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Mr David Jones: The hon. Gentleman speaks of devolution for England. That might or might not be a good thing, but if a proposal for devolution were put to the people of England in a referendum and they rejected it—as people in the north-east rejected it a few years ago—would not the same problem arise?

Mark Tami: I accept that that was the result then. The right hon. Gentleman’s party was strongly opposed to devolution at that time, but it has had a bit of a turn of face, and is now promoting it. Indeed, a number of people who were very much against devolution have gone down the road to Damascus and changed their opinion, and I am pleased they have.

Mr Grieve: I think that the hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood one of the issues. I want to keep the United Kingdom together, so I am prepared to work within the devolution settlements that have been achieved, and to try to build on them. England, however, has been a unitary state since the ninth century, and I have to tell him that my constituents have no interest whatsoever in the idea of regional devolution. They do want more accountability at local government level, but that is an entirely different matter.

Mark Tami: There is no model that will fit every situation. The Mayor of London and the London Assembly, for instance, may not be able to legislate, but they have far-reaching powers in respect of transport and policing. I note that the Government are not intent on restricting the right of London MPs to vote on issues that affect other parts of England. The Government are considering devolving powers to city regions At some time in the future, will we say that MPs in those regions are prevented from taking a view on other parts of England? I do not think that the Government are saying that now, but where does it start and where does it end?

A number of Members have asked what constitutes an English-only issue. No one really knows. It will be up to you to decide, Mr Speaker, and good luck to you, Sir, There is clearly a flaw in the proposals, in that there does not appear to be a system allowing us to make representations on whether Wales or Scotland, for instance, should be included in the process.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend think it likely that the Government will announce that a Bill is English-only before the Speaker has even had a chance to look at it? Might there be some conflict, or confusion, in the eyes of the public?

Mark Tami: I do, and the Leader of the House said earlier today that he has already looked at this, and there are already Bills coming forward that he seems to have decided will be English-only Bills. I thought this was a matter for the Speaker to decide, but clearly the Leader of the House has decided what those Bills will be.

I fear that, rather than solve the problem of English votes, we will merely fan the flames of nationalism. The Government need to make their mind up: do we want to keep the United Kingdom together with a united and equal Parliament, or not? We are at that crossroads.

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6.36 pm

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): First, I want to deal with one or two absurd concepts that have been put forward, and I am going to speak quite bluntly in this debate because I think an enormous amount of fog has been generated and people are swirling around inside the fog without facing up to the realities of what we are talking about.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and others—including Nicola Sturgeon only yesterday—have repeatedly said, “We don’t want two classes of Members of Parliament and two classes of citizens.” That is complete and total rubbish. There is no such thing as two classes of Members of Parliament. A devolution Act was passed in 1998, in which I took a very active part, and it contained a whole series of devolved functions, some of which have not even been mentioned in this debate because everyone just talks about health and education. There is a whole list of those functions, and then there are the reserved matters.

This is an over-simplified debate. The UK Parliament with the agreement—not the connivance, but the agreement—of Scottish Members of Parliament who were in this House, who were Labour Members at the time, came to an arrangement that was part of an Act passed by the United Kingdom Parliament as part of the United Kingdom Union, and it did not create two classes. It has got within it two separate functions. Any extended powers under the deal made at the time of the Scottish referendum will extend them by agreement. I personally think some of them go way beyond what was necessary, but that is another story. It is clear, however, that when somebody goes into an MSP’s surgery in Edinburgh in relation to a matter that has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, they expect to get answers and action in respect of those devolved functions. They certainly do not expect the same in respect of what are clearly English matters, however, and vice versa.

As I said to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, the Scottish people would be outraged if we went up to Scotland and camped outside the Parliament there and said, “We insist that we come along and legislate on matters that have been devolved to Scotland.” They would think that was an outrage and I would agree with them, but that is exactly what SNP Members are attempting to do with respect to us. We in the United Kingdom have an absolute right, as a result of an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament to which Scottish MPs at the time were not complicit but were in complete agreement, that there would be devolved functions. The SNP simply cannot have its cake and eat it.

There is another factor. We are paying for a lot of this—let us be blunt about it. [Interruption.] Oh yes we are. The Barnett formula, which many of us will go along with—[Interruption.] Listen to me carefully: the Barnett formula, which many of us—I am not saying everybody—will go along with, is why, as things currently stand, every single person in Scotland gets £1,600 more than people in England and Wales. Even Lord Barnett—who, sadly, died the other day—said the whole thing needed to be completely revised.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): I think the hon. Gentleman might be somewhat confused. Does he not understand that there is a difference between devolving the authority to legislate to a different body,

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such as the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly, and trying to change this Parliament so that it could fulfil a similar function? If he was talking about devolving powers over English laws to a different body, say an English Parliament, we would have no objection to that. Instead, he is trying to turn this Chamber into two things: a United Kingdom Parliament and an English Parliament. That is a shoddy compromise that will make us second-class Members of this House.

Sir William Cash: May I speak quite bluntly? As it happens, I have great affection for Members of the Scottish National party. They know what they are fighting for and what they want, and it is called independence. Let us not be fooled, however. The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on it. The plain fact is that SNP Members do not like being outvoted in the United Kingdom Parliament. That is what this boils down to.

The hon. Gentleman has touched on what “devolution” actually means. He may or may not agree with this, but the greatest constitutional experts, Bradley and Ewing, define it as follows:

“Devolution is not a term of art in constitutional law. Unlike federalism,”—

on which the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire constantly harps—

“the nature of devolution within the United Kingdom depends not on a written constitution, but on the legislation authorising the devolution and on the practice that develops on the use of the new structure for decision-making.”

They go on to say that

“devolution has been defined as involving ‘the delegation of central government powers without the relinquishment of sovereignty’”.

That is what the greatest experts say. If SNP Members go off and speak to their constitutional law experts in Scotland, they will find that they do not disagree. Mr Ewing comes from Scotland anyway.

Wayne David: The hon. Gentleman’s quote is constitutionally and historically correct, but does he agree that a central tenet of established constitutional practice is that all Members of Parliament should be equal? These proposals will drive a coach and horses through that by creating inequality among Members.

Sir William Cash: I shall not cite the obvious George Orwell quote that comes to mind about all animals being equal, because that might be thought to be rather disrespectful. However, the bottom line is that the hon. Gentleman is just not right. When we create different functions, voters expect the Member of Parliament who represents them to be accountable for those functions. This is not a great mystery or great science. It is a simple question of where the lines are drawn. They were drawn by the United Kingdom Parliament and that is where the matter stands.

I want to remind Members about the Scotland Act 1998, although not many who were in Parliament at the time are still here—

Mr Grieve: I was here.

Sir William Cash: My right hon. and learned Friend was indeed here.

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I tabled an amendment on the West Lothian question during the passage of the Bill in 1998, but it was pushed off the Order Paper. The bottom line is that it was disregarded by the Labour Government and, I have to say, by my own party. It simply proposed an amendment to the Standing Orders to deal with this obvious problem. The problem existed in 1998, and it is still here now. We are still talking about it and running round in circles without recognising that this is a question of fairness. I am astonished by this. As I have said, I very much enjoy the company of the Scottish nationalists in this Chamber, and the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire makes some very entertaining and theatrical speeches, but he talks about federalism one minute and about independence the next. He mixes the two up. We know that he wants independence and we give him credit for that, but he is not going to get it.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP): I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving us the definition of devolution, which of course we understand because we live and breathe it every day. We are grateful none the less for the definition. I would like to remind him that Scottish taxpayers paid more tax per head to the UK Treasury in every one of the last 34 years. I would also like to remind him that the opportunity to devolve powers in relation to English laws comes by virtue of having an English Parliament. I suggest that he is perhaps trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time. There are financial consequences for the people of Scotland of legislation that will be discussed here and that you will term as “English only”, and that is why—

Mr Speaker: Order. These interventions are, in equal measure, stimulating and a tad over long. I am referring not simply to the hon. Lady, but to a number of others and we must stop a trend developing, much as it is displeasing to interrupt the hon. Lady, whose flow I always enjoy.

Sir William Cash: As I say, I enjoy debating with SNP Members because they always come to the point as they see it, just as I come to the point on the European issue as I see it—I will continue to do so. I do not hold it against them for wanting independence, just as I want to get out of the European Union, but there is a bottom line here. I am now going to deal with some of the points the hon. Lady has made because this is very important in practical terms—I refer to the proportionality of the Scottish question to the United Kingdom as a whole. I hope that this does not create a great—

Mr Speaker: Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman prides himself on many things, including a most impressive memory. I am sure he will recall the Deputy Speaker advising colleagues of the merits of trying to stick to 10 minutes. Now that the hon. Gentleman has reached 11 minutes, I am sure he will assure me that he is not too far from his peroration, because quite a lot of other Members wish to contribute and we wish to hear them.

Sir William Cash: Yes, indeed. I would not in any way want to disregard or disrespect anything that was said from the Chair at any time—that goes without saying. Doing what has to be done in relation to these matters that have been doing on for 400 years in the space of 10 minutes is quite a big ask, but I will do my best.

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I want to make a point and I hope it does not create a great furore among SNP Members. It is worth considering that the 1.6 million voters in Scotland who wanted independence, on a turnout of 84%, represent only 2.5% of the population of the United Kingdom as a whole. That is point No. 1. Point No. 2 is that of the United Kingdom’s total population of 64.1 million, England represents 53.9 million, Wales represents 3.1 million, Northern Ireland represents 1.8 million and Scotland represents 5.3 million. The bottom line is that the proportions in respect of the total Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax receipts are: England 85.3%, Wales 3.5%, Northern Ireland 2.6% and Scotland 9%. That raises a question of proportionality.

I am going to bring my remarks to a conclusion, because of your subtle but none the less perfectly understandable intervention, Mr Speaker. The real question that lies at the heart of this is almost impossible to resolve, because independence is sought by the SNP, in all candour. That is understandable from its Members’ point of view, if that is what they want and if that is what they feel they have been elected to deliver. Conservative Members believe in the Union and in fairness for the English voter in relation to exclusively English matters. All I can say is: never the twain will meet. That is the real problem in this House and in this debate. Ultimately, the question raised about health and education on both sides of the border can be resolved only by the Scots dealing with health and education for their electorate, and by us dealing with it for ours—and with the other matters that go with it.

There are many other things that I would like to say but in the short time now available I have only one further thing to say. I said earlier that the consequences of the referendum result would be that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) would come down like Parnell did in relation to what happened in the context of the Irish vote in the 1880s, and that is turning out to be only too true. I produced a very short amendment that would give the Speaker, by way of a certificate, the right to determine these matters very simply, in seven lines. Undoubtedly, Mr Speaker would be faced with a barrage of points of order for the first three months every time he simply said, “This is English, and that’s Scots.” The bottom line is that, after three months, Members would give up, because Mr Speaker would not allow them to continue. That is one of the essences of coming to this United Kingdom Parliament, otherwise one might ask—even if I am not going to ask it myself—what is the point of coming here?

6.50 pm

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): As a Unionist, I find this a sad and alarming debate. I come from a part of the United Kingdom where Unionism is not just a constitutional choice. Indeed, for many people, over the past number of decades, it was a matter of life and death. Many of them laid down their lives to be Unionist. Although it is not the Government’s intention, the way in which this debate, discussion and decision has been conducted is fanning the flames of nationalism. We have heard it here today. Second-class MPs, fourth-class MPs are to be excluded. It is all hyperbole. The truth is that when something is rushed through without consultation and when shortcuts are made, it adds grist to the argument that people from other parts of the United Kingdom are being excluded.

