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Ms Eagle: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scotland Bill is the result of an all-party agreement made in the middle of the independence referendum by party leaders. It was called the “vow” at the time and it was led by the Prime Minister, with whom I know the hon. Gentleman has a love-hate relationship. A vow was made to the public of Scotland that that had to be delivered, so it is a bit difficult to say that we were not going to deliver it until after a constitutional convention. But evolving devolution and the settlements evolving at the moment surely make the case for us to have a more holistic look at how we deal with a range of issues, including the fact that the other place is now 900 strong. We read today that the Prime Minister has tried to get another 100 peers appointed to the other place, while we are trying to see the size of this place shrink. A constitutional convention should be taking a serious look at a range of issues so that we can balance our governance arrangements once more.

Wayne David: Does my hon. Friend agree that, to be fair to them, the last Government did begin a process of consultation, establishing the McKay commission to look into the whole issue? It took a great deal of evidence, and produced an interesting and, in many ways, sound report, but this Government have chosen to put that in the bin and make a set of half-baked, partisan proposals.

Ms Eagle: That is part of the problem: we have never had an explanation from the Government as to why the very sensible, well-debated, well-researched views of the McKay commission have been completely disregarded.

We appear to have a Government in a hurry to offend and to govern by provoking grievance and division, which is no doubt why they laughably refer to themselves—

Graham Stuart rose—

Ms Eagle: I have already given way once to the hon. Gentleman and it is important that I now get on to make the rest of my speech, so that other people can contribute to our debate.

The proposals before us risk exacerbating strains on the Union. They are shoddy, and conceived in a highly partisan fashion, and therefore they are deeply flawed. They are much more aggressive in their handing over of powers to English MPs than the McKay commission decided was wise, yet the Leader of the House has not explained why he has chosen to ignore the advice and the warnings coming from a commission that the Government appointed. Wherever they have had to exercise a judgment, the Government have opted for more powerful and less nuanced powers for English MPs. They have fallen short of advocating an English Parliament, perhaps because England forms 85% of the whole Union and any English First Minister would probably be more powerful than a UK Prime Minister, but they are certainly incubating a proto-English Parliament within this supposedly Union Parliament.

Mr Grieve: I am interested to hear that comment. I agree with the hon. Lady that creating an English Parliament would be unworkable, and yet the message from Scottish National party members is that we should create an English Parliament. If there is already one area of meeting of minds, the Labour party must be

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starting to work towards a solution, because I think that she is beginning to accept that something must be done about English votes for English laws.

Ms Eagle: In all three statements or speeches that I have made in the past three weeks, I have begun by conceding exactly that point. I have done it not for show but because it is what we believe.

The proposals mean that, if a Government do not command a majority in England, it is doubtful that they could actually govern. The complete lack of effective consultation with any other party outside of Government on some of the controversial aspects of these proposals makes them partisan and divisive when they should have been accomplished on a cross-party basis. When it comes to making changes of such constitutional importance and technical complexity, it is only right that they should be scrutinised effectively.

The Government’s proposals fundamentally alter the constitution and the operations of this House, as well as impacting on the other place. In those circumstances, it is appropriate to set up a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider the proposals in greater depth. I call on the Leader of the House to do so.

Joint Committees of both Houses have a strong tradition of effective cross-party scrutiny of complex issues of constitutional importance, both legislative and non-legislative. For example, the highly regarded Cunningham Committee looked at the non-legislative issue of conventions between both Houses. The report was noted with approval in both Houses in 2007, and has stood the test of time and sets a clear precedent on which the Government should now proceed.

Graham Stuart Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Eagle: If I must.

Graham Stuart: The hon. Lady is being most generous, especially as she did not intend to be—to me in particular. She is focusing entirely on process, and process is an important part of this matter, but she has not given the slightest hint of a suggestion of what the Labour party thinks should be done about it, even though it was the author of the original mess many, many years ago. She needs to give us more than just process; otherwise we will doubt her goodwill

Ms Eagle: The hon. Gentleman uses his usual charm. He can take it now that I will not be giving way to him again for the rest of my speech. Part of coming to cross-party agreement is that one does not have a completely developed plan that one wishes to force on everybody else—it is called compromise. Obviously, the hon. Gentleman does not understand how that works, but that is not a surprising given his antics in the debate today.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con) rose—

Ms Eagle: No.

There was particular concern expressed during last week’s emergency debate that the so-called Barnett consequentials had not been properly taken into account

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in the very prescriptive definition of what an “English only” Bill, or part of a Bill, actually is. It is not clear to me whether the changes to the draft Standing Orders adequately address that problem. The Government have not seen fit to address the point about cross-border effects short of Barnett consequentials made by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) in last week’s debate.

There are some dangers inherent in the Government’s proposals, which they would have been wise to avoid. Badly designed proposals on English votes for English laws risk not only legislative gridlock but making England, or the UK, ungovernable in some circumstances. As the proposals are currently drafted, there are three areas that give particular cause for concern, and I wish to deal with each of them in turn.

First, the proposals create an English veto, not just a voice, with all of the complications for our constitution that that entails. Secondly, the proposals apply not only to English laws but, much more problematically, to parts of Bills, statutory instruments, regulations, commencement orders and ministerial administrative actions, which, in our current system, are often achieved by statutory instruments. Thirdly, even more controversially and entirely without any consultation outside of the Government, these proposals have been widened so that they apply to Finance Bills.

The McKay commission ruled out a veto for English MPs. The Government have gone far beyond the proposals set out by McKay and have instead created a veto rather than strengthening the English voice. Not only do the proposals grant a veto on the UK Government in the Commons, but English MPs would be able to veto Lords amendments on English matters, curtailing the Lords’ ability to revise legislation.

The McKay commission recommended that the views of English MPs needed to be strengthened. In particular, it recommended the adoption of a principle that

“decisions at the United Kingdom level with a separate and distinct effect for England (or for England-and-Wales) should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs for constituencies in England (or England-and-Wales).”

That convention, along with the approach that the Opposition have suggested of considering an English Committee stage for English matters, is a much more proportionate response to the West Lothian question, and it would strengthen the voice of England.

Why, apart from to advance their own perceived partisan interests, have the Government chosen to go so much further? The proposed system for legislation is much more complex than our current system, as has already been pointed out, and it could quickly gum up the parliamentary works for a Government who lacked an English majority. It would also weaken considerably the accountability of any Government to the electorate for the delivery of their manifesto and their overall administrative record. It means that a majority of English MPs could stop a Government Bill in its tracks. The Government would then have to negotiate with them if they wanted to get the legislation through.

Secondly, the scope of the Government’s proposed English veto is very much wider than that envisaged by McKay. It appears to extend to secondary legislation of all kinds, including commencement orders, regulations and regular administrative actions such as the distribution

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of the English local government grant—an example that the Government have themselves chosen to highlight. The difficulty with that arrangement is that it would allow English MPs to exercise the powers of the Executive without being at all responsible for the consequences. If the Government’s proposed local government grant allocation is not passed, no money at all can be distributed. This could create an opportunity for English MPs to initiate a local government shutdown of the kind that intermittently strikes the US Executive, or to demand changes in the distribution that satisfy them at the expense of other areas.

Alex Salmond: I wonder whether there is another possibility. I am not saying that this Bill would be referred for the proposed procedure, but let us just imagine that Heathrow was being considered. If the Government had a larger majority among English MPs, it would take a bigger rebellion on Heathrow to affect the Government’s decision making. I wonder whether part of the reason why Government Front Benchers are so keen on this dog’s breakfast is that it would protect them from rebellions on their own Back Benches.

Ms Eagle: The Government, as currently constituted, have a majority of 12, or effectively closer to 16. With only English Members of Parliament they have a majority of 105. The partisan reasons for indulging in this are clear, but I think that the British constitution is more important than any partisan proceedings of one Government that happened to exist at one point in time.

The proposals on statutory instruments effectively bring into existence a new defacto English Executive, who appear to consist of the UK Government, but directed on some of their responsibilities by a subset of English MPs who are not meant to be in Government because they are from a party in opposition. That will create a chaotic and unprecedented situation that is hardly conducive to good or democratically accountable governance.

That position is repeated with Finance Bills. McKay was not asked to consider Finance Bills, and it is clear that the Government’s proposals are not thought through. In our system, a Government who cannot get their Budget though the House are essentially no Government at all. However, if these draft Standing Order changes are made, any Government who lacked an English majority could not govern. The Scotland Bill devolves certain substantial aspects of income tax. Budgets allow income tax to be collected, and that order has to be renewed annually. Under these proposals, it appears that English MPs, if they so choose, could block the collection of income tax, which is 25% of the Government’s revenue altogether. Thus the English MPs would have absolute control over English income tax, not the UK Government. Putting aside the potential for chaos that would cause, it seems to me that it is in danger of handing certain MPs power without responsibility.

To summarise, the Government’s plans are much more aggressive and wider in scope than is wise or proper. They are clearly conceived for partisan political reasons. Manifesto commitments to consult the Procedure Committee have been broken so far and are likely to be fulfilled only with days to go. The proposals, as currently written, create the potential for gridlock and chaos hitherto unknown in our constitutional arrangements. They create two classes of MP, and they are reckless

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with the future of the Union. I hope that the Government will not proceed with such haste but will, even at this late stage, think again and return with something more workable and less indifferent to the problems that this will inevitably cause.

4.20 pm

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I propose to speak very briefly as I have only one substantive point of principle to make.

I start by again commending the Leader of the House for taking on board the concerns of Members on both sides of the House and for the approach that he has taken. I have as much taste for political combat as the next man, but the tenor of this debate—I say this to my Unionist colleagues in all parts of the House—matters almost as much as the content in terms of not generating grievance and nationalist causes, shall we say, as a direct result of our attempt to stabilise our constitution.

That said, I do take issue with the Government over the approach of using Standing Orders. The simple argument made to me at the beginning was that this was to protect any change from interference by the courts. While I understand that, the same argument would have applied equally to the Bill that became the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, for example, yet that was capable of being drafted in such a way that the courts would not dare meddle in it, as they would not dare meddle in this. Whatever the legal position, the political position of our courts is that they would not interfere in something as fundamental as the balance of power between the parts of the Union. I take a very serious view of this, because it takes out of play, in a constitutional ruling, the House of Lords and the whole mechanism that we usually apply to these matters.

We are thus in the peculiar position of having a constitutional change to our House of Commons that is put in very quickly, with probably not enough consideration, and that a future Government can take out equally quickly. That is, in many ways, even more dangerous than the mechanism we have chosen.

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

Mr Davis: Yes, but I wanted to be brief.

Graham Stuart: That is one of the strengths of using Standing Orders. The very fragility of it means that, contrary to the constant use of the word “partisan” by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), it will need to have consensus across the House. At any election, any party would be asked whether it felt that it had become the settled will and the right way to run things, and if not, legislation could indeed be passed. The Leader of the House has said that when the review is conducted in a year or so, that is one of the options that would be looked at.

