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I had the advantage, if that is the right way to put it, of hearing the First Minister this morning on the radio. To say that he was concerned about the timetable being properly met would be something of an understatement, but his response to questioning, and some of the contributions by the SNP in the Chamber today, have left me, perhaps erroneously and perhaps unfortunately, with the perception that, if the timetable were not met, they would regard that as a considerable political advantage.

I have believed for a considerable time that the present constitutional settlement in the UK is unsustainable. That is why I was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland to chair what came perhaps a little unfairly to be called the Campbell commission. I chaired it. I did not write its report; other people did. However, I have had some false regard as a consequence.

Throughout that exercise, it was clear to me, and it is set out in the document that we produced—unhappily, it is not available in all good bookshops, although it can be found on the Scottish Liberal Democrats website—that federalism was the answer to quite a lot of the issues that were on our minds then. Nothing has caused me to alter my view that that is still the case.

There is one point I want to make as strongly as I can. We cannot all get what we want as a result of Lord Smith’s commission or the Cabinet Committee that will be chaired by the Leader of the House. There will have to be compromises that as far as possible take account of the competing interests. There is the question of the role of Scottish MPs when issues such as health and education are discussed here. I have felt slightly uncomfortable about that since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, but the fact is that, as I have already described, we came here on a particular basis. If that is to be changed, it will be a profound constitutional change; it is not one to be embraced simply by changing the Standing Orders. Therefore, that should be thought about, rather than there being a knee-jerk reaction to the result on 18 September.

The vow has been made. If the First Minister thinks that he will be holding the feet of the three leaders to the fire, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I will be holding their feet to the fire, as it would be —let me put it as mildly as I can—politically unhelpful next May were that promise not to have been implemented to the extent that has been set out.

Mr Graham Stuart: My constituents see the Labour party as having acted in self-interest by refusing to put right the West Lothian question, and since 2010 perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s party’s self-interest has been in play in the coalition. There is genuine anger at this inequality, and hitting it into the long grass will no longer do. People will not trust that we are going to act if we do not act soon.

Sir Menzies Campbell: I am not suggesting we hit it into the long grass. All I am suggesting is that, before we make a change of such a profound nature, we give careful consideration. We should remember the theory of unintended consequences: there is hardly ever an Act of the kind we are talking about that does not produce a consequence that was never intended. Although in the past I have rehearsed, perhaps rather glibly, the view

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that as devolved powers were given to Northern Ireland and Wales and Scotland, it would be increasingly difficult for Scottish Members of Parliament to vote on, say, health and education—and I do not detract in any way from that—the argument put by my constituency neighbour in Fife, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), was a substantial one and one that will have to be considered by the Cabinet Committee that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is to deal with.

Along with the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), I am one of the few survivors of all three referendums—those of 1979, 1998 and now 2014. Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but I feel a great sense of resentment and reject the notion that I am less of a Scot and less of a patriot because in the course of the last referendum I argued as strongly and persuasively as I could for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom. If anyone thinks that has gone away they should read the letters columns of Scottish newspapers, in which people like me are accused of being either frightened, old or not patriotic. I may be one of those, but I am certainly not all three, and I regard it as deeply offensive. If the Scottish National party wants to make a proper contribution to what we now have on our agenda, one of the most powerful ways it could do so would be by condemning utterly the efforts to talk down those of us who felt that the Union was so important that only a no vote would do.

4.2 pm

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): I rise to speak after the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) to say that I feel as equally passionate and patriotic and proud to be a Scot today as I felt on 17 September. The big lesson from the referendum is that business as usual cannot continue in this place. Yesterday, we saw an example of the best of what we can do in this Parliament, but I fear that at moments today we have, perhaps, seen the worst of what this Parliament can do. Sadly, at times what we have heard from Scottish National party Members is a pre-referendum response to a post-referendum debate. There are people in Scotland watching this debate who expect much better from all their parliamentarians of all political parties, and that is why I want to focus my contribution squarely on those people watching in Scotland, whether they be yes voters or no voters.

First, I want to repeat what I said yesterday: no single political party won or lost the referendum. Scotland spoke and Scotland decided, and it is now the accepted sovereign will of the people of Scotland to work in partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom: to remain part of the UK and to work to make devolution work in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

I made it very clear before the referendum that if Scotland voted yes even by one vote, I would have accepted the result and worked with anyone to make that work in the best interests of Scotland, and I repeat my call that all those who voted yes should work with us now to make devolution work in the best interests of the people of Scotland, because our country is not broken, but our political system, economic model and social model are broken. We as parliamentarians have a responsibility to fix that, in the interests of the people we seek to represent.

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Secondly, our country might not be divided but, sadly, many communities and families have been divided by the referendum campaign. That is why the tone that we adopt, in all political parties on both sides of the House, will have an impact on how we bring our country back together so that we can together take on the challenges that we face in creating a better Scotland and a better United Kingdom.

I want to send out a strong message from the Scottish Labour party to everyone, whether they are part of the 45% who voted yes or the 55% who voted no. I know that many of them asked the right questions about how we should build a fairer society, how we should fight poverty and how we should create opportunity. Many people asked the same questions but gave different answers. There are many people who share our Labour values. My request to all of them, whether they voted yes or no, is that if they share those values of social justice, solidarity, community, fairness and equality, let us work together following the referendum to create the changes that can improve the life chances of the people who live in my constituency in Glasgow and much further afield.

My fear is that if we allow this debate to focus purely on what politician has what power and in what building, we will have failed to learn the lesson that the electorate gave us on 18 September. They are sick and tired of politicians talking about what powers they want. They want politicians who are brave enough to use the powers they already have to make a real difference to people’s lives. I probably come at this question from a slightly different perspective from that of other Members. I am a member of what I call the devolution generation; I have never known anything other than the existence of a Scottish Parliament alongside a UK Parliament. I am proud of the fact that we have a strong voice in Scotland but still have the back-up and security that comes from having a stronger voice through being part of the UK. I want to see the Scottish Parliament strengthened in the interests of the people of Scotland.

As the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife said, the vow and the timetable are not the Conservative party’s vow and timetable. They are not the UK Government’s vow and timetable. They are certainly not the Scottish National party’s or the Scottish Government’s vow and timetable. They are the Scottish people’s vow and timetable, and we on this side of the House will hold the feet of whoever is responsible to the fire to ensure that we get what we have demanded—namely, real change for the people of Scotland. Throughout the process, our own devolution commission has reported extensively over the past two years. We will go into the Smith commission with our own proposals, but we will be open to the idea of building consensus and holding a constructive dialogue. In that way, we can bring together all the political parties and demonstrate to the public that we can put aside our petty party politics in the interests of Scotland and build that consensus and unity.

Let us not devolve power for power’s sake. Let us devolve these powers for a purpose. That purpose should be to create a stronger United Kingdom, a stronger Scotland and, from the point of view of my own constituency, a stronger Glasgow. That is what I will

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fight to do, because this is not some kind of game that needs to be won. Politics is about the opportunity to make a difference.

4.8 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I speak as a Conservative and as a Unionist, and as a graduate of the finest university in Scotland. Indeed, I was an undergraduate there at the time of the Perth declaration in 1968 and I recall the birth of Scottish nationalist campaigning at that time. I was on the other side of that argument, as I am today. However, the recent referendum has been brilliant for democracy. It has been liberating, and I hope that in due course the parties on the Opposition Benches will join us in saying, “Let’s have a referendum on the European Union.”

I am delighted that the people of Scotland have reaffirmed their support for our Union. The Command Paper published yesterday states, on page 16:

“Proposals to strengthen the Scottish Parliament provide an opportunity to reach a strong and lasting constitutional settlement across the UK.”

One means by which that could be achieved permanently would be to require that no part of the United Kingdom could become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom without a two-thirds majority voting in favour. Many of us were nervous about the prospect of changing our United Kingdom constitution on a bare majority, given that even the rules at the local golf club cannot be changed without a two-thirds majority.

The leader of the Conservative party has made two pledges on devolution. The first was made on 10 September, and that vow was made without the authority or agreement of Parliament. I highlighted that in Parliament, and it was also highlighted by Nicola Sturgeon in the yes campaign. She argued that the vow was dependent on parliamentary approval, which could not be guaranteed—in one of her speeches she even referred to me as being a reason for that—and therefore nobody should be relying on it. Yet now we find the SNP saying that the vow was solemn and influenced the result. Surely the yes campaign is prevented from now relying on what it described at the time as “salesman’s puff”, which it denounced and persuaded its supporters to regard as not being of any importance whatsoever.

Fiona O’Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): On having a two-thirds majority for constitutional change, is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would require such a majority on a vote to leave the EU?

Mr Chope: No, I am not saying that. I would put the question round the other way and require a two-thirds majority for us to stay in the EU. What the hon. Lady seems not to understand is that the United Kingdom is a sovereign country with a sovereign Parliament and that the European Union is an alien structure that has been imposed upon us as a result of the referendum carried out some time ago. Many people who are now electors have not had the chance to vote on the issue.

If what the Conservative leader said then was a vow, it certainly cannot be relied upon by the Scottish nationalists because they opposed it and ridiculed it at the time. The second pledge was made in his capacity as Prime Minister

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on the steps of 10 Downing street at 7 am on 19 September. It is worth putting on the record exactly what he said:

“We have heard the voice of Scotland—and now the millions of voices of England must not go ignored…So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.”

Those words of the Prime Minister were more warmly received by my constituents and party supporters than any others he has offered us during the rest of this Parliament. That shows the extent to which he struck a chord with my constituents and, I believe, with the people of England. So there cannot be any going back on that commitment. I put my tandem challenge to the Leader of the House, and I hope that he will take it up, because how can the Prime Minister’s pledge on 19 September be delivered without constitutional change in Scotland being dependent on change being delivered in the rest of the United Kingdom? Indeed, that is exactly what the Chief Whip said in his article in The Times on 20 September.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): The hon. Gentleman, having quoted what the Prime Minister said on the steps of 10 Downing street, has spoken in favour of increased devolution in Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and he has also hinted at English votes for English laws—I believe he strongly supports that. I have no doubt that he is a committed Unionist, so how exactly does he think we keep the United Kingdom united?

Mr Chope: We keep the UK united by ensuring that we have a strong United Kingdom Parliament, in which we have a fair division of powers and responsibilities. All I can say to the hon. Lady is that my constituents are very concerned that in Scotland there is free long-term health care for the elderly, free prescriptions, no university tuition fees and £1,600 for each person, paid for by taxpayers from the rest of the United Kingdom. They do not think that that is fair, which is why those issues must be addressed at the same time as looking at a wider United Kingdom constitutional settlement.

Mr Graham Stuart: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Chope: I will not, I am afraid.

That is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had in mind when he made his commitment on the steps of Downing street.

Wayne David rose

Mr Chope: I will not give way again because many Members wish to contribute to the debate.

