Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 5:29 pm, 7th March 2017

I take note of the hon. Lady’s representation.

It is always good to hear familiar riffs. Like putting Eric Clapton on the turntable and hearing the golden oldies from one’s younger days, the speech of Pete Wishart is familiar to me. He puts his finger on the truth that I am not sure Ian Murray or the shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz, really grasped. This is a narrow, technical change.

On the question before the House, it is true that all UK MPs will still be able to continue voting on Budgets and on all aspects of income tax. But English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs will have an opportunity expressly to approve matters that primarily affect their constituencies, such as the main rates of income tax. That simply reflects the fact that it is Members of the Scottish Parliament who vote on devolved matters, including the main rates of income tax, in so far as they affect Scottish taxpayers.

Why are we making this change? We are making the change because of a degree of uncertainty in the current Standing Orders when we have to take into account the implications of the Scotland Act 2016. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen North pointed out, our Standing Orders already provide for certification in relation to Finance Bills, so we are not debating some new extension of the EVEL procedures. The 2016 Act presents us with a particular problem. The main rates of income tax are paid by residents of the United Kingdom who are not subject to the Scottish main rate of income tax. That means that in future no Scottish taxpayer will be affected by the UK main rate, but there is a theoretical possibility that the main rate of income tax could affect an individual who is not a Scottish taxpayer but has some connections to Scotland—perhaps they have a second home there. Because of that possibility, it was unclear whether, subsequent to the 2016 Act, a clause that set the main rates of income tax would relate exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and therefore trigger a vote under the English laws procedures according to the existing Standing Orders.

The narrow amendment we are considering will remove the element of doubt and ensure what was always intended when the House approved the Standing Orders, the 2016 Act and the measures in last year’s Finance Act—namely, that a vote on the main rates of income tax will attract an EVEL vote. This will ensure that English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs have the final say on setting income tax rates when no Scottish taxpayer will be affected. That seems to be a perfectly fair way to proceed, so I invite the House to support the amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 287, Noes 239.

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