Mr Davis: I am afraid that I could not disagree more. The simple truth is that we have made it down the centuries with an unwritten constitution that has existed because of the respect given to it on both sides of the House. That has fragmented in the past decade or two. I do not want to have a circumstance where the rules of operation adversely affect the democratic rights of our citizens. By the way, we have been talking all the time

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about the democratic rights, or standards, of MPs and whether we have one or two classes of MP, but what matters is that we have one class of citizen. I do not want that to be subject to the vagaries of any future Government.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP) rose—

Mr Davis: I wanted to keep this brief, but I will of course give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Pete Wishart: I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has picked up on the issue of legal challenge. The reason we are having Speaker certification as opposed to legislation is to put the matter beyond legal challenge, so there will be no opportunity for the citizens he describes to challenge decisions that are made in this House. Surely he, as someone who takes an interest in this, must think that that is thoroughly wrong.

Mr Davis: It is wrong, for the reasons I described. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, I take the view that Governments should be subject to the law of the land and subject to courts. I am less happy with the idea that the courts could rewrite our constitution in a way that we do not see fit.

Sir William Cash: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Davis: No. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I am going to try to make some progress.

Sir William Cash: On this point?

Mr Davis: I give way. [Interruption.] I am easily bullied, yes.

Sir William Cash: The Scotland Act 1998 already has provision for judicial review in questions relating to ultra vires—where whether a function is devolved is in dispute—so the courts are already involved.

Mr Davis: I rest my case. Let me make some progress.

Mr Grieve: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Davis: I suddenly find myself in a courtroom, rather than the Chamber, but I give way.

Mr Grieve: I was going to make this point later, but I may as well make it now because that is the purpose of debate. I must say that I have some slight anxiety about the justiciability of measures that we take in this House. I appreciate article 9 of the Bill of Rights, but we are certainly moving into rather uncharted territory and I do not think we can rule out legal challenges to decisions on the Speaker’s certificate.

Mr Davis: The House will take that on board.

My other point about what the Leader of the House has done so far is to commend him on at least attempting to address the problem of the Barnett consequentials. This is very important for the point on which I will finish. The problem started in 1998. I guess that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) will remember—no one else in the House would have reason

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to do so—that in 1998 I argued for fiscal autonomy for the new Scottish Parliament, for a more federal solution and for proper treatment of the West Lothian question. All those things were self-evident in 1998 as long-term problems with the devolution proposal. I must say to Opposition Front Benchers, that our points were received with a completely implacable lack of understanding, let alone a lack of sympathy, from the primary driver of that, Gordon Brown.

The problem arises from the confusion in the Scotland Act and the Scotland Bill that is currently going through the House. The 1998 Act failed to create what, in my view, would have been stable fiscal autonomy for the current Holyrood Parliament. It would have done so if it had separated out the funding streams for the Scottish Parliament’s spending and the spending that emanates from this Parliament. If that had been done, we would have had very few, if any, Barnett consequentials.

We cannot of course solve everything. The right hon. Member for Gordon has quite rightly made the point about other impacts, such as in relation to tuition fees. There will be tax competition between the parts of the United Kingdom, and competition between policies of various sorts. We cannot resolve all that. We cannot necessarily give Scottish Members some sort of veto over England’s right to do the best for its citizens. This is not entirely soluble, but it would have been much more soluble if we had written the Scotland Act in such a way that it created a more rational structure than what exists in our kingdom at the moment.

All that gives us and the Leader of the House the problematic issue of how this can be done with utter fairness to all sides, because that is the test. I am afraid that the British establishment always seems to have a preference for fudge rather than clarity and for ambiguity rather than logic. We see that written through all this constitutional area, because the establishment does not want to address the problem. The establishment does not want an English First Minister who is more powerful than the UK Prime Minister. Yet if we went down a proper route of English devolution—if that is what it is—we would of course end up with an English Government who were a challenge to the UK Government.

The Leader of the House has now given us the summer to think about this. We can, I hope, deliberate about it at great length before we return in September, and I hope that he will take on board what he hears today. The only point of principle I will make to him is that the test for this is very simple. It is not whether this creates two classes of MP, but whether it creates two classes of citizen. The test is whether it deals with and removes any prospective grievance not from the Members on the SNP Benches, the Labour Benches or the Government Benches, but from the people we represent. It should take away any grievance for the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, not any grievance for the Labour party, the Conservative party, the SNP or the Liberal Democrats. The test he should apply is whether it puts our citizens first.

4.29 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): What a week it has been. It is hard to believe that we were all here, in practically the same places, just over a week ago considering this very issue, when the Leader

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of the House was forced to come to the Chamber to explain his position in a Standing Order No. 24 debate. He quickly withdrew the proposed Standing Orders that evening and, after bravely prevaricating and heroically retreating, he is back here offering practically nothing new.

I had a bit of hope last week when the Leader of the House withdrew his initial Standing Orders. I thought that we might make some progress and was hopeful that we could come back in a reasonable frame of mind to move forward. However, I am thoroughly disappointed at the way the Leader of the House has come back here. There is basically no change to the Standing Orders. All he has done is to offer a bit of clarification about departmental spending and the estimates, which we already knew about. He has not addressed the issues that concern us, such as the Barnett consequentials and long-term planning when it comes to legislation. He has not addressed the points that my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) made about tuition fees and the long-term impact of such issues year on year.

Antoinette Sandbach: The last time we debated these matters in the House, the hon. Gentleman said very clearly—I believe that the Leader of the House quoted him—that we should trust the SNP not to vote on English matters. However, this week there was a statement about the changes to the Hunting Act 2004, which your leader in Scotland had identified as an English-only matter. The hon. Gentleman asked us to trust the SNP. How does that position stand now?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): The hon. Lady should speak through the Chair. She was directing her questions to me, when she wanted to address them to the hon. Gentleman.

Pete Wishart: I am almost grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. I wondered how long I would be on my feet before someone mentioned the non-existent foxhunting debate, which was scheduled to happen but disappeared because the Government wanted to change the rules before they had the debate. What I said last week was that if something is in the Scottish interest, we will take an interest in it. We could not have garnered any more interest in foxhunting. I had hundreds if not thousands of requests from my constituents to come to the unitary UK Parliament to express their concerns on the issue. I make no apologies for saying that I would have voted proudly on that issue to represent my constituents’ interests.

Mr Grieve: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had many expressions of interest, but I receive many expressions of interest from my constituents about matters in Scotland. I am a member of the John Muir Trust and I get frequent letters from other members of the trust who live in England, expressing their concern about the Scottish Government’s actions in respect of wind farms on wild land, but I have to accept that that matter is devolved to Scotland. I say sincerely to the hon. Gentleman that I do not find his argument very credible.

Pete Wishart: We heard last week and we have heard in the run-up to this debate that there is massive unhappiness in this House about who is voting on whose issues. I

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want to come on to our concerns and difficulties. I hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but we are profoundly annoyed and upset that he and all the other English Members are voting down things that have been agreed in the Scottish Parliament and that are wanted by every party in the Scottish Parliament. Scotland sent 56 of us here and we are profoundly disappointed in the right hon. and learned Gentleman for voting those things down. It seems as though there are English votes for English laws, but also English votes for Scottish laws. When it came to foxhunting, we took the view that there was concern and interest among our constituents. We are saying to Government Members, this cannot go on.

Mr Grieve rose—

Pete Wishart: I will not give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman again.

The situation cannot go on whereby English Members continually and consistently vote down the expressed desires of Scottish Members of Parliament, with no consequences or response. That is why we have taken an interest. I want to deal with foxhunting, because I imagine that a few other comments will be made about it.

Dr Philippa Whitford: Our constituents have commented that during Scotland Bill debates, the Chamber has been almost empty apart from us, but we have been swamped by hundreds of Members voting against us in the evening.

Ian C. Lucas: I’m here all the time.

Dr Whitford: There have been only half a dozen people on the Government Benches during debates that are crucial for Scotland.

Pete Wishart: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. I remember coming into the Chamber and seeing no Conservative Back Benchers present during Scotland Bill debates. There was one Parliamentary Private Secretary, but no Back Benchers. That shows the interest they took in our legislation. All of a sudden, when we take an interest in something that is considered to be English-only, there is fury. The proposal is withdrawn in a hurry, to be put back once the Government have changed the rules about how they deal with such matters.

Chris Grayling: It is worth setting on the record for the House that I am disappointed that Labour and SNP Members clearly have not read the detail of the proposals. These proposals would not have affected the debate on hunting, so will the hon. Gentleman please stop suggesting that they would?

Pete Wishart: I do not think I suggested that. I accept that. Why, therefore, was the vote on foxhunting withdrawn? All of a sudden the Scottish National party indicated that it would be taking an interest in it and the proposals were withdrawn. The Government have to win the argument; they cannot just decide that because the Scottish National party has decided to do something, that is it—been and gone. The Government have to win the argument in the House and it was shameful that they withdraw the proposals. They took us all the way to the top of the hill, prompting such great interest from our constituents, and now the proposals have been withdrawn.

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Wayne David: I am grateful to my colleague for giving way on the question who takes an interest in these matters and who is present today. Does he agree that it is notable that so few English Members are present to debate English-only laws?

Pete Wishart: I am looking round the Chamber and I see the usual suspects—those who take a real and deep interest in these matters—but I expected the Chamber to be full. Apparently, this was one of the most important issues during the election campaign. English votes for English laws was the issue that most upset the Conservatives’ English constituents in the general election campaign, and the slogan was, “100 days to deliver English votes for English laws”.

Sir William Cash: I always enjoy the hon. Gentleman’s speeches. He has a rather compelling manner. Would he similarly object were we to propose—for example, in relation to some power that had been devolved to the Scottish Parliament—that we should insist on going to Scotland, taking part in the debates there and voting accordingly?

Pete Wishart: That suggests the tantalising picture of the hon. Gentleman rushing up to the barricades at the Scottish Parliament, demanding his say on devolved Scottish matters. I would pay to see that. It would be great fun, and I encourage him to think about doing just that.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): May I take my hon. Friend back to the Barnett consequentials issue, as that is our key concern, which the revised Standing Orders unfortunately fail to address? This is not so much about the annual financial estimates. The real issue arises when a substantial policy change in devolved areas impacts on funding—the block grants. If Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs lose the ability to vote on them, they lose the ability to influence their own block grants. That is the key issue that needs to be addressed.

Pete Wishart: My hon. Friend is spot on. That is our concern and the major issue that we still have with the revised Standing Orders. Decisions made in this House will affect the budgets of our nations and the public services that our constituents enjoy. For us to be locked out of the process is disgraceful. The fact that these mad plans have come back today has done nothing to satisfy our concerns.

There are still to be two classes of Members of Parliament. The Speaker will be placed in the most pernicious political position and will have to determine whether I and my hon. Friends can take part in a debate that might have massive consequences for my constituents. We still have not resolved any of the financial issues—we are not even close to doing so—and these proposals will progress without a proper debate and without proper scrutiny. It is shameful, the way that the Government have acted.

Sir William Cash rose—

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con) rose—

Pete Wishart: I will not give way again to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), but I will give way to the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), who has been patient.

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Robert Jenrick: Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), I am enjoying the performance. I have constituents from Newark amateur operatic society in the Gallery, and the hon. Gentleman is giving what would no doubt be one of their finer performances. Will he acknowledge that he—or at least his party—has changed position with pretty shameless hypocrisy? Let me remind him of a comment that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) made to a magazine in 2008:

“If you’re asking me should people in England be able to run their own health service or education system, my answer is yes. They should be able to do it without the bossy interference of Scots Labour MPs.”