If, as is argued, people voted against independence but in favour of change, they voted for less power for Scotland’s MPs in the United Kingdom Parliament over Scottish affairs. If Scotland’s MPs are to have less power over legislation affecting Scotland, why should they keep their existing power over legislation affecting the rest of the United Kingdom? There are two options. One is to relieve Scottish MPs of any power to legislate on matters in the rest of the United Kingdom for which

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they have no power to legislate in Scotland. The second is to reduce the number of Scottish MPs to reflect their reduced responsibilities as a result of that devolution settlement in their own constituencies.

On the basis of what the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) was saying, if Scotland is 8% of the United Kingdom there should be only 52 Scottish MPs in this House. If each of them has less responsibility because they do not have responsibility for all those matters that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, there should be fewer of them because they have less work to do.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before I call the next speaker, it will be obvious to the House that a time limit of six minutes with all the interventions added would mean that not everyone who wishes to speak would have the opportunity to do so. I will therefore now reduce the time limit to five minutes after the next speaker.

4.17 pm

Paul Murphy (Torfaen) (Lab): I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the minute.

The previous speech exemplified what I thought large numbers of the Conservative party actually felt about the referendum in Scotland, which was that they were not too troubled about whether the Union was broken up. On 17 and 18 September, all of us who were concerned about the Union and its integrity were deeply worried that it could be lost. We were on the brink of our country breaking up. Happily it did not.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con) rose

Paul Murphy: That was a bit quick, but I give way.

Jake Berry: Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the biggest danger faced by our United Kingdom is failure to deal with the English question? Failure to take any action will put the United Kingdom at risk, as English nationalism will seek to break it up.

Paul Murphy: I do not accept that for one second. The biggest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom would have been for the yes campaign to win the Scottish referendum. I am saying not that the yes campaign was insincere but that I did not agree with it. On the following Friday morning, the Prime Minister effectively said, “Thank you very much, Scotland. You are now still part of the United Kingdom.” He then went on for the rest of that speech to talk about the West Lothian question, which struck me as extremely unusual. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) quite rightly referred to the fact that the Union itself is threatened by this constant sniping about the so-called great advantage enjoyed by Welsh, Northern Ireland or Scottish Members of Parliament. English Members make up 85% of this House of Commons. They can swamp all the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members put together.

I know of no country that has a system in which there can be either first or second-class Members of the federal or central legislature. Spain, for example, has an

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asymmetric system of devolution, but Members representing the Basque country or Catalonia, which have highly developed systems of devolution, have the same rights as those representing other parts of Spain. The reality is that we cannot separate Members of Parliament from the mandate on which they were elected.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): I represent a border constituency. Although health is devolved in Wales, our children’s hospital and our heart hospital are in the north-west of England. Neurosurgery for my constituents is done in the north-west of England. I have a view on behalf of the people I represent about what happens in the English health service.

Paul Murphy: Of course, and my hon. Friend should therefore be able to vote on matters affecting the hospitals in the English health service that most of his constituents go to.

I am fortunate enough to have seven general elections under my belt. I lost the first—quite rightly, too—which was for a seat in the west of England. Nevertheless, I would have been elected on the same mandate for the constituency of Wells in Somerset as I then was for my Welsh constituency in six successive general elections. I am a British Member of Parliament who happens to represent a Welsh constituency. I am therefore a Member of this United Kingdom Parliament in exactly the same way as any other Member representing one of the 650 seats.

I hope that the Leader of the House, when his Cabinet Committee meets to discuss these matters, will consider the constitutional mess there could be after a general election. When the leader of a party who has the potential to become Prime Minister goes to the palace, the Queen will ask, “Have you a majority and a mandate in the United Kingdom?”, and they will say, “Yes, Ma’am.” Then she will have to ask, “Have you a majority in England?”, because we would have a separate system in the House of Commons in order to deal with matters for which we have all been elected. I was elected on a mandate that included dealing with the English health service and education system, so long as it is a British Parliament that represents people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I think that there is an enormous danger.

The Leader of the House said that the issue of English laws being dealt with by English MPs is simple, but it is not. We have been dealing with that for 30 or 40 years, even before devolution in 1998. The Leader of the House will remember, as an historian, that in the 1960s a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Thorneycroft—he represented the Welsh seat of Monmouth—said clearly that there cannot be two classes of Members of Parliament. Some years later, in the ’70s, the Kilbrandon commission said that regardless of what legislative assemblies are set up, British Members of Parliament must all have the same duties, responsibilities and rights.

Mr Graham Stuart: My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) was absolutely right when he pointed out that the Scottish people voted so that their Scottish Members of Parliament would have less say over affairs that do affect their constituents, but no

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reduction whatsoever in their say over what goes on in the primary schools, nurseries, hospitals and surgeries in my constituency in East Yorkshire.

Paul Murphy: I rather fancy that not one MP or MSP has had that argument raised with them when they go knocking on doors.

The issue of English laws for English Members of Parliament is also impractical. When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Wales, we always had to deal with the issue of whether a Bill was actually an English Bill. Of 400 Bills introduced over the past few years, only eight were purely English. There are clauses that affect Wales, for example, and Bills that overall affect Wales, so we cannot easily disentangle them. If it is only eight out of 400, it is hardly worth it.

Also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) noted, the cross-border issues are hugely important, particularly in north-east Wales and north-west England, where there is huge fluidity on both sides of the border. We have not mentioned the Barnett formula, but Lord Barnett—we should mention him, as he is 91 today—would say that the formula is consequential on what happens to British spending.

Very few Members have mentioned the other place. A Welsh peer, a Scottish peer or a Northern Ireland peer would be prevented from voting on issues affecting England if the Government had their way, but over there, up the corridor, the peers can do precisely what they want to. People might say, “Ah, they’re unelected”, but what would have happened if there had been a yes vote in the referendum? We would have had to work out who was or was not a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish peer. All these issues are very difficult and complex, and I do not believe for one second that we can resolve them easily. I think there is an issue with the McKay commission. There are ways of dealing with our Standing Orders, perhaps at the Committee stages of Bills, that can perhaps address some of these points.

Ultimately, the only way to resolve the issue of devolution and English laws for English Members of Parliament is for there to be devolution for the English regions. It might not be the same in all areas—London would be different from Manchester, and Manchester different from the north-east of England—but there is undoubtedly a growing feeling that there should be devolution for our great English cities. The time to start looking at these issues will be when that happens, not when we need to emphasise, above all, the integrity of the United Kingdom.

4.26 pm

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) said that the Conservatives, good Unionists that we are, had not supported the Better Together campaign. You will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you and I attended the first meeting of Better Together in London, strongly supporting—[Interruption.] No, we did attend that meeting. Conservatives took part in the campaign. I think that Ruth Davidson has been widely praised in that regard. Certainly in my constituency we were rooting for the Scots to stay in the Union, and it is insulting to say otherwise.

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Even in Hertfordshire, in the middle of England—it is perhaps worth considering this if one is from a different part of the UK—my constituents were writing to me to say how important it was to them that the UK should stay together. One wrote that having come from a forces background, he had served with people from all parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and it was very important to him that we should stay together. Many others wrote with their memories of working and fighting together for the United Kingdom. There was real enthusiasm and pleasure in Hertfordshire that the Scots chose to stay.

Paul Murphy: Let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that I was in no way suggesting that the Conservative party, as a party, was in favour of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom—far from it. He is quite right: the Conservative party in Scotland did a very good job. I was hinting—perhaps more than hinting—that a number of his party’s Back Benchers were not as in favour of the outcome as he is.

Sir Oliver Heald: I would not accept that.

The political parties have now promised even more powers to Scotland on a tight timetable. It is very encouraging that the document that was promised by the end of the month has come out three weeks early and that we seem to be making the sort of progress that we all would have hoped for with the so-called vow.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Oliver Heald: No, not at the moment.

Devolution for England is not an arcane topic—it is a demand of the people. The same constituents who wrote to me very strongly in favour of the Union and Better Together are also writing to me saying, for example:

“We are very encouraged by David Cameron’s determination to put right the inequalities of the…UK.”

Another constituent says:

“English votes on English affairs has the advantage that it is the simplest and cheapest solution”.

Another says:

“The unfair treatment of England must be rectified.”

Yet another says:

“I am not a…Conservative voter, so this is not a Party political view, but it is about time the English were given some self respect…The Labour Party will not like this but the present situation regarding Scottish MPs voting for English issues cannot continue. What’s sauce for the goose has got to be sauce for the gander.”

Mr Betts: I have listened very carefully to the words that the hon. and learned Gentleman has used. He talked about “devolution” in England. Frankly, for my constituents in Sheffield it is not devolution if all that changes down here is that English MPs in this Chamber vote on English matters instead of UK Members voting on English matters. That is not devolution as far as Sheffield is concerned.

Sir Oliver Heald: I bet that the people of Sheffield want English votes for English laws, and now is the time for that.

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One way of resolving this would be completely symmetrical devolution for England and Scotland, with an English Parliament and an English Executive, perhaps located in Birmingham. Some people argue for that, but my view is that it would be costly and that it is unnecessary, given that we have a perfectly good Parliament here.

Since the second world war, Standing Order No. 97 has allowed procedure for Scottish MPs in this place to pass laws for Scotland. It would be easy to adapt that for England. I spent time as a Conservative constitutional affairs spokesman and helped develop a form of English votes for English laws based on that approach. The various commissions that have looked at the issue—from the Conservative democracy taskforce to the recent McKay commission—are all on the same page. It is all about English votes for English laws.

The British public will listen to the arguments deployed by the right hon. Member for Torfaen and some of his colleagues who say, “Oh, it’s all impossibly difficult, technical stuff,” but the fact is that the public are not very interested in academic constitutional arguments; they want a practical solution. English votes for English laws, and English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws, is not complicated. It is a simple solution to a simple problem.

As I put it to the former Prime Minister, there is no reason why a Scots MP from Kirkcaldy should vote on education in Letchworth when I do not get a vote on what happens in his constituency. At the moment there are two categories of Members of Parliament: there are those such as the former Prime Minister, who is not allowed to vote on domestic matters in his own constituency, and there are those like as me who are able to vote on such domestic matters. In fact, he is in a category all on his own, because there are things he can vote on in my constituency that he cannot vote on in his own. [Interruption.] He is not here, but if he was he would be able to do that.

We all understand that the Labour party has a lot of Members of Parliament in Scotland and it is obviously concerned about its ability to win a majority in an election. However, English votes for English laws is a demand of the people. If it is not done in the context of this Parliament with our Standing Orders, we will end up with a demand for an English Parliament and an English Executive, which would undercut and sideline this Parliament and be bad for the United Kingdom. Labour should think on that.

4.33 pm

Mrs Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): For the past four years I have been involved in the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, which has led the debate to get new powers in the north for the north. The group has worked tirelessly to get the message out there and has attracted considerable support across the northern regions—across towns and cities and, yes, across parties—for a regional government settlement that will enable regions with much to offer economically and socially to have greater control over spending, decision making and their own affairs.

This is not a new campaign—it is not just jumping on the devolution bandwagon post-Scotland. It has been going on for many years and is now gathering more and more support. Indeed, all the meetings at which I have

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spoken over the past few years have been packed out. Something has to give on this issue. Personally, I do not want to see city regions or a greater concentration of power in, for instance, Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds. That is not what the debate should be about.

