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Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Iran and North Korea share an appalling human rights record, particularly in relation to religious minorities. Would it not be catastrophic if reports that they have also shared nuclear activities proved to be true?

Mr Hammond: Well, potentially, but this agreement and the non-proliferation treaty obligations that Iran has undertaken include the proliferation of nuclear know-how, technologies and materials from third countries into Iran, so that route to a bomb is also covered by these agreements.

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): The enforcement of this deal will be well served by the deployment of British nuclear expertise at every technical level. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what specific involvement the British nuclear industry will have in the decommissioning and monitoring of the Iranian programme?

Mr Hammond: The Iranians will do most of the decommissioning work themselves. It is relatively low-level work involving taking out pipework and destroying centrifuges, and it will be done under a regime that will be overseen by the IAEA. The big piece of engineering work is the redesign of the Arak reactor. Britain does not have industrial capabilities that are relevant to that particular project, which will be led by the Chinese with other international partners working in consortium.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I echo the compliments that have been paid to the Foreign Secretary, his colleagues and predecessors and to all those involved over the long course of the negotiations. I hope that this agreement will prove that firm UN resolutions, sanctions and applied diplomacy can be a workable combination. Will the UK Government be influenced as to the pace and scope of sanctions relaxation by how well the Iranian Government move towards respecting human rights, so that the minorities who are being discriminated against do not feel a new sense of exclusion by being denied the benefits of the reduction in sanctions?

Mr Hammond: The UK does not have any bilateral sanctions against Iran; we are talking about EU and UN sanctions. The programme under which the sanctions will be removed is strictly related to Iran’s progressive compliance with its nuclear obligations under the joint comprehensive plan of action. As Iran delivers steps of compliance, we will remove bits of the sanctions regime. That is the way it has to be, if we are to get a win-win agreement. We will continue to press Iran on its human rights record and on its interference in the region, but those factors are not part of the conditionality of this agreement.

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Water Cannon

1.53 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I want to inform the House of my decision regarding the potential authorisation of water cannon for use by the police in England and Wales. Members will remember that in the wake of the disturbances that took place in cities across England during the summer of 2011, the police reviewed the range of tactics and equipment available to them to manage public disorder. In its report following those disturbances, the Metropolitan Police Service identified water cannon as a potential option, and, in May 2013, chief constables took the decision collectively to bring forward a business case for authorisation.

It was not until March 2014 that I received the formal request seeking authorisation for the Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000 water cannon to be made available as a policing tactic on behalf of all forces in England and Wales, at which time I began the detailed consideration of whether to authorise. In June 2014, the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime approved the purchase of three Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000 water cannon from the German federal police, and they arrived in the UK in July 2014.

My decision relates specifically to the application submitted by Chief Constable David Shaw, the relevant national policing lead, in March 2014. It applies to all 43 forces in England and Wales, but it does not apply to Northern Ireland, where the use of water cannon is already authorised. The decision whether to authorise water cannon is a serious one. Water cannon, without safeguards, have the capacity to cause harm. Their use is a police tactic that has not been used in Great Britain previously, and there are those who argue that its introduction would change the face of British policing. I have therefore taken the utmost care to ensure that the testing and assessment on which a decision is made is as thorough and exhaustive as possible.

Water cannon are classed as a less lethal system and technology, for which there is an established authorisation process to gather the evidence necessary for a decision by the Secretary of State. It is the same process that my predecessors followed to authorise the use of less lethal weapons such as baton rounds and Taser, and similar to that by which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland approved water cannon for use by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The assessment process is comprehensive. It has involved a full independent review of the medical implications of water cannon and a further review of the latest police guidance, training and maintenance documents, both of which were conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory as advisers to the independent Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons—SACMILL. The process has also included formal operational performance trials of the three water cannon vehicles procured by the Metropolitan police, conducted by the Centre for Applied Science and Technology. I received the evidence from these reviews, and the final assessment from SACMILL, from the Surgeon General immediately before the general election. I shall place copies of all the reviews and the formal request from Chief Constable David Shaw in the House Library.

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In addition to undertaking the scientific and medical assessment, I wrote to a number of senior serving and former chief constables in August last year to gain a better understanding of the operational context in which water cannon could be used. This was with particular reference to the potential use and effectiveness of water cannon in major operations, including the Countryside Alliance demonstrations in 2004, the Israeli embassy demonstrations in 2008-09, the student protests in 2010, the G20 protests in London in 2009, and the summer riots in 2011. I shall place copies of this correspondence in the House Library.

On the basis of the evidence provided by the police and the relevant independent bodies, I can inform the House that I have decided not to authorise the Wasserwerfer 9000 water cannon as a policing tactic for operational use in England and Wales. My rationale is threefold. First, the medical and technical issues raised by the reviews do not give me the degree of confidence that I need to authorise less lethal weaponry. While evidence suggests that these water cannon are unlikely to result in serious or life-threatening injuries as currently built, and used as envisaged, the assessment nevertheless poses a series of direct and indirect medical risks from their use. Those risks include the possibility of causing primary, secondary and tertiary injuries, including musculoskeletal injuries such as spinal fracture, as well as other serious injuries such as concussion, eye injury and blunt trauma. International evidence supports this conclusion: during a protest in Stuttgart, a 66-year-old protester was completely blinded by a model of water cannon similar to those under consideration.

At the same time, I remain unconvinced of the operability of the machines under consideration. They are 25 years old and have required significant alterations and repairs to meet the necessary standards. The final SACMILL assessment found 67 separate outstanding issues that would still need to be addressed before the machines could be deployed, including serious faults that would result in significant operational implications if they were deployed.

Secondly, my decision takes into account the operational case for water cannon. The original police request argued that water cannon offered a flexible option to disperse crowds, protect premises and deter disruptive behaviour that might otherwise have to be dealt with by forcible means. However, it made it clear that water cannon have limitations, especially in response to fast, agile disorder. This has been borne out by further discussion with chief constables, who raised the possibility that the vehicles might serve to attract crowds to a vulnerable location and noted that evidence from Northern Ireland suggests that the deployment of water cannon usually requires significant advance notice, which casts doubt on their utility in a riot scenario.

Finally, I am acutely conscious of the potential impact of water cannon on public perceptions of police legitimacy. As a number of chief constables argued, in areas with a history of social unrest or mistrust of the police, the deployment of water cannon has the potential to be entirely counterproductive. This country has a proud history of policing by consent, and this decision goes to its very heart.

Since I became Home Secretary, I have been determined to give the police the powers and tools they need to cut crime and tackle disorder on our streets. I have extended police discretion over areas such as police-led prosecutions.

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I have consistently made the case for legislation on communications data to ensure that technology does not outpace the ability of the intelligence agencies and law enforcement to keep us safe. And I have cut central targets and bureaucracy to save officer time and ensure the police focus relentlessly on what they are trained to do: cut crime. But where the medical and scientific evidence suggests that those powers could cause serious harm, where the operational case is not clear and where the historical principle of policing by consent could be placed at risk, I will not give my agreement. The application for the authorisation of the Wasserwerfer 9000 water cannon does not meet that high threshold.

I would like to end by saying this: this Government’s programme of police reform intends, fundamentally, to transform the relationship between the public and the police. We have reformed stop and search to ensure that its use is targeted, intelligence-led and accountable. We have taken steps to reduce the use of police cells for those with mental health problems and to free up police officers to do their job. We have taken steps to reform undercover policing—tomorrow I will lay the terms of reference for Lord Justice Pitchford’s review before this House—and established the College of Policing to drive standards and training on behalf of all policing. Later this year, our police and criminal justice Bill will propose reforms to strengthen police integrity, reform the complaints and disciplinary systems, and introduce limits on the length of time people spend on pre-charge bail.

But however much we have achieved, this mission does not stop. Crime may have fallen by more than a quarter since 2010, according to the independent crime survey for England and Wales, but it remains too high. Public trust in the police has risen in recent years, but it remains too low. That is why I initiated my programme of reform in 2010, and it is why this Government are determined to finish the job. I commend this statement to the House.

2.1 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. She and I are often at odds on Home Office issues—she will know that we have disagreed on issues relating to police reform, including on police and crime commissioners, and she referred to that at the end of her statement—but today, on the main substance of her statement, I could not agree with her more. She is exactly right to reject the application from the police and the Mayor of London to use water cannon, and I support her decision today. I also welcome the thorough and comprehensive way in which she has done so and agree with her on each of her three counts.

The Home Secretary is right to take immensely seriously the safety and health risks from this kind of weapon. She referred to the case from Stuttgart in 2010, where a man was blinded when he was hit in the face by a water cannon during a protest against a local infrastructure project. It was troubling that the submission from the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2014 calling on her to authorise water cannon did not even refer to that case—that did not reflect well on the thoroughness of the case being put forward.

Secondly, I agree with the Home Secretary that the operational case that was put forward is too weak to justify the authorisation of something so potentially

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dangerous. During the riots in 2011, the then president of ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde, described calls for the use of water cannon then as

“the wrong tactic, in the wrong circumstances at this moment”.

He said that

“excessive force will destroy our model of policing in the long term”.

Significantly, Sir Hugh Orde is one of the few chief constables to have authorised water cannon in Northern Ireland, where of course the circumstances are very different and where a unique threat is faced.

The ACPO paper from 2014 also says that

“history would suggest that the most serious outbreaks of public disorder have occurred spontaneously”

and therefore water cannon would not be suitable. Instead, it says water cannon would be useful for “planned events” and points to

“ongoing and potential future austerity measures likely to lead to continued protest”.

However, Britain has policed planned events in this country for centuries without the need for water cannon, by using communication with event organisers, using sensible policing strategies or, in exceptional cases where violence is expected, such as with English Defence League marches, using the power to ban marches or relocate them. Can the Home Secretary confirm that she believes the police do have a wide range of powers available to them to deal with serious public order threats or serious criminal threats on our streets, be it in the capital or across the country? I agree with the Home Secretary that water cannon have never been deployed in England, Scotland or Wales and no one has put forward any justification for why that should change now.

The Home Secretary also pointed out that the Mayor of London has already purchased three water cannon. Can she confirm that that cost £218,000 of Greater London Authority money, and that it was done before getting her authorisation and was based on an operational case that has now been proven to be extremely weak? Can she also confirm, as she seemed to be saying in her statement, that he did not even seem to have bought particularly good water cannon, as it appears that they are 25 years old and need at least 67 major repairs and alterations? Given that the Chancellor has now grounded the Mayor’s airport ambitions, may I strongly welcome her comprehensive pouring of cold water on his cannon ambitions, too?