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I know that we have a problem, but it is not an immediate one. If one looks at the evidence, one can see that in the previous Parliament 14 Bills were either English or English and Welsh only. Not one of them can the Government say was changed so dramatically by outside interference from non-English MPs. Not one of them caused huge problems or warranted this action.

Mr Kevan Jones: I agree that these things need to be carefully considered in detail. Like me, is the hon. Gentleman concerned and surprised that the Government have completely dismissed the findings of the McKay commission?

Sammy Wilson: I am, which is why I think the Government should take more time over this. Historically, there is not a problem. Indeed, the Leader of the House told us today that there is not even a problem for the immediate future. The only Bill that he believes will be an English-only Bill is the buses Bill. Does he really believe that the constitutional and parliamentary Picts and Celts from north of the border led by Robertson the Bruce will somehow draw out their claymores and dirks and shred his legislation? Does he really believe that that is the threat he faces? There is no immediate threat, so why do we need this ill-thought out, ill-conceived and rushed piece of legislation—it is not even legislation—which will enable Members to conjure up grievances?

I cannot attribute a motive for this fancy footwork, and for these shortcuts. I cannot understand why the Government have rushed this through. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa) talked about how concerned his constituents were, when he talked to them on their doorsteps, about English-only legislation and the way in which it might be interfered with. As there is no immediate threat, why can we not have proper discussion, proper consultation and a plan for the future that finds some consensus?

Alberto Costa: The talk we have heard from the Opposition is that our policy might be fanning the flames of English nationalism. Actually, it does the very opposite precisely because my constituents in South Leicestershire, and the constituents of hon. Friends, have been saying that they simply want fairness. They are not seeking an English Parliament. All they want is a simple resolution to a problem that the Labour party created in 1998, and that is what we are providing for the people of England.

Sammy Wilson: If that is the case, and if all that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents want is a simple resolution of the issue, surely the best way to achieve that without unnecessarily fanning the flames of nationalism is to do exactly what the Opposition spokesperson said and take an approach that will lead us to consensus.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): One of the reasons I think the Government are playing games with this and trying to rush it through is that the UK Independence party is driving them forward, but we have not seen that yet.

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Sammy Wilson: I do not know what the motive is, but I do know what the outcome will be: it will be damaging to the Union. As a convinced Unionist, I do not want to see that happen.

We heard assurances from the Leader of the House today that Members would have every opportunity to debate legislation that might affect their constituents, but what is English-only legislation, and what kind of legislation will carry Barnett consequentials? I remember in a previous role as Finance Minister in Northern Ireland having discussions with the Treasury about legislation that seemed to have no financial consequences for Northern Ireland. It was about the Olympics and spending in London. When I looked at it, however, I saw that it did have financial consequences for Northern Ireland, and the Treasury had to admit that there were Barnett consequentials—not that I got any money out of the Treasury, but at least it had to admit it.

Let me give another example. Education policy here in England might be regarded as English-only legislation, but changes in exam structures have consequences right across the United Kingdom, and many students from Northern Ireland apply to English universities. Dramatic changes in the exam structure here will have consequences in Northern Ireland, and we often have to reflect such changes. However, the current proposals would not allow us the opportunity to have an input.

Sir William Cash: As the hon. Gentleman well knows, I am extremely sympathetic to all matters relating to Northern Ireland, but I just want to ask him one question. It is completely mind-boggling to imagine how anybody will make their way through 30 pages of proposed changes to Standing Orders, so is he attracted to my proposal, which would simple do it by order of the Speaker and in seven lines, which would at least bring clarity?

Sammy Wilson: The role of the Speaker has already been discussed. I fully appreciate the work that the Speaker does and do not wish to cast any aspersions about that, but I think that we would be putting him under huge pressure. We would be expecting him to make a decision for which he would not have to give any explanation, and about which Members would have no opportunity to make representations. That puts a huge onus on the Speaker. Such decisions would not be the end of the matter, because every time he made a decision there would be opposition to it. It would be an open sore, or a scab to be picked at. It would be another opportunity to cry foul, with claims that Members have been excluded. Not only would that be unfair on the Speaker, but it would perpetuate the grievance that many people would feel.

Graham Stuart: The hon. Gentleman started his speech by going on about how little impact the proposal would have, suggesting that only the buses Bill would be affected in this Session, but then he moved on to say that it fans the flames of separatism. He cannot have it both ways. It is a relatively modest measure for giving consent. He is the one fanning the flames of separatism. No matter what we do in this place, the Scottish nationalists will claim that it is an appalling assault. I am surprised that a Unionist like him would fall for their guff.

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Sammy Wilson: If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would know what I said, but I think he has already made up his mind on this. I said that every time the Speaker had to make a decision—he might have to do so only once in the Parliament, whether it is one year or four years down the track—the same argument would be made that there had not been an opportunity to make proper representations to him and that people had been hard done by.

7 pm

Proceedings interrupted (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15(2)(b)),

That, at this day’s sitting, the general debate on English votes for English laws, in the name of the Prime Minister, may be proceeded with, though opposed, until ten o’clock.—(Simon Kirby.)

Question agreed to.

Proceedings resumed.

Sammy Wilson: We have some experience of the double veto in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have an impasse in Northern Ireland at the moment over welfare reform because of a voting arrangement that allows one party, or one side of the House, to have a veto on legislation where cross-community support is required. The arrangement whereby we need to have a majority of the House, and a majority of English or English and Welsh MPs only, will create that situation here. I can tell the House that it will lead to impasse, to conflict, to bad government, and to decisions being even more difficult to make.

There are reserved matters that stay here in Westminster, one of which is parading. Parading is specific to Northern Ireland, but there is no arrangement in the Government’s proposals for Northern Ireland MPs to have an exclusive say on what would happen on parading issues and changes within the Parades Commission. The decision would be made by all MPs. If we are to have an English-only veto, why do we not have a Northern Ireland-only veto? Then we might move on to other aspects and we would get into a political quagmire. That is why I believe that these proposals are bad and need to be reconsidered. We have been right to raise these issues with the Government, and the Government should rethink them.

7.2 pm

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): It is a pleasure to be able to participate in this debate. It is a particular pleasure to do so at a rather later stage, because that obliges one to sit on the Benches and listen to the speeches, which I have found very illuminating.

What we have heard in the debate is an extraordinary celebration of the Union of the United Kingdom. We did not just hear it in the contributions of the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) or my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas), whose maiden speech I was delighted to hear, or, for that matter, in those of Labour MPs from Welsh constituencies. The most compelling argument for the Union of the United Kingdom came from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). His argument against these proposals was that it is, in effect, impossible

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to dissociate decisions of any kind taken in this House from knock-on consequences north of the border. He is right. Ultimately, every decision that is taken by an Assembly or Parliament in the United Kingdom has a knock-on effect elsewhere, outside the area of its jurisdiction.

During my years as Attorney General, it was apparent to me how relevant that point is. For example, crime is an entirely cross-border issue. Criminals move freely between Liverpool and Glasgow, and indeed every other part of our United Kingdom. One of the tasks I had as Attorney General was to work closely with the Lord Advocate—an association, I might add, entirely dependent on goodwill and almost nothing else—in order to make sure that in tackling crime, the interests of the United Kingdom, not just those of England, England and Wales or Scotland, were properly addressed.

I have to say to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that while I understood the thrust of his arguments, they came as a little bit of a surprise, considering that for the past 18 years this House, with his enthusiastic participation, has been progressively deconstructing the United Kingdom and making such co-operation harder and harder to achieve.

The whole reason why we are having this debate is, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa) so rightly said, that our constituents in England are increasingly irked by what they see as a lack of comity, which is the direct consequence of the way in which we have decided to operate devolution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) is absolutely right. A lot of these issues were trotted out in the 1998 devolution debates. I spent hours on the Benches in this House teasing out these points with Donald Dewar. We pointed out to the then Labour Government that they were not taking—to use a word that has buzzed around today, but which I have never liked—the holistic approach. They kept on talking about holistics, but no one was prepared to think through the overall consequences of the massive constitutional changes we were initiating.

In particular, this country has an unwritten constitution that is ultimately entirely dependent on sovereignty residing in this place. It is extremely simple and extremely subtle, but it breaks down extremely quickly once power starts to be diffused elsewhere.

Peter Grant: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not understand that he has put his finger on one of the most fundamental differences between our nations? In my nation, the sovereignty of Parliament and the sovereignty of the monarch do not exist; the people are and always will be sovereign in Scotland.

Mr Grieve: No. I am afraid that distinction exists only in the mind of the hon. Gentleman. If I may say so, that is entirely illustrative of the sort of myth that illuminates the lives of Scottish nationalists, but has no relation to reality whatsoever. The Queen is the servant, through her coronation oath, of the citizens of this country, and we in this Parliament—and, indeed, Ministers—do our best to serve the Queen in the fulfilment of her oath. That serves the people just as adequately as any of the other rationalisations that the hon. Gentleman may have, so I will not hear any more of that, thank you very much.

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Sir William Cash: I have already referred to the fact that I tried to resolve the West Lothian question by proposing amendments to Standing Orders. In 1998, I also proposed that the whole matter should be referred to a referendum in the whole of the United Kingdom, because we were all affected by it. Half the Conservative Members walked past the Whips to support me on that, but the Government would not of course accept it.

Mr Grieve: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I will come back to it, but I will now move on because I do not want to take up too much time.

To move from the general point to the particular one, I accept that what we are debating strikes me as imperfect, but I am afraid I happen to think that a lot of things we have done recently in respect of devolution are imperfect as well. I emphasise that I differ from my party on the vow, not because I think it is wrong to give more devolution to Scotland—there is a powerful argument for saying that Scotland should have more devolution than we are giving it—but because the process we have embarked on appears to me to be essentially incoherent. It is like a car driving along a road and lurching one way and then the other in a series of spins. I do not think that that is a productive way to operate in the long term, but we are where we are.

The proposed Standing Orders are essentially very modest—they really are. I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House listened about extending the period of debate and that the Procedure Committee will have an opportunity to look at them, but they are modest. They constitute about as small a shield to English susceptibilities as it is possible to devise. In my view, they will not in any significant way diminish the role of MPs as a collective group in this House.

Wayne David: What was the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s considered view of Sir William McKay’s proposals?

Mr Grieve: The McKay proposals were good, but they preceded the vow. Once we got to the point of further devolution, they started to look rather inadequate. That is precisely the problem.

Although these measures are not perfect, they meet my constituents’ needs. I have one major anxiety, which has been highlighted before, and it is over the process of certification by the Speaker. If we are moving down this road, it would be better to proceed by way of primary legislation, followed by a change to Standing Orders. There is a question over whether these measures are justiciable. I am perfectly familiar with article 9 of the Bill of Rights, but that does not mean that somebody will not have a go at doing it. In a Parliament where we are increasingly passing power out, to emphasise constantly our sovereignty and expect nobody to scrutinise the different arrangements that we are bringing about seems, in the long term, unrealistic.

That brings me to my final point. My view is that these measures can only be temporary. I am aware that there are other Members across the House who take the view that if we are to preserve the Union of the United Kingdom, we will have to take a much longer, harder and, I hope, more consensual—although that is often difficult to achieve—look at the way in which we conduct our affairs. As I put my Unionism absolutely at the

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forefront of my political life—I believe that is what my constituents want, too—I am prepared to consider major constitutional change, including moves towards a written constitution. In my judgment, that is probably the only way to provide a framework in which the highly complex and different needs of different parts of the United Kingdom can be addressed. That is not a popular theme because it touches on Parliament’s sovereignty, it certainly touches on article 9 of the Bill of Rights, and I do not for the life of me see how it could ever be done without making the constitution capable, ultimately, of being interpreted by a court. That raises equal problems, but I do not think that they are ones that, in the long term, can be ducked.