The debate has to go wider than that. An English Parliament is not the solution, and anyone who thinks so is misreading the situation. All that would do is concentrate further power in the south, in London, and it would leave northern regions and other parts of England, such as Cornwall, increasingly isolated as England became more centralised, not less.

This is the time to grasp the nettle. Let us not pretend that the referendum vote in the north-east 10 years ago did not put the issue on the back foot—it did, and we made mistakes in that campaign—but this is 2014, not 2004. We should now go back on the attack and take up the case for regional government, rather than talk defensively about what happened a decade ago. If a week is a long time in politics, a decade is an eternity.

Over those 10 years, the democratic deficit has grown ever stronger, but a vacuum in decision making already existed, with increased powers for Scotland and a southern-dominated Westminster Parliament. People ask, “Who speaks for England?” We should also ask who speaks for northern regions. Why do other regions benefit from extra resources and powers, but not the residents of Halifax, Hull or Huddersfield?

Anyone who does not believe that regional government’s time is coming should bear this in mind: in 1979, devolution was rejected by the people of Wales by 4:1; yet in 2011, a referendum on greater powers for the Welsh Assembly was endorsed by 63% of them.

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): There was one very big difference: in the 1970s, the legislation and the debate happened in Parliament and then there was the referendum, but under the Blair Government, the referendum was held first and then there was the legislation, so some of the issues were not explored. [Interruption.]

Mrs Riordan: Exactly. Times change and things change. The policy on devolution should not be based on one referendum, because what is happening goes wider than that. People want decisions to be taken for their areas in their areas.

Andrew Percy: As a fellow Yorkshire MP, may I tell the hon. Lady that there is absolutely zero appetite in Yorkshire for regional government? I polled my constituents on a range of choices and had 1,000 responses: 86% of them said that they wanted English votes for English laws, and only 8% wanted regional government. There is simply no appetite for regional government in Yorkshire; we want the English voice in Parliament to be enhanced by stripping away the votes of Scots MPs on matters that only affect us.

Mrs Riordan: It depends what area is surveyed, because there are different opinions in different areas, but this subject is being talked about and is gaining momentum.

The Westminster model of doing things has failed. That is not a party point, but a political one. The north has a population of more than 15 million—three times

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that of Scotland—yet since 1979 powers have been taken away, not transferred. It is little wonder that people feel disfranchised by the system. To take the example of rail policy, at the moment Rail North, a body formed to oversee the Northern Rail franchise, is monitored by 30 local authorities, which is a crazy, sprawling system. There are many other examples, but I will refrain from expanding on them as there is a time limit.

I appreciate that we need a further debate about structures, boundaries and money—life is never simple—but I want to put on the record the superb work that many dedicated and committed people have done through the Hannah Mitchell Foundation. They have put regional government back on the political agenda where it belongs. Ten years on from the north-east debate, who would have thought that the wheel would turn full circle? The debate should be about regionalism, not just narrow English voting, which seems to be more about party interest than a transfer of powers.

Let us be clear: a new regional settlement would be an empowering move to bring decisions closer to people’s lives and people’s lives closer to decisions. In this place, we should not be frightened of going a bit further than just retaining an iron grip on controlling decisions from London. Regional government will happen soon, and with a bit of bold thinking it could come more quickly than people think. The issue is now firmly at the centre of this whole debate. The regions are letting their voices be heard. It is time that we in this place started to listen.

4.39 pm

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate. I speak as someone born and raised in Scotland who has spent the majority of his adult life in England and who now represents an English seat and defines himself as British and a Unionist. I am therefore well placed to understand the passion and sentiment on both sides of the border. I wish to put forward some ideas about how to move forward and cement the Union for a new generation.

My first issue, much debated this afternoon, is English votes for English laws. The view that the best answer to the West Lothian question is to stop asking it will no longer do. I genuinely fear for the long-term health of the Union if the English dimension is not addressed—and quickly. We have had endless commissions’ reports on the possible solution; now is the time to take action. Even before the Scottish referendum debate, there was evidence of considerable demand in England for that to take place. The research for the McKay commission found that just 21% of people in England support the current system, and there was majority support for some form of English votes on English laws.

Mr MacNeil: Does the hon. Gentleman think that English votes for English laws is enough for England? As we heard from the previous speaker from the north of England, it is important to give meaningful decentralisation to what is a very centralised state to enable a better and more productive economy. Sadly, we could not help the north of England given that Scotland did not gain independence, but if Westminster was prepared to transfer the iron grip, we might see some much needed economic changes in the north of England. Would the hon. Gentleman support steps towards that?

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Iain Stewart: The hon. Gentleman has tee’d up neatly another section of my speech, so if he bides his time, I will come to that very point.

There are three intellectually coherent answers to the West Lothian question. Two of those—ending the devolution arrangement and voting for Scottish independence—are not on the table. The third option is a federal United Kingdom. Although that is intellectually coherent, I do not believe that it is workable. First, there is no public appetite to elect another tier of politicians, be that a separately elected English Parliament or English regional assemblies. Secondly, England does not divide neatly into regions. Where does my Milton Keynes South constituency lie, for example? Technically, we are part of the south-east, but from our demographic and economic ties, we have more in common with the east of England or the east midlands. Neither would a federation be viable if one of its constituent parts—England, which represents 84% of the population and economy—overwhelmingly dominated the other three parts of the federation.

To address the point raised by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil)—I hope he notes my good pronunciation—there is a debate about further decentralisation within England and within Scotland, but that is a separate point from what happens here in this House. [Interruption.] It is a separate debate. There is, however, the issue of growing English demand for a say in its own affairs.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman is kind to give way a second time, and I appreciate it. Much of today’s debate has been about this place and the four walls here, but it should not be. It is about the lives and aspirations of people in Easterhouse—[Interruption]—and, indeed, in East Anglia, as well as in places all over Scotland, which had great hopes at the front of the referendum, yet those hopes were damned. Managing things around this Chamber is a big mistake. I urge the hon. Gentleman to think about the good of the people in England outwith this Chamber, not the good of the people of England within it.

Iain Stewart: The hon. Gentleman misses my point. I am not saying that that is not an issue, but what happens here is also an issue of fairness for English voters. The two are not mutually exclusive and both have to be addressed. I want to see fairness for English voters—for my constituents, in this place—as well as have a sensible debate about further devolution in England. The local authority in my constituency has already had substantial extra powers. I am all for having a sensible discussion about how that can continue, but that should not distract us from what happens in this place.

We will never have a complete practical answer on English votes on English laws, but we must find the most workable and least disruptive option. I would like to put one proposal on the table. It might be termed the double majority arrangement. Many hon. Members from all parts of the House have asked what happens if we start excluding individual Members from voting on specific matters. Under the double majority arrangement, no Member would be excluded from debating or voting on any issue. However, if the matter applies only to England or only to England and Wales, for the measure to pass it must secure a majority of English Members or

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English and Welsh Members, as well as a majority of the whole House. That is a practical, sensible arrangement that would not disrupt any of our current arrangements, but that would provide an English shield or protection to ensure that measures in England are not voted for by people for whom England did not vote. I fear that doing nothing would be the most corrosive thing for the Union. That is something that I do not wish to see.

In the short time that I have left, I will turn to the financial element of devolution. I support an extension of the tax powers in Holyrood. I think that Holyrood should be responsible for raising a large share of what it spends. That is good for democracy. I am happy to debate the precise mechanism. However, I make one plea. I support the timetable for agreeing the matters in principle, but devolving tax is a complex and administrative matter. Companies will have to shoulder a lot of the burden. I do not want to see our wealth and job creators saddled with an onerous extra regulatory burden that they are not properly involved in designing. My plea is for them to play an important part in the various commissions that will consider this matter, so that the powers are devolved in a workable way that does not impact on business.

My last point—I cannot do it justice in 40 seconds—is about the Barnett formula. I plead with Members on all sides of the debate to ensure that they understand the Barnett formula properly. It is a much maligned and misunderstood formula. The bigger issue is the totality of the fiscal relationship between Scotland and England, and, indeed, within England and Scotland. We have never had a comprehensive, uncontroversial analysis of public spending and tax receipts in this country. Please can we have that before the debate on Barnett and related matters continues?

4.47 pm

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate, which is about devolution across the United Kingdom as a result of the Scottish referendum and the proposals that have been put forward for greater powers for Scotland. It is therefore right that we hear from English Members, as well as Scots Members and representatives from Wales and Northern Ireland.

I pay tribute to all the people of Scotland, however they voted, for the tremendous example of participation in the democratic process that they gave the rest of us. The referendum debate and campaign captivated and almost became a source of wonderment to people everywhere who have been trying desperately to get people engaged in politics and civic society. It was a tremendous exercise. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) might agree with me on that point, but I do not think that he will agree with my next point.

I welcome the result of the referendum and the fact that this debate is about devolution and not separation, which would undoubtedly have dominated our considerations for many years. I am glad that a discussion on the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom is not even on the horizon. The hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) mentioned that Northern Ireland had a referendum many years ago, in which people voted overwhelmingly

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in favour of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom. Now, there is not even enough support in Northern Ireland for the holding of a referendum. There is no doubt about what the outcome of such a referendum would be. The clear decision of the people of Scotland in the referendum was widely welcomed in Northern Ireland because of our strong ties to that country.

Mr Redwood: Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether Northern Ireland likes her current settlement or whether Northern Ireland would like more devolved powers, in line with Scotland?

Mr Dodds: The talks on the future of devolution in Northern Ireland are about to begin in Belfast in the coming days. One issue on the table will be greater fiscal powers, including the possible greater devolution of taxation, such as corporation tax, which the Leader of the House mentioned. Given the unique set-up in Northern Ireland—we have a mandatory coalition, and people with diametrically opposed positions are entitled to be in government—we have encountered great difficulties in making things work satisfactorily because of vetoes and so on. Northern Ireland is unique in that sense. We need to have those discussions in Belfast. I am glad that the Leader of the House indicated that he is prepared to table proposals for change if there is agreement in those talks.

Lady Hermon: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for taking a second intervention so soon after he took the first. Is it his understanding and that of his colleagues that the corporation tax decision hinted at by the Leader of the House—it will be announced in the autumn statement—is a stand-alone one, or will it be dependent on agreement on the devolution of other matters, and the agreement of the parties on such controversial issues as parading, flags and dealing with the past?

Mr Dodds: I will come to corporation tax later, but my understanding is that the decision is not dependent on the outcome of the talks. It has been the subject of much discussion in the House over many years, so the hon. Lady need not worry on that account.

If devolution is to be discussed in the context of greater devolution to the nation states and regions of the UK, it is important that no region or constituent part of the UK is left out. The parties in Northern Ireland cannot be excluded from devolution discussions. Giving powers to Scotland and Wales, and potentially to English regions, will affect Northern Ireland and how we govern within the UK.

