Gordon Brown has changed his mind on English votes.
In the 1980 book ‘The Politics of Nationalism and Devolution’, (which he co authored with H Drucker)Gordon Brown accepted that on one of his two possible models for future devolution (and the one he favoured for Labour) Scottish MPs would be prevented from voting on English or Welsh domestic matters as the quid pro quo for devolution to Scotland of tax-raising powers.
These are the words from page 127 on the future:
“Some form of taxation power could be devolved if the price were paid. It is scandalous for the British Treasury to deny that it is capable of devolving any powers to levy tax when so many other countries do it. Most of all, a revised Scotland Act could embody some form of the ‘in-and-out’ principle. Under such a principle the remaining Scottish MPs at Westminster would not be allowed to take part in the proceedings of the House when it was debating England or Welsh domestic matters. The ‘in-and-out’ principle ought to be attractive to Conservatives since it would ensure them a semi-permanent majority on most social issues at Westminster – no small prize. Labour remains formally committed to devolution and may be expected to consider a plan along these lines in the future.”
So now we know that he and his co author once saw as a possible solution to the problem of devolution in Scotland offering some fiscal devolution. The authors saw the justice of England’s case, and saw no impediments to devolving tax raising powers to Scotland as long as there were also English votes for English issues
In my participation in debate with him on Tuesday I challenged his statement that Conservatives had not alerted the people of Scotland to the English votes issue before the referendum, and so raising it now was unreasonable. I pointed out that I deliberately raised it in Prime Minister’s Questions shortly before the Scottish vote, which got a lot of media pick up at the time. I also reminded him that English votes for English issues has been Conservative party policy since the 2001 Manifesto. We have given 15 years warning of the need to do this!
It is fascinating to discover he too had been thinking about the merits of this case in the context of fiscal devolution when he was a Politics lecturer at the Glasgow College of Technology.