I believe that people in the United Kingdom—the evidence of this is overwhelming from the Scottish referendum last year—wish to operate and live together. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) was so right when he said that it is none of our business to put our personal needs, Parliament’s needs, the Scottish Parliament’s needs, the Welsh Assembly’s needs or, for that matter, the Northern Ireland Assembly’s needs before the needs of our citizens. We are here to respond to their concerns.

One thing that underpins my Unionism—this has become harder and harder to stick to over the years, but I have done so—is the belief that the interests of people in Wick, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the hometown where my family originated, Hawick, must be every bit as relevant to me as those of my own constituents in Beaconsfield, and must continue to be so even if, as I pointed out earlier, I can no longer intervene on their behalf in the way that I did in the past. Once the Scottish National party starts to consider that, it will appreciate why some of its arguments against the proposals this evening show it in a rather poor light. It is the pot calling the kettle black in respect of comity within the United Kingdom.

The only solution is for those of us who have some goodwill in this matter—that includes SNP Members if they wish to exercise that goodwill—to participate together to create a new structure that will be lasting and enduring for the whole country.

7.14 pm

Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP): I was not supposed to be here, Mr Speaker. Every account of polling predictions said that Glasgow North East was the least winnable seat for the SNP, yet here I am standing before you, not just as the MP for Glasgow North East, but as the one who broke the BBC’s swingometer. I have the curious distinction of being able to present myself to the House as the biggest swinger in UK political history. [Laughter.]Lest hon. Members think I say this to be boastful, let me be clear: that 39.3% swing happened only because I had the most incredible campaign team behind me, some of whom are in the Gallery today—a team that grew from the original Provan57 team, so called after we secured 57%, the second highest yes vote in Scotland, in the independence referendum last September.

There are many pretty pockets in Glasgow North East, such as Hogganfield loch, the tenements of Dennistoun and many fine parks basking in sunshine one day of the year, but I would not expect to see much

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of my constituency in a Visit Scotland brochure. Sadly, residents of my constituency are never very far from a derelict building or waste ground, the best and worst example of both beauty and dereliction being the Winter Gardens in Springburn park. It seems to me that the Scottish Parliament’s Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 was written with my constituency in mind, and I look forward to working with those communities as they empower themselves and transform the constituency.

What we do have in abundance in my constituency is resilient people. From projects that have risen from the despair, such as LoveMilton to Ruchazie Poverty Action Group, St Roch’s football club, which I should mention not only gives free community space to all community groups in its area, but gave me a free season ticket—[Interruption]—that was my declaration—to the Everlasting Arms food bank based in the street in which I live in Dennistoun, an African church feeding local people.

Although we have little by way of splendid mountains, we have a gargantuan industrial heritage to be proud of. Springburn was once the greatest centre of railway manufacturing in the whole of Europe. We have a political history that makes Glasgow North East irresistible to someone like myself. William Wallace was captured in Robroyston, from where he was brought to Westminster Hall, tried, found guilty of treason and hanged, drawn and quartered. It was not possible to quarter James Wilson, John Baird and Andrew Hardie, known collectively as the 1820 martyrs, who rest in Sighthill cemetery. A furious crowd made that impossible after they were hanged for leading the uprising for social justice and workers’ rights in that year.

Today, I pay tribute to the memories of the 1820 martyrs, who ought to be afforded the same courtesy and remembrance as the Tolpuddle martyrs rightly are, but they are not, possibly because their mantra, “Scotland free or a desert” gives away the fact that they also campaigned for Scotland’s independence. My hon. Friends are constantly inviting other Members to visit their constituencies. I invite anyone who believes in what the 1820 martyrs fought for and is ashamed of the fate that befell them to visit their final resting place in Sighthill, and I will be delighted to accompany any visitor.

Despite having lived in Glasgow all my adult life, I grew up in Greenock and Port Glasgow—shipbuilding towns—and I vividly remember second year at Port Glasgow high school. Every Monday morning more and more of my friends would return from their weekend to report that their parents had lost their jobs. My adolescence was spent with Margaret Thatcher in charge. It was bad enough being a teenager without having to witness my town and its world-class industries fall apart at the seams. I will never forget the feeling of powerlessness in my area, the fear that my friends felt and the despair of their parents. And I remember hearing rhetoric from politicians and the media about people not wanting to work, about unemployment being a lifestyle choice, something disgracefully repeated in this House last week by the Chancellor in his attempts to justify his attacks on working people who have nothing.

I knew because I was there that it was not a lifestyle choice, that in fact worklessness was sapping the life from people. I realised then that it was in somebody’s interests for people with little to believe that those with less were a threat to them. I opened my eyes and they have been wide open ever since. At one point in school,

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I was practically the only person in class whose parents were working, because mine worked in a sadly growing industry—they were psychiatric nurses.

Let us not pretend that this Government’s recent decisions will not lead to an increase in people suffering poor mental health; they will. I suspect that my predecessor, Willie Bain, held much the same opinion as I do on that. He was, after all, a Labour Member who campaigned over his six years in this House on youth unemployment and spoke up in support of people who found themselves long-term unemployed. He was a strong advocate of the living wage. We no doubt shared many political aims but disagreed on how to get there. I wish him well.

I come from good political stock. My late father, Bobby McLaughlin, was an independence-supporting republican who curiously served for 12 years in the British armed forces. It turned out that that was more canny than curious when it was revealed that he only joined voluntarily because otherwise he would have had to do national service and receive a third less in his wage packet.

My late maternal grandparents, Stuart and Sarah Purdie, were founding members of Greenock SNP. He was a strong trade unionist and led many a walkout. I know that he would want me to send a message of support—as I do today—to the 70 striking homelessness caseworkers in Glasgow City Council who are now in their 16th week.

My paternal grandfather, John McLaughlin, was a labourer who was blacklisted for being a member of the Communist party. Unable to find work, he taught himself to read and write, and he spent his days fighting and writing for the rights of people who were unable to fight for themselves.

My late brother Stephen dabbled in many left-wing and even anarchist groups while living in London. He often encouraged me to stand for Westminster, probably so that he could see more of me. My mother—who thankfully is still with us—simply taught me that I was as good as anybody else. No better, no worse, but as good as—there is a lesson there for Scotland.

I think that I must have been destined to be a politician because I certainly did not set out to be one. I wanted to be an actress, and I spent three years at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. I was aiming not for the Green Benches of Westminster but for those in the Rovers Return on “Coronation Street”. Sometimes I still wonder which has the better actors.

I often think of those 1820 martyrs, and I wonder what they would see today if they could rise from their resting place in Sighthill. They would see that 23.2% of the people in Glasgow North East exist on welfare benefits—more than twice the UK average—and that we have the 10th highest rate of unemployment in the whole United Kingdom. They would see child poverty lying at a disgraceful 38%, and in some areas even higher—again, more than double the UK average. Do my constituents deserve that? They would see that most of the power to tackle that poverty still lies here in Westminster, and last week they would have seen a Tory Chancellor twisting the knife deeper still into people who are already on their knees. They would have seen the MP who represents those people sitting in this Chamber wondering what on earth she was doing here as the policies that her country had roundly rejected were steamrollered through.

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I am an adaptable person. I can fight my instinct to clap if I have to, sitting here in the SNP quarter of the Chamber. I can adjust to the rather strange animal noises, and I am sure that one day I will get used to my London perm—my hair is straight when I leave the house, but as soon as I step out it becomes a 1980s perm. I can even just about cope with the occasional yah-boo, tit-for-tat style politics in this House, but I will never adjust to hearing Members cheer on a Chancellor as he announces that he is taking away the lifelines of many of my constituents. Sink or swim. That was the message from last week’s Budget. I thought about my constituents watching from home and about family members and friends who I care deeply about. I imagined their pain, and I could not hold back the tears knowing that I was almost powerless to help them. I was not the only one on these Benches in tears.

I want people at home to know that, when they feel pain, we on the SNP Benches are feeling that pain with them. I may no longer be experiencing what they are experiencing, but I have been there and I remember it. When they are in distress, we are distressed with them. I want people to know that we are on their side and will always fight for them tooth and nail in this place.

When I talk of my constituents, I mean every single one of them, wherever they came from, however they got here. In Glasgow North East, we have a significant immigrant population, from Irish to Pakistani, from Indian and Sri Lankan to African. I am delighted to represent such an ethnically diverse area. My partner, Graham Campbell, is an English-Scottish-Jamaican socialist who led Africans for an Independent Scotland during the referendum. Scotland’s referendum engaged everyone.

Last week, I sat through the Immigration Minister’s summing up in a debate in Westminster Hall and, in the 10 minutes allocated, not a single second was used to say anything positive about immigrants. In my time in this place, I shall share many stories that will not just pay lip service to immigrants but demonstrate exactly why it is so important for us to welcome people from other countries and cultures.

Today, we are speaking about EVEL. I want to share some of my thoughts, which, while not exactly evil, are not entirely positive either. I have heard much from Government Members who have asked why, as we have our Scottish Parliament, England should not have the same. I agree, but do those Members understand what we in Scotland had to do to get our Parliament? We had to campaign for years. We had to persuade this place; we had to persuade the other place, and in both places there was intense scrutiny of the legislation, amendments and debates. Most importantly, we had to persuade those who we consider to be sovereign and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) has just said, that means the people of Scotland. How can it be in order for what some Members seem to think is the equivalent in England to come about merely as a change to the Standing Orders of this House? The entire Parliament, not to mention the people of England, should have the right to consider and amend any legislation relating to it.

I will be constructive in this place, but I will not do anything goes against the interests of my constituents or the interests of Scotland. That said, my political

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interests are far reaching. I am delighted to be my party’s spokesperson on civil liberties—I often say civil disobedience, but I do not really mean it. I will work to support people whose lives have been affected by addictions and mental health problems. I will fight racism and any attack on equality. I will fight for the most vulnerable people in this world, including those incarcerated at Dungavel and Yarl’s Wood. I will support calls for reparations for those countries that suffered most from our involvement in the slave trade—namely, the Caribbean countries.

Locally, I will offer practical support in two ways. My office will employ a funding officer to support those voluntary groups providing lifelines for local people to access funding and a welfare rights specialist to defend people with no money from welfare cuts and shocking benefits sanctions. I pledge to devote my time in this place to making a real and practical difference to real people.

7.27 pm

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin), who will clearly be a strong voice for her constituents. Like her, in my maiden speech I emphasised the character and resilience of my constituents. We have that in common. The contributions that our constituents make to civil society are extremely important, and I am glad that she raised those matters in her maiden speech as that is an experience that many of us across the House share.

Once again, I rise to speak on English votes for English laws, which I raised in my maiden speech. It was with some surprise that I listened to the shadow Leader of the House talk about the need for a constitutional convention, because, of course, when the devolution Bills were debated, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) has so ably pointed out, these matters were raised time and again. It is clear that in 13 years or more in government, the Opposition had more than ample time to set up that constitutional convention and failed to do so. It seems to me that they are making those calls too late. I am afraid that my constituents, like those of many other Government Members who have spoken, have waited long enough. They have had to sit back and watch the inherent unfairness in the system. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) has so ably said, we need to concentrate on making sure that just as there should not be two classes of MP, there should not be two classes of citizen.