I agree with the Home Secretary that deploying water cannon could also be counterproductive and could damage our long tradition of policing by consent. She rightly has a responsibility not only to look seriously at any proposal put to her by the police and to make sure that they have the powers they need, but to take account of the fact that our model is based on nearly two centuries of policing by consent, with people becoming police officers from their communities to represent and protect their communities. Public order policing, just like any other aspect of policing, is based on that consent and confidence, and to weaponise policing further would create significant risks. The Home Secretary is therefore right to reject water cannon today and Labour strongly supports her decision.

Mrs May: I thank the right hon. Lady for her remarks about the decision I have taken. May I echo one of the comments she made about Northern Ireland? It is important

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that we recognise that the policing circumstances there are completely different from those the police face in England and Wales, and I would just like to commend the work that the Police Service of Northern Ireland does. Its officers face significant threats and significant trouble, and they do that job with integrity and professionalism.

The right hon. Lady is also right to say that a range of powers are available to the police in England and Wales to be able to deal with public order, as they have been doing for many years. At least one chief constable referred in his correspondence to me to the way in which they like to work with communities when public demonstrations or marches are about to take place, and would prefer to be able to use those methods of communication and working with communities to ensure that public order is maintained at all times.

The decision on the three machines was a matter for the Mayor of London. The point that she makes, crucially, about the level of trust is a significant one; it is about that model of British policing. As Peel said,

“the police are the public and the public are the police”

and we should treasure our model of policing by consent.

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): I thank the Home Secretary very much for her statement, and for the care and thoroughness with which she has considered this case. Obviously, I do not necessarily agree with the conclusion. May I remind her that the decision to buy the Wasserwerfer was taken in the light of the strong support of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for this operational crowd control tool, and of the strong support of the Prime Minister and indeed of the people of London, as expressed in a poll that found that 68% were in favour? Indeed, it was taken in the interests of economy, as we are able to buy these machines and thereby save £2.3 million. No Member on either side of the House wants to see the deployment of water cannon anywhere in the United Kingdom, and I fail to see the physiological difference between the people of England and Wales, and the people of Northern Ireland—I will read her study with great interest. Will the Home Secretary confirm that, in the vanishingly unlikely event of a serious outbreak of violence on the streets of London or indeed any other city in this county that poses a threat to life and limb and to property, it would be open to the Metropolitan police, and indeed any other police force, to present an application for the use of non-lethal methods of crowd control?

Mrs May: It is of course open to the police at any time to apply for the use of a less lethal weapon that has not been authorised. A proper process is undertaken, and that is the process that has pertained in this case. A business case is put forward, the proper medical and technical evidence is taken and the decision is then made by the Home Secretary.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP): I thank the Home Secretary for an advance copy of her statement. I will probably not say this very often during the life of this Parliament, but I wish to commend her for her decision and for the careful reasons she has given. This was a decision for England and Wales only. I

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have been in touch with the Scottish Government this morning and can confirm that Scottish Ministers do not support the use of water cannon in Scotland. Water cannon do not offer a proportionate response, and they cut across the traditional approach of policing in Great Britain. They are indiscriminate and target peaceful protesters with a significant risk of injury. The Home Secretary was not convinced of the case for water cannon back in 2010 when she said:

“A range of measures is available to the police…and we do not believe water cannon are needed.”

We are delighted that nothing has happened to make her change her mind. Will the Home Secretary confirm that there will be no change in her announced approach over the next five years?

Mrs May: The hon. and learned Lady was probably entirely correct in her initial surmise that this is possibly going to be an unusual occasion when she and I agree on matters related to home affairs. I am grateful to her for outlining the Scottish Government’s position. As it happens, I will meet the Scottish Justice Minister later this afternoon to discuss a number of issues. As for the next five years, I have taken the decision on the basis of the evidence that has been put before me. As I have indicated in response to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), it is open to the police at any time to apply for the use of a less than lethal weapon. At that time, the evidence available would be considered and a decision taken on that basis.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Home Secretary agree that, in the summer of 2011, police officers were worried about not only the imminent threat of physical violence to themselves, but the consequences had any violent rioters been injured while the police were trying to deal with them? With that in mind, does she accept that the advantage of water cannon is that they enable the police to deal with people at a distance and that the alternative is that police officers will have to deal with people at very close quarters, probably using batons, spray and shields? Will she give some reassurance that police officers in that situation will not themselves face serious disciplinary consequences if violent people who are trying to attack them receive injuries while doing so?

Mrs May: I have always made it absolutely clear to the police that if they act within the law I will stand by them. Our police officers do a magnificent job. I spoke to many of them immediately after the riots of 2011 and heard from them at first hand the danger they were under. The nature of the riots of 2011 was predominantly such that water cannon would not have been able to be used. Police had to deal with smaller groups of individuals who were very mobile, and it was not the stand-off situation that we see, for example, in the parades in Northern Ireland, which is a completely different circumstance from that which we saw in 2011.

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): I also commend unequivocally the statement made by the Home Secretary. London has a rich history of demonstration and protest. Very rarely is there disorder, and I support the police when there is. During the course of her detailed statement, she talked about our history of policing by consent. We

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are all concerned about the 25-year-old water cannon. Can she ever foresee a situation in which she consents to the use of those cannon in London?

Mrs May: I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the statement I made today was on the basis of an application for the use of those water cannon, and I have decided not to authorise that use.

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): Just as there is unusual agreement on this, there are also unusual disagreements. I think that this is a regrettable decision. Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is not a case of either water cannon or policing by consent as normal? The water cannon would be used only in circumstances where it is either water cannon or some other violent force that the police need in an emergency. Will she therefore comment on the relative merits of water cannon as opposed to individual batons, Tasers, baton rounds and other forms of less lethal force? It is not obvious to me that water cannon are more dangerous in such situations.

Mrs May: I recognise my right hon. Friend’s experience as a former Policing Minister in looking at these issues. The police have a range of tools available to them. Of course there will be circumstances in which they will have contact with those who are demonstrating—those who are causing public order problems. He referred, I think, to the use of Tasers in this context. I say to him that they would be unlikely to be used in the circumstances he describes. For his information, I have set in hand a piece of work to look at the use of Tasers by police, because a number of issues have been raised around their use.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Many Londoners will be surprised that the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), the current Mayor of London, spent nearly a quarter of a million pounds of public money on water cannon before they had even been authorised, but they will be relieved, none the less, that they have not been authorised. Twice in my time as a Member of Parliament, I have seen public disorder on the streets of Hackney—first, the poll tax riots and then the events following the shooting of Mark Duggan. I take these issues very seriously. They are as frightening and difficult for the communities in which they occur as they are for anyone else. I do not believe—and thinking Londoners do not believe—that undermining a centuries-old tradition of policing by consent is the way to go on these very serious matters. Does the Home Secretary agree that many Londoners will welcome her decision today?

Mrs May: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I hope this decision will be welcomed by many people. As I have said, that issue of trust between the police and the public is very important. Indeed there are many communities in which we need to build that trust rather than the reverse.

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con): There are very few issues on which I find myself at odds with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). Unfortunately, this is one of them. Rather than using water cannon, would my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary consider authorising the use of traceable liquid such as SmartWater and other similar

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products, so that the small number of violent offenders in these protests can be individually identified and, at a time and a distance, when tensions have subsided, be arrested and brought to justice?

Mrs May: I have seen the examples of SmartWater. Obviously it is a product of great interest. If the police feel that they wish to be able to use it in certain circumstances and it requires authorisation, there is a process by which an application can be made.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): On every occasion that the Home Secretary has appeared before the Select Committee—at least in the past 13 months—we have asked about this issue, and she said that she wanted to deliberate very carefully and make a decision after she had looked at all the evidence. May I commend her not just for the decision she has made but for not being pushed into making this decision? She has studied the matter carefully and come to the House and given her version, so well done.

Mrs May: I think that I should probably just say thank you and sit down.

Mr Speaker: I call Mr Nick Herbert when he has finished consulting his mobile phone.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I know that the Home Secretary will have taken this decision with great care. I therefore regret to say that I, too, have grave concerns about it. Does it not directly contradict the statement of the Prime Minister during the London riots of 2011 that water cannon would not be taken off the table and that indeed they could be made available within 24 hours? The Home Secretary has not been directly responsible for policing in the capital for 15 years. The elected Mayor has responsibility in that regard and the senior operational commander in London has made it quite clear that he supports the use of water cannon. Surely a riot is a riot whether it is in Northern Ireland or on the streets of London and it is hard to see why it should be dealt with differently. Just this week, water cannon have been used in the Province.

Mrs May: I thank my right hon. Friend the former Policing Minister for sharing his views. On the point about comparisons with Northern Ireland, I simply point out that he is talking about water cannon being used in a riot, which—this is important in thinking about their operability—is a fast-moving situation in which circumstances can arise very quickly that require the police to make quick decisions on the use of the tools available to them. Last August, as I indicated in my statement, I wrote to a number of senior officers and serving and former chief constables to ask about the circumstances in which water cannon would be used. In response, the then temporary deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland wrote—his letter will be placed in the Library—that:

“the predominant method of deployment for the PSNI is within a pre-planned public order operation, with cannons deployed to either a reserve, holding or forward location, depending on an assessment of the ‘immediacy’ of use.”

They are pre-planned operations, so the fact that they might be used is known some time in advance. That is a different scenario from a rapidly moving, spontaneous occasion of the sort my right hon. Friend refers to.

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Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): Have I got this correct: instead of engaging in careful analysis of the sort undertaken by the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London charged ahead and bought three antiquated, expensive, dangerous, and now totally redundant, German-made water cannon, aided and abetted by the Prime Minister? Is that not the sort of behaviour that local councillors used to be surcharged for, and has the Home Secretary any plans to use such a penalty against her future rival in the Tory leadership contest?

Mrs May: We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for contributing to the debate, and on a matter that, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, is devolved; the decision in Scotland is for Scottish Ministers. I am sure that all of us who have taken decisions in relation to the matter have done so on the basis of the advice and evidence put before us.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): The Home Secretary has commented on the powers that the police have to deal with such situations without the use of water cannon, but she has also commissioned a study on the use of Tasers. I wonder whether this is not the time for a comprehensive assessment of those powers and how they can be used.

