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Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:50 pm, 22nd October 2015

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.