Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 1:37 pm, 22nd October 2015

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.