Mr Redwood’s speech during the debate on Devolution (Scotland Referendum), 14 October 2014

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The three leaders of the main parties made generous offers to Scotland. I am sure that they wish to honour those offers, and I urge them to do so as quickly as possible. It would be easier if they could try to find some agreement among themselves, because, unfortunately, their offers were a bit different. I also urge them to be generous. I think we want to have the right spirit for this negotiation, and I disagree with the former Prime Minister: I think that Scotland should have full powers over income tax, and I think that the more fiscal devolution there is, the better. I think it makes a lot of sense for whoever is responsible for spending the money to be responsible for raising it as well.

However, I have also raised the question of England. I have spoken for England, and since I launched my “Speak for England” campaign, I have been overwhelmed with support from around the country. More than 70% of the English people believe that we need English votes on English issues, and they believe that we need them now. That would be a first important step on the road to justice for England.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: he has been totally consistent. I actually used him as an example as I went around the meeting places of Scotland saying, “This is the real mood of the Tory Back Benches.” I was told that he was a siren voice—that he was in the wilderness—but he is actually the voice of the Tory Back Benches.

Mr Redwood: My voice is central to this debate because that is what the English people wish. I am merely trying to interpret their wishes, and I am proud to be able to do so.

We are told by some that this is too difficult to do. It is not too difficult to do. It is very easy to define an English issue: it is an issue that has been devolved elsewhere. What it makes sense for Scotland to decide in Scotland, England should decide in England. We are told that there are complications involving different types of MP, but we have different types of MP today. We all have different rights, duties and responsibilities, depending on how much has been devolved. Some of us can deal with all the issues in our constituencies, but we have the advice and the votes of others from other parts of the country who cannot deal with all the issues in their constituencies because those issues have been devolved.

What I am concerned about is equality for the voters. We are now talking about offering income tax powers to Scotland, which I think will happen, because all the parties agree with a version of it. It would be grossly unfair if the voters of Scotland, by their majority, could instruct their Scottish Parliament on what income tax rate they wanted, while the voters of England, instructing their MPs, might not get their wishes by a majority, because Members from other parts of the country might come and vote for a higher rate in England than English MPs or their constituencies wanted. It would be unfair votes, and that is what we need to address.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): rose—

Mr Redwood: Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith) has only just walked into the Chamber, and I do not want to embarrass him.

Mr Redwood: I say that we need justice for England, and that we need to embark on this course now. We could begin today if Scottish Members of Parliament such as those in the SNP would simply say that they would no longer vote on English-only matters. We could do it quite simply by amending the Standing Orders of the House, which I strongly recommend.

I hope that other parties will come with us. I am offering something that is extraordinarily popular in England. All the parties are struggling a bit to be popular enough to win the general election, and one would have thought that they would want to associate themselves with something as popular as this. I cannot remember when I last supported something this popular, and I do not go out of my way to support unpopular causes. Yet I find MPs from other parties queuing up to disagree with the English people, to deny the English people justice, to say that an English person’s vote should not count as much as a Scottish person’s vote, and to say that, yes, they want to see an income tax rate set for England by people who will not be paying the tax, and who do not represent those who do pay it.

I say, “Justice for England! Justice now! English votes for English issues!”

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8 Comments

  1. Elliot Kane
    Posted October 15, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Thanks for doing this, John. You really are speaking for England in all of this, and hopefully you will prevail. Indeed, in the name of fairness to all, you MUST prevail.

    Good luck. For all our sakes.

  2. Horatio McSherry
    Posted October 15, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear!

    Your Standing Order solution is beautifully succinct; and exactly why it is being opposed by many.

    We all know why Labour do not want England-only votes in Parliament but there are others trying the murkier tac of introducing to the argument new parliaments, new levels of bureaucracy, new procedures, in an attempt to scare their voters as if it were a pantomime.

    • Real Reform Now
      Posted October 17, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      We know why Labour don’t want it and we know why Conservatives do – it gives them the opportunity to impose their will on the whole of England despite being in a minority (39.6% share of the popular vote in England in 2010).

      If the Conservatives were really interested in changing things for the better, they would also be advocating changing how we elect (as has been done in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), but they (and Labour) don’t want to give up their unfair advantage under the current system.

  3. Tad Davison
    Posted October 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    You should have been on the front bench John, as yours is the most compelling argument of all and puts others in the shade. I have run it past lots of people so far, and have not heard anyone say anything against it. The measures you describe are simple to introduce, are workable, and reflect widespread public opinion, but as we have seen all too often, that isn’t how it always works. Logic, reasonableness, and practicality don’t always count for much when there’s a different agenda at play.

    I watched the entire devolution debate, and seldom have I heard such vacuous nonsense from the Labour Party – including the words of that arch exponent of the terminological inexactitude, Gordon Brown. English MPs voting on matters that concern purely English matters are unlikely to precipitate the dissolution of the United Kingdom as the former Prime Minister suggests, and he failed to give any evidence that it would. It was just Labour scaremongering. They are scared stiff that their Scottish MPs would lose influence at Westminster, but that begins from a position of inequality and isn’t democratic. It cannot be democratic when the people of one country in the union are treated differently or better than the people from another country.

    People would do well to remember that come election time, but the problem might not arise anyway if the SNP make the gains they predict and anticipate. Labour will get a drubbing North of the border.

    I would have preferred it had you been given the opportunity to speak earlier in the debate long before 6:30pm when contributions were limited to just 3 minutes. The case needs to be made as often and as comprehensively as possible for it to be fully absorbed. Given that the number of members in the chamber later on had fallen considerably, I can’t help but think the timing of your speech was deliberate and a form of chicanery. Nevertheless, we need you to keep at it, and these hurdles are just that, and not barriers.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  4. Posted October 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood is absolutely right. Do not believe the Labour lie about the people of England not caring about this issue. Do not be side-tracked by Labour’s diversion towards devolution for the Cities and Regions of England.

    First things first. English votes for English laws.

    More devolution to the Regions and Cities can follow if the people want it and the people at the more local level have the nous to deal with it (which I doubt).

  5. Posted October 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Good speech and I do believe in the sincerity of the Conservatives to deliver tax devolution. The stable door is already open and for every tax devolved is a tax sharing removed from Barnett. In deed, for England, as a net contributor to the sharing of revenue, for every tax devolved is a bonus for England and the proportional greater needs and poor that reside here. Scotland benefits hugely but does not appreciate and Holyrood dare not mention the subsidies that are lost through devolved taxation for their own personal careers.

    The horse bolted so lets have devolution and the resultant dilution of Barnett and have a care for England and it’s people. It was England that put the G in great in the first place, it is more positioned now to lead in this global environment whilst the others are putting up a socialist Hadrian wall against the changes in that insular way. Shed the millstone and prosper, enough of the appeasement, it doesn’t work.

  6. Posted October 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    As an aside I think there are lots of Labour voters incensed buy their Parties stance who may well abstain or vote UKIP. I hope the executive get behind this, it’s a political gift is it not?

  7. The PrangWizard
    Posted October 16, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Mr Redwood and for speaking so passionately. I am out in the Arizona sunshine, and not able to stay as attached as I would like, but i have been able to get this glimpse of what has been going on. To have our wishes denied would be a constitutional and democratic outrage.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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