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. There are circumstances in which particular tools that are available to the police are used, and there are questions about their use, particularly for Tasers, in particular environments, so it is right that we look at their use. With regard to the wider use of police powers, I am always looking to ensure that the police have the necessary tools and powers available to them, commensurate with requirements relating to medical and technical advice and with the need to maintain the firm trust between the police and the public.

Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I spent five years in Northern Ireland monitoring the police, and I spent time in the command room and during briefings when the use of water cannon was being planned. The situation there is very different from the situation in London, and it is important to bear that in mind in this debate.

Mrs May: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for making that point. Indeed, I have had that conversation with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, who is a former Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, and he is conscious of that real difference, both for policing more generally and for the circumstances that the police there have to deal with. As the hon. and learned Gentleman points out, the use of water cannon in Northern Ireland is very much pre-planned.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): The Home Secretary talks about the public perception of legitimacy. Did she formally consult the public before making the decision? A poll shows that two thirds of Londoners support the use of water cannon in exceptional circumstances. In particular, has she consulted the victims of the 2011 riots, such as those in my borough of Enfield? They certainly admired the police’s restraint, but they also want them to have more tools in the box to be able to take exceptional action in a proportionate and reasonable manner.

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Mrs May: I am very conscious of the poll that the Mayor of London, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Boris Johnson), undertook on the views of Londoners. I am also conscious that a number of views were expressed in 2011 by those who sadly found themselves living in parts of London that were affected. I reiterate my earlier point that people often assume that because what happened in 2011 were riots, water cannon would necessarily have been operable in every circumstance. In fact, they would not have been. There is evidence from the chief constables of West Midlands police and Merseyside police, where riots also took place in 2011, that water cannon would not have been the answer because of the nature of the riots taking place.

Mr Speaker: In talking about Uxbridge, we must not forget South Ruislip.

Boris Johnson: I am most grateful, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: It is a very important part of the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I welcome the Home Secretary’s decision. It feels as though the Government are preparing for a number of confrontations. Is she confident that the police have the necessary resources for what could prove to be a long, hot summer?

Mrs May: I was asked by the shadow Home Secretary about the tools and powers available to the police. They have a range of powers available to them, and a range of guidance and training in relation to public order policing.

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): As a former Metropolitan police officer, I was relieved to hear my right hon. Friend’s announcement. Does she agree that the use of water cannon would have changed the face of traditional policing on the mainland beyond all recognition? Will she ensure that the police are provided with the most up-to-date equipment to fight criminality, including robust stop-and-search powers?

Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, particularly given his experience. We do indeed believe that stop-and-search powers are an essential tool, but they must be used properly and in a targeted way that will be effective. That is what our “Best Use of Stop and Search” scheme is for. I echo the question that Lord Condon asked the Minister in another place in March:

“Does the Minister agree that no compelling case has been made, now or in the past, for the use of water cannon in London and that that is why all former commissioners, me included, have resisted calls for their use?”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 March 2015; Vol. 760, c. 1001.]

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Member for South Antrim (Danny Kinahan), who has struck me, in the short time I have known him, as a very decent fellow, but he has only just toddled into the Chamber and is now rising to ask the Home Secretary a question. He cannot expect to be called in relation to this statement, because he was not here for it. We will hear from the hon. Gentleman on another occasion—we are saving him up.

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Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab): The Home Secretary has clearly considered this matter, and I respect her decision. All that I will say is that when the Police Service of Northern Ireland makes it clear that it requires water cannon for public order situations, it rightly receives the support of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. But when police in England and Wales say that they require that capability in their respective contexts, the Home Secretary disagrees. Why is one chief constable right and entitled to support while the other is wrong and not?

Mrs May: As I have said in answer to a number of points raised today, the policing situation in Northern Ireland is different from the one in England and Wales. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to assume that all chief constables in England and Wales think that water cannon are a tool that they should have, or indeed that they would use, because the evidence shows that their views on the issue are very mixed.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): I thank the Home Secretary for sharing a copy of her statement in advance. I rise simply because Northern Ireland has been mentioned a number of times today. I wish to commend her for the statement. There will be a range of views on how water cannon can best be deployed, but I think that it is incumbent on Members of this House to recognise that it is not for parliamentarians to frustrate the full range of non-lethal means that the police can use in a riotous and difficult situation.

Mrs May: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. As I have pointed out, water cannon have been used for some years in Northern Ireland, and they are used in a pre-planned way and in a particular set of circumstances. It is right that we recognise that the circumstances of policing in England and Wales are different; the police in England and Wales face different types of issues from those faced by the PSNI.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): Chief Constable David Shaw was very clear that water cannon would not have helped in the London riots in 2011 and that the coalition Government were right to resist their use, so I commend the Home Secretary for her decision. She has clearly done her scrutiny in an entirely proper and admirable way. Will she also ensure that there is proper parliamentary scrutiny of any changes to the deployment of less lethal weapons in this country?

Mrs May: There is a very clear process by which the use of less-lethal weaponry is authorised for use in England and Wales. It is for the Home Secretary to take a decision on the basis of the evidence that is put before SACMILL and the various other bodies I mentioned that are part of the process of looking at this. In order to ensure that parliamentarians are as fully informed as possible, I am making as much of the evidence as possible available in the Library so that people are able to look at it themselves.

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Points of Order

2.30 pm

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker—perhaps before the Home Secretary leaves, for it is pertinent to her Department. I am not sure if you are aware, but for the second day running Parliament Square has been blocked by a demonstration, and the police seem completely powerless to do anything about it. Traffic is backing up down Victoria Street and, for all I know, the other streets around Parliament Square, making it difficult for Members of this House and the other place to access this place. Today’s protest appears to be about something going on in a foreign country. May I ask you whether you have had a chance to have a word with the Home Secretary, or indeed with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, whose job it is to ensure that access to this place is guaranteed, about clearing Parliament Square of this demonstration, which is causing huge inconvenience to the people of London? Perhaps you might like to engage the services of the Mayor of London, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson).

Mr Speaker: In the course of his point of order, the hon. Gentleman referred to a litany of distinguished personalities. I have not discussed the matter with the Home Secretary. I was at an event with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner the other day, and we did have a brief exchange, but I did not know then of the upcoming demonstration, still less of the intellectual ferocity of the hon. Gentleman’s prospective point of order, so I did not discuss the matter with him either. The Mayor of London is not far away; I suggest that the hon. Gentleman might have a chat with his hon. Friend. The important point, of course, is that notwithstanding the right to demonstrate, the right of Members to go about their business unimpeded must be upheld. If the hon. Gentleman has concerns on that front, this is an issue that can very properly be taken forward with the appropriate authorities, of which there are more than one.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker, of which I have given the relevant Minister notice. Is it in order for a Minister to threaten to exclude an hon. Member from information and correspondence about his local NHS, to bar me from access to senior NHS officials, and even to threaten negative consequences for me and my constituents—and all because I have been critical of the Government’s continuing failure to grip the unprecedented financial crisis facing Devon NHS? That was the essence of an encounter with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), just outside this Chamber last night. Will you please remind the Minister that he is accountable to this House, that it is the job of a Member of Parliament to speak up on behalf of his or her constituents, and that such behaviour from a Minister of the Crown is completely intolerable?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me notice of it. I do not want to be drawn, and fear that I cannot be drawn, into conversations between hon. Members to which I was not myself privy, including those between hon. Members and Ministers. What I will say is this: I am sure that the hon. Member for Ipswich is well aware

15 July 2015 : Column 927

of his responsibilities and that the right hon. Member for Exeter will continue to be a doughty champion for his constituents. He has a right to be, he has a responsibility to be, and I am sure he will be.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Three weeks ago today, the Prime Minister promised to publish data on the number of people in receipt of employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit who had died since November 2011, including those who had been found fit for work. Indeed, I raised it as a point of order on the same day. To date, nothing has been published. These people who died and their families deserve better than this. As we are approaching the summer recess, I will be very grateful if you can advise me on how I might expedite the publication of these data—on actual deaths and not just mortality rates as the Government have proposed.

Mr Speaker: The short answer to the hon. Lady, whose long-standing interest in this subject is well known, is that she must use the device of questioning, and there are further opportunities for questioning of various sorts between now and when we rise for the summer recess. If that method does not suit her, for whatever reason—and sometimes it has to be done more than once, even several times—there will be the opportunity, of course, to offer thoughts in the summer Adjournment debate, though I accept that she might not elicit a substantive reply from the responsible Minister. Use of the Order Paper and of the various opportunities for oral questioning—she will know that there are a number of different options on that front—would be her best course, and I advise her to try to take it. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady very courteously says from a sedentary position that she has done that several times. As I have sometimes had cause to observe, repetition is not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons, and sometimes a Member who has done something several times simply has to resolve to do it again and again—and there will be such opportunities for the hon. Lady on that matter and for other Members on matters that concern them.

Bill Presented

Trade Union Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Sajid Javid, supported by Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Nick Boles and Matthew Hancock, presented a Bill to make provision about industrial action, trade unions, employers’ associations and the functions of the Certification Officer.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 58) with explanatory notes (Bill 58-EN).

15 July 2015 : Column 928

Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

2.36 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to provide that Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) be a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools; for PSHE to include Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and education on ending violence against women and girls; to provide for initial and continuing teacher education and guidance on best practice for delivering and inspecting PSHE and SRE education; and for connected purposes.

PSHE—personal, social, health and economic education—is the part of the curriculum in which pupils learn how to stay healthy and safe and prepare for life and work in modern Britain. Despite its importance and the evidence of its potential, the subject is not statutory, meaning that millions of pupils miss out on the high-quality learning they need and deserve. Moreover, the last statutory SRE—sex and relationships education—guidance was produced 15 years ago, before the mass use of mobile phones to access the internet and the rise of social media, so it is seriously out of date. All children deserve a curriculum that promotes resilience and physical and mental health, encourages life skills, and teaches about equality. A postcode lottery for our young people is just not acceptable.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary of State for Education for her own personal commitment to this agenda and her positive engagement with me over it. As hon. Members will know, this is an important time for this debate as we await the Government’s response to the Education Committee’s report, which itself recommended statutory status for PSHE following its own very thorough inquiry. I understand that the Government’s response to that report will be forthcoming shortly, and I very much look forward to seeing it, because it is clear that the Government think that PSHE is a good thing too. Indeed, the Minister for Schools said in March:

“We believe that all schools should teach personal, social, health and economic education and, within that, SRE. Indeed, the introduction to the new national curriculum makes that explicitly clear.”

