In the Queen’s speech debate I spoke for England.
Last Wednesday amidst much pageantry and splendour the Queen opened the last session of this Parliament. In accordance with tradition she read a speech written for her by the government telling us what new laws Ministers wish Parliament to approve over the next year.
The main task in the year ahead is to take more actions to promote economic recovery. This will include measures to help the construction of more homes to meet the rising demand. The government wishes to help business find and produce more domestic energy, to help control prices. There will be a new law to tackle modern slavery and ways to enforce the payment of the minimum wage better to stop exploitation of workers. There will be a new £2000 a year childcare voucher for working parents. There will be simplifications to make it easier to set up a business and hire your first employee. Much of what needs doing does not need new laws. More jobs will come from growth, as the benefits of past economic action comes through in the form of business expansion and rising incomes.
So why then did I speak for England? Because overhanging this session of Parliament is the big question of the future of the United Kingdom. We await the Scottish decision on whether they wish to stay in the United Kingdom or not. Most UK voters want the Scots to stay. It looks likely they will vote to stay in. If they do so all three main political parties in Parliament want to offer them more devolved powers for their government in Edinburgh. This inevitably raises the question of England.
If Scotland is to have more powers to choose and raise her own taxes so should England. I do not think the tolerant English will accept more lop sided devolution. At the moment Scottish MPs can debate and vote on English health, education and criminal justice matters which they cannot settle for Scotland. We English MPs have no such rights over Scottish health or education. That causes stresses over issues like university fees and care for the elderly where the Scottish treatment is more generous to taxpayers than in England. If we were to have Scottish MPs voting taxes on England which did not apply to Scotland the sense of unfairness would get much larger.
That is why I spoke for England. I would like Scotland to stay within the UK. I think they will. I then want a fair settlement for England when Parliament turns to just how much more power Scottish politicians will have over their own affairs. My speech was broadly welcomed by colleagues present, including by the Scottish nationalists. I still have to persuade the government.