Surely that has Barnett consequentials.

Pete Wishart: I am delighted at the praise being heaped on me by English Conservative Members. It is not necessary, but I am grateful for it. I will come to the hon. Gentleman’s point because it is important, and I will suggest a solution that I am almost certain will not satisfy him. It is called, “Doing it yourself.” It is about getting a Parliament and deciding all those things.

Antoinette Sandbach rose—

Pete Wishart: I have already given way to the hon. Lady.

That was the most important issue for Conservative Members. Remember all the things that were said before the general election—the “jockalypse”, and the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) in the pocket of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon. They painted all those fears of mad Scottish nationalists coming down here and voting on their precious Bills, stealing their votes. That was what was presented. Then we come down here, and the first thing we do is get involved in this total and utter mess, this guddle, this disaster—I cannot even call it a dog’s breakfast as that would show disrespect to our canine friends’ favourite morning meal. It is such a mess and disaster. So we are where we are; we are back with this issue again and we must consider how to make some progress.

Let us get back to the fundamentals. Why are we doing this? I have detected two reasons from Conservative Members. The first is that they feel that it is unfair to have these nasty Scottish Members coming down and voting on their precious legislation—poor souls! They are only 85% of the membership of this House, and there has hardly ever been an issue where we have actually won a vote on the basis of Scottish issues. I cannot think of an example from the 14 years that I have been in the House. Poor guys. What a shame. All these Scottish Members voting on their poor legislation—I will come on to that.

The other point that I find really funny is that Conservative Members are doing this to save the Union. That is the killer. I heard several English Members on the radio today saying once again that they are doing this “to save the Union”. You know me, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am not in the Union-saving business; I am in the Union-ending business. If Conservative Members wanted to design a plan to ensure that—

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Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. There are too many conservations going on besides the speaker, so let us keep them to a minimum. Members may intervene if they want to, but let us hear what Pete Wishart has to say.

Pete Wishart: As I said, I am in the Union-ending business. That is my job and that is what I believe in. Even I, however, could not conceive of a plan that would progress my vision against that of Conservative Members. Imagine what we have seen in the past few weeks: “Scotland stay with us. Scotland we love you. You are part of the family of nations. Don’t leave us! You are valued Members of this House.” What happens the minute we get to this place? We are given second-class status.

Chris Grayling: I am always very entertained by the hon. Gentleman’s performance. I imagine that he was a superb showman in his time. Will he explain one conundrum? He says that if this House votes on an English-only matter, that will also affect Scotland so Scottish MPs should be able to vote. He then says that it is okay to have an English Parliament voting on those same issues when no Scottish MPs are even present. How does that work? How is that possibly consistent?

Pete Wishart: It is almost difficult to try to explain ever so gently to the Leader of the House how it works. It is a solution that works across the world and it is called federalism. It is where we do our thing and English MPs do theirs. I know they are unhappy—I hear it again and again—and so we then come together in this Parliament, where we all have the same rights and same status. What is happening now is the creation of a quasi-English Parliament within the unitary Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is that solution that is totally unacceptable, gives us a second-class status and stops us being able effectively to represent our constituents. It is not on.

Graham Stuart: The power of the hon. Gentleman’s performance—I agree with colleagues that it is first class—is matched only, I think, by the fundamental dishonesty of the message. He knows that simply providing the simple consent of English Members of Parliament—with no Executive, no English Parliament—to measures going through this place means that his fox has been shot. He hoped for measures that would allow him genuinely to say that he and his colleagues were second-class MPs, but they will not be. They will be voting on everything, and we will simply have to give consent, too. He knows that that is right and he hates it.

Pete Wishart: I invite the hon. Gentleman to look at the explanation of what will happen as shown in the wonderful graphic displayed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon. This is great, isn’t it? It is like the line-up to the battle of Bannockburn—all we need is William Wallace in the middle to go over the edge. It is just ridiculous. I think it was the Conservative Chair of the Procedure Committee who identified that there are another four stages to parliamentary Bills in all this—God knows how we will get through a parliamentary Session with all the extra work that will have to be done.

We are excluded from two sections of the procedure and then we are back in and out. I am having difficulty understanding. I know that my right hon. Friend is

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better at looking at these things than I am, and he may be able to come to terms with this smorgasbord of traffic lights. The illustration shows that the second-class Members on the SNP Benches will not be able to participate in the extra Grand Committee stage for England. I do not know whether the Serjeant at Arms is going to get his little sword out and stop us coming in. I am not sure how will we be barred from participating. If we were to intervene or to try to say anything, would we be named or thrown out? These are some of the absurdities that are part of this dog’s breakfast of a proposal.

Alex Salmond: From experience, I can assure my hon. Friend that the Chair of a Committee does not have the power to name or throw out any Member.

Pete Wishart: I still do not know how any of this will be enforced.

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman is not one of the new Members of his party and he will know perfectly well that any Member can turn up in any Committee of this House and speak. It is simply a question of who votes. We will be delighted to have him sitting there when the English Grand Committee sits and even to have him intervene; he will just not be able to vote.

Pete Wishart: That is news to me. I was under the impression that we were to be excluded from the English part of the procedure. That will be fantastic—I will invite all my hon. Friends along to the debates that we will be excluded from voting on.

That situation is simply part of the absurdity. I was impressed by the shadow Leader of the House’s speech in which she quite rightly pointed out some of the other absurdities. Some stuff strikes me as really odd. Why are the Lords not excluded? I have some five peers in my constituency, and they will now have a greater role in some of this legislation than I will have as an elected Member.

We have an issue with the House of Lords, as some hon. Members may have realised recently. I do not think that the House of Lords has ever been held in such contempt by the Scottish people. The way the Lords imposed themselves on our democratic referendum was appalling and should not have happened. We see that place as nothing other than the repository of the donors and cronies of the UK parties, but those donors and cronies, who have never been elected, will have a say on parts of Bills that I and my hon. Friends do not. That is utterly absurd. Not only is it English iPads for English laws; it is English laws for English Lords. What we are hearing about just now includes some really weird things.

Enough is enough. Let us just get shot of this thing. We have talked about foxhunting, and I was grateful to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) for her point. I think I explained why we have an interest in all this. We are doing what our constituents want. We have always said that we would stand up and represent them.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): A few times in the debate, the impression has been given that we somehow do not represent our constituents on certain issues. I and my colleagues will represent our constituents on any issue they choose to write to us about or bring to

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us. We might not be able to vote or legislate on devolved matters, but I will speak up for my constituents on any issue they choose to bring to me.

Pete Wishart: Absolutely—that is what people have voted for us to do. They have voted for us, in the same way as people have voted for English Members, to come down here to represent their interests, and that is exactly what we will do.

I loathe foxhunting—I think it is barbaric—and cruelty to animals wherever in the world I see it. I do not want any succour to be given to the Tories’ toff friends, dusting down their red coats, getting out their silly little bugles and lustily shouting “Tally ho!” in the mirror as they prepare to savage and ravage poor, defenceless foxes in the name of sport. That appals me.

Sammy Wilson: I would accept the hon. Gentleman’s argument if he told the House that he had responded just as quickly to his constituents’ concerns about foxhunting by changing the law in Scotland before showing his righteous indignation about what happens here.

Pete Wishart: We are going to do that. The plan to water down foxhunting legislation in England has given us an opportunity to examine our approach and perhaps tighten it up. The hon. Gentleman is right: we should be doing that. I actually did not know that we have more lax laws than England. We are going to do all we can to ensure that they are tightened.

Alex Salmond: I am sorry to continue our earlier debate, but the Leader of the House said a moment ago that all Members are allowed to turn up to every Committee. That is not the case: the Scottish Grand Committee is restricted to Scottish Members of the House. It has not met for more than 10 years; none the less, that is the case. If the Leader of the House does not even know and has not mastered all these procedures, what hope is there for this total dog’s breakfast?

Pete Wishart: I say candidly to my right hon. Friend that I do not know what hope there is. He and I served on the Scottish Grand Committee back in the early 2000s, when it met for the last time, and it was not a model of how to consider the issues under discussion.

The Government are trying to create a quasi-English Parliament within the confines of the unitary Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It seems to me that they just cannot be bothered to do the work. They cannot be bothered to go around their nation, consult and have a dialogue with the people, work with partners, build up the conversation and then have a referendum, as we did in Scotland.

I ask the Leader of the House to imagine what would happen if we did not have a Scottish Parliament and we wanted to do this. We would just say to English Members, “Get out of the way while we have our Scottish Parliament here!” It is almost laughable to suggest such a thing, but that is exactly what the Government want to do—they want to create a quasi-English Parliament in the confines of our unitary Parliament. That is not on. If they want an English Parliament, they should go and create it and then deliver it.

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Conservative Members are saying that English votes for English laws was the most important issue on the doorstep but, at the same time, that there is no demand for an English Parliament, so what they want is several servings of the biggest cake in the world and to have that Parliament here by changing the rules of the House of Commons. It is not good enough to try to use our Parliament—the Parliament that belongs to every citizen in the United Kingdom—as their quasi-Parliament. I appeal to the Leader of the House to look at the issue.

It is fantastic that the proposal is about saving the Union, but the Government could not have designed better plans to drive Scotland out of the Union. Their sense of victory when they narrowly won the referendum will be short-lived if they continue to pursue this proposal.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has given his strong views on foxhunting, but he has still not explained why he thinks it would have been appropriate for Scottish MPs to vote on the proposed amendments.

Pete Wishart: We did not vote on them, because the Tories withdrew them. I do not think I could have been clearer about why we intended to vote on foxhunting. We could not have got any more interest in it from Scotland—we were absolutely flooded with requests, not just from our constituents but from English constituents.

Antoinette Sandbach rose—

Pete Wishart: I have already given way to the hon. Lady and I want to make progress.

The Government’s attempt to politicise the role of Mr Speaker—the master of ceremonies in the House of Commons—is utterly appalling. It is shameful that Mr Speaker is going to have to make a very serious political decision as to whether or not we can participate and vote in debates. What a position to put the arbiter of our business in! I do not know of any other legislature in Europe or the world where the Speaker, the arbiter of the House, would be placed in such a pernicious situation.

Sir William Cash: I do think the hon. Gentleman might just reflect on the fact that the Speaker already has the power to issue certificates. Those could be construed as political if he so wished, but on money resolutions there are so many different cases. Why does the hon. Gentleman not accept that that could be applied in this case as well?

Pete Wishart: With due respect, I do not think the hon. Gentleman actually gets what is involved for the Speaker. It will be in his power to decide whether we are going to be excluded or not. He is going to tell us when our second-class status kicks in and when it does not. That is a dreadful position to put the Speaker in. It is not like deciding amendments or deciding on money resolutions; it is deciding whether Members of Parliament can participate in the House of Commons.

Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) made a very interesting point earlier: what would happen if the next Speaker were to be Scottish?