The difficulty is that my constituents very much feel that they are second-class citizens. As so many other Members have said of them, they do not want an English Assembly. It is extraordinary that the SNP has come here and suggested to me, as my constituents’ representative, that my constituents should not be allowed to choose how they wish their devolution to be expressed. The SNP might want them to have an English Parliament, but it is not appropriate for them to be dictated to about a form of democracy or how they want it to be exercised.

My constituents were asked about this at the election. We stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to English voters, and my constituents made it very clear that they did not want a separate English Assembly.

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Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): The hon. Lady was a Member of the Welsh Assembly, so she knows that there is a dynamic relationship between Members of Parliament and Assembly Members and that devolution is about the conversation between this House and a sovereign body in the devolved place. To say that an MP can represent themselves and two minds is nonsense, is it not?

Antoinette Sandbach: I simply do not understand the hon. Lady’s argument. I used to represent an area in Wales and would like to take this opportunity to put the record straight. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) suggested that I had lost numerous first-past-the-post elections to the Assembly, but in fact I lost only one—by 500 votes—and was then elected in 2011, in the second election after that. I know that the hon. Gentleman himself lost the election in North Shropshire before he was elected in Wrexham.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), my constituents in Wales had a number of elected representatives to whom they could go, namely Assembly Members and MPs, and they would often go to MPs to raise matters that were devolved to the Assembly. My constituents in England, however, have made it clear that they want a single person to represent them, namely their MP. The electorate have voted on it and have made their democratic will clear through the Members of Parliament they have elected to this House.

There is an inherent injustice in MPs from Wales, who cannot vote on education, health, certain transport matters, housing and the Welsh language in the constituencies that they represent, being able to have an influence over and a vote on those matters here. That will not change under the proposals. When this House deals with legislation that has a devolved element, the Welsh Assembly will be able to give consent to this place under a legislative consent motion. When the majority of 150 Labour MPs trooped through the Lobbies, the hon. Lady’s party knew very well that it was setting up a system that the hon. Member for Wrexham described in a Westminster Hall debate as unequal and unfair.

This small step is a modest one, as has been said by many other Members, and it will be reviewed in 12 months’ time. It is right, after 20 years of inaction following the devolution Acts and numerous amendments, that at this time, in this House, there is an opportunity for those of us who represent English seats to fight to ensure that the small matter of consent, which applies in all other devolved Administrations, applies here.

Peter Grant: Does the hon. Lady agree, on behalf of the people she used to represent in Wales, that it would be utterly unacceptable for the people of Wales to vote to remain in the European Union and then be dragged out simply because a majority in the bigger neighbour voted that way?

Antoinette Sandbach: As the hon. Gentleman knows, foreign affairs is not a devolved issue. That is a United Kingdom decision. It will be decided on, I am glad to say, by all the citizens of the United Kingdom. It is the Conservative party that is making sure that every single citizen in the United Kingdom will get a vote on that issue.

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On the Barnett consequentials, I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for listening to the debate under Standing Order No. 24. It is clear that consideration has been given to the potential for Barnett consequentials. That is reflected in the changes to the proposed Standing Orders. Scottish citizens voted for a devolution settlement that reflected their wishes: they wanted a Scottish Parliament. English citizens have voted for a different settlement and do not want to have a separate English Parliament. They want matters to be dealt with in this House in a way that is fair and gives them some equality.

Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South) (SNP): The aspirations of the various peoples of these islands are being articulated in this debate. We are to believe that the English people want a way for their views to be represented. According to Conservative Members, that has been done through the recent election. Can we not accept that the same thing happened in Scotland? There is an overwhelming desire for enhanced devolution, and we in Scotland are not getting that. We are getting locked out in key areas of this place.

Antoinette Sandbach: The hon. Gentleman ought to reflect that his constituents have seen at least two, if not three, Scotland Acts pass through this Parliament that have devolved decision making down to the level of the Scottish Parliament. That has not happened for those in England, who wish to see a greater balance and fairness in the system. This measure is a small step towards achieving that. They do not want an English Parliament.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) talked about the London Assembly. The difference is that the London Assembly does not have legislative powers. The difference is the decision making on legislation. The right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) is well aware that he cannot vote in this place on matters relating to transport, housing, the Welsh language, education or health in Wales unless the Welsh Assembly gives its consent.

Martin John Docherty: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Antoinette Sandbach: I am sorry. I wish to make some progress.

I ask for parity of treatment between my constituents in my English constituency and the people I represented in Wales. I do not accept it when Labour Members stand up in this House and make an argument about second-class MPs. The reality is that without this change we have second-class citizens in England who do not have the protection given to those in Wales and Scotland. It is time for that fundamental injustice to be put right. I very much support the moves made by the Leader of the House.

7.39 pm

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin). She might not know this, but like her I wanted to be in “Coronation Street”. Of the three other people on my drama course at university, one ended up presenting “Blue Peter”, one has won an Oscar and one wrote “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”; and I ended up here. She can decide who was the most successful. She made a strong maiden speech, however, and I was pleased with her tribute to my colleague, Willie Bain, who served her constituency well.

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I am also pleased to follow the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach). I have lost her seat and she has lost mine, so I think we are equal. We border each other, however, and it is crucial to this debate how that border is affected and how I, as a Welsh Member, serve my constituents.

I have been very lucky; I have been here for 23 years, and every year I have walked through that door into this Chamber, I have done so as an equal Member of the House—equal to everybody elected to this House on a universal franchise after the people have put a cross by my name and my party’s name and thereby elected an MP who can speak on any issue before the House. I did that—dare I say it?—when the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) was Secretary of State for Wales and made decisions in this House affecting my constituents without a majority in the area I represented. I was here when Lord Hunt served as Secretary of State for Wales and made decisions in my area without his party having a majority in that area.

I have also served as a Northern Ireland Minister—this supports the arguments made by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson)—as a Welsh Member in a UK House of Commons dealing with devolved issues in Northern Ireland when the Assembly was suspended. I did so as an equal Member because I happened to believe in the United Kingdom. When Members walk through that door into the Chamber, they do so as equal Members.

I object to the proposal because it strikes at the heart of this Parliament and a United Kingdom in this Parliament. It also strikes at the heart of what my constituents send me here to do. I think that I should decide what I say in the Chamber on behalf of the people who have elected me and that I should be accountable for that to those people, yet, under these proposals, I will be able to speak but not vote in Committee on crucial issues that affect my constituents. Why does that matter? It matters because the Government’s proposals will give a veto to English MPs on issues before the House. It will veto my being able to table amendments that I can vote on in this House, and it will veto my serving as a Minister dealing with UK matters on devolved issues. As was said earlier, that would have meant the likes of John Reid not being able to serve as Secretary of State for Health, having been chosen by a UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and elected to the United Kingdom Parliament to serve under a Prime Minister representing a seat in Scotland. He would have been unable to vote in a Committee of the whole House on matters that his Government had bought before the House. That creates a second-class tier of MP.

This matters in my constituency for reasons that the hon. Member for Eddisbury has mentioned. We are close to the border with England. By dint of previous Governments’ decisions, things that happen in England matter to my constituents. My constituency is served by Glan Clwyd hospital in north Wales and the Countess of Chester hospital in Chester, England. The latter currently services 66,514 out-patient attendances from constituents who have a Welsh postcode. It also services 14,185 finished admission episodes and 14,404 accident and emergency attendances by Welsh citizens, which are paid for by Welsh Assembly Government funding to

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that hospital. Under the Government’s proposals, if legislative proposals were made about that hospital, I could not table an amendment that I could vote on here. If I cannot do that, who can?

Antoinette Sandbach: I have absolutely no doubt why attendances have gone up at the Countess of Chester. The Labour-controlled Welsh Assembly proposed to close the maternity unit at Glan Clywd, which will have had very severe knock-on effects for Countess of Chester hospital. Indeed, the hospital said that it would not be able to cope with the consequences of that decision. The problem was that my constituents had no way of influencing the decision in the Welsh Assembly or the right hon. Gentleman’s policies in that regard.

Mr Hanson: The hon. Lady might like to take up that issue with her right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), who I think shares my view. Let me quote from the annual report of the Countess of Chester hospital:

“We are the main Trust serving Western Cheshire and provide services to approximately 30% of the population covered by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board in Wales. Welsh patients represent approximately one fifth of the workload of the Trust.”

Dr Thérèse Coffey: The right hon. Gentleman would be able to table amendments in Committee. I accept that he would not be able to move them, but he would be able to table amendments on Report, as well.

Mr Hanson: The Minister makes the point: I cannot vote on tabled amendments that I have moved in Committee, which I can do now. I can walk through that door to do so now, and I have done for 23 years, being accountable only to my constituents and my colleagues in the Whips Office. I have been accountable to my constituents and my party. I can do this now, but the Deputy Leader of the House is taking away from me a right, which my constituents voted for on 7 May, to speak on any matter in this House. It is important that the Deputy Leader of the House understands that argument, although I am grateful to her for meeting a delegation of north Wales Members and me yesterday.

What matters in Cheshire matters to me—not only in respect of hospital services, but of employment, when my constituents work there, and transport. Is HS2 an England-only matter, for example? The train service will go to Crewe, which will link to north Wales, so it matters to my constituents. The key point is how these matters are to be decided. Who decides what is an “English-only” matter? The draft Standing Orders say:

“The Speaker shall, before second reading”.

What opportunity do I have to put it to the Speaker that there are real issues in my constituency that make it right for me to table amendments and vote on them? What representations can I make on those issues?

Mr David Jones: The right hon. Gentleman will know that I share many of the concerns he is expressing. He asks what influence he can have over the process. It seems to me that a dual test is set out on the draft Standing Order. One test is that a matter should relate “exclusively to England”. To follow his example of the hospital scenario, that clearly does not relate exclusively to England, because it serves a large number of Welsh

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patients. Does he not agree that what we really need is to build a mechanism into the Standing Order to clarify that point?

Mr Hanson: I do agree. At the moment, the draft Standing Order states:

“A clause or schedule which relates exclusively to England is within devolved legislative competence if…it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”

or of

“the National Assembly for Wales”.

Mr Speaker could be faced with the dilemma of saying, “This is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales” because it involves health, when both the right hon. Member for Clwyd West and I have a clear interest in it. It is important to have some understanding of how we might be able to influence Mr Speaker by putting representations to him before those decisions are made.

What really annoys me, Mr Deputy Speaker—if I may say so between us, in confidence, in the Chamber today—is the fact that Lord Roberts of Conwy, who has fought five elections in north Wales and not won a single one, and Lord Thomas of Gresford, who has also fought five elections and not won a single one in north Wales, will be able to table amendments in the other place and speak on matters that I, the elected Member, will be unable to speak on.

Martin John Docherty: The right hon. Gentleman has taken the words right out of my mouth. The former Member of Parliament for Dumbarton and, subsequently, for West Dunbartonshire, which it became, is now Lord McFall. He sits in the other House, which is unaccountable because its members are not elected. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, however, he will be able to walk through the Lobby in the other House and vote on these issues.

As the right hon. Gentleman has also pointed out, and as I made clear in the House last week, the position of what is currently the independent Chair of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will become untenable.

Mr Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. On this issue, at least, we share a perspective.

As I have said, I have fought my constituency seven times, and I have won my constituency six times. Lord Thomas of Gresford has lost five elections, as has Lord Roberts of Conwy, yet they will be able to table amendments, speak, vote and contribute, but I shall be barred by this Chamber from doing so. In no circumstances can that be deemed fair and proper. When my constituents put a cross by my name—or, indeed, by the name of any other candidate—they are propelling one of us into this Chamber to argue their case. It is entirely out of order for unelected Lords to have a power that we in the House of Commons do not have.

