Michael Meacher and me, or whether they will be newly arriving, like the person who will be elected in the by-election to succeed Michael, whether they have membership of the Privy Council, whether the Queen has conferred an honour on them, whether they are members of the Cabinet or of the Government, once they walked into the Division Lobby every one of them was equal.
That will end late this afternoon because this Government—I am sorry to say it—have no respect for the House of Commons. They do not care about the principles on which the House of Commons is based; they simply want convenience relating to certain legislation—probably, though I am not certain, in the light of the large contingent of Scottish National party Members who were elected. I do not know whether this would have happened if that had not happened, but the people of Scotland voted in the way they did, and those Scottish National party Members, like the Irish and the Welsh, are completely equal to everybody else—or they will be until this evening. I am troubled that this—
If the hon. Gentleman will just give me a moment.
I am troubled that this Government have decided to do this, because, as I said to William Hague when he first came to the House of Commons to announce this, it puts a stain on the Government. I really do think that it sullies the House of Commons.
My hon. Friend Chris Bryant, as always, made an effective speech. However, I disagreed with it because his amendments accept not the principle—there is no principle involved—but the basis of what the Government are proposing. I will not vote for any of the amendments because every one of them is based on an acceptance of what the Government are putting forward. I shall vote against the main motion at the end of what I regard as a day of shame for the House of Commons.
Order. We need to put on a time limit in order to accommodate as many people as possible. We will start off with Bernard Jenkin on four minutes.
Thank you for the early warning, Mr Deputy Speaker.
It is my privilege to follow the Father of the House, who, in his now customary fashion, stilled this House with his wisdom. I think we should listen carefully to what he said and take on board the points he made. The only response I would make is this: he said that before this measure we were all equal, but I am afraid that that is not the case. The West Lothian question was originally coined in the 1970s, but it has been with us since the moment the devolution settlements were enacted in Wales and Scotland. The fact that it has been ignored, ignored and ignored, and amplified by further and further devolution to Scotland and Wales, and now to Northern Ireland, is the reason we are now having this debate: we have this one unresolved issue before us.
The principle of English votes for English laws is clearly right. As I hear the objections of those who supported the settlements in Scotland and Wales that they are now going to be excluded from the consideration of matters in England that affect their constituents, I recall that that is exactly the same argument that we made against the establishment of Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, because those things are now decided in those jurisdictions whether or not they have any effect on my constituents. We have an unequal House already, and the question is how to address that.
This debate follows the Prime Minister’s statement following the referendum. Since then, we have learned that doing this in this way is fantastically complicated. I draw the House’s attention to proposed Standing Order 83J(8)(b), which says that the Speaker
“shall disregard any provision inserted by the House of Lords which, in the Speaker’s opinion, has the sole objective of ensuring that Standing Order”— blah, blah, blah. In other words, the Speaker is meant to adjudicate on what he thinks was behind the intention of an amendment passed by the House of Lords. We are in danger of putting the Speaker in an impossible position. I do not dismiss the risks of judicial review in these circumstances because we are inviting such controversy through these arrangements. However, Chris Bryant cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that this is a massive constitutional change and then read out a whole lot of statistics and say it will make no difference at all. He is in rather a difficult position.
We need to move on from this kind of debate to a different kind of discussion. We need far more dialogue and discussion, both in this Chamber and outside it, involving all the parties, Unionist and nationalist. We need it in public and in private, we need it in all parts of the United Kingdom, and we need to involve all four Parliaments and Assemblies. We need to choose language that seeks to build common ground, avoids divisive terms, does not prejudge outcomes, and makes each part of the United Kingdom feel valued, feel heard and feel understood. I fear that this debate is not going to do that.
The Constitutional Committee is launching an inquiry into the future of the United Kingdom.
I am not going to give way.
We are carrying out an evaluation of English votes for English laws that perhaps looks to a new settlement in the United Kingdom—what it might look like and what the financial consequences might be. This might finish up with exactly the kind of Joint Committee that has been proposed by Lord Butler of Brockwell, and that might be a good way of resolving these differences in the long term.
After an hour and 40 minutes, and six speeches, we are actually getting to hear from the Members of Parliament who this is being done to—the Scottish Members of Parliament. This will, I hope, be the last instalment of what can only be called the sorry saga of English votes for English laws. Never has such massive and significant constitutional change been undertaken on the basis of plans that are so meagre, so threadbare, so inept, and so stupid.
I have searched the documents for all the statements that have been made about these plans and all the various words that have been used in these debates. I came up with a word cloud, because I hear they are quite popular just now, to see the favourite words used—namely, “shambles”, “disaster”, “mess”, “dog’s breakfast”, “unnecessary”, “won’t work”. There are some really good Scottish words that sum this up perfectly, with apologies to my friends in Hansard: “boorach”, “guddle”. Even those words do not do justice to the mess that has been created by these plans.
In the course of the past couple of months since the Leader of the House’s plans were first introduced, he has managed to convince absolutely nobody about their quality. Not one political party in this House supports these plans other than the Conservatives. Not one devolved legislature, Assembly or Parliament throughout the United Kingdom supports these plans; in fact, they are resolutely opposed. Even the donors and the cronies down the corridor do not support these plans. Even the Procedure Committee, with a Conservative Chair and a Conservative majority, finds massive difficulties with what is proposed. An exercise in building consensus and working in partnership this most definitely is not. To proceed with such historic constitutional change without even a shred of consensus is probably about the worst way possible to embark on such plans.
We will, of course, oppose the plans in full. We have not tabled any amendments because we do not want to dignify the proposals with any suggestion that they should be approved. We will vote them down altogether. We will support some of the Labour amendments, which are marginally better than what is on offer, but we will do so half-heartedly, because we object to the basic principle.
The Leader of the House tries to convince us—he did it again in his speech today—that these are tiny, eensy-weensy little tinkerings with the constitution of the House. “What are all you Scots getting upset about?”, he wails at us. “What are you bothered about? It’s only a little veto you’re going to be exposed to.” Well, let me tell him: how dare you give us second-class status in this place. How dare you disrespect the views of the Scottish electorate and diminish the role of Scottish Members of Parliament.
It is most important that the proposal does not create a second-class tier of Members of Parliament. Given that it comes under Standing Orders, in the event of there being a Government who are dependent on Scottish votes for their majority, they could repeal the Standing Order. Therefore the basis of the authority of each MP remains identical.
I have a lot of respect for the hon. Gentleman’s views, but he is quite simply wrong. The basic principle of the plans is that I and my hon. Friends will be second-class citizens in the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is unacceptable.
Scotland is watching this debate and the mood is darkening. If this is an exercise in saving the Union, the Government could not have contrived a more inept way to do so. Support for independence is increasing. The Conservatives got 14% of the vote in Scotland at the general election. It was an historic low. They have not secured such a vote since the 19th century. Once this has been done to Scottish Members of Parliament—our elected representatives—just watch their polls continue to plummet.
The proposal was a clear manifesto pledge by our party and we were voted in by the people. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is the people who want this to happen?
I do not think that English Conservative Members quite get it. The United Kingdom is supposed to be a partnership of equals. There are issues and difficulties—fair enough—and I know they are upset about what is going on with English votes for English laws, but we are a nation. Does the hon. Lady know how many Conservative Members there are in Scotland? One, and he barely scraped in. Our view is legitimate and we reject being made second-class citizens in this Parliament. This is our Parliament as much as the hon. Lady’s. This is the unitary Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and yet we have to accept second-class status. No wonder the mood is darkening in Scotland.
Andrew Bonar Law, Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, Lloyd George, Gordon Brown, James Callaghan, Gladstone, Winston Churchill and a range of others had constituencies in Scotland or Wales and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Does the hon. Gentleman envisage a Scot or a Welsh MP ever again being Prime Minister?
I say candidly that I do not envisage that happening again. It would be absurd for a Scottish Member of Parliament to be a Secretary of State for Health or Education, because they would be debarred from full voting entitlements on getting legislation through the House. I do not foresee there ever again being a Scottish, Welsh or possibly Northern Irish Minister in one of the great devolved Departments of state. I do not think there will be another Scottish Prime Minister. I am sorry to upset some of my hon. Friends, but I cannot think of any circumstance where that would be possible. This is the beginning of the process of creating two classes of Members of Parliament in this House and it will be instinctively followed by a hardening of those positions.
I want to make some progress, because I am conscious that a lot of my hon. Friends want to speak.