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Pete Wishart: There’s a thought and a prospect! We already know that there could never now be a Scottish Prime Minister or a Scottish Cabinet Member for any of the devolved areas, such as Health or Education. John Reid, for example, would never have been able to do his job. I do not miss that, but this is how having two classes works its way through.

Wayne David: Does the hon. Gentleman agree—this is my understanding—that not only will the Speaker make a certification, but he or she will not be able to give reasons for it?

Pete Wishart: Worse than that, the Speaker’s certification will not be open to challenge. Because of parliamentary privilege, there will be no means to challenge it.

Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con) indicated dissent.

Pete Wishart: I see the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. Maybe we could explore that and see what we can do, but there is no opportunity for us as parliamentarians or for our constituents to address this and try to ensure it could be challenged.

Kirsty Blackman: The other point is that the Speaker will be required to certify whether something is England-only for everything that comes through, including amendments and anything that has been amended in the Lords and come back. That will be a hugely onerous task for the Speaker. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Pete Wishart: My hon. Friend has been following these issues with a very keen interest. She has already brought to attention some of the great things about this: she actually discovered, in the response from the Leader of the House to a written question, that the Scotland Bill was a piece of English-only legislation! I am grateful to her for discovering that amazing fact.

Mr Hanson: Does the hon. Gentleman also accept that there is no mechanism to make representations to the Speaker before he makes his decision? Those of us who have interests in England but represent seats in Wales could not influence the Speaker’s decision beforehand.

Pete Wishart: That is another point. We can see how bad this is, placing the Speaker in such a position. Shame on this Government for placing our Speaker in such a position. Politicising the Speaker of one of the biggest and most powerful Parliaments in the world is a disgraceful thing to do. I really hope the Government rethink this.

What we have is a complete and utter shambles. The Leader of the House has managed to divide the House. There is no consensus. There is no agreement. He is imposing the Conservative will on all of us here. He is denying us full rights within this Parliament, consigning us to second class. He has done nothing to revise his plans. I appeal to him once again: take them away, and let us have a proper discussion on how we can go forward. If he is so interested in making sure that there are English votes for English laws, he should get his own Parliament. He should do the work and make sure he delivers it.

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This is unacceptable. We now have a few weeks and months in which to look at this again. I appeal to the Leader of the House to get rid of this dog’s breakfast and come back with something that is reasonable and sustainable.

4.58 pm

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to follow the performance of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), which I think fully reflected the quality of the contribution of the Scottish nationalists to this debate.

English votes for English laws is a constitutional proposal of fundamental importance, necessary to deliver fairness for England and vital to safeguard the future of the United Kingdom. It is interesting to reflect that the hon. Gentleman said that he was not in the saving the Union business; he was in the ending the Union business. That might explain the impassioned way he put over so many of the arguments that he either had not researched or knew to be false. He made out that he would become a second-class MP and that his constituents would lose out, whereas it has been made clear that giving English and Welsh MPs the ability merely to consent to something will in no way diminish his right or that of other Scottish Members to vote and play their normal part at every stage other than in Committees where every last single provision of the Bill applies only to England and can pass the “has it been devolved” test. In an intervention on the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) said how complicated and onerous a task that would be, but it is a fairly simple question: has it been devolved to Scotland? If so, the issue is clearly outwith Scotland. We would then have to check whether it had been devolved to Wales, which, again, would not be an onerous task. It is something that the Clerks and the Speaker, who will be taking this decision on advice, do as a matter of course for every amendment and proposal.

In truth, despite all the efforts of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), who is no longer in her place, despite the brilliant performance of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, and despite the complexity that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) outlined, we are simply talking about consent: this is an injection into the system to allow English MPs to give their consent. That is it. It is no diminution of the hon. Gentleman’s ability to vote on Second or Third Reading, or at any other stage of a Bill. He would love it if there were proposals that he could use to make his constituents feel that the Union was no longer working, that the rug had been pulled and that the English, and the Tories in particular, were creating an unfair settlement, but the truth is the exact opposite, and he knows it.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman did not bother to read the proposals or whether, when he did read them, he edited them to make them what he wanted them to be, but it was clear from his speech that he did not understand the processes we are talking about. Yet there he was ferociously condemning this appalling assault on our constitution. This is the mildest possible change to the procedures of the House simply to allow for consent. It is a tiny correction of the imbalance caused by the devolution introduced by the Labour party all those years ago. It in no way undermines or affects the interests of his constituents.

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It is interesting to note, notwithstanding the ferocity and passion displayed by SNP Members here, on the instruction of Nicola Sturgeon from Edinburgh, that poll after poll shows that the Scottish people feel very differently from the hon. Gentleman. They recognise that strengthening the English voice is a simple matter of fairness.

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP) rose—

Graham Stuart: Will the hon. Gentleman answer this question? In what way does injecting consent—not initiative or, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire said, any kind of English Executive with 85% of Members—into the system undermine his constituents’ interest in this place?

Stewart McDonald: I do not think the Scottish people are that out of step with what we are saying. Not only did they give us 50% of the vote at the recent election, but an opinion poll out yesterday has us on 56% ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, giving us not 69 seats, but 71. The people of Scotland sent us here with a clear mandate. English Members vetoed all the amendments we tabled. You really ought to understand the issue you are dealing with and the potential—this is why Labour Members are correct—this has to make us much more excluded from the Union.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): To be helpful, I say to the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald) that “you” is directed at the Chair. He wants to speak to the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), not to me.

Graham Stuart: The hon. Gentleman, who speaks as well as his colleague, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, did can huff and he can puff, but it changes nothing. What happened was that the people who were in the break-up of the Union business got the referendum that they asked for and thought they were going to blow the Union house down—and what happened? They lost.

Thinking back to that time, they made various promises. In February, their leader issued instructions to all those signed up to complete and utter obedience to her. SNP Members here said they would not vote on foxhunting, for example. Then they immediately do a U-turn. Last week, they were claiming to be a party of principle, and the website of the Scottish National party said that SNP Members would not vote on something such as foxhunting in England. [Interruption.] It was on the website just days ago, and the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire knows it, yet it turned out differently.

I admire the political chutzpah of the SNP. Coming here with energy and spirit is doubtless what the Scottish people wanted. They wanted to have the flag shaken and they wanted to see SNP Members coming down here and being energetic. Well, they are being energetic, but what the Scottish people will not put up with is people who claim to be consistent and principled turning that principle on its head. The truth is that the Scottish people—[Interruption.] The hon. Members for Perth and North Perthshire and for Na h-Eileanan an Iar

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(Mr MacNeil), who is sitting behind him, might be in the break-up of the Union business, but it is not a very successful business, is it? We had the referendum—and they lost.


They can shout all they like, but the Scottish people will know—the truth will out, and the Scottish electorate are as smart as any in this country—that the consent of the English to matters that only affect the English is fair.

The Leader of the House was challenged to the effect that all this is coming a little too quickly, despite the fact that it was in the Conservative party manifesto, that it was promised it would be in 100 days, that the proposals came out much earlier in the year, that we have had months, years and decades to talk about the principles behind it, and that we have had the McKay commission. How did the arrogant Tory Minister respond? He said, “Fine, I will listen. Do you know what? If that is not long enough, we will have two days of debate, but we will not make them consecutive. We will put months between them. We will make sure that there is all the time anyone could want. We will debate on the first day on a general motion until 10 o’clock at night. We can go through all the issues and expose them one by one.”

I will tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, what will happen when the Scottish people listen to this debate. They will hear the hon. Member for Wallasey, who spoke for the Labour party, accusing us of being partisan—was it 10, 11 or 12 times that she said it? I lost count—for bringing in procedures that simply provide for the consent of those who represent the people on whom these proposals will impact. That is the situation.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire asked for more debate—and more debate came. He said that there could be Barnett consequentials and financial issues. As the Leader of the House said, even with the help of the Clerks, a Bill that so fundamentally changed the estimates could not be identified. Creative as ever, the right hon. Member for Gordon tried to find examples that might have implications for later years. That is why the Leader of the House has come forward with updated proposals today to look at ensuring that any time there is a consequential of that sort for Scotland, the principle is established that every Scottish Member of Parliament has a vote.

In common with his colleagues, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire has but a single thought—and only the cruel would say “if that”. That thought is to break up this Union. That is his only thought and it is why he stands there now. When he is corrected on a matter of fact, he does not pause. When I am corrected on a matter of fact that I have got wrong, I have doubt and fear about getting it wrong and want to make sure that I do not mislead the House. The hon. Gentleman has no such problem, because he is not involved in honest debate; he is involved in trying to break up this Union, mislead the Scottish people and make them feel that he has been turned into a second-class MP when he is nothing of the sort.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I wonder when he last visited Northern Ireland. I would say ever so gently to him that there is a growing group of people who feel that their Britishness is constantly being undermined. I invite him to temper his remarks a little, because his Government regularly boast—they did so in the Budget last week—of

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being a “one nation” Government. When it comes to this Bill, however, the people I represent do not feel that they are part of a one nation Government.

Graham Stuart: I accept the hon. Lady’s sincerity. She may have an opportunity to speak later, and to explain more fully why that would be. However, as I have tried to explain, I feel—because of the imbalance in the constitutional settlement, which I think we all accept—a need to move.

I had hoped for something more ambitious. This is the most modest change that could have been made. It was not the leading issue on the doorstep, and I have not heard anyone suggest that it was, but there is a long-standing grievance. Many people feel that they are not getting a fair deal, and that their voice is not being sufficiently heard. On a democratic basis, they want to feel that their voice will be listened to, and that what they vote for will have an impact on matters that affect only them in England.

The Leader of the House has listened, has extended the period, and has said that, following today’s debate, he will consider further amendments if necessary. I hope that that will happen. I agree with the hon. Member for Wallasey: I want to ensure that the Union continues, and I want to ensure that these modest changes do not cut the thread that holds us all together as a nation. I take the hon. Lady very seriously, because I know that, like me, she wants to see that happen. Unfortunately, I know that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire has entirely other ends, and is prepared to use whatever means he thinks necessary to fulfil them.

Antoinette Sandbach: Is it not ironic that SNP Members who asked for, and got, the devolution that they wanted—or, at least, part of it—are now dictating what kind of devolution should apply in England, the form in which we should have the right to self-determination, and the way in which we should apply our own rules to English votes for English laws?

Graham Stuart: My hon. Friend is quite right. We watched as national Parliaments were convened in Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont, and progressively more powers were devolved from Westminster. Those changes reflected the settled will of the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Neil Gray: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Graham Stuart: I will make some progress first, if I may.

England does not seek to overturn those powers, nor would we want to. As this process has developed, however, there has been a failure to incorporate democratic fairness for England. That is the point. The situation persists that Scottish MPs have the right to vote on issues such as health and education that affect my constituents in east Yorkshire, while I cannot do the same in respect of their constituents north of the border. As the scale of devolution has grown, that unfairness has increased, and the Bill that is going through the House will further exacerbate the imbalance.

Chris Law (Dundee West) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Graham Stuart: I will make progress, if I may.

In the aftermath of the Scottish referendum result last autumn—which SNP Members find so hard to accept—and as the consequent further transfer of powers takes place, a solution must be found. The Prime Minister was right that day when he said that he would take action. There is no widespread desire for an English Parliament. I have gone around my constituency and talked to my constituents, and I find no such desire. The people of England do not want yet another Chamber, with more legislation, more politicians, more costs, and more confusion. This Parliament has stood at the apex of our democracy for 800 years.