I oppose these proposals, but I will, if I may, extend the hand of friendship to the right hon. Member for Clwyd West in saying that, as the Deputy Leader of the House knows, measures could be taken to give us an opportunity, at least, to provide more traction in regard to these issues. I hope that she will bring back amendments to that effect. I still believe that we should have one House of Commons in which all of us can speak on

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every matter, but ultimately I must be a pragmatist as well, and I think that if there are pragmatic solutions, we should consider them as well as opposing the principle.

7.52 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I echo the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) in saying that it is a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin). She spoke in very moving terms, and she left us in no doubt about her pride in her pedigree, the purpose that she brings here on behalf of her constituents, her pursuit of justice, and her passion for rights and democracy. Moreover, she brought humour to her case as well as honour to her cause.

The 28 pages of Standing Orders that are before us constitute a confusing answer to a confused question, which arises from the muddled constitutional dispensation that is the United Kingdom. In many ways, this resembles the EU referendum debate. What we are witnessing is the Chamber trying to grapple with the English question. In this instance, it is English votes for English laws; in other contexts, it relates to the European Union. After years of struggle and failure on the Irish question, and then the Scottish question, we are now dealing with the English question. As the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen) often says, people in England now seem to believe that they are the last colony of the empire.

Mrs Moon: I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The issue here is not the English question, but the Conservative question. It has nothing at all to do with England, and everything to do with the Conservative party and its desire to steal power.

Mark Durkan: I fully accept that this is the Conservative party’s way of trying to grapple with what it perceives to be the English question.

A number of points have been made about these proposals, which have been scrambled together by the Leader of the House. Last year, the Government and other parties in the House told us how solemn and important the vow was, but the Bill does not seem to reflect the vow. As far as I can see, it is riddled with contradictions and anomalies. I do not have an inside track, but I join those who wonder “How now, brown vow?” How is it that when those questions are still up in the air and we do not have answers, we have this fast pursuit—this scramble—on English votes for English laws?

A former Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor has, now that he is Leader of the House, taken to political joyriding simply because he could take a vehicle for his own use and indulge himself and think he was going to show off to his peers. He thought he could take a key constitutional vehicle and purloin it for his own purpose, and with speed and noise he revved people up to say, “Ah, here it is: English votes for English laws. Here’s the big deal.” The people who were applauding and cheering that last week are now telling us tonight, “These are only minor and incidental. Why are you worrying and fretting; little will come from this?”

These are of course the same people who next year—we are told this will all be reviewed next year—will tell us this mishmash has turned out to be somewhere between

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a fig leaf and a figment in terms of resolving the English question and satisfying those with concerns about that. They will end up saying, “It hasn’t made enough of a difference on enough votes or Bills.” Alternatively, they will make it their business to try to show it can make a huge difference. That is why I am not sure that many Members on the Government Benches have fully read the Standing Orders.

I am not opposed to some aspects of what is in these Standing Orders. I actually think there are some interesting new devices in terms of scrutiny of legislation and some of the possible additional stages—giving Members the power to hold Bills in check while they are uncertain about parts of them, and forcing reconsideration. I like the idea of those reconsideration stages, but I do not know why they should apply only to England-only legislation. That is the sort of qualitative consideration we should be building in for proper consideration in this House. I am less interested in English votes for English laws and more interested in better votes on better laws. That means improving procedures in this House. That is what we should be looking at: wholesale procedural improvement in this House.

Then there are the arguments that say, “There aren’t really such things as Barnett consequentials; there are no consequences.” The fact is that there are, however. The hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) referred earlier to his time as Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland. I know from my time that we had arguments about Barnett consequentials, some of them arising directly from legislative and other measures that passed in this House. That then did change the shape of spending here, and that in turn changed the shape of the Barnett package—although sometimes not enough, because we must not pretend it is entirely the Treasury that decides on its own whims what goes into the Barnett formula and what does and does not count. Let us not pretend that there are no consequences.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Last week I and some other Members mentioned these Barnett consequentials and expressed our concern about that. The Government deserve some credit for the fact that they have listened to the points we made and the Leader of the House has amended his Standing Orders to ensure, as I understand it, that proposals relating to the Barnett consequentials have been withdrawn. I see the Leader of the House has just come back into the Chamber and I would like to publicly pay tribute to him for having handled this issue in a model way and listened to representations.

Mark Durkan: I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Leader of the House has handled this in a model way. This and the whole issue of the foxhunting vote are examples of premature miscalculations that have then been followed by embarrassing withdrawals.

Let us look at the detail. The Leader of the House tried to tell us earlier that there is no such thing as Barnett consequentials. He tried to say there is no question of Barnett consequentials arising for any piece of legislation in this House and that that issue only arises at the estimates stage of proceedings. That is errant nonsense, because we constantly hear from Ministers

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that amendments cannot be accepted because they have spending consequences and an impact on the public purse.

Let us also recognise that the proposals will have an impact not only on Members here but on the people we represent. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) said earlier that, under the new procedures, all of us would vote on these measures at different stages, but we will not be voting on them at the stage that counts—the actual decision time. We are told that we should be content, but I think we are somehow going to find ourselves in Dermot O’Leary or Ant and Dec land, where we will be told, “You may be charged, but your vote will not count.”

That is exactly the position that we and our constituents will be in if, for example, there is a repeat of anything similar to the tuition fees legislation. I sat on the Bill Committee for that Education Bill and I was able to eliminate myself from large chunks of the Committee’s proceedings, which dealt with England-only matters to do with education authorities and so on. However, there were aspects of the Bill relating to qualifications that had direct implications for Northern Ireland, and the decisions on tuition fees had serious implications for students from Northern Ireland coming to colleges here. The Bill also had direct policy and spending implications for the devolved Executive. Decisions made here will condition the choices for others.

So, no matter how strong we believe the devolution package to be in our regions, let us not pretend that this situation does not involve unequal legislative airspace. Some of the legislation passed in this House ends up being formative and normative for the standards expected of the devolved Administrations. At times, those Administrations have to conform with decisions that they would not readily have taken themselves. Sometimes, that is prefigured into the Barnett formula and the spending assumptions, which creates its own difficulties.

There is no sign that the Leader of the House has listened to any of the questions that have been raised. We asked what would happen if there were a bit of a twilight zone surrounding what was or was not devolved? On paper, for example, welfare is a devolved legislative power for the Stormont Assembly, but it is clear that it is a karaoke legislative power. The Treasury basically tells the Assembly, “Unless you pass the legislation in the way we want, we will tax your block grant. We will take money back off the Barnett formula.” This happens even though the Treasury should have other ways of policing that situation. None of those questions has been answered about what would happen in certain situations or impasses. Serious questions have also been raised about the odd language that is being used in the Scotland Bill. There is an element of dual control over some aspects of welfare in Scotland, so it is not clear when measures will be seen as England-only provisions.

What are we meant to do as we move from one Grand Committee to another? The suggestion from McKay was that there could be a single Grand Committee, but now, a bit like King Louie in “The Jungle Book”, it is a case not of “Have a Grand Committee!” but of “Have two Grand Committees! Have three Grand Committees!” We now have proposals that could give us three different Grand Committees. We are also told that there will be stages of voting, and that some of us will be excluded from some of them. It is not quite clear what will happen. Perhaps we will not have to leave the

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room, but we will be expected to avert our eyes while votes are taken and decisions made. This does not make any sense whatever.

Furthermore, this will involve elected Members being told that there is something sinister, subversive and wrong about their having a view and an input on some issues in this Parliament while the unelected Members of the House of Lords, who are free to come from anywhere in the United Kingdom—or even outside it, if they are tax exiles who are registered elsewhere for tax purposes—will have the power to determine all the legislation. The Government are absolutely shameless about that. We heard tonight about English self-determination. The Conservatives are putting ermine into English self-determination.

8.3 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to speak in the debate. I wish I could say in all honesty that I had been looking forward to listening to all the views that have been put forward today. I hope that the House will be persuaded by the concerns that have been expressed by those on the Opposition Benches and that Members will not be reassured by the comments from across the Chamber. I have great respect for everyone in the House, and I do not seek controversy or try to fall out with people, but this is a debate that seeks to divide us, as has been illustrated by the comments that have been made so far.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) on her contribution to the debate. It is always nice to hear the maiden speeches, as a Member travels through the highways and byways of their constituency and we learn a wee bit about it. That is always a pleasure that I have, and I know other Members have as well, and I wish the hon. Lady well in this House.

I hope I will leave this House in no doubt about the importance of ensuring that the changes introducing English votes for English laws are not passed by this great establishment—an establishment that represents each of the four regions of the United Kingdom and I hope will continue to do so. I fear, however, that if EVEL were to be passed by the Commons, this institution that binds us all together and enhances the integrity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will cease to represent each and every one of us, as we currently are—together. It would lead to a number of problems, with an extremely fractious House being just one of them. We have seen examples of that tonight—everybody seems to have an opinion and does not care what anybody else in the House thinks, and that disappoints me. This is going too far, too fast.

As I am sure I have mentioned on a number of occasions, and as is well known, I am unashamedly a Unionist. I passionately believe in this great institution in which we stand and in which I have the pleasure and privilege to be the Member for Strangford. I fervently believe in the integrity of the UK and I ardently believe that we are better together. At no other time have I feared so much for the future of the Union as I did last year and as I do in this debate today. Last year, the Union seemed to be at breaking point, but thankfully the Scottish people voted in the September 2014 referendum to stay within the Union. I know that my colleagues sitting to my left have a different opinion about that,

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but at that time the opinion was very clear and the Scottish people, along with others in Northern Ireland, Wales and England, rejoiced at that decision, because it is true that we are better together. They put their trust in Westminster, but I have no doubt that by passing EVEL Westminster would be portrayed as ensuring second-class citizenship for the rest of us who make up this great country—and where is the trust in that?

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) said, this EVEL debate stokes the fires of division and everyone seems to be retreating into their own trenches and into their own opinions.

Sir Edward Leigh: The hon. Gentleman knows that I share many of his views. I admire his Unionism and I am as strong a Unionist as he is. Would he give credit to some Conservative Members who have at least ensured that this is not a total exclusion, but a sort of double veto? We have made some changes. May I assure him that whatever the SNP does to provoke English Members, for instance on hunting and on other issues, I for one will put the Union first? Many of us do not want this compromise to be changed; we do not want this to be a more extreme measure and we are listening to what he is saying.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We agree on many things, but unfortunately I suspect that we will not agree on this. That will not stop us being friends outside this Chamber and fighting the battles on many other issues on which we very much agree.

Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), have talked about the Barnett consequentials, how that issue affects us, how decisions on that will be made and how those decisions would then have a financial impact on us. My hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim also referred to the impact on the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker of having to make difficult decisions that could lead to further complications. It would almost be a domino effect, with one thing hitting another, and it going on and on. Those are real concerns. We are all here to contribute towards this and to make our comments, and I hope that the Government will look at what they are putting forward, and stall or delay.

EVEL concerns me because it fractures relations in the House, but I also struggle to see the logic behind it. It seems simple enough in principle, but in reality it is quite the opposite. The implementation lacks clarity and so far we have not heard much that is clear from the Government. I say that with respect to them, because I cannot see where the logic is in this. It is interesting to remember what the Prime Minister has said in the past, which is that England must never be “overruled” again. If he wants EVEL to pass, surely the same principles must be extended to each constituent part of the UK. If Westminster is legislating on a reserved matter for just one part of the UK—be it Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland—why should the MPs from those corners of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland not have exactly the same veto rights that my English colleagues will have under English votes for English laws? I know that the Conservatives, who form the biggest party here, might try to argue that the English should have more say, but creating a two or a three-tier Parliament will not improve our constitution, and that

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is the underlying fact of it all. It will cause more harm than good. I remind Members of the oft-quoted phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That is how I see it. I see something that is okay.