That commitment is genuinely very welcome. He went on to say that the key thing with PSHE is the quality of the teaching. I agree with that, too.

The point that I hope the Government will take today, however, is that for as long as PSHE remains a non-statutory and non-examined subject with a low priority in the Ofsted framework, there will be virtually no coverage of PSHE in teacher training. In school, PSHE teachers are not given the curriculum time or the training that they need and want. This lack of teacher training is a well-documented problem. Ofsted’s report entitled “Not yet good enough” found that teaching required improvement in 40% of schools. A PSHE Association survey of 40 local authorities suggests that 52% of teachers are not adequately trained in the subject.

So the call for statutory status has wide support that the Government can have confidence in. It is backed by 87% of parents, 88% of teachers, and 85% of business leaders. Joining the Education Committee are organisations

15 July 2015 : Column 929

such as the UK Youth Parliament, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Public Health England, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and four recent inquiries into child sexual exploitation, all of which back having statutory status. In addition, more than 100 leading organisations—from Mumsnet to Stonewall, from Girlguiding to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners—have joined the PSHE Association campaign to make PSHE statutory. Support for SRE also comes from what some may see as more surprising places—for example,

The Daily Telegraph

has run the Wonder Women campaign for better sex education—which reveals that PSHE and SRE are no longer so controversial.

Working with parents is critical. This is about partnership. Parents want PSHE and SRE in school next to traditional subjects. YouGov and the PSHE Association have found that 90% of parents believe that schools should teach about mental health and emotional wellbeing. I know that some people believe this issue should be left to parents, but what schools do when they provide good-quality SRE is precisely to involve parents and work with them. The truth is that many parents simply do not have these vital conversations with their children. A national survey showed that fathers were the main source of information about sex for only 3% of boys.

Union backing has come from heads, teachers, students and nurses, including the National Association of Head Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers, the National Union of Students and the Royal College of Nursing. Teachers back statutory PSHE because they know it is not about dictating to schools; it is the opposite of burdening them because it is about supporting teachers with appropriate training. Making PSHE statutory is not to prescribe the detail of lessons, but to give all children the same entitlement to good-quality provision while giving all schools the freedom to meet individual needs.

Some great examples of PSHE have underscored its potential. Patcham high school in my constituency has excellent provision. It has a dedicated PSHE team and significant time on the timetable, and tough subjects are sensitively discussed with pupils, which helps them to become informed young adults. The head and the teachers are passionate about the connection between happy, healthy students and academic achievement.

There are so many areas in which PSHE plays a vital role, as numerous organisations working with children have made clear. On safeguarding, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has shown that girls and boys are gleaning distorted and inaccurate information about sex relationships via online pornography. Sexting, which is often coercive and non-consensual, is a reality—girls are far more likely to be pressured to share explicit images of themselves—as is the pressure for children to document their lives and relationships online and in chatrooms. Shockingly, ChildLine has found that 60% of 13 to 18-year-olds had been asked to share a sexual image or video of themselves.

The issue that originally led me to draft the Bill concerns the link between media sexism and violence against women and girls. One in three girls say that they experience groping or unwanted sexual touching at school. Young people are growing up surrounded with negative and conflicting messages about sex, relationships and gender roles. We do both our girls and our boys a

15 July 2015 : Column 930

serious disservice if we ignore the ways in which our culture routinely portrays men as sexual aggressors and women as dehumanised and objectified. It was reported last year—this was recorded by the police in 2013—that more than 1,000 alleged sexual offences had happened in schools, including 134 rapes, and that more than half of them were committed by other children.

There are so many other dimensions to PSHE—far more than I can cover now—but let me mention the need to support and protect young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual and queer people, because homophobic language and bullying remain common in schools.

Some hon. Members may, understandably, have questions about age-appropriateness, but good-quality PSHE and SRE are always age-appropriate. For example, at primary level, SRE for five-year-olds begins with teaching children about safety and basic understanding about their bodies, about respecting their own boundaries and those of other people, and about how families care for them. Let me assure hon. Members that five-year-olds are not taught about how people have sex. Instead, lessons are designed to help children to develop the language and the confidence they need to describe unwanted behaviour, as well as where to go for help.

A key point is that SRE is part of the solution to concerns about the sexualisation of children. The evidence shows that quality PSHE and SRE delay sexual activity for young people and reduce the level of teen pregnancies. Good PSHE helps young people to make sensible choices.

As well as being an essential part of safeguarding our children, PSHE has huge potential in relation to employability and academic attainment. It raises girls’ career aspirations, and it is not rocket science that the thinking encouraged by PSHE has benefits well beyond the classroom. Business leaders want such skills. The British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI are all concerned that schools are not doing enough to equip students with skills for work. The CBI’s director for employment and skills has said that

“developing the right attitudes and attributes in people—such as resilience, respect, enthusiasm and creativity—is just as important as academic or technical skills.”

We cannot put our heads in the sand and simply hope for the best. Ministers need to make sure that quality PSHE happens for all children. I am optimistic that we will get change; I think it may just be a question of when. I am delighted by the cross-party support for the Bill. Now we are waiting for the decision of the Secretary of State for Education, and I am very hopeful that it will be positive. I close by reminding hon. Members what she said in relation to PSHE in a very excellent speech back in March:

“There is no trade-off between learning about these things and academic success—they are two sides of the same coin.”

In other words, there is a real connection with the way in which PSHE also helps people to succeed with their wider academic work.

The Bill is not about wanting to make a whole long list of subjects statutory; it is about ensuring that all children receive their right to fulfil their potential as rounded human beings and to thrive both as individuals and as members of a modern and complex society. I very much hope that the Government will listen.

15 July 2015 : Column 931

2.46 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I rise to oppose this ten-minute rule Bill. I am sorry to oppose the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) because, despite our policy differences, I admire her very much. If that endorsement does not cost her her seat at the next election, nothing will.

I believe in parental responsibility, and I make no apology for that whatsoever. The hon. Lady said that 85% of parents agree with this measure. I am surprised that she of all people advocates the tyranny of the majority over a small minority. I would have thought that she was the person thinking that the 15% who do not agree deserved to be represented and to have their views heard, but she clearly now believes in the tyranny of the majority. I will happily remind her of that in many future debates.

I firmly believe that we in this country have been going down the wrong path when it comes to parental responsibility. The message we should give to parents is that being a parent is a position of great responsibility and that certain things are the responsibility of parents and parents alone: they cannot just be farmed out willy-nilly to the state to do on their behalf. In my opinion, those things include the values with which children are brought up, and part of that involves sex education and violence against women and all the rest of it.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): They do not do it.

Philip Davies: I am afraid that that is my entire point. If we say to parents, “Don’t worry about what you do; don’t worry about how well you bring up your children; don’t concern yourself about it, because if you don’t bother with it, the state will do it for you”, we should not be surprised when parents do not take responsibility for bringing up their children as well as they should.

Mr Allen: They have got to take responsibility.

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman makes my very point for me: unless and until we give parents responsibility for bringing up their children, they are not going to exercise that responsibility properly. We should not think that the state can be parents in disguise; we must trust parents to bring up their children and do the best for them.

I oppose the Bill in principle. Parents who do not want their children to have the values of their teacher inflicted on them when they may be against the values of those parents should be supported by this Parliament in being able to remove their children from such lessons if they see fit. Parental responsibility, parental choice and the freedom of parents to allow children to be brought up with their values should be protected in this House, not just trampled over because we happen to have different individual opinions.

I also oppose the Bill in practice, because I do not think that it will actually make a blind bit of difference. In this country, we have been trying sex education in schools in various forms for decades. In that time, the level of teenage pregnancies has gone up, gone down, gone up again and gone down again, and the level of

15 July 2015 : Column 932

sexually transmitted diseases has gone up, up and up even more. There is no evidence that this makes any difference whatsoever.

The sex education fanatics use Holland as a prime example of why we should have more sex education. Holland has lots of sex education in its schools and very low levels of teenage pregnancy. Of course, the sex education fanatics never mention Italy, which has very low levels of sex education in schools, but equally low levels of teenage pregnancy. Clearly, it is not sex education that makes the difference, so it must be something else.

I have looked at what Holland and Italy have in common, because that might help us to improve our record on teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. After all the sex education that we have in this country, we still have the fourth highest teenage birth rate in Europe, so it does not seem to be working that well. What Holland and Italy have in common in respect of teenage pregnancy is that they are spectacularly lacking in generosity through their benefits systems to single parents and they do not give single mothers priority on their housing lists. If we want to reduce the level of teenage pregnancy in this country, we would be much better off looking at the benefits system and the housing allocation system rather than faffing about with more and more sex education, which seems to make not a blind bit of difference.

I therefore do not think that the hon. Lady’s Bill would even bring about the outcome that she wants. There is no evidence that, as we have had more and more sex education in this country, things have got better. I mentioned sexually transmitted diseases. I happen to have the figures from Public Health England. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of people with chlamydia went up from 97,000 to 206,000, the number of people with gonorrhoea went from 17,632 to 34,958 and the number of people with herpes went from 17,379 to 31,777. The figures go on and on. These things have been getting worse since we have had more and more sex education. If sex education was the solution, presumably they would be getting better.

Over the years, when sex education has not made any difference, we have heard that what we need is more sex education. When more sex education has made no difference, we have been told that we need better sex education. Now that better sex education has made no difference, we are told that we need compulsory sex education. When that makes no difference, perhaps we will try the proper solution, which is to abandon sex education altogether and try something completely different.

The hon. Lady says that parents may not always be the best people to provide sex education. Who is to say that teachers are always the best people to do it? I keep reading in the paper about more and more cases of teachers being convicted for inappropriate sexual relations with their pupils. What about those teachers who are teaching sex education in schools? Why would she trust those people over the parents to teach sex education? It is a complete and utter outrage.

Not that long ago, we had the case of a teenage boy—[Interruption.] I am glad that everyone finds this very funny. I am talking about the case of a teenage boy who raped a female classmate shortly after a sex education lesson. The reason he did it was that after the sex education lesson, he wanted to try having sex with somebody. He raped a classmate off the back of it. I am

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glad that Opposition Members find that funny. I do not think that the parents of the victim found it very funny. That is how trivial Opposition Members find these issues.

