Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 5:08 pm, 7th March 2017

I agree with most of what Pete Wishart says about how EVEL was brought to this House. It is an unnecessary change to Standing Orders, because the Conservatives and the Government have a majority in both England and Wales, and across the UK. They do not have to use this process to get legislation through. All it has done, as the Conservatives have done consistently over the past few years, is create more division, which the SNP—if SNP Members do not mind me saying—thrives on in this House.

That brings me to the motion and the Standing Order. We have now added to English votes for English laws the issue of income tax. I am delighted that income tax has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It is a shame that members of the Scottish National party, who have spent their entire lives fighting for more powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, failed to use that in their most recent Budget, because they did not want a differential between Scottish and English rates. That is the irony of the position.

Adding the income tax issue to the EVEL provisions, Madam Deputy Speaker, not only undermines the principle of the House, but puts pressure on you, and on Mr Speaker’s office, to determine, when dealing with a Finance Bill, whether a provision should indeed be invoked under the EVEL regulations. That means—this is why I intervened on the Leader of the House earlier—that an individual clause in the Finance Bill could rightly say, “We will set the following rates of income tax as part of the Finance Bill for England and Wales,” but the Chancellor could come to the Dispatch Box tomorrow and, hypothetically, say, “We will reduce income tax by x pence in the pound, and we will pay for it with an increase in national insurance.” The income tax rates in the Finance Bill will be in a separate clause, and that will then have to be determined by Mr Speaker and his office, but the national insurance increases will be in another part of the Bill that will not be subject to EVEL.