One colleague said that, last year, 14 pieces of legislation affected English MPs only, but that other Members in the House had a chance to participate in them. Those laws still went through, so I do not understand why we need to push through this change. Clearly, there was not an issue in the last year of the previous Parliament.

I have sat on a number of Bill Committees that have considered matters relating to health. I sat with the Opposition and voted along with them on—I suspect—every one of the amendments that they tabled. About 10 or 12 clauses were applicable to Northern Ireland. Some Bills had more such clauses than others, but we still voted on all the issues because we felt that we had to protect those in Northern Ireland. Again, I say that we need to consider the full implications of this matter.

May I now transport the Members who are still in the Chamber to another great place—I say that with tongue in cheek—the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We are neither members of the eurozone—thank the Lord for that—nor adherents to the Schengen agreement. If members of the eurozone had to pay out £1 billion to help bail out Greece, there would have been implications. Do Members who support the proposed EVEL Standing Orders think that the European Parliament should be entitled to change its Standing Orders so that UK MEPs can no longer vote on things to do with Schengen or the euro, because that is exactly the same principle at work? I ask Eurosceptics on the Government Benches whether they have fully considered their anti-European stance, with which I agree in many cases. There again we have those double standards. They think they can take that stance on Europe and not worry about it. We cannot have one rule for one, and something entirely different for another. That is simply not fair, and yet we try to base our society on that principle. We often boast that we in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are great promoters of fair play.

Most fundamentally and most concerning is that English votes for English laws gives English MPs a veto over English matters that the devolution settlement gives to neither the devolved bodies nor to the non-English MPs in their respective parts of the country. In other words, EVEL will allow English MPs to stop things happening in England in a way that MPs from the other regions of the UK cannot in their parts of the country. Parliament remains supreme over all three devolved bodies—and rightly so—but that inescapably means that English Members—all 85% of them in this place—remain supreme. They can tell us what to do in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They can tell Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff what they can do, but we will no longer be able to add our voices to what they can do in England. That is the theme. What is good for the goose is good for the gander—either we are all in it together or we are not. It really is as simple as that. As the Prime Minister has reminded us so many times before, we really are better together.

I speak as a proud Unionist of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I implore everyone in this House to consider the implications of this proposal

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and to stall and change English votes for English laws. What we have seen tonight—the division and the adversarial opinions and attitudes—suggests that EVEL will be disastrous for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

8.14 pm

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to speak on what is perhaps the most important democratic issue facing this House, the United Kingdom and this generation. The concept of English votes for English laws is, on the surface, uncontroversial, but what is proposed is English votes for English laws and English votes for Scottish laws—and English votes for Scottish lords. We will take no lessons from Government Members on a democratic deficit.

The debate last week showed that these shambolic proposals have not been thought through; they have been worked out on the back of an envelope. The answer to English votes for English laws is an English Parliament. There can be no democratic shortcuts. The proposals initially drawn up by the Government simply do not stand up to scrutiny, which makes it all the more important that proper scrutiny is undertaken.

According to the Library, of the approximately 3,800 Divisions between 26 June 2001 and 26 March 2015, only 0.7% would have concluded differently had the votes of Scottish MPs been discounted. One must then ask what is the reason for the urgency, for the indecent haste behind the move, even taking into account the pause until September.

The UK Government have published a list of 20 Bills passed in the previous Parliament that they said did not apply to Scotland. However, after careful analysis by the First Minister of Scotland, 13 of them were found to be relevant to Scotland. That is why her request for talks on English votes for English laws must be treated with respect.

We in the SNP quarter of the House are deeply concerned about what can only be described, and what can only appear, as an abuse of process behind the move. To implement such a profound and divisive measure, rushed through with the aforementioned indecent haste, and without proper scrutiny, by suspending the Standing Orders of the House, closing down debate via an English Grand Committee—incidentally, it will have powers that a Scottish Grand Committee does not have—and with the use of iPads for a separate layer of voting, would all be laughable were it not so serious and if it did not fly in the face of the democratic procedures we all hold so dear.

Martin John Docherty: Has my hon. Friend noted the lack of attendance on the Government Benches, despite the seriousness of the matter before us? If English votes for English laws were so important to Government Members, those Benches would be full.

Patricia Gibson: I heartily concur with my hon. Friend. I hope that people in Scotland watching the debate on the Parliament channel will draw the inevitable conclusion.

Let us be clear that changes to Standing Orders almost always go through Committee scrutiny first, usually in the Procedure Committee. My right hon.

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Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) has noted in a point of order that were such changes to be made without scrutiny,

“any majority Government could change Standing Orders to restrict the voting rights of any Member without so much as a by-your-leave.”—[Official Report, 27 May 2015; Vol. 596, c. 65.]

Mr Speaker, who was in the Chair at the time, replied that it was “an extremely important point”.

Let me give some more context. We know that changes to Scotland’s block grant are made in line with UK spending changes on the basis of population percentages. The funding policy states that

“the system of devolved finance is subject to overall UK macroeconomic and fiscal policy.”

The system of devolved finance is, in fact, fully contingent on English finance. It is also a one-way street; Scottish Bills do not affect England, but English Bills may very well affect Scotland. Government Members have consistently refused to recognise that throughout this debate.

The former Member for Richmond (Yorks), William Hague, acknowledged as much when he said:

“we recognise that the level of spending on health and local government in England is a legitimate matter for all MPs, as there are consequential effects on spending for the rest of the UK”.

The McKay commission pointed out that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 largely applied to England but had appreciable effects on commitments to public spending in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, even though health and social care is a devolved matter. It concluded:

“Any reforms undertaken to respond to English concerns must therefore be mindful of possible impacts outside England and seek to mitigate such impacts.”

In addition to Barnett consequentials, other, more general financial consequences can arise. For instance, if earned income was redefined, Scottish income tax revenues would be affected. There is a perennial question that I have not heard any Conservative Member answer: we still cannot get a logical definition of what qualifies as an England-only or an England and Wales-only Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) was told in response to a letter to the Leader of the House that the Scotland Bill would qualify as an England-only Bill. That demonstrates how ludicrous this whole debate is. How insulting to Scotland is that?

Dr Thérèse Coffey: The hon. Lady will recognise that the Government realised there was a problem with that and it has been corrected. I believe that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) has a letter to that effect.

Patricia Gibson: I thank the hon. Lady, but that merely demonstrates the indecent haste with which this whole enterprise has been cobbled together.

Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): My hon. Friend will also recall that in the previous list of Bills, it was discovered that some of them, as well as applying to Scotland, needed a legislative consent motion, yet they were still being put forward as England-only Bills.

Patricia Gibson: Again, that highlights the indecent haste involved in this proposal. The back-of-a-fag-packet calculation with which it has been presented to the

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House is an insult to Scotland and to every nation in this family of nations with devolved Parliaments. Who would decide what was an England-only or an England and Wales-only Bill? It seems, as we have heard, that ultimately the Speaker—in secret and with no accountability—will decide.

Mark Durkan: Paragraph 6 of Standing Order 83J says that in making that decision

“the Speaker shall treat any clause or schedule whose only effects are minor or consequential effects”—

not minor, consequential effects but minor or consequential effects—

“outside the area in question as relating exclusively to that area.”

So as long as it has consequences, big or small, the Speaker has to rule it out.

Patricia Gibson: The hon. Gentleman takes the words out of my mouth, because I was about to say that the only criteria that will be applied will exclude the consideration of “minor or consequential effects” on other parts of the UK.

If English votes for English laws are the answer, I beg to know what is the question. What question are the Government really trying to answer with proposals that clearly do not stack up? Is it, “How do we keep the pesky Scots in their place?” Are they saying, “We are so fed up with Scotland we want to drive them out of the Union.”? If so, they are doing an excellent job. People in Scotland are, by turns, angry and bewildered about this measure. What happened to love-bombing the Scots? What happened to our status as a valued and equal partner? What happened to the mantra, “Scots should be leading the UK, not leaving the UK”? That was my favourite. Even Scots who are loyal to and value this Union are now questioning the Conservatives’ commitment to preserving it.

Let us not forget the hypocrisy we are witnessing. While EVEL is being pursued, we are in the absurd situation that every amendment tabled by Scottish MPs to strengthen the Scotland Bill has been voted down by the Tories, with their one MP out of 59 MPs. If the Government press ahead with this anti-democratic move and seek to make second-class MPs of those who represent Scottish constituencies, it will only convince even more Scots that the place of Scotland in this Union is simply not valued. It will convince even more Scots that those elected to speak for them are treated with contempt and dismissed as unimportant. Be prepared for a backlash from Scotland: the people of Scotland will simply not tolerate this riding roughshod over their democratic rights. I urge the Government and I urge the House to think, think and think again.

8.25 pm

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP): I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on English votes for English laws, which—purely in the interests of brevity rather than hilarity—I will refer to throughout as EVEL.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not oppose the devolution of decisions that affect only the people of England and their elected representatives, provided the people of England wish such a power to be devolved. However, what is being proposed is exclusion

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rather than devolution. It is totally and entirely different from the Scottish situation. Rather than devolving power from this place to another legislative body—I would be happy to support that—the voices of Scottish MPs will be excluded on certain issues. That is likely to draw criticism not just from those in Scotland and Wales, whose MPs are disfranchised by this EVEL proposal, but by progressive individuals living in England who are delighted that this Parliament finally has a voice expressing their opinions.

In May, I was elected to the UK Parliament as an MP. As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), who is no longer in his place, I was elected in exactly the same way as MPs who represent English constituencies. In fact, I was elected with a larger share of the vote than 80% of English MPs. In this House, however, it is not the percentage of votes one receives that determines our place; it is the nation in which those votes were cast. This House prides itself on its democratic history, including the principle that however many votes a Member receives or whichever nation they represent, our vote counts the same as that of all the others when we troop through the Lobby. EVEL means that this will no longer be the case.

As an aside, I want to point out the lack of consistency in these EVEL proposals. As hon. Members have already said, during the last parliamentary Session one Bill was classed as Scotland-only. There appears to be no proposal to create a similar change in the rules to allow Scottish MPs to have a veto over legislation that does not concern or affect other parts of the UK but is reserved to this House. It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened to amendments to the Scotland Bill if a double majority had been required.

This major constitutional change is being made by amending the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. It is not a change in legislation: the UK Government propose simply to change the rules on debates and processes in the Chamber. As has been mentioned, these have been called back-of-the-fag-packet calculations. In fact, I think the sentence about “minor or consequential” points is justly badly drafted. The point relates to something else entirely—whether something is English or English and Welsh-only—but it is difficult to tell what it is supposed to mean. I would appreciate it if the Leader of the House looked at that sentence.

Thankfully, the Government have to a certain extent taken some Opposition concerns into account—in particular, about the haste of the process—and I hope that at least one Select Committee will be able to scrutinise the proposals before our next debate on this matter.

From the majority of the speeches of Conservative Members, we can see that there is a fundamental lack of understanding about the devolution settlement in Scotland and the ability of Westminster to influence our budgets. There is no recognition from the majority of Conservatives that decisions taken in England for England have a consequential effect on the people of Scotland and the budgets of the Holyrood Parliament.