The Government’s proposal is right to focus on delivering fairness in the House of Commons by ensuring that English issues will require the consent of English MPs. The ability of all MPs to amend and vote on legislation is maintained. One would be hard put to know that if one had listened to either the hon. Member for Wallasey or the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, but it is true. However, there will now be mechanisms to ensure that England’s specific consent is needed to pass clauses and Bills that affect only England.

I welcome the Government’s proposals wholeheartedly. They are a big step forward. In saying that, I should acknowledge that the process of determining whether or not a clause did indeed affect only England, or England and Wales, might occasionally be tested. However, I hope the convention would be that in the event of doubt, or likely controversy, the tendency would always be for the Chair to err on the side of ensuring that everyone had the vote—that it was open to all. I think such controversy would be likely to arise on very few occasions, and I would hope SNP Members would join us in seeking to cut through that Gordian knot and make sure that, as much as possible, there was that clarity and separation.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman has twice said “I would hope”. Does he not cherish this precious UK constitution more than to hope that it would work after this Bill goes through? The constituents of England might be looking for something stronger than hope.

Graham Stuart: I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that the vow was made, it has been brought forward here, and it is being passed through—[Interruption.] It is being fulfilled. I say to the hon. Gentleman that, rather than coming forward with a hard—[Interruption.] He can try to shout me down if he wishes, but I would simply say that this proposal is to change Standing Orders; it is a rather fragile way of making this change, and we will have a review in a year or so, and the Leader of the House has explicitly said that if legislation is required, he will look at that. The truth is that if this did not work, given the fragility of the Government majority it would take only a handful of colleagues on the Government Benches in conjunction with those on the Opposition Benches to reverse it. If it was in place today, it could be reversed tomorrow as easily as that. So, again, suggesting this is some form of sustained constitutional vandalism is entirely at odds with the truth, and I say to SNP Members, who, as I have said,

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have but a single thought, that if they want to pursue that cause, they will find it most effective with their own constituents, or indeed in this place, if they say what they know to be true and do not try to make out something is something when it is not.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman says there will be confusion with an English Parliament. I am quite sure the English people could manage a Parliament of their own. After all, the French and Germans do so without any help whatever from the Scots.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned asymmetric devolution. I ask him to cast his mind back and remember that before devolution there were 72 MPs and the quid pro quo for devolution at the time was 59 Scottish MPs. He is now saying that in this incorporating Union not only do we have fewer MPs, but we have less power. We are not first-class citizens or even second-class citizens; we are fourth-class citizens based on what our rights will be in this House. The hon. Gentleman is making a huge mistake from his point of view. From our point of view, he is probably giving us a huge lever to break the Union apart, and we will only have the Union of 1603—the Union we should have—left.

Graham Stuart: The lacklustre support for that even from the hon. Gentleman’s own disciplined Benches says a lot; that was not a worthy contribution by him. He knows full well there is no change to the role he will play. His status is not being diminished in any way. This change simply means there will be consent here. It is the tiniest step towards the very principle the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have espoused for many years. It seems that just as soon as the Government make a proposal, it is said not to be enough—if we introduce a Scottish Bill to fulfil the vow, it is not enough. Every single speech given by every single SNP Member is to express disappointment and say whatever is in front of them is not what was promised. That wears thin, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to recognise that this minimal change is not making a fundamental change to his status in the House.

SNP Members here have to recognise that the existence of MSPs to determine devolved matters in Scotland means they cannot reasonably expect to decide such matters in England without English consent. They will still be playing their role; my constituents will see Scottish MPs playing a full role in passing legislation that affects only them, but with one proviso, which is that consent is given from English MPs.

The way in which Labour Members vote on this issue is a litmus test of whether they understand the country they want to govern. The hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) has shown characteristic courage in arguing that her party must accept the fairness of English votes for English laws. In recent years Labour has consistently placed itself on the wrong side of public opinion in constitutional issues, whether that be denying us all a say on the Lisbon treaty or fighting the last election on a refusal to trust the people with a referendum on a reformed European Union. I have great affection and respect for the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman), but his description of English votes for English laws as “racist”

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was tasteless and untrue. It spoke to Labour’s wider problem of not recognising that the people of England want to determine their own future, at least partly in the way the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish do, not through an English Parliament, with all the expense and risks that that would involve, but simply through consent mechanisms delivered in this place.

The Opposition cannot continue to classify Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution as the pure pursuit of patriots while classifying English devolution as the agenda of bigoted nationalists or, as the hon. Member for Wallasey suggested, as partisan manoeuvring by Conservative Members. That, too, was beneath her. That caricature is as grotesque as it is offensive. In less emotive terms, the shadow Leader of the House has warned about the risk of creating two classes of MP, as have many on the Labour Benches. That is a similarly bogus argument. As we know, there are already multiple classes of MP: Front Benchers; Back Benchers; those representing the devolved nations, who work in tandem with Members of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies; the Speaker and his deputies; Select Committee Chairs; and Privy Counsellors.

The Government’s proposals simply seek to establish the principle that English issues should be decided with the consent of the English. All MPs will still get to vote on all legislation on Second Reading and on Report. However, the Committee stages will provide an important democratic safeguard to ensure that English, or English and Welsh, MPs approve the matters that affect only their constituents.

Mr MacNeil rose—

Graham Stuart: That is a principle that the hon. Gentleman has espoused for many years, but he has now been told, for reasons of opportunism and a certain amount of cynicism, to change his mind. I give way to him.

Mr MacNeil: I notice that the legislative process in the House of Lords will not be changed, so Scottish Lords will still be able to vote on English matters. Scottish MPs—especially Labour MPs—have been voting on English matters since devolution in 1999, but these changes are being proposed only now that 56 SNP MPs have been sent here. Internationally, this will look like a partisan measure against one party. If this proposal is carried, it will be the action of this Parliament against one party: the Scottish National party.

Graham Stuart: The hon. Gentleman is an experienced and long-standing Member of this House, and he will know that Members of the House of Lords do not represent any particular area. It is bogus and false—as so many of the arguments from his Benches have been today—to suggest otherwise.

If our democracy is to function properly, it needs to be accountable to all the nations of the UK, and English votes for English laws is an important step towards achieving that. At a time of great constitutional change, it will ensure equity in our devolution arrangements. Almost 50 years have passed since the West Lothian question was first raised in this House by a Labour Member of Parliament, Tam Dalyell. The need to resolve

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that question now is greater than it has ever been. The proposals in front of us represent a modest but important step towards providing the equity and balance that will ensure that we can remain one great United Kingdom, however much that might frustrate those who might be in the wrecking business but are not very successful at it.

5.23 pm

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) has spoken in a more emollient fashion than he normally does, and he has understated the consequences of the proposed changes to Standing Orders. Having considered them in detail, I believe that their constitutional significance is matched by only two sets of legislative proposals: Gladstone’s home rule Bills and the devolution legislation that was introduced after 1997. The fact that constitutional change of this magnitude is being undertaken through a change to Standing Orders is simply outrageous, and the lack of consultation on these matters has been appalling. They have not been discussed in detail—far from it. They were presented about two weeks ago, their content is extremely complex, and they make unprecedented proposals relating to the role of Members of Parliament. I am not aware of any other proposal that has been carried forward to this House in which having differential voting rights for Members of Parliament in geographic Standing Committees or Grand Committees has occurred. If any Member can intervene to say where it has occurred, I would be very grateful.

Robert Jenrick: Gladstone, one of my predecessors as Member of Parliament for Newark, made a similar proposal to the one before us and then the Liberal Prime Minister Asquith, 100 years ago, proposed what then might have been called the “Westmeath question” in exactly the same way, through the Standing Orders of the House. Whether or not one agrees with it, it is therefore a completely bogus argument to say that this is a novel approach. This approach of using the Standing Orders of the House has existed for 150 years.

Ian C. Lucas: Gladstone’s proposals were in home rule Bills, which were of massive constitutional significance. Furthermore, they failed and led to the break in the union that had existed between Great Britain and Ireland. As a result of the failure of that process, we had the break-up of the relationship that existed within these islands. My concern is that these proposals, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said, are a threat to the Union that I love. I was born in England, I am proud to represent a Welsh seat, I have a son studying at Edinburgh University and I want the United Kingdom to continue. That is why I am bitterly opposed to these proposals.

The proposals are of not only enormous constitutional significance, but massive practical significance to my constituents. I am sorry to say that they also draw the Speaker into the centre of political debate. The Speaker will have to determine very controversial, practical matters that will require detailed knowledge of constituencies across the United Kingdom.

Antoinette Sandbach: But of course, that idea of legislative consent is dealt with by Presiding Officers in

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the devolved Assemblies all the time and was the very system the hon. Gentleman voted for when he voted the devolution Bills through.

Ian C. Lucas: It is not the same system—it is an entirely different one. These proposals are, for the Speaker, unprecedented because they require detailed knowledge of constituencies that the Speaker cannot be expected to have.

Mr MacNeil: I want to follow up on the point made by the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) about his “Westmeath question”. That of course has been solved, with Members from Westmeath now in the Dáil Éireann, where they should be, and nobody in this House would now roll that back. Ultimately, this is all leading to the same place—to independence for Scotland.

Ian C. Lucas: As ever, my position is different from that of the hon. Gentleman.

One practical example from my parliamentary experience addresses the issue of the decisions made by the Speaker. The last Labour Government introduced legislation to establish foundation hospitals, and these applied only in England. Health in Wales is devolved to the National Assembly, but hospitals such as those in Chester and in Gobowen in north Shropshire provide services to patients from Wales. Indeed, they depend on those patients, paid for by the Welsh Government, for their viability. From 1997 to 2001, I was a non-executive director of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen, approximately one third of whose patients come from north and mid-Wales. It depended for its financial viability on those patients continuing to come. Those patients depended upon MPs making representations in this place to Ministers to ensure that they were represented as patients on the boards of foundation hospitals in the same way as patients from England were.

Although health is a devolved issue—I say this with particular reference to north Wales—it is essential to people in north Wales that Members of Parliament are able to speak up on their behalf, draw to the attention of Ministers the fact that the issue existed and secure a change in legislation. No Speaker at the beginning of the legislative process—before any of these matters are discussed—will be aware of the issue. There will be no reason for the Speaker to recognise that it is not an England-only issue.

Graham Stuart: Hospitals and schools in Wales that are used by English people are controlled entirely through the devolution settlement and determined by those in Wales. That is as it should be. There may be voices created for those coming over. We could have whole vast sections of tourism dependent entirely on English tourists, but that does not stop the Welsh Assembly deciding the policies that apply. Exactly the same mirror should apply. Something that affects only English hospitals should be determined with the consent—only the consent—of the English.

Ian C. Lucas: I do not really understand the intervention, but what I say to the hon. Gentleman is that I am not proposing that we treat MPs in England and Wales

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differently—this Government are. I am not entitled to make representations or speak on health issues in Wales, which is exactly the same as the hon. Gentleman. Assembly Members speak on such matters, because this Parliament set in place a National Assembly for Wales. It made that decision and it was agreed to, in a referendum, by the people of Wales. Entirely the same option is available to this or any other Government.