We have heard about public opinion, but a poll by Angus Reid found that 67% of the public think that parents or guardians should be primarily responsible for teaching sex education to children and teens, and only 17% believe that sex education should be taught in schools to children below the age of 10. My children are 12 and 10, and I certainly do not want them going to school to learn about sex. I want them to learn about the things that I have sent them to school to learn about: maths, physics, chemistry, history—all the things that parents do not have the skills to teach their children. I do not want their teachers acting as pseudo-parents and bringing them up with their values, rather than mine.

Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned that the Bill would make a big difference to violence against women and girls. In a recent answer to a parliamentary question, I found that 23% of women and 45% of men who were convicted in court of violence against the person were sent to prison. If she really wants to tackle violence against women and children, I suggest that she joins me in calling for harsher prison sentences for the perpetrators of those crimes, rather than faffing about with sex education, which will not make a blind bit of difference.

In this House, when a politician is given a problem, their solution always has two ingredients: it allows them to be seen to be doing something and it does not offend anybody. We see that once again with the hon. Lady’s Bill. She is proposing a measure that does not really offend anybody and that makes it look as though we are doing something. I would prefer it if we took action to actually make a difference on these things. Let us adopt a benefits system and housing allocation system that might reduce teenage pregnancy, and let us send the perpetrators of domestic violence to prison for longer. That would make a difference. This airy-fairy Bill will make no difference at all; it will just trample over the rights of parents and put another nail in the coffin of parental responsibility.

Question put (Standing Order No. 23).

The House divided:

Ayes 183, Noes 44.

Division No. 49]


2.55 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Beckett, rh Margaret

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackford, Ian

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Blunt, Crispin

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, Lyn

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Butler, Dawn

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Elliott, Tom

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fletcher, Colleen

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Howlett, Ben

Huq, Dr Rupa

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lamb, rh Norman

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lord, Jonathan

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGinn, Conor

McInnes, Liz

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Nokes, Caroline

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Percy, Andrew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stuart, Graham

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

West, Catherine

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Phil

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Woodcock, John

Wragg, William

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop


Karl Turner


Amess, Sir David

Bridgen, Andrew

Burrowes, Mr David

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Double, Steve

Gale, Sir Roger

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Green, Chris

Hoare, Simon

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jones, rh Mr David

Kawczynski, Daniel

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Leigh, Sir Edward

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Main, Mrs Anne

McCartney, Karl

Mills, Nigel

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robinson, Gavin

Rosindell, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Thomas, Derek

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Turner, Mr Andrew

Vickers, Martin

Warburton, David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wiggin, Bill

Wilson, Sammy

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Peter Bone


Mr David Nuttall

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 July 2015 : Column 934

15 July 2015 : Column 935


That Caroline Lucas, Thangam Debonnaire, Caroline Nokes, Norman Lamb, Liz Saville Roberts, Barbara Keeley, Valerie Vaz, Yasmin Qureshi, Dawn Butler and Cat Smith present the Bill.

Caroline Lucas accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 January 2016and to be printed (Bill 59).

supply and appropriation (main estimates) bill

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 56), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question put forthwith, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

15 July 2015 : Column 936

English Votes for English Laws

[Relevant documents: English Votes for English Laws: Revised Proposed Changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons and Explanatory Memorandum.]

3.8 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Grayling): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of English votes for English laws.

This is, as I promised in the business statement last week, the first of two days of debate on the subject of English votes for English laws. It gives me the opportunity to explain once again the Government’s proposals and to listen to views from across the House. We committed last week to have two days of debate . We will have the second day when the House returns in September. I decided that for practical reasons it was not sensible to have a debate over two days with a large gap between them, so today’s debate is on a motion for the Adjournment. We will continue after the recess with the second day of debate, when the substantive motions will be put and debated. As I committed to the shadow Leader of the House, we will make provision for amendments to be tabled for that debate. It was always the intention that that would happen. The appropriate motion will be passed ahead of that debate to enable her and anybody else who wishes to do so to table amendments for discussion during that day’s debate.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I commend my right hon. Friend for amending the timetable on this matter, which is serious and important for the interests of the English, the Scots and the Union. Before the next debate, will he publish a list of the measures in the Queen’s Speech that he thinks will be affected in terms of who can vote for them?

Chris Grayling: I am happy to do that. We have already indicated previous Bills that would have been affected by this measure, and we continue to work on that. The certification process that will exist in future has not existed in the past, and there is a fundamental difference between territorial extent as indicated in a past Bill that, for example, might refer to England and Wales as a single jurisdiction but be applicable to England only. I am happy to ensure that what my right hon. Friend asks for happens. In the current Session, I am aware of only one Bill that is likely to be entirely English-only, which is the proposed buses Bill. Many other Bills will be partly English—or English and Welsh—only. I remind the House that, notwithstanding any future certification by the Speaker, every Member of Parliament will vote on every Bill that passes through this place, and no one will be excluded.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his clarification about voting after what will be the next day’s debate on the 22 pages of changes to the Standing Orders that the Government propose. Last week in the emergency debate, I asked whether the Government would propose to allow not only amendments to be tabled but more than one or two votes to be taken, so that the will of the House could be tested on them. Under the old process that was originally suggested that would have been in doubt.

15 July 2015 : Column 937

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a bit clearer about which procedure we will use when we debate the Standing Orders?

Chris Grayling: First, I never intended to have a debate where amendments were excluded; that was never suggested or proposed by the Government. The number of votes that are called by the Speaker or Deputy Speaker is a matter for them, and it is not for me to limit the number of votes. We intend to allow amendments to be tabled to this measure, as in any other debate of this kind.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): May I suggest a novel solution to this problem? When the Scottish National party decides to vote on matters that relate only to England and that have been devolved to Holyrood, I suggest that the Government introduce a Bill to bring those powers back from Scotland to Westminster. If the SNP wants those matters to be voted on in Westminster, surely we can help facilitate that and solve the problem once and for all.

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and he will no doubt argue that when we come to review these and other matters related to the Scotland Bill. Scottish Members of Parliament probably do not need additional areas to be covered at Westminster, to contribute to debates here. Since they do not have, as part of their daily duties, the task of representing their constituencies in areas such as health, education and transport, they have more time to focus on other matters in the Chamber.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): I thank the Leader of the House for extending the amount of time in which we can consider this issue. I commend him for that; he did not have to do it, but he listened to the House. Will he also listen to the House in a more measured way and inform us today that there will be no votes at all on this matter until the Procedure Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have had a chance to issue a report that all Members can read?

Chris Grayling: I think that the hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding the process that I have put in place. The measures that we have tabled before the House were clearly and straightforwardly set out in our manifesto as something that we intended to proceed with. I have always intended the Procedure Committee, and indeed the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, to play a role in that. I have set out a process—which I discussed with the Chairs of both those Committees—in which as we go through a 12-month period leading up to a review, both Committees look carefully at how the process is taking place and working. They will comment on that process to the House, and we will study those comments carefully as we review proceedings. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Procedure Committee intends to discuss these issues before we next meet for debate, and its initial reactions will undoubtedly be available to Members before that time.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that those few lines in our manifesto have now morphed into what I believe are 30 pages of changes to the Standing Orders? When he conducts his

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sensible approach to a review and the delay that he is building into this matter, will he take the opportunity to consider some of the other proposals that have been made? For example, my simple amendment to the Standing Orders comprises only seven lines and was cleared by the most senior members of the Clerk’s Department in the last Parliament.

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is a distinguished lawyer and expert in these matters. I have no doubt that as we review these processes we will consider the views set out and options placed before us by Members from across the House. I certainly give that undertaking. Given the manifesto commitment and the fact that the House will want to see how these processes work in action, it is sensible to consider the matter carefully over the next 12 months, hold a review and take stock at that time.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): May I suggest a parallel procedure to the one recently suggested by the aggrieved Tory Back Bencher? When an amendment to the Scotland Bill is voted for by 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs but voted down by Members such as the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), that power should be immediately transferred to the Scottish Parliament. Will we reach an agreement on these things?

Chris Grayling: As ever, the right hon. Gentleman is ingenious in his arguments, but I simply say that we are, and remain, a United Kingdom Parliament. Matters related to devolution in Scotland are debated and voted on by the whole House of Commons. When we debate matters related to additional responsibilities for Members representing English constituencies—as we are doing today—those measures are debated by Members from the entire United Kingdom. That is right and proper, and it is the way that a United Kingdom Parliament should operate.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): If the right hon. Gentleman believes in a United Kingdom Parliament, will he extend to Members from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland the same rights in this Parliament that he is according to MPs from England?

Chris Grayling: Over the past 20 years, we in this House have done precisely that with the creation of the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish Assembly. The issue that we are seeking to address is the fact that, as an MP representing a Welsh constituency just over the border in north Wales, the hon. Gentleman cannot vote on education matters related to his own constituency. He can vote, however, on matters that relate to Chester just a few miles up the road. We are seeking to address that oddity.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): The problem with that argument is that we keep hearing about the respect that was shown to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish people, but the right hon. Gentleman seems to ignore the fact that the SNP had 56 MPs elected to this Parliament on a platform of delivering home rule to Scotland. Conservative Members have vetoed every reasonable amendment that we have tabled to ensure that we deliver what the people of Scotland have demanded. Is it absurd that you are observing a veto on the people of Scotland, while we cannot vote—

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am not responsible. When you say “you” it means me, and I do not want to take that responsibility. It is down to the Leader of the House, and I am not going to let him shirk away from that.

Chris Grayling: I get the point that the hon. Gentleman was making. This is a simple matter. During the Scottish referendum campaign, the United Kingdom Parliament and Government made an offer to the Scottish people of additional devolution. That offer is encapsulated in the Scotland Bill, which is currently on its passage through the House. SNP Members would like more powers than are set out in the Smith commission report and the Scotland Bill. They are perfectly entitled to want that, but if it is the will of the United Kingdom Parliament not to proceed with those measures in Scotland, they will not happen. That is the way that this Parliament works.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): We hear the word “respect”, but it is simple: my constituents think that respect goes both ways and they respect the Scottish people’s right to have a Scottish Parliament, the Welsh people’s right to have a Welsh Assembly and the same in Northern Ireland. All they want in return is respect for England and for the people of my area, whose voice is watered down by people voting on matters affecting Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that we cannot vote on in Scotland. That is all we want: respect.