This is the fourth time these hastily redrawn plans have been presented to the House, which says absolutely everything we need to know about them. [Interruption.] Does Mr Allen want to intervene? He is chuntering away.
I will gladly intervene, but very quickly, in view of what I said earlier. The hon. Gentleman is posing as a second-class Member of Parliament, but he is getting a first-class allocation of unlimited time. Perhaps he would care to give those of us who are second class a go as well.
May I say ever so gently to the hon. Gentleman that this is being done to us and it has taken an hour and a half and six speeches before a Scottish Member of Parliament has been allowed to speak? We will take our time and I will not rush for his sake.
I have scoured the fourth set of Standing Orders to see whether they change the first set significantly. Perhaps one curious thing could be explained to me. On the Speaker’s certification, the Speaker is now required and obliged to speak to two members of the Panel of Chairs before deciding whether a Bill will be English-only. I have a lot of respect for the Panel of Chairs—they do a fantastic job chairing the Committees of this House—but I have never known them to be an authority on the constitution. Surely it would be as well to ask two random members of the public for their views. The people that should be spoken to are the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. They are the bodies that this is being dumped on and it is their devolution settlements that will be impacted, but there is no requirement on the Speaker to consult them.
The most invidious thing about the proposals is what they will do to the Speaker. The Speaker will be politicised, which is almost unforgivable. That could set the Speaker in conflict with Scottish Members of Parliament. If we do not agree with and reject one of the certifications, what are we supposed to do? We are here to represent our constituents, so of course we are going to do what we can to ensure that their voice is heard. The proposal could lead to a challenge that goes all the way to judicial review and the Supreme Court. We know that the rulings of the Speaker are unchallengeable because of parliamentary privilege, but if constituents who watch what is going on here feel that their rights are not being represented properly, we will end up in the Supreme Court and judicial review.
One of the daftest things the Leader of the House has said—I say this candidly, because I have a lot of affection for him—is that there is no such thing as Barnett consequentials. He told the Procedure Committee:
“I have looked long and hard at the issue of Barnett consequentials and I think they are a bit of both an illusion and a side issue. I don’t actually believe that Barnett consequentials exist.”
According to the right hon. Gentleman, Barnett consequentials are up there with Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. What he said about Barnett consequentials is absurd and I will give him the chance to take it back.
I have asked the Scottish nationalists to offer one example of a piece of legislation outwith the estimates process that has had a direct financial impact on the budget for Scotland. So far, neither he, his colleagues nor my officials have been able to come up with one example.
After the Leader of the House made those remarks, we went to the Scotland Office to look at the annual report and found that something like 56 Barnett consequentials were enacted in the course of one Parliament. Of course there are Barnett consequentials. It is absolutely absurd to suggest otherwise.
I think the Leader of the House is trying to refer to downstream Barnett consequentials, but he is totally and utterly wrong about that as well. On the supply and estimates procedure, they are called estimates for a reason: they are an estimated departmental spend, and the Barnett consequentials from any subsequent legislation are simply consolidated in the next set of estimates.
The logic of the SNP’s position is to advocate an English Parliament, but what would happen to Barnett consequentials then?
We would then have a federal system, which would allow us to collect and retain our taxes, and England would be able to do that, too. That is much more elegant. I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees with the principle of taking responsibility for ourselves. We are happy to do that and I am pretty certain that my colleagues in England are more than equipped for the task of looking after their own country. There are some very talented people who could probably lead that devolved Parliament. It is up to them to secure and achieve it. We did the hard work: we built the consensus, had a referendum and instituted a Parliament. Why cannot they do that, too? What is wrong with making sure that they have their own Parliament? All these issues would then be solved. There would be no such thing as Barnett consequentials ever again. They can do their thing and we will do ours, and we could come together in a federal arrangement to discuss all the big, reserved issues.
“in reality, the estimates and supply procedures of the House validate prior decisions about policy, including those which have been given effect through primary legislation.”
That proves that spending in the next set of estimates will be consolidated, proving that there are downstream Barnett consequentials. It is totally and utterly absurd to try to suggest that there is no such thing.
If we are to open up procedures for estimates and supply, we must find a lot more time because all issues of Barnett consequentials are wrapped up in that. We must spend day after day looking at total departmental spend across all Departments, because what has happened thus far is not good enough anymore. The Liaison
Committee decides on two or three Departments whose spending will be rubber stamped. We will have to spend weeks, if not months, resolving that, and the Procedure Committee will have a big job when it comes to supply and estimates procedures.
We object to this measure on three principles: it is making us second class; it politicises the office of the Speaker; and because of the new provisions and the legislative guddle that will be created. This is probably the one issue that will drive the demand for Scottish independence. I have heard some hon. Members say that it will save the Union, but this is not saving the Union—what we are doing in the House is creating division. If the Government want a solution, they must do the work and create an English Parliament—that is the way to proceed with such matters. This measure, and the mess, the bourach, the dog’s breakfast of these proposals, will only help me and my hon. Friends, damage the Government’s cause, and divide the House. The Government should take the proposals away, think again, and come back with something that it is sensible for the House to consider.
I apologise for arriving late to the debate but I was attending the Trade Union Bill.
I sat on the Procedure Committee and have gone through this issue in great detail. English votes for English laws is a manifesto commitment that must be carried out, and I have argued consistently that the complete exclusion of Scottish MPs would be a disaster. The Leader of the House has listened to our views carefully, and Scottish MPs are not being completely excluded—there is a double veto.
This issue is fearfully complicated—our new Standing Orders take up 700 lines—and we need a careful piloting stage. It is a cliché to say that this is like the Schleswig-Holstein question—only three people understand it and one is mad and one is dead—but only two Clerks understand it, and neither is mad or dead. The Leader of the House of Commons says that it is okay because we can all vote on estimates, but I wrote a report for the Chancellor on that issue, and under our procedures, on estimates days the only thing Members cannot talk about is estimates. In that sense, this is a serious matter.
The most serious matter for me, my right hon. Friend and our colleagues to consider is that we love the Union beyond everything else. Nothing we do in this House should add to a sense of grievance in Scotland, and that most important consideration should be in the forefront of our minds.
I cannot. The point about Barnett consequentials that Pete Wishart mentioned is of supreme importance. It is essential that it cannot be argued in Scotland that Scottish MPs were prevented from taking part in all stages of a Bill that ostensibly affected England, when because of the Barnett formula that decision also affected spending in Scotland. The Leader of the House says that that will not happen, but we must have a careful piloting stage. We on the Government Benches love the Union above all else, and we cannot do anything that will add to a sense of grievance in Scotland. There would be a genuine sense of grievance if Scottish MPs were excluded from some stages of a Bill, when that Bill—through non-estimates procedure and debate—affected spending in their own country.
Finally, we must do nothing to politicise the office of Speaker, because this is different to the certification of money Bills. When we pilot this measure, we must ensure that the Speaker is not dragged into politics—that is one of the most important principles to abide by. The Leader of the House understands those points and is listening. We are fulfilling a manifesto commitment, and I wish him well in the parliamentary process.
Let me do something that nobody else who has anything on the Order Paper can do, which is read out my amendment. If we had to listen to all the amendments that are before the House, it would take longer than a speech by Pete Wishart. For those who want to vote rather than turn tail and go to the Tea Room, I will press my amendment to a vote at 4 pm. It states that
“this House concurs with the Lords Message of
That amendment is supported by seven different parties in the House, and until I heard some tribalism in the debate’s early exchanges, I had hoped that Members of good will throughout the House would have supported it. It is clear that there is no consensus. There are those for and against, and I accept that that is the way this place works. However, if we are to do something of a democratic nature—such as change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons or the way that votes are recorded—I hope that people will seek consensus because they are Members of Parliament, as well as members of the Government or the alterative Government.
That amendment first saw the light of day in July and was crafted in the House of Lords by that wild maverick, Sir Robin Butler, now Lord Butler of Brockwell. Together with a number of colleagues, including the former Scottish Secretary, the former Home Secretary, and many other distinguished people from the second Chamber, he was trying to create something that could unite people not merely across parties, but across Houses.
There are clearly problems and many people have raised difficulties—today’s Order Paper runs to 17 pages, plus seven pages of amendments. I hope that everyone will accept that there are difficulties, so let us find a mechanism to resolve those problems. Let us take our time. There is no need to rush at this; there is nothing pending or desperately urgent that will not be dealt with. The Government have a majority and can do what they wish in this place. I ask only that they not be tyrannical, and that they consult. By setting up a Joint Committee they could see the evidence being prepared in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and look carefully at the report that was published this week by the Procedure Committee.