Mr Grieve: Forgive me but I find it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman’s argument. There is nothing in these proposals that will prevent him from continuing to make representations to any English health authority or to any English Minister on his constituents’ behalf—absolutely nothing.

Ian C. Lucas: What they will prevent me from doing is putting down amendments in Committee.

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Dr Thérèse Coffey): No, they will not.

Ian C. Lucas: They will. They will prevent me from putting down amendments in Committee and voting in the Legislative Grand Committee (England). That is entirely the proposal. It will exclude me from the Legislative Grand Committee. It is limiting my right to speak on behalf of my constituents.

Mr David Jones: The hon. Gentleman will know that, for the purpose of deciding whether the new procedures apply, the Speaker will have to certify it. In certifying it, he will have to take account of whether the issue is wholly devolved to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and whether it relates exclusively to a particular part of the jurisdiction. In the example that the hon. Gentleman cited, would it not be the case that the Speaker should be concluding that it does not relate exclusively to England?

Ian C. Lucas: I agree with that, but how will the Speaker know? These proposals contain no procedure for me to make representations to the Speaker. Madam Deputy Speaker is a very wise woman, but she does not know Wrexham as well as I do. She will not know about the arrangements for health services. These Standing Orders that this Government are bringing forward do not allow me to make those representations.

Mr Jones: I agree, and is that not the point of the debate that we are having and of the consultation that we are going through? Therefore, does he agree that what is needed is a mechanism to be put in place to ensure that representations can be made, for example, by the hon. Gentleman?

Ian C. Lucas: I agree. It is therefore good that the Leader of the House did listen and did not press these Standing Orders as he wished to do in the first instance. This position is self-evident. Anyone who looks at the facts and knows north-east Wales accepts that that is the case. The difficulty was made clearer to me last Saturday when I received at home in Wrexham, through my letterbox, a ballot paper from the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital for an election to the north Wales constituency of the hospital. How can any decision relating to that hospital possibly be English-only, whether

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it relates to its finances or structure? Health is a devolved matter in Wales, but issues relating to that hospital do involve MPs from Wales. They should be able to represent their constituents in this place, and the proposed Standing Orders threaten that.

Antoinette Sandbach: My constituents in Cheshire have no say on the health service in Wales, even though they might belong to a GP practice over the border. They cannot table amendments to Welsh legislation, but the hon. Gentleman can table amendments to legislation here. Under these proposals, only English MPs will be able to vote on English-only matters, but he will not be prevented from standing up, making representations or tabling amendments.

Ian C. Lucas: That is the case because this Parliament approved devolution and had a referendum. England, if it so wished, could proceed to have an English Parliament or regional Assemblies. This conundrum has a simple answer, but it is not one that the Conservative party wants to accept.

Graham Stuart: The hon. Gentleman has set out his case cogently, but it is not right. He says that he will not be able to make representations, but he will be. It would be really good if he could acknowledge that. He will be playing a full part. He says that he will not be able to table an amendment, but he will be. It is just that if the matter is English-only he will not be able to vote on it. His case is absolutely bankrupt.

Ian C. Lucas: In the Committee I will not be able to move the amendment, because I will not be a member of the Committee, and I will not be able to vote on the amendment. Members from England will have twice as many votes as I will, even though our constituents go to the same hospitals—as is the case with the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson). It is outrageous.

Wayne David: My hon. Friend has made a series of powerful and practical points about what the proposals might mean in practice. Does he agree that the NHS in England is so large, compared with the NHS in Wales, that it has a huge influence on Wales, which Wales does not have on England?

Ian C. Lucas: That is certainly the case.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that even though there is a simplicity—and simplicity can be very nice—to some of the arguments being put forward in favour the proposal, one area where it really falls down is on the issue of Barnett consequentials? Something can look as English as cricket from Lords on a Sunday afternoon, but when one examines the impact with the Barnett consequentials, one realises why the proposed procedure is flawed.

Ian C. Lucas: Indeed.

The proposed Standing Orders need to be changed so that representations can be made to the Speaker by Members on whether a Bill is an England-only Bill or an England-and-Wales-only Bill. Also, legislation to be certified by the Speaker is defined by reference to the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, but some powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and not to the

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Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly. That means that in criminal justice, for example, the Government could bring forward an England-and-Wales-only Bill, excluding MPs from Scotland, even though the Scottish Parliament has responsibility for justice matters, and could legislate using the new procedures. However, the proposed Standing Orders make no provision for a similar power for MPs from Wales, despite the fact that Assembly Members have no powers in the area of criminal justice. For example, if Parliament wished to legislate on the issue of using the Welsh language in courts in Wales, there is no procedure in these Standing Orders to allow that matter to be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee, to give MPs from Wales a double vote, or to enable the double counting voting procedure to apply to MPs from Wales.

Antoinette Sandbach: It is an English and Welsh matter.

Ian C. Lucas: It is not an English and Welsh matter—it is a Welsh matter, and it should be determined by MPs from Wales.

In those circumstances, it is right and proper that MPs from Wales should have exactly the same double counting procedure as MPs from England, because then legislation on the issue could be carried only with the consent of MPs from Wales. That would be entirely fair and entirely appropriate. However, these Standing Orders do not contain any procedure to allow that to happen. How can this be right? On a non-devolved issue—a Welsh-only issue, in my submission—Welsh MPs should have the same power to deal with it as English MPs have on English-only issues.

Antoinette Sandbach: The hon. Gentleman’s example is somewhat disingenuous, because Welsh language issues are devolved to and dealt with by the Assembly, whereas no criminal justice issues are devolved, and therefore that is dealt with as an English and Welsh matter.

Ian C. Lucas: Criminal justice matters are not devolved.

If such a position were conceded by the Government, then because, unfortunately for the Government, most MPs in Wales are Labour, a Welsh criminal justice Bill dealing with this issue could pass through Parliament only if we had double voting for MPs from Wales with the consent of the Opposition. The implications of that are enormous.

Dr Thérèse Coffey: I think the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) is making is that because the Welsh language with regard to the Welsh courts is a devolved matter, it is likely that the UK Government would be unable to legislate on it unless we had the consent of the Welsh Assembly.

Ian C. Lucas: That is an ingenious but wrong argument, because criminal justice matters are matters for this House.

I am giving just one example. I could give more, but I do not want to be here all day. I have read these Standing Orders—I have even highlighted them—and I can go through them and produce other examples.

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Wayne David: Another relatively small example—people might think it is such—shows the complexity of the situation we are talking about. In the run-up to the first police and crime commissioner elections, a mistake was made in Westminster because the election ballot papers were not bilingual. The legislation to correct that had to come from Westminster because it was an electoral matter, and it was done belatedly. Westminster clearly has the power to legislate on some Welsh language matters.

Ian C. Lucas: I was talking about the implications of giving Welsh MPs—dare I say it?—the same rights as MPs from England. Let us suppose, for example, that a future UK Labour Government dependent on Scottish and Welsh votes for an overall majority wished to lower tuition fees in England, and this was vetoed in a Committee comprising English Members only. After the Committee, the Education Secretary would have to defend in the House a policy with which he disagreed. In effect, he would be the Education Secretary for England, but England could have a Conservative majority. A Labour Minister cannot be responsible to a Conservative majority, so the logical solution would be to have a Conservative Education Secretary. However, there cannot be two Governments at the same time, one for devolved matters and the other for non-devolved matters. A Government have to be collectively responsible for all their policies, not just a selection of them. That is the type of situation that the Standing Orders will create.

The Standing Orders will, in practice, increase the Conservative majority on English devolved matters from 12 to 105 at a stroke. When Labour set up the Welsh Assembly, there were no Conservative MPs in Wales at all. With a majority of more than 150 in the House of Commons, the Labour party introduced an additional member voting system in Wales to ensure that there was a balanced representation within the National Assembly for Wales. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) would not have been elected to the National Assembly for Wales because she kept losing under the first-past-the-post system.

Antoinette Sandbach: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian C. Lucas: No, I will not. I will finish this point. I have given way to her too often already. I am speaking for Wales—we know she is speaking for England—and for the United Kingdom, too.

Antoinette Sandbach: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian C. Lucas: No, I will finish this point.

The Labour Government provided that power because we thought it was right and proper to have balanced representation in Scotland and Wales on the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. We thought that that was fair. What does the Conservative party want to do? The measure is a partisan one because it increases the Conservative majority in Committee. Effectively, it gives English MPs, the majority of whom are Conservative, double votes. It makes no concession to the Labour party, the Opposition, or to smaller parties within England, which will not have any representation on the Legislative Grand Committee (England). It entrenches and strengthens the position of

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the Conservative party in England; it does not make any concessions to a broad-based Chamber such as those that were made to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con): I applaud the hon. Gentleman for speaking up for the United Kingdom, which he has just mentioned. He is talking about fairness, so will he answer this question? My South Leicestershire constituents told me in the lead-up to the election that they have a problem with the current Labour form of the devolution settlement. What is his response to my constituents who are unhappy with the imbalance, but want to safeguard the United Kingdom, as he does, against the wishes of the Scottish National party?

Ian C. Lucas: My answer is: “Don’t support these proposals whatever you do.” I believe passionately in the United Kingdom, and I want to have a fair system that gives adequate representation to citizens in England, just as there is such representation in Scotland and Wales. In Scotland and Wales, we had referendums to establish the institutions, and it is entirely appropriate to have a far-reaching, straightforward discussion about how England is represented and how such difficult issues can be addressed.

Alberto Costa: The fact is that, at this election, the Conservative party put English votes for English laws in its manifesto, and my constituents voted for that, as did many of the constituents of Conservative Members. Given that we both value our United Kingdom, I again say to him that this measure at least safeguards the United Kingdom and establishes the fairness that we need against the threat posed by separatist Members of Parliament.

Ian C. Lucas: I do not believe that these measures will safeguard the United Kingdom, and I do not believe that they are the same proposals that the Conservative party placed before the electorate. That is why I oppose them so vehemently.

Mr Grieve: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian C. Lucas: I will not give way because I have taken up enough time.

I do not believe that constitutional issues of this magnitude should be addressed by Standing Orders, because they go to the heart of the future of the United Kingdom. This United Kingdom is in peril. It frightened me last week at Prime Minister’s questions when the Prime Minister quoted a nationalist in support of his proposals on EVEL.

We have to stand against these amendments to Standing Orders because, contrary to what the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness said, they are not minimal. I hope that I have shown that they will have profound practical implications for my constituents and profound constitutional implications for this place. They go to the heart of the equality of Members in this Chamber,

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because they will restrict the voting rights of individual Members of Parliament on Committees in a way that has not been done before.

Mr David Jones: The hon. Gentleman will know that I have a certain amount of sympathy for some of the points that he is making, but is he not over-egging the pudding? We have a proposal to change Standing Orders, which the Leader of the House has said will be reviewed in 12 months. The hon. Gentleman has suggested that there is an attempt to entrench Conservative power in this House. Nothing could be further from the truth. He knows that if there were a change of Government, it would be extremely easy to change those Standing Orders, so he really should not over-egg it.