The debate on the consequences of devolution for the House is by no means new. It has already been mentioned that in 1886, during the debate on Home Rule, it was first suggested that Irish MPs be accorded a different and lesser status within the House. Eventually, a so-called in-and-out solution for Irish MPs was rejected, although by means of a compromise, the number of Northern Ireland MPs was eventually reduced. The arguments made in the 19th century are as valid today as they were then. The UK is a country with a shared history and culture. The four constituent parts—the nation states that make up the UK—have become intertwined and

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interdependent. This complex problem will not be solved merely by designating Bills as English or merely by restricting the voting rights of some Members over and above those of others.

We have a number of asymmetries in our constitution. If we were starting with a blank piece of paper, we would not end up with what we have. However, as has already been said today, the British constitution may not work in theory, but it works in practice. We have heard a number of possible solutions. As Unionists, Democratic Unionist Members will judge any proposal by a single test: does it erode the shared cohesion of the constituent parts that make up the Union?

We believe strongly that we cannot rush into change and that we need to consider the matter carefully. I have a lot of sympathy for the arguments put by the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) on the need to consider the matter carefully by way of a constitutional convention. We should not get into a situation in which the law of unintended consequences kicks in. Whatever the solution, as Unionists, we believe that it must not erode or damage the Union or what it has stood for over the years. The Scottish people rejected an assault on the Union. The House needs to heed the people of Scotland, proceed with care and ensure that we do not undermine the Union of the United Kingdom.

On fiscal and taxation matters, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), we have raised the issue of an over-reliance on the public sector in Northern Ireland. In the Northern Ireland Executive, we have put a lot of emphasis on the need to grow the private sector, not because the public sector is too big per se, but it is too big proportionately compared with the private sector. We have had 30 to 40 years of violence in Northern Ireland. That is one of the reasons why our private sector has suffered and we have to address that. That is why powers to devolve corporation tax are so important to us: they would give us a tool to grow the private sector. I look forward to the Chancellor’s autumn statement on 3 December. I hope he will deliver to Northern Ireland a means by which we can grow the economy and improve the living conditions for all our people.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I will have to reduce the time limit to four minutes after the next speaker. There is no point in hon. Members looking upset. If everybody is to have the chance to speak in an equal and fair manner we have to reduce the time limit to four minutes, after we have heard Mr Andrew Lansley.

4.56 pm

Mr Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will try to be as brief as I can.

I am very pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds). I think many of us on both sides of the House can agree that it was very important to all of us that the people of Scotland voted as they did to support the Union. That did not mean that there should be symmetry across the country and it

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certainly did not mean that they were voting in any sense to undermine the Union by stages. On the contrary, we can strengthen the Union, be true to the positive vote secured in the Scottish referendum and, at the same time, give people what I know they are looking for in Scotland and elsewhere across the United Kingdom: a sense of greater control and accountability for the decisions made in their name and by their elected representatives.

I want to put on the record that it is absolutely vital that, recognising and welcoming the vote of the people of Scotland, we should deliver on the commitments that were made to them. We will deliver on those commitments, for example, those in the vow. That is not conditional and should be done within the agreed timetable. We should bring those measures forward and ensure that we live up to that.

Part of the vow was the commitment to the ability of the people of Scotland to make their own decisions on the resources and the organisation of the national health service in Scotland. During the course of the referendum debate, I was astonished to hear Nicola Sturgeon, who was my counterpart in Scotland as Scottish Health Minister, talking about how, in the future, there was a risk to the independence of the NHS in Scotland. There never was when she had any conversations with me. Whenever we worked together we did so voluntarily, for example on standardised packaging for tobacco products. I would never hear her countenance the thought that anything that I said should happen in the NHS in England should necessarily happen as a consequence in Scotland. She retreated to the issue of finance. Frankly, with what we are committed to and will bring forward in terms of further devolution of the power to raise and spend one’s own resources, Scotland will have the absolute right to determine the resources and the organisation of the NHS in Scotland.

As a consequence of all that, in this country we have to recognise—I will not go on about it; I do not have time—further fiscal devolution to the local authorities in this country. I do not think for a minute that we are interested, as the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs Riordan) suggested, in regional government. I agree with her that we are not interested in an English Parliament. I think that the people of England look to the Westminster Parliament to make their laws, but I think they recognise that raising and spending money locally is a good thing. With accountable elected representatives, we can and should make that happen.

Mr MacNeil: Does the right hon. Gentleman support full fiscal autonomy for Scotland? That is the logical solution to his argument, not the partial devolution of taxation which, when we take into the account the Barnett formula arrangements, is merely rearranging the deckchairs.

Mr Lansley: We are committed to retaining the Barnett formula. There will be an extension of the ability to raise and spend one’s own resources, not full fiscal autonomy. That has to be an outcome determined by the Smith commission—to see to what extent this can happen—but it seems to me that it is right. As the right hon. Member for Belfast North made perfectly clear, the outcome in each of the countries of the UK will look different because our devolution settlement is asymmetrical.

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If there is not an English Parliament or fiscal devolution, a further question arises. Can we have English votes for English taxes? I might not agree with all my colleagues on this point, but I thought that the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) raised an Aunt Sally and attacked it. There is not a Conservative proposal for English votes on income taxes. I do not think the analogy holds between devolution on income tax in the other countries of the UK and England. For example, Scotland has a Scottish Government with a Scottish Budget accountable to a Scottish Parliament, and it can determine Scottish income tax in that structure of decision making and accountability. We do not have an English Government, an English Parliament or an English Budget; we have a UK Budget, and to support a UK budget we must have UK taxation. We cannot contemplate the separation of English income tax, although we can devolve some taxes inside England, especially to local authorities and city regions.

Mr Redwood: Is my right hon. Friend seriously suggesting that Scotland could set its own income tax at a lower rate and that Scottish MPs could come to Westminster to make English people pay more?

Mr Lansley: Yes, I am, because it is untenable to have a separate vote by English MPs on English income tax, if the consequence, should the vote go a certain way, were to undermine the UK Budget.

English votes for English laws is, however, entirely tenable, and we now need to act. I agree fundamentally with the McKay commission where it states:

“Decisions at the United Kingdom level having a separate and distinct effect for a component part of the United Kingdom should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of the elected representatives for that part of the United Kingdom.”

However, that ought not to exclude the views of other Members, whether they be my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young), my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) or anyone else. We can do it in Parliament by making provision, through a Grand Committee or a legislative consent motion, for English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs together, to give explicit consent to legislation that applies separately and distinctly to England, or England and Wales.

That should not exclude the central proposition, however, that all laws made by the UK Parliament should be made by all Members of the House of Commons. Anything else would undermine the character of the Union Parliament, which is the basis on which our Union is constructed—the Crown in the Union Parliament as a whole. We can make it happen. It would be a proportionate response to the undeniable demand of my constituents, and constituents across England, that their elected representatives determine what laws are made in England, without the perverse and unacceptable anomaly—as they see it—of Scottish MPs voting on laws in England that do not apply to their own country. We can make this happen, but we need to make it happen now.

5.3 pm

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): It is several hours since the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and

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Selkirk (Michael Moore) made his contribution, as an appointee to the Smith commission. As the other Member sitting on the Smith commission, I shall try, in much less time, to make some observations about this process.

As we have heard, some are already attempting to rewrite the history of the referendum. The First Minister said the referendum would decide the issue for a generation, but we now see more clearly by the day that in his mind, and the mind of his colleagues, a generation is not a long time.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Gregg McClymont: I want to develop my argument.

On 18 September, the Scottish people said yes; they said yes to the continuation of the economic, social and political sharing that constitutes the UK; yes to the continued, undiluted, equal and fair voice that Scotland currently enjoys inside the UK; and yes to further devolution inside the UK, building on the 1999 settlement and the Scotland Act 2012. The task before us in the House, and before the Smith commission, is to take that sovereign and settled will of the Scottish people forward: to sustain that political, economic and social partnership, at the same time as devolving power where it makes sense to do so. It is a clear task, but not a simple one. Clarity, of course, does not necessarily mean simplicity.

It has been very evident today that there is a strong feeling among Government Members that England’s voice must be heard. I hear the sincerity of their view, and I have no doubt that it represents letters, e-mails and phone calls that Government Members are receiving, but I ask them to consider this. I think that the United Kingdom has been a great success over the past 300 years, making all four of its countries prosperous, stable and secure, and often serving as a beacon to the rest of the world. That success, or at least a central part of it, has been based on England’s tolerance of the desires—I will put it more strongly than that: the needs—of the much smaller Celtic nations of this Union. That tolerance has been acknowledged—

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): Celtic needs!

Gregg McClymont: Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Stewart Hosie: I should be delighted.

The hon. Gentleman is making a number of very interesting points while trying to rewrite the outcome of the referendum. May I ask him to confirm that the first page of the Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith commission makes plain our understanding that the commission will simply be about devolution and will not lead to independence, and that we absolutely understand and respect the outcome of the referendum? Will he now work with us to maximise the powers—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We have a lot to get into the debate, and Members rightly wish to contribute. We cannot allow speeches to be made in the form of interventions.

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Gregg McClymont: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is very comforting at one level to hear the words of the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie), but by their deeds shall ye know them, and the deeds of the Scottish National party since the referendum have made their view very clear.

I was suggesting to Government Members that the tolerance of England, which is by far the largest constituent part of the United Kingdom, has been central to the United Kingdom’s success. A number of references have been made to the unfairness of Scottish Members of Parliament and others from other parts of the United Kingdom voting on English-only matters. First, there is the question of what constitutes an English-only issue. Research has suggested that very few pieces of legislation are English-only. More widely, however, the unfairness to which Members refer reflects the asymmetry of the United Kingdom, and the different sizes of its constituent nations.

Members—Scots, and, I am sure, our Welsh and Northern Irish colleagues too—often grumble about unfairness, usually when they have been at the receiving end of another defeat at football or rugby by England. They grumble about the unfairness of England’s being so much larger as a nation. However, if we are to have the continuation of the United Kingdom, a recognition of the reality of asymmetry must be enshrined in any decisions that we make about the constitution.

5.9 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I am very glad of the opportunity to say a brief word about how the north-east of England is affected in these circumstances. The first thing to be said about the north-east of England is that there was a real and palpable sense of relief when the result of the vote came through. That was particularly true in Berwick, where I live. I can walk to the border in a short time. That sense of relief then gave way to some further questions. The three points that arise, in roughly the order of the frequency with which they are raised with me, are the Barnett formula, the devolving of power and the West Lothian question.

The Barnett formula worries us not because we do not want the Scots to have adequate public spending, but because there is no similar protection of the amount of public spending that the north-east of England receives. As people are aware, in Scotland, public spending is 20% higher per head. In London as well, expenditure on transport is many times what it is in the north-east. Public expenditure on the arts is much higher. Therefore, there is a feeling in the north-east that we deserve some protection to ensure that the levels of public expenditure meet the needs.

Mr Redwood: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Alan Beith: I want to make some progress. The right hon. Gentleman may want to intervene later.