Chris Grayling: This is a live and real issue, but it is a mark of the respect and affection in which we hold the Scottish nation, the Scottish people and Scottish Members of Parliament that we are not seeking in these proposals to exclude them from voting on measures in this place. We are not saying that there will be votes purely of English MPs and that we will leave Scottish MPs out; they will vote on every piece of legislation in the way that they do now. However, it is surely not unreasonable to say to them that, if a matter affects only the English or only the English and Welsh and will change matters in those constituencies, English and Welsh MPs should have the decisive say.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): As somebody who is proud to be Welsh and proud to be British and has taken the oath to the Queen without my fingers crossed behind my back—

Martin John Docherty (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP) rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Sit down now. We will not have two Members standing. It was an intervention and I will not have somebody shouting from the back row. We want—

Martin John Docherty rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Don’t. We want an orderly debate in which everybody will have their time to speak, so what we will do is conduct it with respect and tolerance.

David T. C. Davies: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In putting right an obvious injustice to England, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is doing

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something that will strengthen the Union. That is why it should be supported by all Unionists and why it is opposed by so many Opposition Members.

Chris Grayling: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I think this is purely about fairness and I find it disappointing that the Scottish National party—and not purely the SNP, because Labour appears to take the same view—which believes in fairness for the people of Scotland and in the devolution of responsibilities, which has already happened for the Scottish Parliament, seems opposed to a relatively limited measure affecting the English, which does less than some people want. It is disappointing that the belief seems to be that Scotland should get more but England should not have a small measure to counterbalance that.

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): My right hon. Friend is being too generous to Opposition Members, particularly the Scottish nationalists. After all, they have long espoused the need for devolution to England, and merely to ensure consent for procedures that impact only on England or England and Wales is the tiniest modest step in that direction. They espoused that view for years and now, opportunistically and cynically, they try to suggest that it is something else.

Chris Grayling: I hope that the Scottish National party, which is made up of a group of people I have grown to like and respect, will not seek to use this matter to pursue a different agenda to do with the separation from the Union. I hope that they would not say that we should not be fair to England purely to whip up concern in Scotland that would encourage support for a second referendum.

Graham Stuart: Further to that point, my right hon. Friend is right. We have learned to like and respect the Scottish nationalist Members since they came here, but is it not clear that this is quite an imperial project? MPs in this Chamber who represent the Scottish National party do not think or speak for themselves; they do exactly as they are told by Edinburgh.

Chris Grayling: In some cases, there might be some evidence of influence from Edinburgh, but I do not think that anybody would dare suggest that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) could be told what to do in this place by anybody.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the Leader of the House accept that how this matter has been dealt with has stoked the fires of nationalism? He has admitted today that only one Bill is likely to be affected in this way. Does he really fear that the hordes from across the border will pillage his programme in the next year, so he has to rush this thing through without proper consideration?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman talks about proper consideration and these proposals were, of course, published late last year. They have been subject to extensive statements to the House. They were in our manifesto and they are now subject to extensive debate in the House. They are a relatively modest step that, in my view, provides a balance of fairness across the Union. While we are in this place, there is inevitably a degree of rhetoric. This is an important part of saying

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to the people of England that, as we devolve more powers to Scotland and to Wales, England is a part of that.

Several hon. Members rose

Chris Grayling: I will make a little bit of progress, and then I will give way a few more times.

I have already made the point that we will provide a business motion to ensure that there will be a full opportunity for any amendment selected to be debated and voted on. The Deputy Leader of the House and I are consulting and will continue to consult colleagues from across the House to answer questions of detail. My door is open to hear their views. I think that I have now had meetings with all the different political groups in the House, and I will continue to be available to talk to them.

I have had a number of conversations with the Chair of the Procedure Committee about our proposals. I talked to him back in May, before the new Committee was formed, to ensure that he was aware of what I was thinking. We now have a Committee and I intend to write to it to set out the process and ask whether it will keep track of how the new rules work in practice to review their operation once Bills have reached Royal Assent under them. I know that members of the Committee will contribute to debate and discussion about these matters over the coming months; but in addition, I have been invited to address the Committee and give evidence at the start of the September sitting, which I will happily do. I will be very happy in due course to talk to the other Committees involved.

Ms Angela Eagle: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again; it is gracious of him. He mentioned that day two of our proceedings on this matter will be sometime in September and he has not announced when. It is clearly quite important for Members of Parliament that, when we come back for the September sitting, there is a little bit of time between the evidence he gives to the Procedure Committee, and perhaps other Committees, and our consideration of the proposals. Will he give us some reassurance that there will be enough time and that the debate will not happen very quickly as soon as the House returns?

Chris Grayling: I am cognisant of the hon. Lady’s point. She would not expect me to announce the business in advance, but I take note of what she says. I can assure her that we will have a sensible process, and of course I will be available to hear comments from Members while the House is sitting and when it returns.

The other point raised with me, apart from the question of timetabling, was Members’ ability to vote on legislation that might have implications for the block grant, the so-called Barnett consequentials. There has been some discussion about how the House makes decisions on the block grant and how the Barnett consequentials work. This House approves the Government’s spending requirements each year through the estimates process, and we did that last night. The Government publish our spending plans, broken down by Department. The cash grants to the devolved consolidated funds that in turn fund the spending of the devolved Administrations are included in the relevant estimate: Scotland Office, Wales

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Office or Northern Ireland Office. Some of the individual departmental estimates are debated each year. The choice of these debates is a matter for the House through the Liaison Committee.

The decisions on the estimates are given statutory effect in a Bill each summer. The whole House will continue to vote on these supply and appropriation Bills. Through those means, decisions on the block grant funding to the devolved Administrations are taken. The block grant total each year is based upon a number of factors, including the calculation of Barnett consequentials, or the impact of individual spending decisions in different parts of the UK.

There are no readily calculable Barnett consequentials arising from individual Bills, because there is no direct relationship between any one piece of legislation and the overall block grant, even when the Bill results in extra spending or savings. An education Bill for England does not change the Department for Education’s budget outside the estimates process.

The two processes are separate. Decisions relating to departmental spending, including the block grant and the outcome reported to the House, are taken first in spending reviews and then in the annual estimates process. It is up to Departments to operate within the limits of the Budget allocation agreed. Any costs associated with legislation they take through Parliament must be borne within a Department’s overall budget.

We have listened to Members’ concerns and I understand the need to clarify the position relating to expenditure, so I want to be crystal clear. In order to assist today’s debate, I have republished the changes we propose to make to the Standing Orders of this House, with some small but important clarifications. They make it absolutely plain that Members from across the entire House—all Members—will approve departmental spending, which, as I have said, sets out the levels of spending for the devolved Administrations, reflecting Barnett consequentials. All MPs will vote on the legislation that confirms those decisions.

In addition, we have clarified that where legislation involves an increase in a Department’s expenditure, as voted on by the whole House in the estimates process, all MPs will continue to vote on that specific decision. All aspects of public spending will continue to be voted on by the whole House.

Mr David Davis: I am one of those who have raised very firmly with my right hon. Friend the question of the Barnett formula. The handling of the House’s procedures is as much about perceived fairness as it is about actual fairness. He is right to say that most Bills do not have large carry-over implications for funding, but occasionally they might and under such circumstances the Bill’s money resolution becomes incredibly important. I make this point speculatively—I have not come to a conclusion on it myself yet—but perhaps my right hon. Friend should allow the House to debate such money resolutions so that if, for example, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) wanted to object to a particular measure because of its money implications, he could then do so.

Chris Grayling: I have listened carefully to my right hon. Friend. Money resolutions will also be voted on by the whole House. There will not be a decisive English

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say. I take note of my right hon. Friend’s comment on the timing of debates. Mr Deputy Speaker, I suspect that you and your colleagues in the Chair would regard comments about a money resolution as in order in a debate on a Bill, but if that proves to be a problem I am very open to looking at whether we can find another way to ensure that money resolutions can be debated.

Alex Salmond: It would be helpful to the House if I took the Leader of the House back to an example of where he is wrong. If the House decides to raise tuition fees in England, that would not affect public spending in that year, but an automatic consequence of such a decision would be that direct public expenditure to universities would be lowered and loan funding would probably be raised as a result of having to compensate students. These things have an impact through Barnett consequentials, so unless the Leader of the House can reverse his previous advice and tell me that a tuition fees Bill would not be included in the procedures, what he has just told the House is not correct.

Chris Grayling: That is not right, because a money resolution attached to a tuition fees Bill would be a matter for the whole House. The right hon. Gentleman is right to mention tuition fees, because the issue of changes to tuition fees in England does not apply in Scotland. During the years of Labour Government, the most pronounced example of Scottish votes affecting English constituencies was when Scottish votes carried an increase in tuition fees.

Alex Salmond: But not SNP votes.

Chris Grayling: There were SNP votes at the time.

Alex Salmond: We voted against it.

Chris Grayling: It is none the less the case—because we do not distinguish between Scottish MPs, even Conservative ones, and their votes—that an increase in tuition fees for English students was carried by Scottish Members of Parliament, even though the impact of that change did not apply in Scotland.

Alex Salmond: The Leader of the House is being generous with his time. The Scottish National party is the only political party in this House that has not voted for increasing tuition fees for English students—we voted against that. Regardless of what happens in a financial year and the money resolution, the impact of a tuition fees policy is to lower direct public spending and increase loan expenditure. That was the automatic result and aim of that tuition fee policy, which is why we voted against it and why we should still be entitled to vote against it if it is ever brought back to the House.

Chris Grayling: That is precisely why, should such a circumstance arise, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will still be able to vote against it on Second Reading, Report, Third Reading and the money resolution. It is entirely reasonable to say that if English Members of Parliament face an increase in tuition fees that applies to their constituents only, they should have a decisive say on whether that increase should happen. If the Scottish Parliament chooses to raise or cut tuition fees in Scotland, that is surely a matter for Scottish Members

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of Parliament in Edinburgh to decide one way or the other. The difference is that at the moment English Members of Parliament do not have the decisive say. Under these proposals, they would have the decisive say.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way. I think he has been gracious enough to accept that throughout this process he has benefited from a range of views in this House and from a range of views within Parliament. What I cannot understand at this stage is why he does not think that, in this one nation Parliament, any proposal would not benefit from greater scrutiny by parliamentarians right across this House at Committee stage, which is the most crucial.