They should listen to last night’s debate—I bet many Members have not had the chance in their busy day to consider what some eminent, respected people across the House of Lords said about this issue.
We should take time to look again at the McKay proposals produced by a distinguished, and totally impartial, Clerk of this House. The views of political parties, and others, could be fed in, so that we come up with something that everybody in the House can agree on, not because it is imposed, or because “We don’t like it because they’re doing it”, but because we respect work that has been done by a Joint Committee of eminent people across the House. I hope that those warning flags will be heeded and that the consequentials for our democracy and constitution will be taken seriously with the creation of a Joint Committee when we vote at 4 pm.
I will begin with a confession. Dr Whitford intervened on the Leader of the House to comment that her breakfast had been interrupted by a spokesperson on “Good Morning Scotland”. I confess that that was me, and I apologise for spoiling her porridge.
Let me return to an important point that the hon. Lady raised. Her criticism was that I had said that Scottish Members should not have been speaking and voting in the debate on assisted suicide. I was replying to a point put to me that the measure before us today is not required because the SNP do not participate in matters that pertain only to England, and I was pointing out that that is not the case. It was not to complain that she was contributing. I actually valued her contribution so much that she swayed the way I voted in that debate. It was a very valuable contribution.
The understanding is that this arrangement would not apply to a private Member’s Bill. So I find it rather bizarre for the hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to single out me and that debate in that way. We have done our best to be constructive, and to bring our professionalism and our life experience to the activities here. It was very upsetting to be singled out in that fashion.
Forgive me, but time is very limited and a lot of Members want to get in.
The point of the motion is not to exclude contributions, but that where a measure applies solely to England, Members from England should consent to the motion before them. Nothing in the motion excludes Members from Scotland from speaking on any Bill before this House.
Several hon. Members rose—
On Scottish television on Sunday, the hon. Gentleman conducted a discussion in which it was suggested that Scottish Members should be excluded from votes on Heathrow airport, which has £5 billion of public spending. Is that the case, or is it not?
It is not the case. The right hon. Gentleman did not listen to what I said. SNP Members are trying to set up a grievance that does not exist. No Bill will be able to pass this House without the consent of all Members of Parliament who take part in the Division. The proposal is to insert a consent stage into matters that apply only to England. It is the same principle that applied to the arguments that were made to set up the Scottish Parliament in the first place. The argument was made in the 1980s and 1990s that it was wrong for this House to legislate on matters solely affecting Scotland when Scottish Members of Parliament opposed it. That was one of the rationales for setting up the Holyrood Parliament. If it was right for that, then it is right for this House as well.
I am not going to give way again. I have very limited time.
I look forward to contributions from Scotland on all matters, but I want to have, for my constituents, the important principle of consent: that their Members of Parliament approve matters that apply only to them. This is an issue that has been running around for decades, and it is an issue on which there is strong public support on both sides of the border. I refer the House to two opinion polls this year. In an Ipsos MORI poll in July, 59% of people across the United Kingdom approved of the principle of English votes. In Scotland, in a ComRes survey in May, 53% approved.
Forgive me. I enjoyed a good debate with the hon. Lady earlier, but I must press on.
This is a matter that has support across the country. There are only three perfect answers to the West Lothian question, but none of the options are available or desirable. We could have independence. Scottish National party Members want that, but it was rejected. We could do away with devolution altogether. That is not on the table; indeed, we are enshrining the permanence of the Scottish Parliament. The third option is to have some form of federal United Kingdom. The problem with that is if the federation is the four constituent nations, England would be far too big and dominant, and the balance would be upset. In addition, there is no demand in England for having England split up into federal blocks, so that option is not on the table.
What we have before us is a perfectly reasonable and sensible proposal that adds the same principle of consent to matters that apply only to England, which Scotland enjoys for matters that apply north of the border. It is a reasonable measure and it has support. People in my constituency want to see it and it is high time, four decades after Tam Dalyell posed it, that we answer the West Lothian question. Doing nothing has a bigger cost.
I fear that if we do not address this issue now, it will fester away and erode the bonds that hold the United Kingdom together. That is why I support the measure, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for bringing this matter before us today.
I thank the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, on which I was privileged to serve, for preparing the report.
I want to make two points. I think the Leader of the House has heard enough from me, and I am grateful to him for his patience in listening to me. First, I intervened on him to ask why MPs from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would be excluded from the English Grand Committee set up under these proposals, but there would be no exclusion for English MPs from the Welsh Grand Committee, the Scottish Grand Committee and the Northern Ireland Grand Committee. He gave me no answer. The reason for that is that MPs in this House are being treated differently, a point made with superb eloquence by my right hon. Friend Sir Gerald Kaufman.
If the Leader of the House really believes in the Union, and if he really believes in the equality of Members of Parliament in this place—I do passionately, which is why I feel strongly about this, and I hope he will forgive me for my short-temperedness at some stages in this process—then will he please see that he is giving an enormous gift to those who wish to split up the United Kingdom? I believe passionately in devolution. It is right and proper that we decentralise more within England and devolve to Wales and Scotland, but this is not the way to do it. It has been a fractious, bad-tempered and foul debate today, one that I have not enjoyed listening to, and this is just the start of the process. But the process does not address the needs of my constituents.
My second point is that I represent the constituency of Wrexham in north-east Wales, which is on the border. In my constituency—I will give one example, but I could provide the House with more—NHS services are designed to be supplied from hospitals in England, for example in Gobowen, Liverpool, Manchester and Chester. On the boards of those foundation hospitals are people who represent and are elected from the population of north Wales. The proposals will give me a second-class say on the future of those hospitals.
There is a secondary issue with health. The UK always sets its health budgets for the needs of England. If Wales has a greater need, there will be no extra money sent to Wales, with consequentials going elsewhere. They are always set for England. We therefore must have a voice on this issue.
I will leave the Barnett consequential argument to others because time is very limited, but clearly it was one that was heard very often in the Procedure Committee.
My constituents, who get their services from specialist hospitals in England, need to have representation through me, speaking on their behalf, in connection with those hospitals. If the proposals go through and the England Grand Committee excludes me from speaking on their behalf, my constituents will not have a voice in this
Parliament. To my knowledge, this process is unprecedented. The Leader of the House knows I will not have the opportunity to move amendments in that Committee in connection with the future of, for example, those hospitals. That is the situation. I have spoken to my constituents and they believe very strongly that that is wrong.
My hon. Friend has studied this very closely. Can he answer the point I was trying to make earlier? How can it possibly be envisaged that this will not interfere with the Prime Minister’s ability to make a Crown appointment of a Minister, when any Minister from a Welsh constituency, for example, who is appointed a Minister to a Department would be unable to participate in the Committee stage of a Bill he was promoting in Parliament? Is that not a nonsense?
It is a nonsense, and it is unprecedented. It will mean that an individual from outside England cannot be a Minister and move amendments in Committee on what is defined as an England-only Bill. If that is not creating two different classes of Member, I do not know what is.
This is the third version of amended Standing Orders—it came out last week after the Procedure Committee reported—and it is extremely complex. I have tabled two amendments to illustrate my two points, although I have not read them out because they would have taken up my entire four-minute allocation of time. None the less, the Standing Orders are horrifically complex and dangerous, and they go to the heart of the Union.
I only have 58 seconds left, so I cannot, I am afraid.
These changes, which go to the heart of the Union, will probably go through today with the support of Conservative MPs from England, but I think they will rue this day, because they are giving an enormous gift to Welsh and Scottish nationalists. This will foster their grievances and build resentment. It is ill judged and wrong, and I will oppose it till my dying day. If the party opposite really is the Conservative and Unionist party, it should not support this dreadful set of Standing Orders.
When I first stood for Parliament in 2001, one of my personal pledges was English votes for English laws. When I stood for Parliament in 2005, one of my personal pledges was English votes for English laws. It was in our manifesto this time, and I stood again on that platform, so I am delighted that after detailed consultation we now have these proposals. I will gladly vote for them tonight, at 4 o’clock, quarter past 4, half past 4, quarter to 5 and, if need be, at 5 o’clock. This has gone on for too long. [Hon. Members: “What about 6 o’clock?”] No, SNP Members need to be on their planes back home.