The second issue that concerns people in the north-east is about the further devolving of power. That region rejected the setting up of a north-east assembly and it will be some years before we go back to that possibility,

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but that has not dimmed the feeling that too many decisions are taken in London and that more things should be decided locally.

Mr Redwood: I intervene because I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman understands the Barnett formula. It starts with a percentage increase for England and bases the Scottish one on the English increase. Of course England is protected because it starts with England.

Sir Alan Beith: The north-east of England is not protected within that England formula. That is the point that I was making. I do indeed understand the Barnett formula, having been aware of it for many years and since Joel Barnett introduced it.

Let me return to devolving power. The likely vehicle for devolving power is the combined authority, the local enterprise partnership or some combination of the two. Every time we have devolved significant power within the UK, we have done so to a body we have designed in such a way that minority opinion is represented, including other political parties and rural areas. We have always used the proportional system in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London—in every case the Assembly is elected by a proportional system. However, there is a danger that, if we do not do something about the structure of combined authorities, we will have one-party states. In the north-east, neither Conservative nor Liberal Democrat opinion is represented in the leadership of the combined authority and rural opinion is under-represented, as it is in the local authority in Northumberland, where decisions are made for the benefit of the urban area, which do not work for rural areas—for example, decisions on transport for people to get to school or college. Therefore, further devolution of power within England is important to people in the north-east.

The third issue, which cannot be dismissed lightly, is the West Lothian question. English Members are not voting on matters of health and education in Scotland not because there is a sign over the door of the Lobby saying they cannot go in. It is because those powers are not dealt with here; they have been devolved elsewhere. The ideal solution to the West Lothian question is to devolve at least some of those powers within England, so that we are no longer trying to govern every detail of English life from the UK Parliament. Indeed we diminish its ability to serve as the UK Parliament if it spends a lot of time on that kind of detail.

There are exceptions to that. I do not believe there is an appetite to have different criminal law or property law in different parts of England, although there is a difference between England and Scotland in that regard. Therefore, there will never be a neat and perfect solution. Some devolution of legislative power may take place within the structure that exists in this place; some of the solutions that the McKay commission has put forward use that as a model. I suspect that there will be a combination—further devolution of power within England and a change in how we manage things in this House, so that, when it is behaving as a UK Parliament, it can focus its energies on that, and more English detail can be dealt with by English Members. However, in the minds of many people in the north-east, although that is important, it is perhaps not quite as important as ensuring that, in our region, we get some of the help

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that Scotland has had financially to deal with the problems we have both faced, and as ensuring that devolution for Scotland enables the north-east to engage fully in a partnership with our neighbours across the border.

5.14 pm

Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith)—somebody from my region, so this is obviously the north-east part of the debate.

I welcome the opportunity to talk about this subject. I spent quite a lot of time in the weeks leading up to the referendum in Scotland, as many members of my family live in Scotland, as is very common among people in the north-east, so the Union was very important to me, and it was very important to my family.

My experience in those weeks had some positives. People were more engaged in the political process than I ever remember before, and explaining to people how to vote almost every time I knocked on a door was a pleasure. That is something we must grasp and work out how to translate across the country. However, being called a posh southerner, when I do not think I am either, was an interesting experience.

Nothing is ever quite the same again after a referendum. The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed mentioned the north-east assembly referendum, as have many other Members. I was the agent for the yes campaign in that referendum. It was not one of my most successful campaigns. Only 20% of the people of my region voted for it. However, on the day after the election the problems were still there—the problems of inequalities and of not having enough money to deal with our economic issues. We would go to meetings and people would say, “What do we do about this?” We did not get the assembly, which meant we had no mechanism to deal with it. Those issues are still there, although I think time has moved on and at the moment there is no appetite for a vote on a regional assembly.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the contributory factors to the situation we find ourselves in is that over the last 30 years the powers of local government have been eroded? We have had the abolition of metropolitan councils and there is now talk about city regions, but that is a gloss; we do not actually do anything, and unless we do something, Parliament will fully disconnect.

Julie Elliott: I could not agree more, and I am going to talk about some of the practicalities we face.

The hon. Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) said she gets letters every day of every week about the question of English votes for English laws. If I have had five in my entire time as a Member of Parliament, that is all I have had, so I think there is a north-south issue here. This is not an issue for the north of England. It never comes up on the doorstep in my constituency and in those around it that I campaign in.

We must look at what has come out of the Scottish referendum in terms of the impact it will have on England and the regions—and it undoubtedly does have an impact. The current situation is unfair and that needs to be addressed, but we need practical solutions to the problems we face. This is not about tearing up the

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constitution. Only a tiny number of parliamentary votes would be affected by having English votes for English laws, and working out which ones should be and which ones should not would be very complex, but that simply is not the issue; the issue is getting the right redistribution of money to the regions of our country that really need it. We do not need extra bureaucracy, which in my view would break up the Union, or be a step towards that. If we were to go down that path, it would be disastrous for our communities.

We need a system that works and that has the support of our communities and of the people of the United Kingdom, not a quick fix, which is what the Prime Minister came out with in his announcement at 7 o’clock on the morning after the referendum. I was one of those people who spent the whole night watching the results, having travelled back from Scotland the night before, and I was astonished because what he said came from nowhere. It had not been on any agenda I had seen. It had not been discussed anywhere. To be honest, I do not think he grasped the real issue.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Julie Elliott: No, I will not give way.

This debate is a result of the Scottish referendum. Whereas I totally support the implementation of what was promised to the Scottish people, we need to look for practical political solutions that deal with the real issues for England and the other parts of the United Kingdom and address the real inequalities. They need addressing and they need addressing now.

5.19 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I fully concur with the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) that since the referendum in the north-east of England, the issues facing that region have not been pursued with the urgency that she demands. She was the agent for the yes campaign in that referendum and I was the Conservative shadow Minister who set up North East Says No. I am sure she accepts that there really was no appetite for that extra layer of government. However, both our parties pay lip service to decentralising the necessary powers and functions to the existing tiers of local government, but both have failed to do so. Such decentralisation would somewhat reduce the sense of isolation from the Westminster system that many parts of England—and Scotland—feel. If we do not learn that lesson from the Scottish referendum, we are really missing the point. I hope that we will build on the consensus.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I agree wholeheartedly with what my hon. Friend is saying about devolution within England. Does he agree that this is relevant to places like Cumbria and the north-east, which border Scotland, given that Scotland will be given greater powers? Those areas would like to have greater powers granted to them as well.

Mr Jenkin: I totally agree with that. I will come back to the question of English votes for English laws later.

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I was overcome with relief at the outcome of the Scottish referendum. Both my parents were born in Edinburgh and half my family lives there—I say directly to the Scottish people: you are my kith and kin—and it would have broken my heart if we had found ourselves in separate sovereign states. I am heartily glad that Scotland voted no. However, it was a much closer vote than the Prime Minister intended when he first suggested that the referendum should take place, and we need to learn lessons from that. Given the nature of this debate, I wonder whether we are learning any lessons.

This scrappy, partisan debate is exactly the kind of thing that reflects badly on Westminster politics throughout the United Kingdom, and that was cleverly exploited by the yes campaign in Scotland. We should concede that to the Scottish National party representatives here today. We should also concede to them that the vow, however well intentioned it might have been, is in fact a bit of a muddle. It is indecipherable, and I do not think it made any difference to the result. It was ham-fisted. However, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the passion that they brought to the debate.

Pete Wishart: This is a matter that we are trying to determine today. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) was duped about the vow?

Mr Jenkin: No, I think it was a panic reaction to a late poll. It was something that they were desperate to do. I believe that the very fact that it was a close poll was enough to turn people away from voting yes, because they suddenly realised that their vote might make a difference. Most pollsters would agree that that was the effect of the very close poll.

The vow stated:

“We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations”.

That is fine; I think we would all agree with that. Then, however, it goes on to reaffirm the Barnett formula. There are two things about the Barnett formula, the first of which is that if Scotland is to raise more of its own resources, the formula will become a much less significant component of the allocation of resources. Secondly, the formula actually represents the opposite of

“sharing our resources equitably across all four nations”.

It cements in place an artificial bias in favour of funding in Scotland, which is no doubt why Scottish politicians campaign so vociferously in favour of it.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Jenkin: I have given way twice already; I do apologise.

The House of Lords produced a very good report in 2009 which concluded

“that the Barnett formula should no longer be used to determine annual increases in the block grant for the United Kingdom’s devolved administrations.”

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It stated:

“A new system which allocates resources to the devolved administrations based on an explicit assessment of their relative needs should be introduced.”

The question is: how are we going to get from A to B? Lord Strathclyde has recommended a convocation in which the four component parts of the Union should be represented on equal terms in a single body. The question of the fair allocation of resources among the four parts of the United Kingdom deserves to be discussed in such an impartial forum. This cannot be imposed by the Treasury. It cannot be imposed by a system that we have inherited from a period when there was no devolution and no devolved tax-raising powers at all, so we need a new system. If we are going to learn from this referendum, it would be much more honest if we all agreed that, over time, we will need to move on from the Barnett formula.

Let us deal with the question of what the promises mean. If we ever want evidence of the chaos in the no campaign, we need only see that, even after the referendum, we still have three separate proposals in this Command Paper for what is to be devolved, and an unseemly scrap between the Westminster parties over what should be devolved. I have no doubt that agreement will be reached, and I commend the SNP for being determined to bring its good will to the party in order to get an agreement, because that has to be our objective. However, as part of that agreement, there is now huge awareness across the United Kingdom of English votes on English laws.

5.25 pm

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): September 18 was a memorable day for Scotland. It was a day when millions of Scots made their way to polling stations up and down the country, and had their say on whether to continue 300 years of partnership or to go it alone. It was especially gratifying that young people, in particular, rose to the challenge and participated in droves, which demonstrated that it was right to enfranchise 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. I am sure that all Members will agree that the extraordinary levels of engagement witnessed during the referendum campaign are a cause for celebration.

The people have now spoken, with just over 55% of the electorate opting to keep Scotland in the Union. Let me say how pleased I am that the majority of Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. However, as with any vote, there is disappointment—disappointment among those people who did not get the outcome they wanted. In this case, we are talking about the 44.7% of Scots who voted yes. I recognise that disappointment, but I believe it is now vital that Scotland move forward as a united country. Leaving yes or no allegiances aside, it is now time for both sides to come together for the future of Scotland: for a Scotland that is successful, secure and prosperous; for a Scotland that its people can be proud of; and for a Scotland that together with its partners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, achieves more than it would do alone.

As I and others have made clear, moving forward does not and must not mean a continuation of the status quo. The appetite for change must be met. The promises for further powers, which were set out to the Scottish people, have to be delivered, and I have no doubt that they will be. Positive first steps have been made with the establishment of the Smith commission, which will report its findings by the end of next month.

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I also welcome the publication yesterday by the Secretary of State for Scotland of the Command Paper, which sets out all plans.