Chris Grayling: That is precisely what I have done. I have said, “Let us put this in place. Let us road test it. Let us see how it works. Let us let the Procedure Committee crawl all over it.” A number of operational issues will arise from a change like this, so let us have a proper review at the end of the first Session, when we can see what has happened to Bills that move to Report. We can then understand the implications.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Going back to what the right hon. Gentleman said a couple of minutes ago, does he not accept that if a Bill here has the effect of reducing or removing an area of public spending, that will have an impact on the Barnett formula? It will have an effect on Barnett consequentials. If he is saying that Bills by their nature do not have spending effects, is he telling us that Ministers will never argue against any amendment in future by saying that it would cause a drain on the public purse and add to public expenditure? Will he stop using that argument against amendments?

Chris Grayling: I have tried in recent days to identify any Bill that has a public spending impact outside the estimates process. The officials who have looked at this for me have identified no such measure. The point is that the estimates process is what sets our public spending envelopes. It is what sets the budget for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It is what sets the departmental budget for the Department for Education. It is what consequentially sets the budget for the Scottish Government, and for Wales and Northern Ireland. All those things will remain a matter for a vote of the United Kingdom Parliament, as, indeed, every Bill will be voted on by every single Member of Parliament.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Listening to some on the Opposition Benches, it seems that they believe the West Lothian question was a rhetorical one. This proposal is trying to find an answer to it, the genie having been let out of the bottle through the devolution settlements. Will he accept the support and congratulations of my constituents in North Dorset, because he and the Government are trying to find a fair and just way to solve a problem that has been ignored for far too long and is clearly and palpably unfair?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. May I suggest that that intervention is far too long?

Chris Grayling: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the support he gives to the measures. I think they are measured and reasonable. If we are moving towards

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greater devolution across the United Kingdom, I simply do not accept that it is sensible or reasonable to say to the English, “You have no part in that.”

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab) rose—

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Lady is no doubt going to tell me that it is unreasonable. She represents an English seat. I am sure her constituents want some fairness in all of this as well.

Fiona Mactaggart: I am a proud Unionist. The voices of proud Unionists on the Opposition Benches say to the Leader of the House that there is a profound risk in his proposals. The risk is, first, making a differential between Members. Further, he tells us that he has looked, with the Clerks, at what might happen and that we can all deal with that after a year. We are arguing for a careful review before this is implemented, because it sounds to me as if, for example, English voters—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Unfortunately, we have to have short interventions. The best thing to do is have one intervention and then come back later to make another intervention.

Fiona Mactaggart: I missed the important bit!

Chris Grayling: I got the gist, Mr Deputy Speaker. The dilemma for the right hon. Lady is this: she and her party are now fundamentally an English party with a few Welsh MPs. They have constituents who, like mine, want a balanced devolution settlement where there is a degree of fairness for England. That is what we are doing. This is a sensible package of measures that provides a balance within this place and gives a decisive vote on matters that affect only English and Welsh constituencies, but does not remove from any MP in any part of the House the right to vote on any single measure that appears before this House.

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP): Will the Leader of the House confirm that no amendments can be made to estimates?

Chris Grayling: It is a matter for the Liaison Committee, which can organise a debate on any estimate if it chooses to do so. It is a matter for the entire House what it debates.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): On the composition of Bill Committees, is the Leader of the House saying that Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Members would not be allowed on England-only Bill Committees? What about the Chair, who is chosen by the Speaker’s Panel of Chairs, if they were to come from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? Not only do they have one vote; they have the casting vote. How would the right hon. Gentleman deal with that?

Chris Grayling: In my view, there is no issue with any Member chairing any Committee, since by convention a casting vote is cast in favour of the status quo. In my view, that would not change, and I see no reason to exclude any Member from either side of the House from chairing any Committee.

A question was raised about England-only Bills. We are not talking simply about England-only Bills, but about Bills that are substantially or in part applicable

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only to constituents of one group of Members—either English-only or Welsh-only Members. That will be a part of the process. It is not purely a question of having one England-only Bill in this Session. A number of measures will be coming before the House that apply entirely and exclusively to the United Kingdom—local government devolution is a case in point.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): We accept the Leader of the House’s point about the Chair of a Committee, but what if there were a Front Bencher on either side who was Scottish or Welsh who would not be allowed to vote in the Bill Committee?

Chris Grayling: We intend that only very few Committees will be England-only; almost all will remain United Kingdom Committees, as now, as will almost all the statutory instrument Committees. It will be a matter for individual political parties whom they assign to Committees.

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way; he is being generous with his time. May I help him out? In the past when this was discussed, it was suggested that it could be trialled, if it had to be trialled, on a single Bill. He tells the House that he has identified that Bill in the current programme. Instead of going forward with the full range of changes and all the infrastructure required for the Speaker’s Office, why does he not try it out on this one Bill? That would be a meaningful trial.

Chris Grayling: I am afraid I do not think that it would be a meaningful trial at all. We have a system that will apply to England-only Bills, to England and Wales-only Bills and to partial elements of Bills. It is important to try it out for a Session on things affected and then to have a review.

Mr Carmichael: It will not just apply to the single Bill; it will also apply to all the certified secondary legislation. It will require significant administrative infrastructure being put in place for the Speaker’s Office. If, after a year, we decide that this is not the way to go, what happens then?

Chris Grayling: I do not think we will decide after a year that we want to stop it altogether. We may decide to make changes to how it works or that things could be done differently, but I am not suggesting we would stop having any kind of a say for the English in 12 months. I am saying we will want to review how this works under the procedures of the House in 12 months and to take views from different sides on how it could, or whether it should, be different. I am not suggesting that in 12 months we should simply say, “Actually, we don’t think there should be fairness for the English at all.”

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): First, may I thank the Leader of the House for giving Parliament more time to discuss this matter? The whole House should thank him for that. For clarification, will he say whether the changes to Standing Orders cover secondary legislation?

Chris Grayling: Yes, they do. Any secondary legislation certified as England or England and Wales-only would be subject to a double majority vote, but importantly

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there will be no change to the Committee structure. We will continue to have UK Committees, but the final say on the Floor of the House would be subject to a double majority.

Ian Blackford rose—

Chris Grayling: Before I give way, I have a question for the hon. Gentleman. It has been the SNP’s practice to stay away when a measure is England-only. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the SNP spokesman on this, said a little while back in evidence to the McKay commission:

“We look at each bill, as we get the business for the week, we assess it for the Scottish interest. If there is none or if it’s insignificant, we take no interest…We have never had the problem. 12 years since the setting up of the Scottish Parliament, we have had the self denying ordinance and found it about the most easiest thing possible to do and we do not see what the fuss is.”

My question to SNP Members is this: since this only codifies in the Standing Orders of the House what they claim they already do, what is all the fuss about?

Ian Blackford: I am delighted to try to assist the Leader of the House in that task. There is a very simple answer, which would take away a lot of the angst. If we want fairness and English votes for English laws, the solution is very simple: bring forward legislation for an English Parliament. That is what we would consider as fair. The point that the right hon. Gentleman has to address is that we were all elected on 7 May with equal rights, so why is that—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Let me help the House by explaining that 23 people wish to speak and the two Front Benchers need to speak, so we must have short interventions.

Chris Grayling: On that note, I shall seek to bring my remarks to a conclusion. I have been as generous as I can in giving way.

Let me finish with this thought. The hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) talked about equal rights, so let me remind him that in a typical day in this place, most people representing England and Wales are dealing with inquiries from constituents about the health service, education, transport and so forth, while in Scotland all those things are not the responsibility of SNP Members—they are the responsibility of their counterparts in the Scottish Parliament. We already have Members of Parliament with different jobs to do. We are simply ensuring a degree of fairness in this place.

Several hon. Members rose—

Chris Grayling: In the interests of fairness, I will allow two more interventions and then I shall wrap up.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Does he accept that this issue is not just about votes on legislation, but about debates? Surely it would be reasonable for us, as a UK Parliament, to be able to debate issues affecting all parts of the United Kingdom, thereby removing the

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restriction on debating devolved matters. This morning in Westminster Hall, SNP Members were speaking about housing supply in London.

Chris Grayling: That may be a current issue for one or two of them, having moved down from Scotland to be here, but my hon. Friend makes an important point. We do have an odd imbalance, yet no one on the SNP Benches has been able to explain to me—nor have those on the Labour Benches now lining themselves up against these proposals—why it is right and proper to continue with a situation in which an MP from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland can vote on education in my constituency but not in their own constituency. That seems to me to be a flaw.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) rose—

Chris Grayling: I shall give way for the last time and then wind up.

Mr Hanson: I am grateful. One person he has not mentioned in detail so far is the Speaker of the House of Commons. There will be moments when controversial issues arise in relation to the certification of an England-only Bill and the parties are in dispute. What consultation has the right hon. Gentleman undertaken with the Speaker and the Deputy Speakers on this matter?

Chris Grayling: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not sure whether it is appropriate to discuss in this House conversations that have been held with the Chair. Suffice it to say that consultations and discussions have taken place, as the right hon. Gentleman would expect. I have every faith in the Speaker’s ability.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con) rose—

Chris Grayling: Because my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Procedure Committee wants to intervene, I shall take two more interventions, but then I really will finish.

Mr Walker: I look forward to seeing my right hon. Friend in September. In advance of that meeting, the Committee will speak to the Speaker’s Counsel, Parliamentary Counsel, the Clerk of the House and perhaps to former distinguished Clerks, so we shall have lots of questions to put to the Leader of the House when we see him in September.

Chris Grayling: I look forward to that.

Several hon. Members rose—

Chris Grayling: Last, but not least, I give way to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford).

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): It is not that SNP Members do not recognise the issue for constituents living in England—we absolutely recognise it, which is why we welcomed our Parliament—but in view of all the issues that have been raised, does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that we might as well do the work and have a permanent solution rather than a hotch-potch, which is what this is? You need a Parliament for England.

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Chris Grayling: I understand the hon. Lady’s point. We have considered the issue very carefully, and we do not want to fragment this House of Commons. We put proposals in our manifesto, on which we were elected. We should and will stick by that manifesto. Ultimately, it is all about fairness. We intend to provide more powers to Scotland and more powers to Wales, and we intend to devolve to Northern Ireland powers over areas such as corporation tax. Ultimately, we need to be fair to the English, and that is what this is about.

3.49 pm

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I rise to contribute to what has now thankfully become a general debate on the Government’s proposals for what they like to call “English votes for English laws”. I am pleased that they have at least seen a bit of sense in retreating from their original intention of making us vote on those complex and controversial proposals today.