The clarification that the estimates procedure will be exempted from EVEL is welcome, but it does not go far enough. In fact, it is probably smoke and mirrors. It is right that Scottish MPs should be able to vote on

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matters that have an impact on the Scottish Parliament’s budget. There is no opportunity to amend proposals during the estimates process—only an opportunity to vote for or against them—so Scottish MPs must have a say during initial decisions on legislation that will have a knock-on impact on overall departmental budgets and therefore a consequential impact on the Scottish budget.

Mr Grieve: I understand the point that the hon. Lady is making, but her argument is effectively that everything we debate here is relevant. The problem is that it is also the case that everything debated in the Scottish Parliament is relevant. The differentials in tuition fees and the different approaches to criminal justice are relevant, yet we do not have the opportunity to have any input. She has to bear it in mind that it is the reality of the United Kingdom that virtually every decision taken in each of the Parliaments and Assemblies around the country has a knock-on effect outside the immediate borders of that nation.

Kirsty Blackman: The way that the financial settlement works means that what happens in this place has a knock-on impact on how much the Scottish Parliament has to spend, but what happens in the Scottish Parliament does not have a knock-on impact on how much the Government have to spend in this place.

If, for example, the UK Government decided to pass legislation to privatise vast swathes of the NHS, which I am sure they would not do, the overall departmental spend for health would be reduced during the estimates process. However, the legislation that privatised the NHS would be considered under EVEL and there would be an EVEL veto. The resulting estimates, which the Leader of the House has confirmed cannot be amended, are generally not debated at length. That matter would be hugely relevant to Scottish MPs and the Scottish people. It would not just be a minor or tiny consequential thing, but would have a massive impact on the Scottish budget. It would therefore be very relevant and we must be included. That is one of the problems with the proposal.

Chris Grayling: With due respect to the hon. Lady, I remind her that were such a Bill to exist—and it certainly will not under this Government—it would have a money resolution that she would be able to vote on. Can she name a single measure on which she would be excluded from a vote to decide whether it should become law?

Kirsty Blackman: The point is that we could be excluded. The Government are trying to write it into the Standing Orders that we can be excluded from such things.

Chris Grayling: No, we are not.

Kirsty Blackman: Well, if there had been more clarity on how these proposals would work and more discussion in advance of their being made—

Chris Grayling rose—

Kirsty Blackman: I give way to the Leader of the House once more.

Chris Grayling: I think it might be helpful to say again that not a single Bill will pass through this Parliament under these proposals on which the hon. Lady and her colleagues will be excluded from voting.

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Kirsty Blackman: By the nature of this place, we will have a succession of Governments in future years who could put forward any legislation that they like, and Scottish MPs could be excluded from it.

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh: Is it not the case that the proposals would allow MPs from Scottish constituencies to agree increases to the Scottish budget, but not to amend proposals that would lead to cuts in the Scottish budget?

Kirsty Blackman: That is the case. As I say, the proposals are badly thought out.

As has been said, because the decisions about which matters are EVEL will be made by the Speaker, there will be no possibility of legal challenge. Therefore, Scotland is being disfranchised and excluded from the possibility of proper recourse. Some Government Members have professed the view that the reduction of legal scrutiny is a good thing. I do not think it is, and I very much doubt that my constituents would think so. The job of the Speaker in this matter will be highly technical, complicated and time consuming. I understand that at various stages in the process, the Speaker will be required to certify whether proposed legislation is to be considered under EVEL. The Speaker will, in fact, have to certify individual amendments throughout the process. Is that a good use of the Speaker’s time?

The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) raised an issue to do with the Committee stage. If an issue is certified as EVEL by the Speaker, it will be subject to a Committee stage. The Committee will be composed of only English MPs, with the parties being represented in proportion to their relative numbers in this place. The Leader of the House gave the example of bus ticketing. What will happen if bus ticketing is discussed in Committee and an amendment is tabled saying that the proposals should apply to buses in Aberdeen? During the Committee stage, those of us who have been excluded from the process are not able to come in. If, at Committee stage, an amendment is introduced that widens the range of the Bill and the places it applies to—I use bus ticketing as an example—those of us who have been excluded from the Committee stage cannot be brought back in until the next stage of the discussion.

As Scottish MPs with a legitimate, clear and real interest in the amendment, in my example, we would not be able to debate the amendment as it proceeded through Committee. In the proposed Standing Orders there is no requirement for consultation with the Scottish Parliament or even with the Clerks of the Scottish Parliament. In the case of the Sewel convention, there is discussion with the Scottish Parliament. In the case of money resolutions, which require certification by the Speaker, there is a lengthy guidance note for the Speaker. There does not seem to be any provision for that in the example that I used.

As much as I respect the Speaker, the office of Speaker and the Clerks in this place, it is clear that people in the Scottish Parliament and the Clerks there would be more knowledgeable about the effects on the Scottish people than those who are here. The hon. Member for Wrexham made the same point in relation to Wales. These are major concerns. We need to ensure that there is proper scrutiny of and consultation on the proposals before the Speaker certifies them.

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If, as the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), among others, says, people in his constituency voted for EVEL in the form that has been laid before us today, why did it occupy a third of a page on page 70 of the Conservative manifesto, instead of being up front and centre stage?

Despite our asking numerous questions in advance of the announcement by the Leader of the House, we were not provided with any satisfactory answers. If, as seems to be the case, attempts are being made to rewrite the record to tell us that the proposals were public knowledge and everybody knew about them, and the constituents of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire voted for him on the basis of this knowledge, why were responses not provided to us when we asked how the process would work? I do not understand.

It is clear that this EVEL proposal completely fails to answer the West Lothian question and, in fact, causes more confusion. My favoured resolution would be for Scotland to be independent, but in the absence of independence, the UK Government need to produce a proposal in legislation rather than in the Standing Orders of this House, thus allowing for proper accountability and scrutiny.

As a number of people have said, this EVEL proposal advances the cause of nationalism and increases the appetite for independence among my constituents and the people of Scotland. None the less, I stand in opposition to the proposals, as it is wrong to remove the ability of Scottish Members to play a full part in this House on matters that have an impact on the lives of my constituents and of people across Scotland.

8.38 pm

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): The debate has been divisive and fractious. Before I fracture the House further, I want to praise the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) for two reasons. First, I suspect there are few in this House who, during a fractious and divisive debate, could incorporate karaoke, Ant and Dec, and King Louie from “The Jungle Book” in his speech. Secondly, he recognised, in fairness to the Leader of the House, that there are aspects of the proposal that might have merit, and that parts of the changes to Standing Orders could prove fruitful for the administration of this House. But the way in which this debate has been conducted will do nothing to convince those of us on the Unionist Benches that there is something in it for us.

Considering the focus and some of the less than parliamentary exchanges from the Government Benches to the Opposition Benches, one would think it was all about the Scottish National party. But when SNP Members speak out against the proposals and we too have concerns and everyone I have heard from the Labour Benches has concerns, somebody within the Government ranks needs to sit back and think, “Hang on a second. This is not something that is just irking 56 folk from the north. This should be considered properly and fully.” I acknowledge that we have delayed, and we have had another debate today, which was useful. I urge the Leader of the House to consider that such a fundamental change to the operation of this Parliament will require more than a change to the Standing Orders. I hope that whenever such issues are raised, he will take the opportunity to respond thoughtfully, either now or when he has his chance at the end of the debate.

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I have heard continually this afternoon and evening that there is no such thing as two tiers of MP, but currently there is. Four Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland continue to use the Palace of Westminster and its offices. They draw moneys from it, yet they refuse to come to the Chamber and debate the issues of the day. When the Conservative party put in its 2010 manifesto that it would bring the issue of two tiers of MPs to an end, we were grateful. After the election, it blamed the Liberals for being unable to deliver on its manifesto commitment, but that is a clear example of having two tiers of MP elected to this House. If the Government want to convince us that they are not interested in maintaining such a position, they should bring that arrangement to an end.

We need an equilibrium across the Chamber that means that one man equals one vote, but that should not include someone elected to this place who refuses to take their seat yet takes all the money and benefits of representation, and the support that people have given them. If the Government can create such an equilibrium they will convince me and my colleagues that they are interested in not having two tiers of MP. There currently are two tiers, however, and the Government allow that to continue.

I hope that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, as well as Mr Speaker, Mr Hoyle and Ms Engel, are reassured that many people in this debate are concerned about you and about the position in which the office of Speaker will be placed. That is a genuine concern. I have heard some Members say that no Member of the House will have an opportunity to give their view about whether, under the proposals, a matter should be certified. Will the Leader of the House outline whether that is the case? If a piece of legislation or statutory instrument goes to the Speaker for certification, will the Government mark it as something likely to be considered under the Standing Orders of EVEL? Will there be a mark, conversation or indication that the Government believe that a certain piece of legislation is for English-only votes and that the Speaker should consider it in that way, or will there be no indication at all? I suspect the former position and that the Government will indicate that the Speaker will be requested to certify a piece of legislation. If that is correct, it is appropriate for other Members of the House to be given the opportunity to challenge that position.

In an earlier intervention I asked the Leader of the House what the situation would be for Members who will benefit from the breadth and depth of experience and understanding across the Chamber, and what involvement they would have in Committee. There was no response, but I was grateful to learn subsequently—about two hours later in an exchange with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart)—that Members will be able to attend Committee but not vote on those issues. I am clear that such serious constitutional change requires a constitutional convention, but I must say that I was disappointed by a range of comments from across the Chamber today.

Alex Salmond: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Gavin Robinson: I might be disappointed by this comment too—we will see.

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Alex Salmond: Not in the slightest. I find the comments made earlier by the Leader of the House difficult to reconcile with the document produced yesterday. I will not go into the detail of the document, because it will take forever, but at one point, under the title, “How will it work for Bills?”, it states:

“Any bills that the Speaker has certified as England-only in their entirety will be considered by only English MPs at Committee Stage.”

It does not sound to me like the hon. Gentleman will be invited to consider it with them.

Gavin Robinson: That is exactly why I have asked the Leader of the House to explain the situation. He is welcome to resolve it now if he wants, or he could do so later.

Chris Grayling: I reiterate that the rules that apply to every Committee of this House as regards who can participate and who cannot, and when Members can turn up and take part and when they cannot, will not change.

Gavin Robinson: I must say that I was disappointed by some of the exchanges, particularly those involving the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart)—I am sorry that he is not here to hear me say this, because I would like to say it to him and perhaps to benefit from some interventions from him—and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa).

I heard the hon. Member for South Leicestershire try to convince the House that this was a burning issue on the doorsteps. I will take the enthusiasm of his position at face value, but I am a little miffed if English votes for English laws was the biggest issue raised during a parliamentary election. The hon. Gentleman also said that there was no appetite for an English Parliament in those discussions. I must say that he spent an awful long time talking about these complex constitutional issues at individual doors; I think he might have canvassed about four homes over the course of the parliamentary election period. If it is true that there is no appetite for an English Parliament among English voters, it is also true that there is no need for this change to Standing Orders.

In my view, the Conservative Government are pushing forward with a proposal that they thought they would need to rely on in either a minority Government or a coalition Government. England makes up 85% of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We have heard that. The Government say that the people of England were asking for this at the election, but the people of England got the Government they wanted while the people of the United Kingdom did not. Nobody across the United Kingdom had the opportunity to consider this issue. Other areas of the United Kingdom, whether that means Scotland, Wales or my home of Northern Ireland, did not express a view that they wanted this from their Government.

The measure is not needed. With 85% of this United Kingdom in England, their votes are already here. When we consider this issue over the course of history since the second world war, we realise that only once in 1964 and for a couple of years from 1974 would it ever have been an issue. It is not. The Government are proposing a solution for a problem that I do not believe they are faced with. In doing so, they are creating not

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just many more issues and problems in this House but more opportunities for those who do not believe that we are all in it together.

