My question this week in the House is a fundamental one for government to answer in a few days time.
If the Union survives the Scottish vote, we will immediately need the government to produce proposals to honour the three parties’ pledge (and UKIP’s) of more devolution for Scotland. As I have explained, we should not come up with proposals to strengthen devolved Scottish government, without at the same time tackling the problem of England.
Labour hopes we can just have a “Scotland” bill, giving Scotland new powers of self government. This is unacceptable. It needs to be a UK bill, giving the same powers to England – and probably to the Welsh and the Northern Irish Assemblies as well assuming their representatives want that.
It appears that one of the powers Scotland will gain is the power to set its own Income Tax rates. There is no way that we can have a situation where Scottish members of the Westminster Parliament can vote through Income tax rates for the rest of the country that do not apply to Scotland. This is a more extreme version of the West Lothian question. Only MPs for people and places paying the tax should be imposing the tax.
So my first request of the government is simple. Who, after next Thursday, in the government will represent England’s needs for devolution? Which Minister is going to be in charge of the devolution bill generally, including devolution to Scotland? England needs to know both who to lobby, and which Minister or Ministers is looking after our interests.
I and many of my Parliamentary colleagues will help the party leaders honour their promises to Scotland as long as it does so on a basis which is also fair to England.