Although devolving further powers to Holyrood is undeniably important and necessary, I also believe that there needs to be decentralisation within Scotland to local authorities and communities. Local authorities must be allowed to serve their local communities better and be more accountable. The need for decentralisation within Scotland becomes even more pressing given that the Scottish Government are one of the most centralising Governments I have ever witnessed. It is therefore vital that further powers are given not only to Holyrood but to local communities.

Moreover, it is obviously evident that the referendum has trigged a wider debate about further devolution across the UK. Just as Scotland has expressed its appetite for change, the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have understandable similar aspirations. There must be much wider, considered constitutional reform of politics across the UK, which is why I support the more recent calls for decentralisation in England. It is only by proposing and carefully considering such changes that our whole political system can become more accountable and relevant to the public.

The Scottish people have had their say, with a no vote being not the end point but a continuation of change, not only in Scotland but across the United Kingdom. I very much look forward to the discussions that will take place in the coming months. However, change in Scotland must not be hindered by any timetable for reform across the UK, and the Government must take heed of that warning.

5.29 pm

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): As a Conservative Unionist, I was a veteran of the debates of the late 1990s, and I have to say that I always opposed devolution. The reason was that I thought it would be a stepping stone towards independence. After all the years that have gone by, I cannot say that I feel confident that the United Kingdom is still not under threat as we move ahead. The Labour Government of the time constructed all the paraphernalia of the state in Edinburgh, but did not give it the financial independence to go with it so they got the blame for things. For the past 15 years, Edinburgh has been blaming London—the Labour, Conservative and coalition Governments—for all its ills.

What we have now is creative tension between two Parliaments. One Parliament wants more power and another Parliament holds the purse strings. Logically, that leads to frustration in Scotland, which is why we ended up with a referendum. Although I am opposed to devolution, I think that if Scotland is to stay in the United Kingdom, we must consider more fiscal independence and more tax-raising powers, because then its people will be taking more responsibility, and indeed more blame, for what goes on in Edinburgh. That is the only way to avoid a long-running sore of a debate between London and Edinburgh. The same thing is happening in our debate with the European Union. I am a Eurosceptic, and there are many who believe that if only we came out of Europe, all our problems would be solved.

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The debate between Scotland and England has been bedevilled by the fact that it is easy to blame the United Kingdom and the Westminster Government for things, and to say that everything would be all right if we just sorted out the problem. If we need to sort out the problem, we must consider giving more fiscal powers and responsibility to Edinburgh. With that, it will get both credit and blame for some of the decisions it takes.

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): The logical conclusion of my hon. Friend’s remarks is that we must find an equitable and just solution for all the countries of this Union. My constituents—and, I believe, those of my hon. Friend—believe that English votes for English laws is the first stepping stone of that equitable and just solution.

Mr Syms: Yes, I certainly think that that is the case, but we must consider the situation north of the border. There is no appetite for regional government in the United Kingdom, but there is an appetite for showing local government more respect, giving it more responsibility and passing it more money. From my experience in local government and in Westminster, I can say that local government is much better at controlling money and decisions than we are here. The country would probably be better governed if we had more confidence in some of our local authorities.

Mr MacNeil: I am quite impressed that the hon. Gentleman has allowed logic to overcome his earlier beliefs against independence. He should be genuinely congratulated on that. He has looked at the situation and taken his views further. Is not the next logical step, and the first stepping stone to reducing the tension he has mentioned, full fiscal autonomy for Scotland?

Mr Syms: There are of course issues relating to the fact that we are interdependent within the economy. There are firms operating in both places. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) made a strong point about burdens on business, but I think that substantial fiscal powers and tax-raising powers should be moved to the Scottish Parliament. Ultimately, that would reduce tensions and effectively make MPs more responsive to their electorate as they would see what they were doing well and what they were doing badly. At the moment, the debate is very much between Edinburgh and Westminster, and that would be the case whoever were in Government. However, the tensions would be higher when there was a right of centre Government at Westminster and a left of centre Government in Holyrood.

On the matter of English votes, I have been very surprised over the past 15 years that the English have not been in revolt and have not been too upset over what is manifestly an unsatisfactory settlement. However, as we see further powers going to the Scottish Parliament and the manifest unfairnesses in this Chamber, people will start to ask very serious questions. It is better that we answer those questions now than let things build up and start creating greater tension. I am not sure whether English votes is the right solution or not, as it is messy,

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but I certainly think that we need to start the process of looking at how we govern ourselves and how we are fair to England.

It is a fact that if England has 84% of the population, it is going to dominate. That is what happened before Scotland joined the Union. Effectively, England was the elephant next door. The benefit of the United Kingdom was that the other countries had a disproportionate say within the United Kingdom Parliament, which worked very well. That changed in the 1990s, and once it changed the dynamics of the Union changed. We have to be fair to the 84% of people who are in England and I hope that we can reach a solution in which we can live as a happy family, and perhaps a more diverse family. The reality is that the logic of devolution is to give people more fiscal power and let them take that responsibility. The logic of the devolution settlement in the 1990s in Wales and later in Northern Ireland and Scotland is that there is an issue to be addressed and if we do not reverse the situation we will all get very raggy and angry because people will manifestly think that they are being unfairly treated.

5.35 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I am a proud Scot and a firm believer in the principles of devolution. I campaigned tirelessly for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and I was proud to serve there for some 12 years. During that time, I saw progressive change made using the devolved powers, whether that was abolishing feudal tenure, taking clause 28 off the statute book, or leading the way in the UK towards implementing the smoking ban. Those are all things of which the Scottish Parliament can be proud. We also had some of the most forward-looking and progressive legislation to tackle homelessness, which provided a lesson for many other places.

As a Scottish Minister, I also spent a lot of time having fairly robust discussions, sometimes with people in my own party, about the boundaries of devolution and what was devolved to the Scottish Parliament as opposed to what had an impact across the UK. Of course, we sometimes had to negotiate around that in relation to the Sewel convention and legislative consent motions. Where the legislative boundaries lay was never quite as clear cut as people have suggested at various points today.

Of course, Labour has guaranteed more powers for Scotland. We have been saying that throughout the referendum debate and we have a timetable for delivery. Scottish Labour’s devolution commission produced an in-depth report that considered a range of options for further devolution. The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) expressed some surprise that different options seem to be laid out in the Command Paper, but the Command Paper was supposed to gather together the views of the different political parties and the different interests and put them on the table as a starting point for further debate and discussion. The task now is for all of us to try to find common ground and to unite where we can. That will require give and take on all sides.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The only region of the United Kingdom to have devolved powers for matters covered by the Department for Work and Pensions is

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Northern Ireland, and that became an obstacle to welfare reform in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Does the hon. Lady agree that sometimes we need to be very careful what we wish for?

Cathy Jamieson: I think I used the phrase, “You had better be careful what you wish for” a number of times during the referendum debate, but the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. When we take forward our discussions and debate we need to think about what we want to do with those powers we intend to devolve. The devolution commission report in Scotland was called “Powers for a purpose” for exactly that reason.

I recognise that, as shown in the referendum debate, many of my constituents felt somehow disconnected from politics not just at the UK level but at a local authority level and in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that devolution, by its very sense, needs to happen in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and other places outwith Edinburgh?

Cathy Jamieson: I agree with my hon. Friend. Some of the criticisms have been that the Scottish Parliament has soaked up various powers at the centre and we need to look further at that.

The recommendations in the Scottish devolution commission’s report were fundamentally based on the need to retain the redistributive principle that sees the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK. We have heard some debate about that this afternoon and it must be examined more closely by the commission. It must be considered on the basis of need and not simply nationality. That principle must remain fundamental to the decisions taken for the future.

During the referendum we heard the voices of the people loud and clear, and they gave us a decisive result, voting for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. But it was also clear that they wanted to see a fairer Scotland. That is why I think that, in considering the options for devolution, we must also look at those powers, consider what they would mean and do some further analysis. Yesterday I received assurances from the Secretary of State that the Smith commission would have the support of the Treasury where that is needed to determine the implications of the various options on the table. Will he confirm again today that that will be commissioned and that information will be published?

It is important that we engage with as many people as possible in Scotland as we take this forward, but we must also engage with people in other parts of the UK—we have heard the reasons why. Far be it from me to come up with the solution for what is now being described as the problem of English devolution. It is an issue for the people of the various parts of England, because in no way is it a homogenous country, just as there are different views in different parts of Scotland. However, I find it difficult to understand the resistance to the idea of a constitutional convention. People have talked about the importance of debate and how engaging with people worked during the referendum process in Scotland, so why not allow people in other parts of the United Kingdom an opportunity to shape their future and engage in those debates, not as a way of kicking it into the long grass, but to ensure that that change is

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delivered? They will look at all possible models. That would also give us an opportunity—this is important to my constituents—to consider how we can introduce reforms to take care of regional representation, for example by having a regionally representative senate to replace the other place in this Parliament.

5.42 pm

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I am very pleased that on a huge turnout the Scottish people voted by a decisive majority in favour of remaining within the United Kingdom. When we set out on this process, the aim had been to have a referendum that was fair, legal and decisive, and that objective was clearly delivered. Liberal Democrats have long argued for home rule for Scotland and for a very powerful Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom, and we are now well on the way to achieving that. My vision for Scotland is a country with its own Parliament that raises the majority of its own revenues and can borrow, tax and spend to meet Scotland’s priorities, with the freedom to innovate and reform but which keeps the strength and security of the United Kingdom.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the more devolution there is of tax, borrowing, revenue and spending powers to any devolved Administration, the greater the instability that arises within its Parliament or Assembly?

Mr Reid: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but that is why I believe that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom. That gives us security not only in defence terms, but in financial terms. Although the Scottish Parliament should have more tax powers, we still need to be part of the United Kingdom for that security. Later in my speech I will outline which taxes I think are suitable for devolving and which I think should remain at the United Kingdom level.

The referendum saw levels of engagement and enthusiasm for politics never seen before. Now that the will of the Scottish people is known, everybody should accept the outcome and harness all that energy and enthusiasm to work together to build a strong, democratic Scotland within the United Kingdom. We want to harness that enthusiasm so that we can see much more participation in our democracy and much more consultation with people, working with them and devolving powers to a local level.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman talks of a strong, democratic Scotland. Does he not feel that full fiscal autonomy would deliver that strong Scotland?

Mr Reid: I do not think the hon. Gentleman was listening to my reply to the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) when I said that devolving all tax-raising powers was not the right solution. I will deal with that later when I talk about the taxes that are suitable for devolving and those that are best left at United Kingdom level.

Following the decisive vote in the referendum to stay within the United Kingdom, the Government moved quickly to set up the Smith commission, to convene cross-party talks and an engagement process across

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Scotland. It is vital that that process delivers significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament within the promised time scale, and I am confident that it will. I am sure that in the coming years we will see further progress on constitutional change for the other nations and regions of the United Kingdom, but further powers for the Scottish Parliament must not be held up while those debates take place in those other nations and regions.

