Tories set out ‘English votes for English laws’ proposal

3 Feb 15

English MPs would be given a veto of over income tax rates in the Budget under plans set out by the Conservative party intended to answer the so-called West Lothian Question.

Publishing the party’s plans to implement ‘English votes for English laws’, the leader of the House of Commons William Hague said legislation and funding decisions deemed to affect only England – or England and Wales – would only be examined by those MPs at committee stage.

Under the changes, all MPs will vote at all other legislative stages, as happens currently. However, before the third reading in the House of Commons – the stage at which a bill becomes law – a grand committee made up of MPs from the areas affected will need to approve a Legislative Consent Motion. This would allow MPs to back or veto a bill, or parts of it.

The reform has been developed in response to the plans to increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament, including devolution of all income tax raised, as well as control of other levies such as Air Passenger Duty.

Hague said that once income tax was devolved, equivalent rates would require the specific consent of English MPs. This would mean that English representatives could veto rates proposed in Budgets if the party in government did not have a majority in the country.

‘Under a Conservative government, the distribution of spending within England would become an English matter.

‘We Conservatives believe that this principle of English consent, the English veto, should be extended to taxation when the equivalent decisions have been devolved to Scotland, and under a Conservative government it will be.’

This change needed to address the imbalance, which currently allows Scottish MPs to vote on policies for England and Wales that are devolved to Scotland, which would be exacerbated by more powers for Holyrood, he added.

‘How could it possibly be right for the Scottish Parliament for example, to vote for a reduction in Air Passenger Duty in Scotland and then for Scottish MPs to come to Westminster and be able to impose an increase in Air Passenger Duty in England?

‘There would therefore be an English rate of income tax, subject to the democratic approval of the representatives of England,’ he added. ‘This is a fundamental matter of fairness.’

The proposal for a grand committee was one of four put forward by the government in December to address the West Lothian Question – three by the Conservatives and one by the Liberal Democrats.

This command paper stated the grand committee system could also be used to decide the local government settlement in England, which Hague said would become an English issue.

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