Ian C. Lucas: I am not over-egging the pudding because the proposal would establish the unprecedented principle that MPs in this place can be treated differently. That is a far-reaching step and one that we should resist on behalf of our constituents in north Wales, whichever party we belong to—I do not think that our good friends from Plaid Cymru are with us, again. This issue is of huge importance to my constituency and to Parliament, and we should resist these dangerous Standing Orders at every possible stage.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Most of the Back-Bench contributions have lasted almost half an hour. A large number of Members want to speak, so I ask Members to keep to about 10 minutes. I do not want to impose a time limit, especially not on the maiden speeches, so if speeches are kept to 10 minutes and interventions are kept to an absolute minimum, we will get there. I call Derek Thomas for his maiden speech.

5.53 pm

Derek Thomas (St Ives) (Con): I was intending to take an hour, if that is okay, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I want to inject Cornwall into this debate, because so far it has been left unmentioned. I stand here as the Member of Parliament for the most south-westerly constituency of the new south-west powerhouse. Although the south-west powerhouse might not yet be a formally recognised entity in this place, there is no denying the shared sense of unity, purpose and determination in this group of all but one of the south-west’s MPs. It is my hope that together we can get a fairer deal for our schools, a better deal for healthcare services and a better deal for policing. Together, we can be a strong voice and champion for farmers and fishermen in the beautiful south-west. Our ambition is untethered and I suggest that the world watches this space.

As an MP of the new intake, I have taken my time and listened to the many maiden speeches that have gone before mine. I have noted that pretty much every Member claims to represent the most beautiful constituency in Great Britain. However, it remains the case that west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are the most beautiful part of the UK. If we were to take a vote on that in the House, I am sure that you would be saying, “The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it,” Madam Deputy Speaker.

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I can assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that my constituents fully support English votes for English laws, so I am pleased to be able to make my maiden speech during this debate. Hon. Members can imagine what a privilege it was for me to be a parliamentary candidate in the place where I grew up, the area where I have always worked; to be the candidate of the part of the UK where my children were born and go to school, and where my wife and I share so many friends. As I travel the length and breadth of west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, I cannot quite digest the fact that I am no longer simply a limited-value candidate, but the Member of Parliament for one of the most precious and special parts of the greatest nation on this earth. I feel the great honour and privilege of this role, and I recognise that I am elected as a servant of the good people of the St Ives constituency.

I want to use this opportunity to pay credit to my predecessor, Andrew George. For 18 years, he represented the St Ives constituency with loyalty and a high sense of duty. There is no question but that he shared a clear and unwavering commitment to St Ives, and I am in no doubt that he will continue to do so. I wish him every success in his new role in the Cornwall Community Land Trust.

As new MPs, we are encouraged to take a look at the maiden speeches of MPs who have gone before. As someone who always does exactly what I am told—at this point I am seeking to invest some credit with the Whips Office—I did that. I was pleased yet saddened to read the maiden speech of Sir John Nott, a former St Ives MP and a friend of mine, who to this day can be seen visiting his local farmers market in my constituency on a Saturday morning. In 1966, Sir John said:

“I am afraid that men’s stomachs cannot be filled with the view, nor can they be filled with history. The fact is that we in West Cornwall have about the lowest incomes of the whole of the country. The average wage, which is difficult to calculate in Cornwall, is somewhere in the region of £12 a week, against a national average of £19.”—[Official Report, 4 May 1966; Vol. 727, c. 1701.]

I am saddened because, having looked at the figures today, I know that the situation remains unchanged. The average pay that someone in my constituency can expect to earn is £390, compared with £500 a week in the wider south-west and £520 if they were to earn the UK average. So for me, the most important thing I can do is work to address this gap.

There are great schools in west Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. We live in a very safe part of the British Isles with good healthcare services. Where would people find a better place to set up home and raise a family? We have a lot going for us in the far south-west, yet our youngsters leave and our workforce struggle to find the skilled well-paid jobs they need to afford to live there. I for one will no longer accept that we must remain a low-wage economy, so I will do whatever I can to help businesses to grow and create new jobs.

Better transport infrastructure, advances in technology, shorter rail journey times, good broadband and mobile phone services, more apprenticeships and training that meets the demands of employers—these are all areas where we are progressing, but much more must be done. I want to see better use of local expertise and private wealth to support our small businesses and entrepreneurs. I want us to exploit export markets. All round the world, there are Cornish societies and communities

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who love to buy our products. My plan is to ensure that my successor has no need to refer to the wage gap when the time comes for him or her to give their maiden speech. It is an ambitious plan, but there is every reason to succeed.

Furthermore, I see two other priorities for my constituency: to provide the housing we need and bring health and social care together in meaningful integration. I am embarrassed to admit that in west Cornwall there are enough empty redundant houses, enough brownfield sites and enough parcels of land that have planning permission to meet the need for housing for local people. Some fresh thinking is needed to provide these homes and I see this as an urgent priority.

A great amount of work is being done to ensure that people in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly can get the healthcare they need and will not remain in hospital longer than is absolutely necessary. However, to achieve this, we have to recruit many more care and support workers, not to mention the healthcare professionals needed in our hospitals and general practices. In a western society such as ours, it is quite wrong that someone who requires palliative care must wait six weeks at home, without any careworker assigned, as was the case in my constituency recently. My fervent hope is that, as we integrate services, such occurrences will be parked firmly in the history books, never to be revisited.

I, along with far too many others, have paid little attention to mental health. I intend to right that wrong and to work hard to ensure that if someone has a mental illness, they receive the help they need, when they need it and as close to home as possible.

My priorities are clear: I am in the business of skills, jobs, housing and health, and I am determined to see positive progress in those areas. I do not ask for much, but I do ask for the support of the House and this Government—and your fine offices, Madam Deputy Speaker—to help me deliver for the good people of west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that which they rightly deserve.

6 pm

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, particularly to follow the maiden speech by the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas). In a debate that in many ways is about what it is to be part of the United Kingdom, it is fitting that the Member who represents the most southerly constituency in this House should be followed by the Member who represents the most northerly. The hon. Gentleman demonstrated a fine affection for his community, and I wish him well in his time here. I noted his description of himself as somebody who does “exactly what he is told”. I was Chief Whip for the Liberal Democrat party, which included his predecessor in the last Parliament, and nobody would ever have levelled that accusation at him. I hope that in time the hon. Gentleman will understand that sometimes the people who will tell him what to do will be those at home in St Ives, and on such occasions we must listen to those who are telling us what to do.

Let me start by accentuating a few positives. I join those who have commended the Leader of the House for turning today’s debate into a general debate. That is

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of enormous assistance to the House because it is already apparent from today’s proceedings and last week’s debate under Standing Order No. 24 that an enormous amount in these proposals still requires debate in the House.

I commend the shadow Leader of the House for seeking to proceed by building consensus. It seems to me that in neither of the debates so far have we heard anybody deny that there is a problem that requires a solution. In that context, it must surely be possible—if we are all acting in goodwill—to find a compromise and build a consensus that will allow us to go forward together. I am afraid, however, that we are not there yet, and the revised proposals from the Leader of the House bring us precious little closer to building that consensus than we were last week.

I commend the words of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) who spoke on behalf of the Scottish National party, and the House should listen in particular to two things that he said. First, he said that the Government are seeking to shoehorn an English Parliament into the United Kingdom House of Commons. That is a dangerous enterprise on which to embark, not least because it betrays a lot about the attitude of Government Members to this place. This cannot be regarded as a proxy English Parliament. If the people of England are to have a Parliament—I hope that they will have one, or some series of Parliaments or assemblies, or whatever—surely this should remain the United Kingdom Parliament and that principle should be inviolate.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was not in the business of saving the Union, and there will be little dissent about that. Let me tell the House—I hope it is accepted—that I am in the business of saving the Union, which is why I look on these proposals with genuine terror. These proposals and the language that they have already introduced to the debate are a genuine risk to the continuation of the United Kingdom. We have already heard in the debate today that it is “our issues and our votes” as opposed to “their issues and their votes”. That is the logical conclusion of a nationalist political analysis, but for a United Kingdom Parliament, it is a dangerous road down which to go.

Alberto Costa: Again, I make a similar point. My constituents in South Leicestershire repeatedly told me in the lead-up to the general election that they were unhappy with the status quo but that they did not want an English Parliament. They wanted simple fairness in the system. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least accept that these proposals go some way towards establishing fairness for the constituents of England?

Mr Carmichael: I will come to what the proposals do and what we can possibly do through the use of Standing Orders in a minute. As for this business that there is an unfairness but we only want to address it on our terms, the ship has sailed, I am afraid. We embarked on a process of devolution in 1999 that set up a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly and, later, a Northern Ireland Assembly. More has been devolved to them and devolution has been good for Scotland, Wales and

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Northern Ireland. I want to see devolution for England, too, but it is about an awful lot more than simply what is on offer here.

The proposal is a curious beast that offers devolution within Parliament but not within the Executive. It does nothing to address the lack of proportionality in the representation of people in England and nothing about the virtual disfranchisement of 4 million people who voted for the UK Independence party, for whatever reason. It does nothing about the gross centralisation of power in England. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa) should be talking to his constituents about all those things. If he does, in the same way as we did over a long time in Scotland, I think—

Graham Stuart: He represents them. Unbelievable.

Mr Carmichael: I listened with courtesy to the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) and I ask that he does the same for me.

If the hon. Member for South Leicestershire does the same as we did in Scotland to build consensus, his people will realise in time that what is being offered here is pretty small beer and that they deserve something better.

Alberto Costa: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. The truth is that he represents a constituency in Scotland, and I am also very familiar with the Scottish political environment, as he knows, but I represent a constituency in England and there is no appetite among my constituents for an English Parliament. I respect that his party has been a long-standing advocate of a federal United Kingdom, but these proposals merely go some way to meet the imbalance of Labour’s devolution and our devolved arrangements, which are clearly unbalanced and unfair. All that my constituents are seeking is a modicum of fairness, which is all that these policies establish.

Mr Carmichael: I do not doubt the good faith of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, but essentially, if he stops and analyses it, he will realise that he is advancing an argument for English nationalism. The answer to Scottish nationalism is not English nationalism. In my view as a Liberal, it is federalism or Unionism, if he prefers to use different vocabulary. Ultimately, if he continues down this road, he risks putting a further stress on the Union. As the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire said quite candidly, from one point of view he could welcome the proposals because they advance the case for separating Scotland from the rest of England.

The hon. Member for South Leicestershire must realise that if we are to maintain and preserve the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, proper constitutional reform across the whole of England is now absolutely necessary. As the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said from the Opposition Front Bench, we need a constitutional convention to build consensus, so that people in England can decide what they want. I do not know whether that will be an English Parliament, a series of assemblies or whatever else, but that debate has to be had.

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I wish there were an easy way to build consensus, but there is not and I say to the hon. Member for South Leicestershire that, because of the sentiments he is hearing on the doorstep, that must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. For him to pretend to his constituents, as he apparently does, that this complex problem has a simple solution does nobody any favours and ultimately puts the Union of the United Kingdom at risk. This House risks tying itself up in knots by using Standing Orders to achieve a complex and sophisticated piece of constitutional architecture. As has been said, a Joint Committee would be a sensible way to build consensus.