The Scottish Parliament already has a significant range of powers to spend money on delivering public services, but powers are lacking on the other side of the equation—raising money through taxation. That has created a democratic deficit. The Scottish Government heap praise on themselves for the things they choose to spend money on and then blame the United Kingdom for the things they choose not to spend money on. Significant tax-varying powers are necessary so that in future we can have a proper democratic debate on how much to raise through taxes and how much to spend on public services. The Scottish Parliament must be given tax levers enabling it to raise the greater part of its own spending. Taxes on income, wealth and property can suitably be devolved. As well as raising money to spend on public services, these are powerful tools to address inequality in Scotland.

Representing a coastal and island constituency, I believe that devolving the Crown estate, with its control over the foreshore and seabed, is of vital importance. That is one of many areas where devolution must not stop at Holyrood; it must be devolved to a local level within Scotland. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agrees with that.

On welfare and pensions, there should be a single Britain-wide system of entitlements, supporting free movement and residency across Britain with a common set of living standards and entitlements. However, on top of that common set of entitlements, there should be a power for the Scottish Parliament to top up such benefits. Earlier this afternoon, I served on a Delegated Legislation Committee that devolved power over discretionary housing payments. That is a step in the right direction. The power to top up minimum entitlements should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament for all benefits.

While devolving these powers, it is important to help business by keeping the United Kingdom’s single market and unified system of business regulation. It would not make sense to devolve taxes on spending such as VAT, alcohol and tobacco duties, and business taxation. Corporation tax, for example, is best dealt with at United Kingdom level. If it were devolved, one part of the United Kingdom would cut it, and that would lead to a race to the bottom, with business not paying its fair share of taxes and public spending having to be cut. Issues such as foreign affairs, the currency and defence are also obviously best managed at UK level.

These are exciting times. I have no doubt that significant new powers will be passed to the Scottish Parliament within the promised timetable. The long-held Liberal belief in home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom is close to being realised.

Several hon. Members rose—

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Let me just say that after the next speech I will have to reduce the time limit to three minutes.

5.48 pm

Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): It is at times like this that we are reminded of Disraeli’s observation that the English are governed by Parliament, not by logic. There is a lot to be sorted out in this regard.

I start from the simple point that England must get what England wants. The change that is now taking place must lead to change in England. The question is what that change is and then how it will be decided by the English people. Let us be clear that the decision must be taken in England’s interests, like the decisions for Scotland, Wales and so on. Yes, the Union is important, but England cannot be the only nation of the Union that has to forgo its rights for the sake of the Union. With due respect to some of my colleagues, we cannot be told that Scotland can have something that suits Scotland but, on principle, the same thing must be denied to England because of the Union. No amount of Barnett theology, technical discussion about definitions or talk about two-tier or second-class MPs can solve the simple fact that it cannot be right that MPs from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can vote on what happens in schools in my constituency, on the structure of the NHS in England and on the level of university fees when I cannot vote on the same issues in those nations and regions.

I say with respect to my friends and colleagues that England is changing. The days have gone when the English were happy to be happily confused as to whether we were British or English because we thought they both meant the same thing, and we have to reflect that. The new settlement needs to take into account English interests, but I have a profound disagreement with what the Conservative part of the Government is proposing, its timetable for forcing it through to a vote in a few weeks’ time and its attempt at making it a decisive—or divisive, rather—general election issue. It is worrying that the Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie has tweeted today that this is a “classic Crosby issue.” Why is a discredited Australian tobacco lobbyist who has been hired by the Tories taking the role of trying to determine the English constitution?

What England needs is not the divisive choice of one particular solution to the problem, driven through by a Cabinet Committee to the exclusion of all the alternatives that the people of England would like to discuss, including an English Parliament, much greater devolution to England and the revision of the second Chamber. Why is just one proposition going to be pushed through without any broad discussion? Is it because the people of England look at this House and say, “All the expertise we need is there! These people absolutely speak for us. They represent the voices of every village, community, business interest, union and environmental group”? They do not look at us like that. They think we are out of touch and that we do not represent them, and they want the future of England to be decided after a debate that involves all of the people of England.

England needs to reach a consensus, not the confrontation that Lynton Crosby and the Prime Minister

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are trying to engineer. England needs a coming together, not a division in the way the Conservative party is trying to pursue the issue.

Mr Redwood: When I launched my “speak for England” campaign, I did not consult Mr Crosby; I did it because 70% of the English people want English votes for English issues and they want them now.

Mr Denham: The right hon. Gentleman proposed an English Parliament, but he will have noticed that the Prime Minister has excluded that option from the debate. Would he not rather have the process of a constitutional convention through which he could pursue his argument for an English Parliament, if that is what he thinks is right, and the rest of us could pursue what we think is right?

Back in 2007, I argued in this Chamber that a reformed House of Lords, democratically elected from the nations and regions, is the obvious solution: it would allow scrutiny of English legislation in the English part of a second Chamber. Our fundamental problem is that the Commons cannot play both roles: it cannot be both an English legislature and a Commons for the United Kingdom. At the moment, its priority is to be a Commons for the United Kingdom, to the disadvantage of democracy in England. Tilted the other way, it becomes a legislature for England, to the disadvantage of the Commons of the United Kingdom.

We need a different solution, but it is not for me or, with respect, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House to say what that solution should be. It is for the English people, after a proper constitutional convention—a proper debate—to settle on what they think is the best way for our nation to be governed.

5.53 pm

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker, for being away from the Chamber for a period this afternoon due to Committee commitments, but I have followed the debate with interest. Like so many who have spoken, I was delighted with the result in Scotland and I support everything that has been said about ensuring that the vow is made good. The promise must be kept.

It is interesting to follow the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr Denham). I agree with him in many ways, but his argument for a constitutional convention falls down when we realise that he is a member of a party that now supports—as we all do, in fact—mass devolution of powers to Scotland without any consultation with the rest of the United Kingdom or a constitutional convention. We are told that the powers must be delivered swiftly to ensure that the vow is kept, so I am afraid that that is where the right hon. Gentleman’s argument falls down. If we are going to look at this and to have a constitutional convention, it should cover the whole way in which the United Kingdom is governed.

As an English MP who is proud to be an Englishman and as a Yorkshireman to boot, the only conclusion I can come to is that the Labour party’s attempt to complicate and muddy the waters is in order to maintain a political and electoral advantage over England. I can think of no other reason for it. We have heard how

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terribly complicated it is to devolve powers to England: “This situation is terribly difficult, but we must get on and deliver mass devolution to Scotland very quickly.” It was not quite so complicated or difficult when we agreed devolution to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but when it comes to England it seems so terribly complicated. My fear and that of many of my constituents is that this is a deliberate attempt to kick into the long grass a decision about the government of England on a question that I and my constituents know will never be answered.

Mr MacNeil: I just want to make it clear that all we are talking about devolving to Scotland are Scotland’s powers, which are those powers pertaining to Scotland that are currently dealt with at Westminster. The current talk about devolution is merely about returning those powers to Scotland. It is nothing more complicated than that.

Andrew Percy: It is a devolution of powers that will massively change the relationship between England and Scotland, and between this House and Scotland, so it is a major devolution. I want to share the views of my constituents.

Mr Redwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is completely bogus to say that it is difficult to define an English issue? An English issue is a Scottish issue in England, and we should settle such issues here because those in Scotland can settle them there.

Andrew Percy: I quite agree. I am not the brightest person on planet Earth—most of my constituents are a lot brighter—but I understand the very basic concept that if a law applies only to England, it is English legislation and should therefore be voted on only by English MPs, or only by English and Welsh MPs in the case of English and Welsh legislation. I can work that out despite not being the brightest.

My constituents have also figured that out. Precisely because there has not been a constitutional convention ahead of this process or any consultation of the good voters of Brigg, Goole and the isle of Axholme, two weeks before the referendum debate I consulted my constituents on what they wanted. That was long before the issue of English votes for English laws had gained traction in the media. We sent out 3,000 surveys, and had 600 replies overnight; in the end, we had more than 1,000 responses. The overwhelming majority said that they wanted Scotland to remain in the Union. Given a simple choice, 86% told me that they wanted Scots, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs to be stripped of their power to vote on English-only matters. I misquoted the figures when I intervened on the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs Riordan), but asked to pick just one from a range of solutions, 58% of them said that they wanted English votes for English laws, 16% wanted an English Parliament and only 8% wanted regional government in England.

The right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen was quite right to say that something has changed in England. I asked my constituents whether they defined themselves as English or British, and nearly a majority of them now declare themselves to be English. There has been a significant change, which is why the demand made by

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England cannot be dealt with simply by saying, “Let’s devolve £30 billion of spending”, as was said by the Opposition Front Bencher. That sounds like an awful lot of money, but it is not even a third of the NHS budget. I was interested in his concept of English votes for English laws as a big Westminster stitch-up and in his saying that we are all out of touch, whereas devolving powers to local councillors is apparently what people want. I have looked at the turnout figures for local council elections compared with those for parliamentary elections, and I strongly suspect that if we take such figures as a basis for people’s faith in the political elite, people have more faith in this place than in their local council.

A longer-term debate must be had on the constitutional settlement of England and of the whole United Kingdom, and that perhaps merits a constitutional convention. In the intervening period, however, we can—in tandem with the devolution and the new settlement for Scotland—very simply define English votes for English laws, and if Labour does not get on to this very quickly, they will pay the price electorally.

5.59 pm

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): Westminster is a broken system. Essentially, we have three parties that have morphed into one as a result of decades of political triangulation. As The Independent reported over the weekend, tracing paper cannot be put between them.

In England, the response has been increasing support for an insurgent political party, which ironically offers more Westminster, more privatisation, more austerity and more neo-liberalism. In Wales and Scotland, people are increasingly aware that the way to secure a different political direction is not to change the colour of the Government down here in London, but to empower their own national democratic political institutions.

Despite my scepticism, I believe that some progress will be made over new powers for Scotland, although it is quite apparent from today’s debate that there is no joint vision by the Unionist parties, despite the manner in which the vow was presented to the people of Scotland on the eve of the referendum.

Mr MacNeil: Does my hon. Friend agree that the difference in the strength of the current Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament—and indeed the powers promised to Wales and those promised to Scotland—correlates exactly with the strength of the SNP and, unfortunately, with the strength of Plaid Cymru, although it is increasing in Wales at present?

Jonathan Edwards: I am grateful for that intervention, and it is a point that I am sure we will make quite clear when it comes to the general election.

I think we can be sure that the new powers for Scotland will fall far shorter than the promised devolution max. That will be a huge disappointment to the 1.6 million people who voted yes, and especially to the hundreds of thousands—if the polls are to believed—who changed their minds at the last minute. In Wales, the growth in the political confidence of the Welsh people

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continues at breakneck speed. An ICM poll within days of the result in Scotland indicated that the people of my country want far greater political control over their lives. In spring, during the proceedings of the Wales Bill, I warned the UK Government that it would be superseded by events in Scotland— and that is indeed the case.

In the immediate aftermath of the Scottish result, the First Minister of Wales called for home rule all round, although I strongly suspect that his version of home rule is far less ambitious than mine. When asked what powers he wanted, he could come up only with a reserved powers model for our National Assembly. That, although important, is hardly the sort of stuff to get excited about and it is a million miles away from what most people would see as genuine home rule.