It is important that the rest of Parliament understands the grievance that my voters feel. My postbag on this issue is phenomenal. When I knock on doors, people say all the time that it is outrageous that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs vote on matters that only affect England.
Several hon. Members rose—
No, I will not give way, because I want other people to speak.
It has been incredible to hear all this sanctimony, piousness and egregious anger, and it is not on any more. It is about time Parliament listened to the voters who put us here and who voted for our manifesto, and I am delighted that these detailed proposals, after full consultation, are going to go through. It will be a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend into the Aye Lobby tonight.
I thank the Leader of the House for consulting me and my colleagues. I doubt neither his sincerity nor his Unionism. That said, while he might mean well, his proposals neither deal with the problem they diagnose—even the supporters of these changes to Standing Orders will accept that—nor do much to prevent the growth of other and worse defects in our constitution. I commend, but will not go into the details of, the Procedure Committee’s excellent report. I think there is much in it that the Government could sensibly pay heed to.
I want to set out my party’s principled objections to EVEL as it is currently configured. We do not think for one moment that English voters and votes on English matters should be treated unfairly. English voters have the right to be treated fairly. Our profound fear is not what this does to or for England, which in truth is very little, but what it potentially does to the fabric of our Union. This point has been raised by several colleagues. Quite frankly, our Union does not need any more rending.
The unanswered questions, even only partially listed, are depressing in their extent and significance. Why has it been done by Standing Orders? If this is such an important matter, it surely needs more time and scrutiny. If England needs justice, surely she needs justice secured. How is that done by “here today potentially gone tomorrow” Standing Orders? It is all very well to talk of pilot schemes and reviews, but why is there nothing like a sunset clause, which we discussed, built into the proposals? We are told that this is a critical democratic need for England, yet at the same time something of no great constitutional significance, because it will, we are assured, be used a mere handful of times a year.
Where is the crisis that requires this? The Government have a majority and can pass every law they have support for. What credible piece of business can be imagined that the Government would not bring into law with a UK majority under the traditions and practices that have served this House and all its Members equally for centuries? Let us cut to the chase. If England needs and deserves an English Parliament, let us have an English Parliament. Let us stop twisting the Union Parliament into what it is not. This kind of ad hoc, half-hearted approach does not work in the long run.
I could go into detail about how the Speaker’s Office will be bogged down in procedural nightmares of certification, about the dangers of judicial review of
Parliament’s proceedings in relation to certification and all of that, but I do not have time. Others have alluded to the problems posed by these changes to Standing Orders.
On the question of judicial review, I think the Leader of the House failed to respond adequately to the valid point made by my hon. Friend Lady Hermon. As currently drafted, the Grand Committee on England, Wales and Northern Ireland will include all Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies. It does not clarify whether those are Members who have taken the oath. I can see that being a recipe for Sinn Féin launching a legal challenge.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that point. It raises another issue that we have raised several times about there being two classes of Northern Ireland MP: those who get their expenses for not doing their work and those who get their expenses for doing their work. There is little parliamentary scrutiny of Sinn Féin MPs and their expenses.
I could go into the implications of EVEL for the block grants and the Barnett formula, which have rightly been explored, but I want to conclude on the principle. There is no suggestion that on matters where Parliament legislates solely for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, only Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members should respectively have the territorial veto now to be accorded to English Members. So where is the point of principle? Where is the justice? If it be right, as Conservative Members are saying, that there be a veto in relation to English-only matters, surely, if Northern Ireland-only matters come before the House that are not in the remit of Stormont, only Northern Ireland Members should be allowed to vote on them. If it is a matter of principle, justice and democracy, exactly the same principle should apply to Northern Ireland Members in the same circumstances, but there is no suggestion that it will be afforded to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs. We are not being offered that.
In conclusion, there are problems with both Parliament and the balance of our Union; there are problems in the devolved Assemblies that I accept need to be addressed; and there are needs in England that deserve to be met, but these proposals do not deal with any of them.
It is always a pleasure to follow Mr Dodds, who speaks with great experience.
One of the challenges of this debate is to understand where we are coming from and our different constituencies. Some of those who come from other parts of the UK fail to understand the strength of feeling on the doorsteps of England.
If that is the case, surely the hon. Gentleman’s constituents deserve something better. What is being offered to his constituents today is something that could be turned back again by a future Government if they felt the need.
I accept the argument. To a certain extent, my constituents would like to see something more robust and firmer put in place for the long term, but we are where we are. We need to resolve this matter. We have been kicking this can of the West Lothian question down the road since 1997, and we need to sort it out so that we can find a way of sorting out devolved matters.
May I politely suggest what the best way of dealing with this is? We understand that people in England want a say on their own matters, but the correct way to achieve that is to have an English Parliament in which their views can be represented. What should not be happening is the creation of a situation in this place whereby we SNP Members will be second-class MPs.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I can tell him that whenever I have been campaigning in my constituency, no constituent has ever said to me that the answer is more politicians. We need to find a way of using this House—[Interruption.] We are going to reduce the number of politicians here to 600, and I hope that Opposition Members will support us when that legislation comes forward. We need to find a way of using this House to resolve issues that apply only to England.
People in my constituency recognise the fact that in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales there is devolution, whereby powers have passed from this House down the structure, so that people in those areas can make their own decisions. My constituents understand quite simply that I do not get a say on matters relating to health in Wales, and I do not get a say on matters relating to education in Scotland. Those issues are decided through the devolved Administrations. My constituents understand that the position is fundamentally unfair. We now need to ensure that we talk about and resolve in this House issues that apply only to England. It is a question of fairness and balance.
I think we are getting to the point, frankly, where things are getting a bit silly. Clearly, issues about Crossrail will be discussed. The Government make big decisions on Crossrail and other infrastructure projects, and it is ridiculous to suggest that we should exclude any person who is not affected. The same argument could be applied to HS2—that unless HS2 goes through an MP’s constituency, they should not get a say on it.
A number of big issues such as health and education have been devolved, and my constituents fully understand that I, as the Member of Parliament for Sherwood, do not get a say in the devolved Administrations on those issues. That is fine; I am all for devolution. I think it is a really good idea to devolve those powers lower down the structure, but there has to be balance and fairness to the whole process.
Let me deal with the Speaker’s role in the process, as a number of Members have alleged that this means the politicisation of the Speaker’s role. We should recognise that the Speaker is already in a position where such decisions have to be made. He has to decide, for example, which amendment is going to be selected and which is not—and these amendments are often highly politicised. This week has provided a good example in that we have had three urgent questions on the steel industry. The Speaker had to decide whether to accept those urgent questions, notwithstanding the fact that they came with a political slant to score political points. We are blessed with a Speaker’s Office that can make those decisions impartially. We may sometimes disagree with a decision, but it is made impartially and the Speaker’s Office has proved that it is perfectly possible to make those decisions without getting drawn into party political issues.
I am conscious of the time, so let me conclude by saying that it is clear on the doorsteps of Sherwood that this is about balance, fairness and giving English MPs an ability to manage English matters once and for all within England.
I am finding this debate quite depressing. During my time in the House of Commons, when I have walked into this Chamber, I have done so and been able to speak on behalf of my constituents on issues that they have raised with me—irrespective of my majority, irrespective of how long I have served here, irrespective of my service to this House and irrespective of whether I am a Privy Councillor. I have been able to speak as an equal Member of this House. Tonight, however, that circumstance will change—[Interruption.] It will.
I served as an equal Member of this House during the time that John Redwood was Secretary of State for Wales even though he did not represent a constituency in Wales. I have served as an equal Member when I was a Northern Ireland Minister, dealing with Northern Ireland matters, even though I was not a Member representing a constituency in Northern Ireland. From tonight, however, there will be a very subtle difference, because as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency in north-east Wales, I will not be able to table amendments or vote on them in Committee.
Why does that matter? It matters because my constituents use services in England and pay general taxation for services in England. Before any Members shout “Oh, yes”, let me point out to them that my constituents use health services in England because the local general hospital is the nearest general hospital that was designed to serve Chester and north-east Wales; they use services in Liverpool; they use specialist services in Manchester; and they use specialist health services in Gobowen in Shropshire. Indeed, some 66,000 people from my area used the Countess of Chester hospital last year because it was the hospital they were meant to use under legislation passed by this House.
In fact, the reality is that the Labour Welsh Government have pulled the plug on a lot of health funding in Wales, and the maternity unit at Glan Clwyd is under threat. That is why 66,000 of the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents are going over the border into England.
