Can I, first of all thank you, your Government and the Speaker for the full day’s debate that will now take place on Tuesday to discuss ‘further devolution for Scotland’? I am sure you would agree that the half hour adjournment debate granted to the Right Honourable member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath was clearly insufficient to deal with all the issues to do with ‘the vow’ and the developments since it first appeared in the Daily Record newspaper.
Prime Minister, I am firmly of the view that it must be you that should lead this debate. You are the key signatory of ‘the vow’ and you were the first to raise the issue of English votes for English laws (EVEL) on the morning of the 19th of September, hours after the referendum result was announced. You have since hinted that the progress of EVEL should be tied to the granting of more powers to the Scottish people. This was introduced exclusively by you and was never mentioned in ‘the vow’ or in any discussion about ‘more powers’ for Scotland prior to the referendum. The people of Scotland are now under the impression that the ‘more powers’ offer is in some way conditional on the progress of EVEL. I strongly believe that you must, in the House of Commons, look the people of Scotland in the eye and say that these ‘more powers’ will be delivered without any such condition. Such is the concern, that the architect of the ‘vow’, the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, has felt it necessary to secure a 100,000 strong petition to oblige you to honour the ‘vow’; in addition, the Deputy Prime Minister fears that the plans for ‘more powers’ are being “hijacked, diluted and delayed”.
The Scottish people will not accept any dilution of ‘the vow’ or have the debate about ‘more powers’ descend in to an unseemly spat between the main UK parties. That is why it is imperative that you lead this debate, with the Leader of the Opposition replying.
Prime Minister, I know that you are passionate about what you see as the injustice of Scottish members voting on English-only legislation and you will no doubt be aware that the SNP MPs do not vote on English-only legislation that does not impact on Scotland. Can I be so brave as to suggest a way forward in securing a consensus in the House and secure parity across all legislation? That is to lead by example.
It has come to my attention that the one Conservative member from Scotland consistently votes on English-only legislation. Will you now confirm that the Honourable member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale will no longer vote on any further English only legislation so that no charge of possible hypocrisy could be levelled at you or your Government’s approach to this issue? Next week, we also have Scottish Questions. Five Conservative members have questions on the Order Paper, many more will hope to ask a question to the Secretary of State. If Scottish members are to absent themselves from English only issues will English Conservative members similarly respect that Scottish business is the exclusive preserve of Scottish members? In addition, specifically on EVEL, to be consistent there surely must be a similar process for Scottish votes for Scottish legislation. Whilst you should lead the debate next week as the key signatory of the ‘vow’, English Conservative members of Parliament must surely refrain from participating in this Scottish only debate and refrain from voting if any question is put to the House.
Prime Minister, we agree that Scottish members should refrain from voting on English-only legislation, but this should be dealt with distinctly and separately. You must come to the House and confirm that this will be the case. But please come light-handed and similarly leave Scottish business to Scottish members. That is surely the fair way forward?