Let me begin by emphasising, for the avoidance of any doubt, that the official Opposition recognise that, in the light of the ongoing deepening of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is important for us to evolve a mechanism for ensuring that the views of English Members of Parliament are heard clearly on English matters. Believing in that simple aim, however, does not mean that we can support the proposals that have been put before us today, because, as currently written, they are deeply flawed. We do not think that the Government’s proposals are either wise or viable. Indeed, they are likely to put the Union at risk by creating an English veto rather than a voice, possible gridlock in Parliament, and two classes of MP.

Sir William Cash: I think I heard the hon. Lady say that English Members should have the right to have their views heard. I did not hear anything about decisions. What is her answer to that?

Ms Eagle: I think the McKay commission, which was convened by the Government, made some sensible suggestions, and I am surprised that they were dismissed so easily by the Government.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a major constitutional issue, and that what is therefore required is a non-partisan, non party-biased approach, which, sadly, is lacking?

Ms Eagle: I agree with my hon. Friend that changes of this kind are much better made on a cross-party basis, in an attempt to reach consensus, than by means of the partisan, semi-secretive process with which we are now faced.

Chris Grayling: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Eagle: I am more than happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Chris Grayling: I am still waiting for an explanation of why, when my predecessor invited the hon. Lady’s party to take part in the Committee’s discussions, it did not respond.

Ms Eagle: I shall come to that.

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Alex Salmond: The hon. Lady is right in saying that these are not the McKay commission proposals, and that the Government dismissed those proposals. Has she had a chance to look at the diagram that the Leader of the House has so helpfully distributed? In box 3, in a circle that is half orange and half green, there is a letter P, which apparently refers to

“Further Ping Pong, if required”.

Has the hon. Lady any idea how many of the Bills that the Leader of the House is presenting will be subjected to the ping-pong procedure under his proposals?

Ms Eagle: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the diagram. It looks more like a plate of spaghetti than a way of legislating sensibly. As for his question, how often that “ping pong to the power squared” would actually happen would depend on how much disagreement there was between the other place and this place. I think that we in the House of Commons must think very carefully about quite how complex some of these legislative processes become if there is contention.

Graham Stuart: Does the hon. Lady accept that, notwithstanding her valiant efforts, those of members of her party, and those of the 56 nationalist MPs who are here to discuss an English-voting subject—[Interruption]—it is simply an issue of consent? English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, give consent. It may have to be written into many pages of Standing Orders, but it is as simple as consent. The hon. Lady knows that that is true.

Ms Eagle: I think it is a lot more complicated than that, and I think the hon. Gentleman should be a bit more wary about waving his red rag at the bull, because he is causing dissension rather than trying to achieve consensus. That is not the best way to behave when we are dealing with the Standing Orders of the House, although the hon. Gentleman appears to be enjoying himself.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): On the subject of ping pong, am I right in thinking that an all-England Committee would send the Bill to the other place, where Members from all nations and regions would change it, and it would then come back to the entire House of Commons to be voted on. If so, what exactly would we have achieved?

Ms Eagle: I may have to be corrected, but my understanding of the process is that if it is an England-only ping-pong, the English will have a veto on it. So there could be a majority in both the Lords and the Commons in favour of something being in a Bill, but it could be vetoed by a minority.

Mr Hanson: On that point, I wonder whether my hon. Friend can help me: Lord Thomas of Gresford in Wrexham, who has never won an election in his life in north-east Wales, will vote on these matters in another place, while I, who have won elections on six occasions in north-east Wales, will not be able to do so.

Ms Eagle: My right hon. Friend, who has the unique distinction of missing out by one vote from being selected in Wallasey before I was, is a very experienced winner of elections and the point he makes is absolutely spot-on.

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What the Government are suggesting is all in direct defiance of the advice given by the McKay commission, which the Government appointed and whose advice they have inexplicably ignored for reasons they have not chosen to share with us.

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con): Does the right hon. Lady accept that, given the nature of the devolution settlement, the fact that these matters were not dealt with in the last 20 years and the fact that there is going to be a further Wales and Scotland Act, now is the time to look at English votes for English laws?

Ms Eagle: I thank the hon. Lady for inexplicably promoting me to the Privy Council; perhaps she could have a word with her friend the Prime Minister and see whether she can make that happen, because she is probably very influential. What I am trying to argue is if we are going to do this to give an English voice, it has to be done in a cross-party way with consensus, not in a partisan way that is clearly designed to assist only one party in this House.

Jonathan Lord (Woking) (Con) rose—

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con) rose—

Ms Eagle: I am going to make a bit of progress; I will give way later, but I am only on page 2 of my speech. [Interruption.] It might get longer if hon. Gentlemen provoke me.

Labour Members consider that this issue should have been properly dealt with as part of a much wider process involving a constitutional convention to examine a range of issues in a more holistic way. A genuine attempt should have been made to come to a cross-party agreement between the parties represented in this place, and with wider civil society. Proceeding in this consensual way, rather than in the blatantly partisan way the Government have chosen, would have hugely increased their chances of introducing a successful and sustainable change. No such attempt has been made. The Leader of the House has already attempted to suggest that it has, but I do not mean a cobbled-together Cabinet Sub-Committee established months before a general election that failed to come to any consensus even between the governing coalition parties; I mean a genuine attempt to reach cross-party consensus, in which all points of view are heard and properly tested and a mutually agreed way forward is pursued.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I am not unsympathetic to the hon. Lady’s desire to look at this issue in the round, but it seems to me that it is incumbent on the Labour Opposition to explain their position, because some of us have been banging on about the unworkability of the devolution settlements ever since they first went through this House. The problems we are facing today were inherent in the failure to address that at the outset. Is it not also the case that the problem we now face requires goodwill, and while I do think I accept the hon. Lady’s goodwill, I am afraid I do not entirely accept any goodwill from SNP Members, who do not seem to me to actually desire to resolve this issue, rather than use it as an instrument to—

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think the hon. Lady has got the point.

Ms Eagle: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for accepting my goodwill, at least. We are in a more complex position than we needed to be in because of the way in which the Government have chosen to proceed on this difficult issue. In my view, cross-party consensus leads to more sustainable and long-lasting solutions.

Tom Pursglove: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Eagle: No; let me finish the point I am making.

I would also say in passing that the Union has always been asymmetrical and there have always been anomalies. The issue of English votes for English laws came to the fore when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and the nationalisation of the steel industry was scuppered by Northern Irish MPs voting against nationalisation, even though there were no steel plants in Northern Ireland. That is what first led to Harold Wilson worrying about the issue. A certain amount of asymmetrical anomaly will be inherent in any Union when 85% of it is English. We must bear that in mind constantly.

Mr Graham Allen: Would my hon. Friend consider seizing this agenda by convening all the parties and all the people in civic society who want a constitutional convention, and would she consider doing it now rather than waiting until the next Labour Government are in office?

Ms Eagle: There is great merit in my hon. Friend’s arguments. I might be able to consider doing that after the deputy leadership contest is over and I have a bit more spare time. The argument in favour of a constitutional convention, whether convened by the Government or not, becomes greater by the day.

What we have witnessed here is an unseemly headlong dash by the Government to try to rush these complex and partisan changes through the House before the summer recess. Their aim has now, thankfully, been foiled by a mixture of outrage on both sides of the House and a brewing rebellion on the Government’s Back Benches. Last week’s emergency Standing Order No. 24 debate demonstrated that the unease at the Government’s behaviour was widespread. Indeed, they ended up in the absurd position of having to abstain on a vote supporting their own chosen process. The Leader of the House himself beat a hasty retreat, fleeing the Chamber before his Whips abandoned any pretence of trying to win the vote.

So, thankfully, today’s debate has turned into a general one, and we have been issued with new draft changes to the Standing Orders to consider. Even they were late arriving, however. They were not published on Monday, as the Leader of the House promised at business questions last week; they were actually made available at lunchtime on Tuesday. I can assume only that the delay was caused by Government disarray, because the changes that have been made are minimal, and they certainly do not address the points about accounting appropriately for Barnett consequentials that were worrying some Conservative Members. Nor do the Government appear to have considered changing or reconsidering any part of their plans in the face of

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reasonable doubts and questions. Instead, they have turned up the volume by provoking a huge row over their proposals to wreck the Hunting Act 2004, which the Leader of the House so extraordinarily withdrew by means of a point of order yesterday.

The Leader of the House was in such a shambolic state yesterday that he could not work out whether the Government’s proposals on hunting were anything to do with EVEL. Let me help him with that. The Government have a small majority, and their attempt to change the Hunting Act failed yesterday because some Tory Back Benchers agreed with us and the public that the killing of animals for pleasure had no place in a civilised society.

Tom Pursglove: I note what the hon. Lady said about red rags and bulls. In that spirit, does she agree that it might not have been the best idea to use terms such as “semi-secretive”? That was not exactly constructive talk, by any measure.

Ms Eagle: I found out about the nature of the Government’s proposals at quarter past six the night before the Leader of the House made his statement to the House. That was three and a half hours after I was originally meant to see him to be confronted with the proposals. If there had been a real attempt to reach cross-party consensus and to move forward on the basis of agreement, we would not be where we are now.

Chris Grayling: Did the hon. Lady not read our manifesto? I read hers.

Ms Eagle: Yes, I did, and I even read the English manifesto, but it contained just a short sentence or two on this. It did not mention some of the most worrying detail about what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to do.

Jonathan Lord: It is one thing to ask the Government about detail, but we have failed to hear any detail at all from the Labour Opposition. Labour had 13 years in government to consider this matter and has had five years in opposition, but after 18 years Labour has provided no detail at all, even on the suggestion that it might get to its fabled constitutional convention.

Ms Eagle: There is the constitutional convention and a lot of the issues of powers also—[Interruption.] Because the hon. Gentleman represents the Government, and it is for them to put forward legislation in this place and for the Opposition then to deal with it. I do not know whether he knows his constitution, but that is how it is meant to be. If we had been the Government, we would be dealing with this. His party is the Government and therefore we are dealing with their proposals. That is what I am trying to do.

Mr Bone: The hon. Lady is making a reasoned case, but she should think again about things being secretive. The Leader of the House has listened, we are going until 10 o’clock tonight, we are having all the summer and then we are coming back again, so what she says is unfair. On the constitutional convention, would she have said that we should not have proceeded with the Scotland Bill and should have looked at things as a whole?