The hon. Lady does not know the area of north-east Wales. In fact, she lost an election in north-east Wales in the constituency I now represent. She does not understand the nature of the business in north-east Wales. I have—[Interruption.]
I hate to say it to the hon. Lady, but this is actually the House of Commons.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The point I am making is that my constituents depend on services that are based in England and they pay taxes to the Exchequer that also funds services in Belfast. The key issue is that I, as the MP representing my constituents, should have the right to walk through that door and speak on equal terms with Scottish Members, English Members, Welsh Members and indeed Northern Ireland Members.
Under the proposals before us, the Speaker will be required to certify a Bill. He will do so in a way that will make it impossible for me to speak in Committee because the Bill could be
“within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales”.
Health is a Welsh Assembly competence, but my constituents use and depend on English health services, one third of my constituents were born in England and hospital maternity services are there for them. Am I to have that role no longer in this House? Am I supposed to be a second-class citizen? As I suggested in my intervention, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who has fought four elections in or near my constituency, lost every one and now sits in the other place, will have the same right as every Member—apart from myself and Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs—to speak on those matters. Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who has lost five elections in our area will have the same right to speak as other Members, but not me. I have been sent here six times by my constituents, and not once have I been asked to differentiate between the equality of Members of Parliament in this House.
I represent an English seat, and, like my right hon. Friend, I can tell the House that none of my constituents has ever raised this issue with me on the doorstep, or said that they wanted any change. My right hon. Friend and other Members have drawn attention to the wide-ranging and significant constitutional implications of this measure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is an utter disgrace that it is being considered here for only three and a half hours, with no pre-legislative scrutiny and no constitutional consideration?
The level of scrutiny is an extremely important issue, but this is a major constitutional change. I despair that the Conservative and Unionist party has presented this measure. I will never, ever admit to being to being a Conservative, but I will admit to being a Unionist. That may upset some of my hon. Friends who are sharing our debate today, but the key point is that I am part of a United Kingdom Parliament.
An issue relating to how England runs its services may well arise. It could involve regional government, it could involve an English Parliament, and it could involve other measures. However, this Parliament comes to this House with its Members having an equal vote and an equal say, based on their constituents’ needs. Today, at five o’clock, that system will be overturned—not with a referendum, as happened in Wales; not with a referendum, as happened in Scotland; not with a referendum and a hard-fought political war, as happened in Northern Ireland; and not with the consent of my constituents. That will happen because the Conservative party—the Conservative and Unionist party—has presented this proposal today.
I make the point flippantly, but Andrew Bonar Law was MP for Glasgow Central, Asquith was MP for North East Fife, Campbell-Bannerman was MP for Stirling Burghs, Gordon Brown was MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and James Callaghan was MP for Cardiff South East. How does the Conservative party expect colleagues in Scotland—constituents of the SNP Members who are sitting on the neighbouring Benches—or constituents in Northern Ireland, or my constituents in Wales, to be able to say in the future, “One of our children, or grandchildren, could be Prime Minister of this United Kingdom, while representing a seat in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland”, when the Bills before the House will not provide for the ability of such a Member of Parliament to vote on issues to do with that in Committee—or perhaps in Cabinet Committee—or to enjoy the confidence of the House as a whole?
This is a divisive measure. It differentiates between Members of Parliament, and it differentiates between parts of the United Kingdom. It does not allow us to speak when we want to, on behalf of the people who have sent us here. It is appalling. I shall vote today in support of my hon. Friend Mr Allen to try to get some sense into this, but I shall continue to oppose the measure, because ultimately it will divide this United Kingdom. It will be the first step down a road to disunity, and I will not support it in this House.
I speak for England. For some 18 years English MPs in this United Kingdom Parliament have proposed, encouraged, or come to accept with good grace major transfers of power to Scotland, substantial transfers of power to Wales, and the transfer of other powers to Northern Ireland. Now it is England’s turn.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he speaks for England. We all recall that, in a former existence, he once tried to sing for Wales.
In those glorious days of great singing, we had a unitary country, which meant that anyone could do anything from this great House of Commons in the Government across the whole United Kingdom. We have this problem today because, in our collective wisdoms, we are transferring massive powers to devolved Governments and to all parts of the United Kingdom, but not to England. Now it is England’s turn to have a voice, and England’s turn to have some votes.
I welcome today’s proposals, but I must tell my hon. Friends that they do only half the job. What England is being offered today is the opportunity to have a voice and a vote to stop the rest of the United Kingdom imposing things on England which England does not wish to have and has not voted for. That is very welcome, but we still do not have what the Scots have. We do not have the power to propose something for our country which we wish to have and which may well be backed by a large majority of English voters and by English Members of Parliament, because it could still be voted down by the United Kingdom Parliament. So this is but half the job for England. Nevertheless, I welcome half the job, and I will of course warmly support it.
We are given but two pathetic arguments against the proposal by the massive and angry forces that we see ranged against it today. First, we are told that it will not be possible to define an England issue. Those Members never once thought there was a problem with defining a Scottish issue, and, as we know, issue after issue is defined as a Scottish issue and passes through the Scottish Parliament with very few conflicts and problems.
In your wisdom, Mr Speaker, you will be well guided in this respect, because every piece of legislation that is presented to us will state very clearly whether it applies to the whole of the United Kingdom or just to some parts of the United Kingdom. The decisions on who can vote on the matter under the double-vote system will therefore become very clear, because they will be on the face of the law. How can this House produce a law that does not state whether it is England-only or United Kingdom-wide? The law must make that statement, so it will not be any great problem for the Chair to sort that out.
Then there is the ridiculous argument that this measure will create two different types of MP. The problem, which some of us identified in the late 1990s when devolution was first proposed and implemented, was that it created four different types of MP, and we are living with the results of that today. English MPs have always been at the bottom of the heap. I have to accept that Scottish MPs come here and vote on English health and English schools in my constituency, but I have no right to debate, or vote on, health and education in Scotland. That problem needs to be addressed, and we are suggesting a very mild and moderate way of starting to address it. I hope that the House will give England a hearing.
I find it extraordinary that so few English Labour MPs are present today, and that not one of them is standing up and speaking for England, saying “Let us make some small progress in redressing the balance.”
Several hon. Members rose—
I do not have time to give way, and others wish to speak.
Today is the chance to start to put right some of that injustice to England. Today is the chance to start to rebalance our precious United Kingdom. Today is the chance to deal with lopsided devolution, and to give England something sensible to do. In the week of Trafalgar day, let me end by saying, “England expects every England MP to do his or her duty.”
I do not think that John Redwood should say anything about the number of Members who are present, given that at one point when we last debated EVEL there were only four Conservatives in the entire Chamber.
Both the Leader of the House and Iain Stewart have mentioned polling in relation to EVEL: that is, the polling of Scottish people. According to the result of the most recent polling that I have been able to find—obviously I did not select the polls that were selected by those hon. Members—54% of Scots support the holding of another referendum in the event of EVEL’s implementation. Strangely, the Conservative Members and the BBC selected the same polling when they were discussing the issue.
It has been said that devolution for England is good. It has also been said, from the Government Front Bench, that no one is going to tell the Speaker how to certify. You, Mr Speaker, are going to have to become an expert very, very quickly on quite a number of matters on which you are not currently an expert.
The shadow Leader of the House described this as a fundamental change in the constitution of our islands. As far as I can tell, it is the biggest change that will ever have been made by Standing Orders. It is a massive constitutional change. The Parliament Act 1911 is probably the biggest change that I can find in the Speaker’s role in terms of certification; that change was made by an Act of Parliament, and it was generally agreed that it was massive. However, the Speaker’s certification role in relation to money Bills is much more minor than the certification process that will take place in this context, and much less time-consuming as well.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. John Redwood was entirely wrong to suggest there was an analogous process in Scotland’s devolution. The devolution legislation on which the Scottish Parliament is established does not certify things as devolved. It has reserved issues and everything else is devolved. There is no role whatever for certification by the Speaker.
Not right now.
I want to talk about the only good thing that has come out of the English votes for English laws process: the fact that the estimates process has been highlighted. It has been brought to the front and centre, and I understand that the Procedure Committee is going to be looking at how the estimates process works. That is fantastic; I am looking forward to hearing Treasury representatives appearing before various Committees in this House and explaining how it will make the estimates process more transparent and allow people to be involved in setting the budget, rather than keeping it hidden in the background. That will be excellent for the democracy of this House, and is the only good thing to come out of this.
