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Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:21 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 12:21 pm, 22nd October 2015

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