In contrast, Plaid Cymru published last month a detailed position paper entitled “Bring our Government Home: Proposals for empowering Wales”. The paper called for the current Wales Bill to include all the recommendations of the Silk commission, rather than the cherry-picking we saw from the UK Government, and, crucially, for a second Wales Bill to mirror the powers that will be made available to Scotland. We have labelled this second Bill a balancing bill, to end the practice of Wales playing catch-up with Scotland.

We are also calling for a radical overhaul of the discredited Barnett formula, which has ill-served my country. This needs to be coupled with increased fiscal powers for the National Assembly—beyond the current Wales Bill. If Scotland is to get 100% income tax powers as recommended by the Tory Strathclyde commission, Wales should have the same powers. Plaid Cymru’s ambition is to improve the Welsh economy so that we can stand on our own two feet as a country. This will not be achieved for as long as we are dependent upon fiscal transfers from London, whereby Welsh taxes are collected by the Treasury and a share is sent back to fund Welsh public services.

Pete Wishart: I am wondering whether my hon. Friend is aware of any representations made by the First Minister of Wales to whatever Committee has been set up so that Wales can get these powers.

Jonathan Edwards: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. The First Minister made a big play about his call for a constitutional convention, but in response to a question we tabled to the Deputy Prime Minister last year, it appears that the First Minister has made no representations to the UK Government at all.

The Welsh Government need to be incentivised to grow the Welsh economy, and that can be achieved only by fiscal responsibility.

Before I conclude, I would like to comment briefly on the proposals for English votes for English laws in this House. As a point of principle, I do not have a problem with what the UK Government are advancing, pending two resolutions. First, the Welsh budget is determined by spending decisions on public services in England that are devolved. I cannot see how English votes for English laws can be introduced until the Barnett formula is replaced; otherwise, Welsh MPs will be barred from voting on measures that might impact on the Welsh budget.

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Secondly, we will have to move to a symmetrical devolution settlement within the UK; otherwise, there will be several tiers of MPs, creating potential chaos during votes in this place. If the Union is to survive, it is crying out for someone with a bit of vision to bring forward proposals for a lasting settlement. Far be it from me to offer advice, but it seems to me that an obvious solution would be fully to empower the National Assembly for Wales, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. This place should be turned into an English Parliament, with the Lords performing the role of a confederal Parliament or Senate.

The political ground is moving under the feet of Westminster. If the current British state is to survive to celebrate its centenary—considering the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921—the Westminster establishment has to acknowledge that the aspirations of the people of Wales and Scotland for far more powers over our national democratic institutions must be met.

6.4 pm

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): As a Conservative, I am proud of our record of creating and supporting the evolution of the Union over a long period. It was John Major who paved the way for the £500 million of EU and British Government growth funding that is controlled by Cornwall council and local businesses. It was the Conservatives in this Government who announced the intention to recognise Cornish people as a national minority under EU rules, based on Cornwall’s distinct culture and traditions.

At the general election in 2010, I was proud to stand on a manifesto that committed us to a radical decentralisation of power from this place to my constituents and to people and communities across the UK. Much progress has been made. I know that people in Cornwall will be pushing on an open door if they want more decision-making powers to be devolved. It is not only our great cities that are the engine houses of innovation and sustainable growth, but ambitious and forward-looking places such as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

I ask the Minister today to reassure me and my constituents that as the promises that were made to the Scottish people are debated and the mechanisms developed to ensure that they are delivered, the commitments that have been made to the rest of the UK will also be delivered. There was a promise of a wider constitutional and financial settlement. It is essential that the allocation of resources around the UK is based on need. That must be central to the plan.

For me, the debate about devolution is not about a costly and distracting reorganisation of local or regional government in Cornwall, with the introduction of more professional politicians and an assembly, but about a carefully thought through plan for the further devolution of powers to people and communities, including Cornwall council. I am concerned that the Lib Dems have jumped on the Cornish nationalist bandwagon by demanding a Cornish assembly, without consulting people in Cornwall. At the last general election, the political party that advocated a Cornish assembly, the Cornish Nationalist party or Mebyon Kernow, polled about 5% of people in Cornwall. That is hardly a mandate for a Cornish assembly.

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Cornwall faces many challenges and has considerable opportunities. I will remain focused on the important issues for people in Cornwall: improving their prosperity and well-being, and tackling the historically unfair funding of our public services. I look forward to working with this Government to deliver for them.

6.7 pm

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): For the past two and a half years, the people of Scotland have been engaged in record numbers in the most existential of debates on where power should lie within a state and in whose interests that power is wielded. In the wake of the referendum outcome, it is right that people in the rest of the United Kingdom should join that discussion. Let me add to the thanks to the record numbers of people in Scotland who voted, debated, campaigned and contributed to a life-changing democratic process for all of us.

I said in this House several months ago that once the heat of the referendum campaign had cooled, the hand of friendship would be extended to those who love Scotland equally, but who believe in a different constitutional path for our country. I echo that call today. We go forward as one people, not as two tribes harbouring grievances and ill will against each other. Now that the sovereign will of the Scottish people has been expressed and we have chosen to build a future together with the peoples of the other three nations in the United Kingdom, we are all bound to make good on the consequences of the vote and to deliver quickly on the agreed timetable for the fiscal and social security powers that will deliver real change in Scotland and reform the governance of these islands for good.

Although I welcome the decisive nature of the referendum result across Scotland, there are clearly fences to be mended in Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Dundee for those of us who have supported devolution all our lives. We all have to work harder to listen to, understand and act upon the strong cry for change that Glasgow’s voters expressed—a contempt for establishment power, a desire to abolish poverty and the urge for a more responsive politics. That is why I strongly support the establishment of a constitutional convention for peoples across the United Kingdom to examine how we can extend devolution to the cities, towns and villages of England, and how devolution can be extended down from the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly into the local authority areas of Scotland and Wales.

We also need to look at how we establish arrangements for a written constitution for the United Kingdom. During the referendum process, I have become increasingly convinced that 16th or 17th-century constitutional arrangements are no longer satisfactory for our 21st-century country. I hope we have a written constitution that reflects that modern approach.

Mr MacNeil: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the powers of the Crown Estate should be transferred from the UK Parliament to the relevant island authorities?

Mr Bain: If that proposal is in the submission to the Smith commission, other colleagues and I will look at it. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is finally

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endorsing Scottish Affairs Committee recommendations. We truly are making progress in the debate.

I hope that the written constitution will enshrine the principle that sovereignty comes from the people, not one single political institution, that power is shared between institutions, and that the devolved institutions are a permanent, irreversible part of our constitutional landscape. Power coming from the people and power given back to the people, and Government no longer hoarding power but giving it to cities, towns and communities, should be the guiding principles of a new constitutional settlement. From the crisis of trust in politics can come the birth of new hope. Let us seize this moment and, with the great peoples across this island, revitalise our democracy for good.

6.11 pm

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): First, I want to make it abundantly clear how pleased I am that Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom. Generally speaking, the House has accepted that. My second point is that the debate has reminded hon. Members where real political power lies: Parliament. That needs to be discussed more often. We spend a lot of time discussing things other than where power lies.

I welcome the First Secretary of State’s comments on inclusion and reaching out to the Labour party. He is right that we must have a consensus. However, English power and votes on English law are already becoming a reality through various decisions that the First Secretary of State made as leader of the Conservative party. We have seen that in the McKay commission and in what Conservative Members have said today.

On the other hand, the Labour party is out of touch. Throughout the debate, Labour has talked about now and before, not now and tomorrow. The big change is that Scotland will have more power. It will receive more power through devolution and the vow. That means we must re-establish political and constitutional equilibrium across the United Kingdom. It means that we must address the need for English votes for English laws. It is essentially a question of equilibrium. The arrangements will be out of balance if we do not accept that it is impossible for an increasing number of England-only laws to be discussed by Scottish Members of Parliament. That is the central point of the vow: more powers will go to Edinburgh, and therefore more legislation will be exclusively English. It is an obvious fact.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the vast majority of legislation considered by the House has implications, particularly financial consequences, for Scotland, and that that is likely to remain the case irrespective of what comes out of the Smith commission? How does the hon. Gentleman propose to deal with that?

Neil Carmichael: The answer to the hon. Lady’s question largely revolves around what powers are finally transferred to Scotland. There is a debate on that—Lord Smith’s function is effectively to receive views, the McKay commission could be restarted and so on. We need to answer that question, but if, for example, significant tax-raising powers are to go to Scotland, it is inconceivable

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that English MPs will be happy to have their tax discussed by Scottish MPs without English MPs having an influence on Scotland. That is what equilibrium is all about and why it would be threatened by increased transfers of power. What we think about tomorrow matters. We must therefore put on the table now the question of English law, English votes and English power.

I want to talk a little about the Barnett formula, which has been touched on a few times. It was really introduced as a sop to Scottish nationalists back in 1978 while the discussion on devolution was going on. [Interruption.] That is the actual timing of it—oh yes. We therefore need to revise it as spending tax-raising powers for Scotland are being changed. We need to think about our own formula funding in England within the context of broader reform. One last strike is this: let us have more power for our cities in England, because they need proper regional recognition.

6.15 pm

Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael).

Let me start briefly and quickly by addressing a question that you posed to me earlier, Mr Deputy Speaker. The purple tie I am wearing is a present from my wife. I have an obligation to wear it. It does not suggest any political allegiance. It does not suggest that I am doing a Clacton or anything else. I thought I should clear that up.

Devolution is a topic that can often seem dusty and academic to many people, but fundamentally I believe this debate is about power: where it lies and in whose interest it is being used. It is not a boring topic at all; it is the essence of our politics. Our system of government was once the envy of the world, but it is now increasingly hard to defend some of the ways that power is exercised in this country. In the wake of the Scottish referendum, the West Lothian question has to be raised again—it needs to be answered. I could not defend to people in Rochdale the fact that Scottish MPs are able to vote on issues that affect their lives, but not the lives of people in Scotland.

The West Lothian question is far from the only example of illegitimate power in this country. I also find it hard to defend the fact that we are the only country in the world apart from Iran that has unelected religious leaders sitting in Parliament. I find it hard to defend the fact that we have 92 hereditary peers voting on issues that affect people in Rochdale. Most of all, I find it hard to defend to my constituents the entire system where the vast majority of decisions about their lives are made in remote rooms here in London. Whether it is Whitehall or Westminster, people are rightly fed up of the entire country being run from SW1.

Some people now argue that the solution is an English Parliament or English votes for English laws. I see the appeal of those ideas, but to view the issue in isolation would be a big mistake. The enthusiasm for this idea from Conservative Members looks like self-interest. It looks as though it is a party political stitch-up. What we need is a much bigger solution, one that involves the people of this country having a conversation and a discussion about it. That is why Labour’s call for a constitutional convention has many merits.

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Let me move on to my final point, not least because I only have a few seconds. The voices of people in our towns and cities across England have been marginalised for far too long. What we now need is a full and proper conversation about this issue.