My biggest concern as a Scottish MP is the way in which the proposal would affect spending decisions. I am afraid that the Leader of the House came dangerously close to indulging in sophistry when he said that they would be dealt with purely through estimates votes and that legislation would have no affect on that. I am struck by two things. First, it is long overdue that this House took a much more forensic approach towards estimates, because I think we are the only Parliament in the world that allows estimates to go through on the nod. Departmental budgets are approved with little scrutiny by the House. Secondly, any legislation passed this year will inevitably impact on estimates next year and the year after. The proposition that it is somehow possible to divorce spending from legislation does not stand up to scrutiny.

What are the people of England being offered by Conservative Members? Essentially, they are being told that they will have a veto on legislation, but that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Members will also be able to engage a veto on money and Ways and Means resolutions. This is a constitutional muddle, and that gives more force to the idea that we should be proceeding with more caution.

I reiterate the point I made in the previous debate that, if these vetoes are going to be in play, the Government need to look again at the operation of the Sewel convention and legislative consent motions for the Scottish Parliament. If English Members are to have a veto on legislation, Scotland ought to have one as well. There is still time to make that change—the Scotland Bill is still going through this House—and I hope that, when she replies, the Deputy Leader of the House will confirm that serious consideration is being given to it.

I am mindful of your strictures, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I want to raise one final point: the position Mr Speaker that will be put in if we proceed with the proposal. My concern should be shared by everyone in the House. I do not envy Mr Speaker the position in which he will find himself. He will require the wisdom of Solomon if he is to make the necessary adjudications, and he will certainly need a lot of legal advice, which I suppose would be one of the upsides of the process.

It would be useful to know the view of the Clerks, Parliamentary Counsel and Speaker’s Counsel before we proceed. It seems to me that a whole body of legal advice will be required, not just for primary legislation, but for secondary legislation. The issue of most concern, however, is that when Mr Speaker makes an adjudication on a controversial case—perhaps one on which there is some doubt about the financial consequences—he will be forbidden from giving his reasons for doing so. We already know what will happen. On the day when he makes an adjudication, the aggrieved party, the one that

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is disappointed, is always going to be bouncing up. There will be points of order, applications for Adjournment debates and all the rest of it. The Speaker will be in a position where he or she has no option other than just to say, “That is my ruling and I am not going to give you any reason for it.”

Sir William Cash: The idea of giving reasons for a Speaker certificate is simply absurd. If reasons were given, everything would be handed over to the courts. That would nullify completely the sovereignty of Parliament and its organisation of its own arrangements. I really do think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to take that into account.

Mr Carmichael: I do not think anybody should have anything to fear from justiciability. Essentially, we are getting to the point where it is inevitable that we will have a written constitution and that brings with it the concept of justiciability. Mature legislatures across the world have this and manage to cope with it. There are historical reasons why we in this House are so suspicious of it. For the Scottish Parliament, it is already a reality and it is something we manage to cope with remarkably well.

I am mindful of the fact that I have taken slightly longer, but these are issues of great significance. I appreciate the listening mode we have had from the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House, but we need more. We need proper consideration. They should take these proposals away, come back with a Green Paper and let the Select Committees do their job. Let us build a consensus, so that the legitimate grievances that have been spoken of are given a solution that they ultimately deserve. This is not it.

6.16 pm

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): I am very pleased to be called in this important debate. May I too say how pleased I was to be present for the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas)? It was an excellent speech, which showed his passion for and commitment to his constituency. His constituents are very lucky to have him.

The 1880 edition of “Encyclopaedia Britannica” famously contained an entry reading, “For Wales, see England.” Looking at the title of this debate, I wonder who prepared it. It seems to me that it should read, “English and Welsh votes for English and Welsh laws.”

I would like to commend my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. He is entirely right to seek to address the West Lothian question. This is an issue that this House—in fact, the whole nation—has been aware of for many years. It was certainly an issue that was well known before devolution. Notwithstanding that, the then Labour Government decided to proceed to create devolution settlements for both Scotland and Wales without seeking to make arrangements that would accommodate the West Lothian question. So here we are, some 16 years later, trying to find a way of reverse-engineering the whole process.

This is clearly a problem, one that is now beginning to cause real resentment. Whatever one’s views about foxhunting, I have to tell the House that I have some Welsh upland farmers who are really bemused as to why the governing party of Scotland should suddenly show a previously unevinced interest in their pest control

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methods when the issue of hunting with dogs is a devolved issue in Scotland. These are issues that cause resentment.

Alberto Costa: My right hon. Friend should not be surprised at all. This is all part and parcel of the Scottish National party strategy, which is to foster grievance upon the nations of the United Kingdom. There will be more to come.

Mr Jones: That may be the case, but my constituents in upland north Wales are still bemused as to why it is happening. It needs to be addressed. I commend my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for trying to address an issue that has been put off for far too long.

I believe that the method of addressing the problem, through a change in Standing Orders, has been handled sensibly. My right hon. Friend has told us that it will be reviewed after 12 months. As my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) pointed out, a change in Standing Orders is a fragile and tentative means of addressing the issue. We are going through an extensive consultation at the moment, and again I commend my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for listening to the concerns expressed on both sides of the House. It is right to give the process the benefit of the doubt and to road-test it and see where we are in 12 months’ time.

That said, there are issues I want to address. The principal one concerns the test applied to determine whether the new procedures should apply to a particular legislative proposal. This is a matter of certification by the Speaker, who will be required to carry out a double test. He will be asked to consider whether the issue is devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales and to determine whether it relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales. I have sympathy with the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas), who pointed out that approximately one third of patients at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital in Shropshire came from Wales. This issue is repeated in various other areas. For example, economic development is devolved to Wales, but north-east Wales is very much part of the north-west economic area, so arguments will arise about whether, under the new proposals, north Wales MPs should be excluded from proposals relating to the economic development of the north-west.

The issue that causes most concern, however, is that of health, which is why the hon. Member for Wrexham lighted upon it. North Wales is almost entirely dependent on north-west England for specialist services, as is a good part of north Wales for general hospital services. For example, the constituency of the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) is served by the Countess of Chester hospital, the local general hospital. I remember a few years ago an issue occurred in my own constituency. The Welsh Assembly Government decided that all elective neurosurgery should be dealt with on an “in-Wales basis”, as they called it, meaning that patients from Colwyn Bay would be required to go to Swansea or Cardiff for treatment, which was nonsense. At the time—and to this day, thank goodness—north Wales patients travelled to the Walton centre in Liverpool, an internationally renowned centre of excellence and the local neurosurgery hospital for north Wales, which has

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Welsh-speaking staff to accommodate Welsh patients. The Speaker, when deciding whether to issue a certification, could not possibly decide that a measure relating to health in north-west England related exclusively to England, because of the heavy dependence of the people of north Wales upon those services.

Mr Hanson: While I remain sceptical about the whole process, would a solution not be for the Speaker, when he is minded to certify a proposal, to allow a period of grace—say 14 days—in which to receive representations from Members on both sides of the House?

Mr Jones: I was coming to exactly that point. As I said in an intervention on the hon. Member for Wrexham, a mechanism has to be devised so that in areas of doubt, of which there will be many, the Speaker can apprise himself of Members’ views and take any wider evidence he requires to make that determination. It seems to me that there would be nothing to preclude him from doing so on the basis of the draft Standing Orders as they stand. My suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is that an amendment to the draft Standing Orders should be made in order to accommodate that very procedure.

Wayne David: The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point, and I can well understand the validity of his case. However, he suggests an interpretation of the draft Standing Orders which means that the Speaker may be asked to make a subjective decision. I suggest that that is fraught with difficulties.

Mr Jones: As I just said, it seems to me that a further amendment should be made to the draft Standing Orders to accommodate that.

I am conscious of your strictures about time, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I want to say to my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that I raised this issue as long ago as 16 December 2014 with my right hon. Friend’s predecessor, William Hague, who said in reply to my question:

“In respect of a small number of cross-border issues involving a strong structural dependence—health care in Wales is one such instance—there is a strong case for a wide definition of what constitutes an English matter, so that others can be involved.”—[Official Report, 16 December 2014; Vol. 589, c. 1276-67.]

I ask the Government Front-Bench team to consider that. It seems to me that a sensible amendment could be made to the draft Standing Orders as they are now, in order to accommodate this issue of structural dependence, which is not properly addressed at the moment. As an instrument, the Standing Orders are somewhat blunt as drafted, and need to be refined.

6.26 pm

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): I shall make a few practical points about the proposals and explain how they may adversely affect a border area such as the one I represent. I say “border”, but to all intents and purposes, the border is not there for that area between north-east Wales and north-west England. Every day, thousands of people leave north Wales to work in England and thousands cross the border the other way. Companies such as Airbus employ 7,000

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people, 60% living in Wales and 40% in England. Likewise, many people living in north Wales work at the large plants in north-west England, particularly at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port. We are a distinct region spanning north-east Wales and north-west England. The Mersey Dee Alliance has done a lot of work promoting this area, and politicians of all political parties have worked well to get our area recognised as a distinct region and to secure positive outcomes for it.

The Government like to tell us that English votes for English laws is a clearcut issue, but it is not—and we have heard today many reasons why it is not. Residents of Alyn and Deeside use healthcare services both sides of the border. Our children’s hospital is the Alder Hey, which happens to be in Liverpool, and our heart hospital is based there, too. We use cancer services at Christie’s and Clatterbridge. So why should I or other Members representing north Wales be prevented from participating in decisions that will affect the people who elect us to serve them?

Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab): My hon. Friend is raising important points about the complexities and practicalities in north Wales. Does he appreciate that it is the same for south Wales constituents? As many as 12,000 people commute from Newport and Monmouthshire to England every day for work, and they travel over the Severn bridges, whose tolling responsibilities lie wholly with the Department for Transport. Does my hon. Friend agree that Wales has a particularly dense border, making it an acute problem for us when 48% of people live within 25 miles of the border?

Mark Tami: I agree. My hon. Friend and I have talked about this many times. I may be based in north Wales and she in south Wales, but there are many similarities.

Countess of Chester hospital was built to serve the needs of the people of Chester and Deeside, so it is not an England-only hospital. A third of its patients come from Wales. The previous Member of Parliament for City of Chester used to stand up in the Chamber and tell us about the thousands of Welsh patients who were fleeing across the border to use his hospital, but the truth was that it was their hospital as well. It was built to serve the people of Deeside as much as the people of Chester.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) referred to an arrangement whereby the governors of Countess of Chester, and other hospitals, would be elected from Wrexham and from Flintshire. Like my hon. Friend, I am a member of the Countess of Chester NHS foundation trust. I receive ballot papers that enable me to elect governors who, obviously, will do their best to represent the people of Flintshire and Wrexham. However, in my capacity as the Member of Parliament, I am to be deprived of the right to take part in that process.

The Government are approaching this issue from entirely the wrong direction. We should not be aiming at creating two tiers of Members of Parliament; we should be concentrating on securing proper devolution for England, whatever that may be. It may involve an English Parliament, or it may involve some other arrangement.