There is a complete lack of understanding on the Government Benches about the devolution settlement and process for Scotland and how it works. As my right hon. Friend Alex Salmond said, there are powers that are reserved and the rest of the powers are decided by the Scottish Parliament. That is quite different from what is being decided here now.
The other thing that is not understood—or is being wilfully misunderstood, perhaps—by those on the Government Benches is the way funding works in the UK. This place decides how much money goes to Scotland.
The Leader of the House said earlier today that he regarded this measure as a kind of trail. We have also heard from a senior member of the Scottish Office team—no matter how gamely he tries to reinterpret that position—that he would see Barnett consequential items such as spending on Heathrow included in decisions for English-only votes. Does my hon. Friend agree that this is the thin end of the wedge and that this is a subjective measure that will lead to further problems?
I absolutely agree. This is more evidence that the Conservative party is misunderstanding the way the funding settlement works. We cannot describe this as devolution for England. What will happen is that the English MPs will have discussions in Committee and will have a veto over things that have an effect on the Scottish finances. That is how this devolution works. If the Conservatives decide to restructure the way the finances in this place work—rather than just going to a full English Parliament, which we would support—and have English MPs take decisions on things that do not have a financial impact on Scotland, I am absolutely on board with that. I think that is a fantastic idea. In fact I would like to see a full federal system or independence for Scotland.
I do not understand what the Leader of the House is trying to do with this measure. It was put into the Conservatives’ manifesto, they won the election and now they do not know how to proceed. They are stuck with the proposal because it was in the manifesto and they have to support it. The Leader of the House has stood before various Committees of this House and before this House today and tried to say to the Scottish MPs, “This is a minor thing; this is a really small thing”, but he is trying to say to his own Back-Bench MPs, “This is a really big thing; this is going to solve all our problems.” That does not make sense; the two things cannot be joined together. It is either one thing or the other.
I urge the House not to take this step at all, but in the event that it does, Standing Orders are not the way to go. If the Government are going to take such a step, they need a proper process.
Back in 1997 I sought to tackle the West Lothian question by tabling an amendment to the Scotland Bill, the effect of which was to amend our Standing Orders so as to ensure fairness for the English voters and taxpayers where exclusively English matters were to arise. It was clear that none of the party leaders at the time were prepared to countenance that, but I am afraid that it has caught up with us now.
There have been real consequences to the devolution process. Although I will not say that there is not a case for the Barnett formula, we do make a substantial amount of money available to Scotland—this is not a subject Pete Wishart, for example, has touched on today—and I can understand why, in the interests of the Union. That is a perfectly reasonable position, but I think it can be pushed too far, and I will say this: this is not about two classes of MPs; it is about two classes of function, which were created, as Alex Salmond more or less alluded to, because under the devolution settlement it was agreed that there would be reserved matters and classes of functions that would be transferred to Scotland. I cannot imagine that Scottish Members either in this House or the Scottish Parliament would countenance the idea of English MPs claiming to vote on matters that have been devolved to Scotland.
Does the hon. Gentleman understand that no decision of the Scottish Parliament can impact on the funding for English constituencies? Following his line of argument, will he say that the Heathrow airport issue, which would affect the funding for Scotland, cannot possibly be part of this process?
I appreciate the point the right hon. Member makes. I am not saying that I am against the Barnett formula. I think there is an issue with Barnett consequentials, but the bottom line is this: we are now dealing with a constitutional question. It is constantly claimed that this is about two classes of MPs, but I am simply dismissing that because it is complete rubbish. There are not two classes of MPs. The right of people to vote in the Scottish Parliament or the UK Parliament derives from the functions conferred upon them by agreement of the whole House of Commons when the Scotland Bill was put through in 1997.
Given that we agree that this is a constitutional problem, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it needs a constitutional solution? That constitutional solution is along the corridor; there is an English Parliament chamber just waiting to be occupied by politicians democratically elected to represent the people of England. What is it that is so defective about the people of England that they cannot have a Parliament in the same way as the people of the other nations represented in this Chamber?
I understand that, and there are very powerful forces for a move towards an English Parliament, because those on the Opposition Benches believe that is the way they will get their independence, but this is not about independence.
I say to the Leader of the House—or his deputy as he is not here at the moment—that these proposals are too complicated and far too long. I am extremely grateful to the Procedure Committee for its valuable work and for the manner in which it has managed these matters. I am also grateful to the Leader of the House, who has been amenable to its proposal for a pilot study. These proposals are a compromise, however; they are not perfect. They are far too complicated. You know only too well, Mr Speaker, that they involve 30 pages of unbelievably obscure changes, which will be a nightmare to interpret and to apply.
The Speaker’s certificate is an answer. I put forward a proposal, which was agreed to by a former Clerk of the House and others of similar distinction, to deal with this problem in—believe it or not—seven lines of changes to Standing Orders. I am completely committed to the idea of these changes being done through Standing Orders. A lot of constitutional nonsense is being talked about doing this through an Act of Parliament. That would invite a judicial review, whereas this method would avoid one, which is absolutely essential. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights will prevail, whatever some Scottish ex-Law Lord might have said. The bottom line is that the courts will not want to interfere in these matters, and I do not believe that they will. If they did, it would raise a whole raft of matters relating to the Human Rights Act, which we are going to deal with anyway.
This is a manifesto commitment and I therefore completely understand why we have been presented with these proposals. A number of measures were put through during the previous Administration, but they were too complicated and the amendments that have been made to them are very minor. I also believe that 30 pages of Standing Orders are beyond the wit of man, and they will do nothing but create complications. I will vote for the proposals today simply because this is a manifesto commitment, but if they could be simplified, that would be the right way to go. Seven lines of changes to Standing Orders would be one way of dealing with that. I put that proposal to the Prime Minister at the Chequers meeting, but a decision was made subsequently to go down this route. I am not against the principle but we need to find a much simpler way of dealing with these matters.
This is one of those days when I find myself broadly disagreeing with everyone else in the House. Sir Edward Leigh and my hon. Friend Mr Allen have summed up the issue in the most accurate way. I am sympathetic to the case put forward by the Leader of the House and other Conservative Members. The status quo is not a tenable settlement and it needs to be discussed and probably to change. I acknowledge that Labour has struggled with this issue. There is no doubt that the question of English votes for English laws poses a substantial problem for Labour MPs in England, such as myself. Once we have shattered the common interest between Scotland or Wales and the northern cities and London, it is hard to see how a non-Conservative Government could be elected here, based on the numbers in this House, yet it is reasonable to say that there are millions of people in this country who have a legitimate aspiration for a non-Conservative Government at some point or other.
Increasingly, we are creating another political problem by denying that this problem exists and by failing to respond to it. There is no doubt that the status quo is a source of resentment, and some movement on the issue is essential, but I cannot agree with how the Government are dealing with it.
Would my hon. Friend acknowledge that the resentment is growing partly because of the suspicion among people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that these measures represent further gerrymandering by a political party that they do not support in order to ensure that the spending that comes in our direction is not distributed equally? That resentment is growing.
My hon. Friend makes a reasonable point, and it is one that Conservative Members need to hear. Having listened to the speeches so far, I wonder how many Conservative MPs spent a substantial amount of time in Scotland during the referendum campaign. They seem to have a cavalier attitude to these issues.
We are in a constitutional mess at the moment—there is no doubt about that—but the worst thing we could do would be to make that mess even worse by adopting ill-thought-through proposals that have not been properly considered and that would probably create an even bigger problem. There are many complicated issues that need to be considered. First, the proposals lack clarity. They are not easy to understand, and I can envisage a situation in which, even after a vote, we will not really know what has happened until we get the figures through.
Furthermore, the proposals will create two tiers of MPs, and it is pointless to pretend otherwise. We also need to consider the situations in Wales and in Scotland. I wonder how many Conservative MPs really appreciate just how slender a thread the Union is hanging by. We must also consider the role of the Lords and the question of English devolution to areas such as mine in Greater Manchester. Then there is the question of an English Parliament. Should this place be the English Parliament on some days but not on others? There is also the question of a possible federation in the UK.
Most of all, we need to consider the voting system for this place. The Labour party has got itself into a difficult position on that. We look at the electoral geography and we wonder how we can achieve an equitable solution that would give us the chance of a Labour Government now and again. The situation will get even worse if the newly gerrymandered constituencies are brought into being.