Mr Grieve: I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has to say. I can see that he can make an argument against the change to Standing Orders. As I said in my own speech, I can see why that might be troubling. However, the background issue of how we organise ourselves within the United Kingdom and the structures we should have that respect the individual component parts and do justice to English identity is not going away, and I do not think that it is artificial.

Gavin Robinson: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention. I was impressed and encouraged by some of the remarks that were made.

I started my speech this evening by asking the Leader of the House to convince me that I should not be fearful of this proposal, to show me that he does not believe in two tiers of MPs by removing the second tier that we already have, and to go some way to convince me as a Northern Ireland Unionist that if votes come up that are reserved because of particular Northern Ireland issues—parading was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson)—Northern Ireland will be able to have its own say. That could be an extension of the principle, but it is the same principle. If the Government were prepared to give me the same opportunity that they are seeking for themselves, I might be prepared to consider the issue further.

Scotland’s representatives will make exactly the same request: will there be Scottish votes for Scottish laws that are reserved to this House? The London Assembly has also been mentioned. Non-London MPs have the opportunity to vote on London issues, but London MPs cannot vote on issues that have been devolved to the administrative Assembly. Where does the principle end? I would like a response to those issues.

Mark Durkan: The one bit of reassurance that the hon. Gentleman has been offered by the Leader of the House relates to participation in Committee stage. However, if we look at the Heath Robinson model that accompanies the proposals, we will see that, in a little box and marked with an asterisk, it says:

“England-only Committee stage for England-only bills”,

which is contrary to the assurance given by the Leader of the House.

Gavin Robinson: I realise that I am pushing on for time, but I would be happy to allow the Leader of the House to intervene yet again, should he wish to clarify that issue, because as the debate trundles along, concerns continue to rise.

Chris Grayling: I reiterate that this House’s Committee arrangements enable Members who are not formally part of a Committee none the less to participate in its proceedings. There is no change.

Gavin Robinson: I am sure the Leader of the House will take the opportunity to withdraw the paper that has been made available to us by the Cabinet Office, amend it, remove the proscription that the consideration stage

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will be for English Members only, and indicate clearly and explicitly that all Members will have the opportunity to engage.

Chris Grayling: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is new to this House, but if a Member is not formally a voting member of a Committee there are plenty of opportunities to participate in its proceedings. That will not change. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) intervenes from a sedentary position. The reason the paper does not say there is a change to the Standing Orders is that the situation will not change.

Gavin Robinson: I will not take any further interventions. Yes, I am a new Member of this House, but I can read a document quite clearly. Having indicated to the Leader of the House that I am prepared to be convinced on this issue, I must say that he will not succeed with condescension. I do not have much more to say, only to maintain my position that if I get the reasonable responses and assurances I seek, if the current two-tier MP system is removed, and if Government Members are prepared to work with those of us who have genuine concerns, I am happy to work with them, but that sort of condescension will not help.

8.52 pm

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP): The proposal under discussion represents the worst of all worlds for Scotland and it leaves my constituents disadvantaged in this House. I cannot properly represent my constituents’ interests here if I cannot debate and vote on all the issues that affect the funding available to the Scottish Government through the block grant.

These hastily revised proposals are half-baked at best. Although the Leader of the House now recognises the fundamental flaw in last week’s proposals and has now accepted that spending on English issues has a knock-on impact on the Scottish budget, this week’s plan still fails to address the central issue. If Bills in this House are going to have an impact on the Scottish budget, MPs from Scotland should be fully involved in their passage through this House. The proposals introduced by the Leader of the House do not fully address that point and he needs to think again once more.

In the days before the referendum the Prime Minister called the UK a “family of nations”, but surely all family members should be represented around the table when decisions are being made. What his Government are proposing is that Scotland should have a pocket-money Parliament, where MPs from England and Wales decide on Scotland’s budget by proxy, with MPs on this side of the House locked out of the process.

As my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) has said, at the same time as the Government are introducing this fundamentally flawed scheme, MPs representing constituencies outside Scotland have voted against each and every amendment proposed by MPs from Scotland to the Scotland Bill. Oh, the irony!

This House will remember that previous Tory Governments have spoken of the need to get back to basics. This Government need to remember the three R’s: recognise the result of the general election in Scotland; respect the views of the people of Scotland

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who sent 56 MPs here with a clear mandate for change; and reconsider the ridiculous position we now find ourselves in.

If the people of England want their own Parliament, those MPs from English constituencies should bring forward proposals to establish one. The measures we have before us, however, are to change the rules of the UK Parliament to give Members from English constituencies greater powers over Scotland’s budget than MPs from Scotland. This is not the greatest democracy in the world that the Prime Minister described in his speech before the independence referendum last year; it is barely democratic at all.

Will the Leader of the House give the House one single example of a national Parliament in which some Members are debarred from voting on issues that have a financial impact on their constituents? I support English democracy, as I support Scottish democracy, but you cannot instil one by undermining the other, and that is what is happening here. If MPs from England want similar responsibility over matters in England, as Members of the Scottish Parliament have over matters in Scotland, that is their right, but to get to that position, we should adopt a similar process.

The development of Scottish devolution involved a national debate, followed by a White Paper published by the UK Government. The people of Scotland voted on the issue in a referendum and the Government proceeded with legislation, subject to full parliamentary scrutiny before agreeing that legislation. The Parliament was established and a cross-party group was formed to agree proposals for the operation of that Parliament. It is not everything I want for the Scottish Parliament, but this process was fair. The Government should bring forward a Bill on these matters for this House to consider. We must be allowed to debate and vote on these issues in a proper and democratic manner. In contrast, the Tory Government are just making it up as they go along and it shows, Madam Deputy Speaker, it shows.

As things stand, the Government are attempting to rewrite the UK’s constitution in a matter of months through amending the Standing Orders of this House. The Government are even attempting to circumvent scrutiny by failing to live up to their manifesto promise to consult the House of Commons Procedure Committee prior to seeking approval from the whole House to the proposed Standing Order changes. The Leader of the House brought forward his proposal only a couple of weeks ago and already we have seen emergency statements, followed by redrafted proposals and hastily redrawn parliamentary timetables. He is not leading the House; he is being dragged along in its wake. Perhaps the Leader of the House was expecting the same type of feeble Opposition offered by our Scottish predecessors. Well, times have changed. No Minister, no Government can take Scotland for granted anymore.

When he was first elected, the Prime Minster said that he wanted to instigate an agenda of respect between different parts of the UK. He said:

“This agenda is about parliaments working together, of governing with respect, both because I believe Scotland deserves that respect and because I want to try and win Scotland's respect as the prime minister of the United Kingdom.”

If only these plans embodied the respect that those words envisaged. They most certainly do not.

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Just as the Secretary of State for Scotland, at Scottish questions this morning, appeared to confirm the answer to every single question he was asked in relation to the Scotland Bill by saying he was entering a period of mass reflection, I ask the Leader of the House, in respect of English votes for English laws, to follow suit. I know it has been a difficult few weeks for the Government—a very difficult few weeks—so I suggest he uses the recess to reflect and come back with amended proposals for this House.

8.58 pm

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): I want to just make a couple of brief points on the notion of EVEL, particularly in relation to gambling and other issues that highlight the fallibilities of the concept the Government are bringing forward.

Gambling is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, but it is not a devolved matter in Scotland, and even under the Scotland Bill it will be only somewhat devolved. At the minute, Great British Members vote on gambling issues, but Northern Ireland has its separate devolved responsibilities at Stormont. How will that fit with EVEL? How will we devise a system in which the Scots, English and Welsh vote on matters reserved for Northern Ireland? This is a dog’s breakfast. There is nothing in the proposals about how matters solely devolved to Northern Ireland, such as gambling, will be dealt with in the House.

Jim Shannon: A short time ago, certain legislative proposals on gambling passed through here that had some impact on Northern Ireland. I tabled an amendment that the Labour party supported, but which the Conservatives voted against. It went to the House of Lords, however, and came back amended in the way we wanted. Those proposals affected Northern Ireland, but were passed in this place, so there is some legislation passed here that affects Northern Ireland.

Graham Jones: I appreciate the detail that the hon. Gentleman brings to the debate. For Northern Ireland, some matters relating to gambling and other issues are reserved and others are devolved. That is also the case in Scotland. He has highlighted the fact that it is not even as simple as I have suggested. We have a Great Britain situation and a Northern Ireland situation that both seem unresolved. As he suggested, elements of gambling are devolved and elements are reserved. How will that affect voting in this place? How will it affect the parliamentary system? In Scotland, this is a reserved UK matter, so its Members are entitled to vote on these issues.

Where are Great British votes for Great British laws? That is a part of all this. It is ridiculous, it is a dog’s breakfast. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) has pointed out, we cannot even have Great British votes for Great British laws, because some elements of gambling are devolved to Northern Ireland and others are not. I use the example of gambling, but there are many other examples. What assessment have the Government made of areas that are solely devolved to Northern Ireland and areas that are partially devolved, and how will that fit with this proposal? It is absolute nonsense.

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We are going to be sat in here not knowing who can vote on what. We are going to have English-only Committees. Are the Northern Irish MPs going to be allowed in? The Government do not seem to know what they are doing. How will this work with ping-pong when proposals come back from the Lords and we have to have a double majority? Will these wonderful iPads in the Lobby have a double majority function for Northern Ireland, so that they have one vote, but the Scottish MPs can vote twice? Is that how it works? This is really a mess.

What about the Smith commission proposals and the Government’s proposals in the Scotland Bill? We now plan to partially devolve to Scotland some of the gambling matters that are currently reserved, such as fixed odds betting terminals—it is an issue that I am interested in and is what alerted me to this matter. What happens when, following the Scotland Bill, we pack off some of the devolved responsibilities on gambling to Scotland and then bring some legislative proposals on gambling before the House? How will it work, when Northern Irish MPs do not know whether they are voting on some of the gambling elements, or whether they should have a double majority, or whether they should not be on the Committee, or whether they should be on the Committee, and when there is no procedure for setting up the Committee?

Then we have the Scots over there on their Benches. Some matters have been devolved to Scotland, but some matters are reserved. We have Scots who should be on the Committee, but should not be on the Committee, and who should be voting, but should not be voting. Then we have the Irish. This is a complete and utter shambles, and I do not think the Government have an answer. There is nothing in the literature to show what would happen where some matters are reserved for Northern Ireland and others are partially reserved for Northern Ireland, which makes it even more complicated. How is this going to work?

As we devolve more downstream to Scotland, or whichever way to Northern Ireland, we will just be faced with a plethora of problems. Will someone please explain to me how this will work with gambling legislation and where we are going to end up? Why have we not had Great British votes for Great British legislation? Why has this not been mentioned? We do have a Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and some matters are Great British and some have been devolved to Northern Ireland. I ask the Leader of the House once again what assessment he has made of legislation that is devolved, or partially devolved, to Northern Ireland and of how it will impact on the decisions and processes in this place? What will be the impact after the Scotland Bill on, for example, the issue of gambling, when some of the gambling responsibilities that are currently reserved are devolved up to Edinburgh? It is a real mess.

What happens when we get to an English-only Committee and somebody—clearly an English MP—tables an amendment that has Barnett consequentials? What happens when Scottish, Irish or Welsh MPs cannot speak on a matter that has Barnett consequentials? It is absolutely ridiculous; it is farcical. Those people will not be able to speak for themselves; they cannot turn up to the Public Bill Committee and speak because that is not within the procedures of this House.