A change of this sort must be achieved through consensus and by convention. That is how we have done everything under our unwritten constitution in the past. I am afraid that to go down this route with such an obvious partisan advantage for one party, when only that party supports the change, is reckless and cavalier.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent case and pointing out all the complications. Does he not agree that using this device of Standing Orders, which means that the other place has no possibility of discussing and voting on it, and giving us only an afternoon’s debate is an utter disgrace? Does he not think that it amounts to a coup?
I think that it is a disgrace, and I think that any fair-minded Conservative MP would say that.
Let me pose this question: by what measure can the new Standing Orders be revoked? We can clearly say that this House would have no authority to revoke the Scottish Parliament unless we followed a similar procedure to the one by which it was created. A referendum created the Scottish Parliament. I believe that we would at the very least need to have a referendum to decide whether it should cease to exist.
What is the process by which these Standing Orders could be changed? For instance, could a simple majority of the whole House, including Scottish and Welsh MPs, revoke the Standing Orders to get a result? Conservative MPs are nodding their heads. Could they not see that such an event might inadvertently trigger a constitutional crisis the like of which we have not seen for 100 years? These things have to be thought through, and there must be support and consensus for them. Such a process can be hard and slow, but look how long it took to get the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. That is the kind of process that needs to be followed.
Frankly, what we are doing today, with a debate of only three and a half hours, is not good enough. As someone who is genuinely and honestly sympathetic to the cause of needing to look again at how we do these things in the House and, frankly, who is fairly convinced by the core argument behind it, I cannot in any way vote for the motion. It is imperative for Conservative MPs to understand that they are risking the integrity of this country. Quite frankly, I am astonished at the recklessness they are showing today.
Today’s debate is not about devolving power to England or about reclassifying some MPs; it is about restoring the balance to give England a strong voice again on English matters, and in turn, to strengthen the Union. For too long, we have suffered from a halfway attempt at devolution. We must rectify that, especially as we are honouring the promises we made to deliver the Smith commission report and to devolve greater powers down to all parts of the United Kingdom.
I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker. Obviously, the process being followed this afternoon is highly controversial. Sir William Cash referred to something called “the Chequers meeting”. Most Opposition Members do not know what that was or whether it was a formal part of the process. I seek your guidance on how we might find out what the Chequers process was?
The answer is by persistent questioning of those who might be in the know, among whose number the Chair is not included.
If we do not amend our system to provide for English votes for English laws, voters in Scotland will continue to vote for their own parliamentarians to make devolved laws, but those parliamentarians would perhaps have the casting vote and therefore the final say on matters that only affect constituents in England.
I will not give way. I do not have the time.
No change would mean that we continue to have two tiers of voters in the UK, with some having double sets of representation. Is that democratic or fair? I must acknowledge that with the majority Conservative Government we now have, there is less danger of English matters being voted down by Scottish or Welsh MPs. However, had the election produced a different result, we would face a totally different proposition. Is that right or democratic?
We must remember that resolving the issue of English votes for English laws is overdue. We must not get bogged down in the arguments against these procedural changes. The proposed changes are a just, fair, cost-effective and, above all, democratic way of resolving the issue. The changes seek to restore the voice of the English people. I am a strong believer in localism and in devolving powers, but I am not in favour of cherry-picking certain countries or areas at the expense of others. Voting for these changes will not only show the people of the United Kingdom that we have one voice in one country and that we will not allow the voice of one area to be drowned out, but reaffirm our commitment to a democratic UK, and strengthen and in turn protect the Union by forging a more equal footing on which to move forward.
I am afraid we do not have time because a lot of people want to speak.
The changes will go some way towards restoring faith in our system. They will still allow Members from all areas of the UK to debate all legislation, but will ensure that matters affecting only England have the consent of English MPs. They will relieve the bad feeling among our voters. That was echoed to me at door after door during the general election campaign in the Chippenham constituency.
Let us be clear: this change will not create two tiers of MPs. It was the Labour Government’s half-botched attempt at devolution that created two tiers of MPs. Now is the time to put that right. This is a landmark change because it is so overdue. It has been 38 years since the former Member for West Lothian asked how long English residents and MPs would tolerate a settlement that left out England. Thirty-eight years later, we can answer that question with confidence and pride. This Government will ensure that the wait comes to an end.
I must stress that I support the extension of powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I also support further devolution to regions such as the south-west and Wiltshire—the engine room that drove our country long before any northern powerhouse was ever mentioned. Devolving powers to local areas is the right thing—
Order. I think that the hon. Lady has finished her remarks. That was a rather rude interruption. Please finish the sentence.
It is surely also right to ensure that we give a fair deal to the English, including my constituents. As Chesterton famously wrote:
“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.”
Now is the time that the English speak.
Despite all the bluster we have heard about English votes for English laws being the No. 1 issue on the doorstep, this is a fudge of a solution to a problem that does not exist. [Interruption.] It is true and I will tell Government Members why. Since 2001, only 0.6% of votes have been affected by Scottish MPs. They can tell their constituents that there are only 59 Scottish MPs out of 650 MPs in this House, so clearly we cannot impose our will on the House. It is the other way about and we have had to put up with it for years. It has been estimated that under the last Government, there were only two England-only Bills that would have fallen under EVEL.
The issue cannot be that important because in the last couple of debates, most Government Members did not even bother to turn out. Sadly, the same is true today on the Labour Benches. The No. 1 story that we have heard over the years has been about the introduction of student fees. If that was such an issue to all youse guys, you could have abolished student fees in the last Parliament. Instead, you voted to increase them. If the Government introduce a Bill to abolish student fees, believe me, we will back them.
On the issue of what SNP Members will or will not back the Government on, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of their self-denying ordinance, as they call it, not to vote on England-only issues. The First Minister of Scotland restated that in 2008, using the example of fox hunting. Of course, that self-denying ordinance was broken in revenge, torpedoing all their arguments.
It is good to see that the welfare of foxes is such a big issue that the Government want to stop SNP MPs voting on it. As a matter of fact, we did not vote on it—we just said that we might do and that was enough to have them running scared. The First Minister has said that we will vote for progressive policies in this House and that we will vote with other parties for those policies.
This is a mess of a proposal and I will outline why. It introduces further processes, delays and costs into the democratic process, when we are meant to be cutting costs. Earlier today, I mentioned that 44 new Lords have taken up their position in the other place since my election, and that is where we should be trying to cut costs.
This proposal does not take account of the Barnett consequentials. Despite what the Leader of the House said earlier today, he does not understand how policy links to finance. He says the two are different, but I can guarantee that if a policy decision is made in this House and the actual budget does not align with it, he will be back here trying to change the Standing Orders again, saying, “That’s not fair.”
As we have heard, using Standing Orders to make such a significant change is pretty undemocratic—this should be done through normal due process. We all know, as this has been said, that the approach being taken compromises the Speaker’s position. The Speaker will be asked to make decisions but has no obligation to explain them, and that lacks transparency. Despite Labour sending second-class MPs down here from Scotland for many years, this measure will make us second-class MPs and we do not want to be viewed as that.
This is supposed to be about addressing a democratic deficit, but the real democratic deficit is the fact that with only 15% of the vote in Scotland the Tories have consistently vetoed every proposed amendment to the Scotland Bill. That is the democratic deficit that we are living with, not to mention the fact that there is an unelected House of Lords that gets more and more bloated all the time. That is where we should start dealing with the democratic deficit, and we would be saving money and bringing transparency to the democratic process.
It is a shame that four minutes will not be enough to do justice to this issue, but I will try to focus on some of the other points of view that we have heard today. First and foremost, the shadow Leader of the House, who is no longer in his place—possibly also in the Tea Room, if Helen Goodman is to be believed—offered us “a voice but not a veto”. It is worth explaining why that is not good enough and why it is a pig in a poke. He wants to have an English-only Committee that will reach England-only views but which can then be overturned, just like that, by the House as a whole. He presented this as though it is the Labour party’s preferred solution, but that cannot be all that Labour Members have come up with.
Jonathan Reynolds made a thoughtful contribution and although I did not agree with all of it, I did agree with his point that our proposals for devolution at a local level here in England will mean that there will be more questions to answer as time goes on. Most importantly, England has to have a voice and a view, and the opportunity to offer its consent when it is being legislated upon by the wider House as a whole.
We hear from the SNP an interpretation that what I am seeking is in some way devolution for England—I believe that Kirsty Blackman used that phrase—but I dispute that. I am not seeking devolution for England; I am seeking devolution for Blackpool, Lancashire and the north-west, but not for England. I say to Alan Brown that this was the No.1 issue on the doorstep during my general election campaign. I represent a constituency with very strong links to Scotland. Many of his countrymen are staying in my constituency right now to enjoy the illuminations. Glasgow week is a key part of that—
I am sorry but I am not going to give way now. Glasgow week is a key part of our economic cycle in the tourism year. Many Scottish people have moved down to Blackpool to retire and many of them were saying to me that they wanted some fairness in our democratic arrangements. What I say clearly is that there is no demand for a separate English Parliament. I see no demand for my constituents to have another suite of politicians being elected, consuming public expenses and confusing people as to who represents them. What we do seek is that when this Chamber as a whole seeks to legislate on matters pertaining to my constituents, they have an opportunity to know that the people of England—those who represent the people of England—have offered their consent in that matter.
I say gently to SNP Members that no one will be stopping them contributing in these matters. The SNP has some excellent spokespeople: Dr Whitford, who speaks on health; Callum McCaig, who speaks on energy; and Joanna Cherry, who speaks on justice and home affairs. They are all highly capable individuals and I make a point of listening to them and thinking about what they say on the briefs that they shadow. No one, not even Mr Hanson, who is no longer in his place, will be prevented from contributing or voting on issues pertaining to what the House as a whole is discussing. But no one should deny my constituents the chance to have a representative as part of a wider group of English MPs who offer their consent to what is being done to us—just as SNP Members would expect to have that consent in their hands in the Scottish Parliament.
I am grateful to take part in the third debate on this matter. What we are discussing today is the third version of the Government’s proposals, which, regrettably, are still inviting us to do the wrong thing, and have identified the wrong way in which to do it. I am resigned to the fact that the Government will not listen to me or to anyone else on the Opposition Benches. None the less, I say to the Deputy Leader of the House, who is in her place, that she might do well to listen to some of her own colleagues in the other place. She should consider the contributions that were made by Lord Lang of Monkton and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. What Lord Forsyth said goes to the heart of this matter:
“I really do think that constitutional change should carry consensus. If we proceed on the basis that we think it would be a good wheeze to make a constitutional change or that it might advantage one party or another, then other parties will do the same when they are in power. As a result, people will lose faith in the integrity of the institution and it will be greatly damaged.”—[Hansard, House of Lords, 21 October 2015; Vol. 765, c. 759.]
I have been involved in active politics for more than 30 years, and it is the first time that I have ever quoted with approval the noble Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, but these are clearly extraordinary times. The Minister and all those on the Government Front Bench should listen with some care to what he and others who know about this are saying.
The right hon. Gentleman says that we should listen. Let me say something that I have said before to him in this Chamber. The fact is that both of us greatly value the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but we must address the simple fact that my constituents in South Leicestershire have repeatedly told me both before and after the election that they want a greater say in their own affairs. This is about fairness.
Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that his constituents are absolutely entitled to that and they should get it. I just do not think that what the Government have brought forward today offers that. It does nothing to address the fact that the people of England are still served by a model of government that is outdated and highly centralised, with everything being controlled from Whitehall. These proposals do absolutely nothing to change that.
On the question of taxation and Barnett consequentials, Lord Forsyth said that the proposals risk driving a further wedge between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I believe that Alberto Costa is sincere when he says that he is committed to the continuation of that Union. As someone who is sincere, I invite him to take a pause, have a think and look at this matter in its totality. That is why the amendment tabled by Mr Allen is so important.
The message from the Lords invites us to set up a Joint Committee. That is a sensible way in which to proceed. I do not understand the position of the Leader of the House in relation to this. He says that it is wrong for us to consult the other place, but at the same time he has invited, and has had an acceptance from, the Chairman of the Constitutional Committee in the House of Lords to be part of a review. Yet again the Government and the Leader of the House in particular are seeking to have their cake and eat it.
The Leader of the House had said that this was not about creating an English Parliament within the UK Parliament, but then today in answer to a question he said that it was in fact devolution for England. It is no such thing. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire is right that his constituents deserve to have the benefits of devolution in the same way that mine have had since 1999.
I reiterate the concerns previously expressed about the position of the Speaker being brought on to the field of play in a way that will be difficult for the holder of that office at any given time but that will be justiciable. Let me remind the House of exactly what Lord Hope of Craighead said last night. He needs better respect than has been given to him either by the Chairman of the Procedure Committee or Sir William Cash.
I have respect for the hon. Gentleman and am grateful for the extra time that he has given me, but he did not demonstrate great respect for Lord Hope of Craighead in the way that I would suggest that noble gentleman deserves. Let me remind the House of what Lord Hope, a former justice in the Supreme Court and Lord President of the Court of Session for many years, said:
“I do not see how a Government can rely on legislation passed by this new procedure, which is subject to the risk of challenge in the courts, until the procedures have worked their way through the courts.”
He went on:
“The point is that so long as there is the risk of challenge, and the delay of waiting for the courts to resolve the issue, the legislation cannot be brought into effect, because of the risk of having to unravel everything if, by some mischance, it is declared to be invalid.”—[Hansard, House of Lords, 21 October 2015; Vol. 765, c. 762.]
There must be an answer to that point before we go down the road that the Government invite us to take today. As I said, I believe that England deserves better than this. If this is the major issue of the day, as Government Members have said, surely England deserves better than something that can be turned over in an afternoon by a future Government. If Members on the Government Benches genuinely want to empower their communities—I enjoin them to do so—they should do it in the way in which we were required to do it in Scotland and get together to build consensus and decide among themselves exactly what is required.
It seems to me that the Government have made these proposals in the way that they often do, on the basis that something has to be done. Those are the most dangerous words we will ever hear in Parliament and they normally precede something along the lines of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Something needs to be done, but that something should be better than this and I invite the House, when we divide today, to at the very least support the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Nottingham North.
My starting point is that the price of the Union for England is asymmetric devolution. England, by virtue of being more than 80% of the population and the richest part of the Union, must accept that devolution to Scotland, to Northern Ireland and to Wales cannot be equalled in England because if it were England would overwhelm the rest of the United Kingdom. That would be the greatest risk to the Union, which I want to preserve. I welcome these proposals because of their modesty, because they make the change through Standing Orders and because they maintain the equality of every Member of Parliament. Their modesty means that they are not seeking to create an English Parliament—
We understand on the SNP Benches that there must be fairness for the people of England and we fully support it, but we are faced with a situation in which the English will exert a veto on us when we have come to this place with the support of the Scottish people to deliver home rule. That is what the people voted for, yet in the debate on the Scotland Bill the veto was used against us every time. Why is it right for the English Members of this Parliament to continue to have a veto against us?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but he seems to be forgetting that there was a referendum last year that decided quite decisively what would happen.
I think that Members have been ignoring the detail of these Standing Order changes. They provide that the English-only lock can take effect only if the matter both applies exclusively to England and, crucially, is in the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. If either side of the coin is not there, every MP continues as before. It is a minimal move to ensure that those matters that are devolved elsewhere are subject to a special stage for English MPs only. Crucially, it is done by Standing Order.
Mr Carmichael gave us an interesting view on Lord Hope’s opinion that our laws could be challenged if they are made using this procedure. I am afraid that is an eccentric position to take, because our laws are made in the House of Commons according to a mix of convention and Standing Order. The reason we have First Reading, Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading is because of convention and Standing Order, not because of legislation.
Indeed, there are only two bits of legislation that say how we must make laws: one is the Parliament Act 1911, which is there to provide an override for the democratic House; and the other, rather obscurely, is a 1968 law concerning Royal Assent, the ceremony for which was so elaborate that it had to be simplified, and that needed to be done by legislation. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend Michael Ellis says that was a shame, and I have no doubt that he has consulted Her Majesty on the matter.
Otherwise, we always legislate by convention and Standing Order. That is absolutely crucial, because the last general election could easily have returned a result that meant that the Government would be made up of Labour Members who were dependent on Scottish Members for their majority. It would then have been quite proper for them to suspend the Standing Orders in order to ensure that the Government were able to function. That is something that those of us who support these changes to the Standing Orders must accept; it is weak, and therefore it can be overturned, with a political cost, to ensure that the Queen’s Government can be carried on. Those words—“that the Queen’s Government can be carried on”—is a fu