Today I take my Speak for England campaign to Birmingham.
Mr Hague, acting for Mr Cameron, knows most Conservative MPs want him to find a way of delivering English votes for English issues this Parliament.
I have been overwhelmed by emails and messages of support, with very few against. The small number who disagree seek to pursue the joint Labour line of delay and splitting England into regions. The fact that Scotland is about to get the power to settle its own Income tax shows that we cannot delay justice for England beyond the changes for Scotland, and reminds us that we need an answer for the whole of England. Surely even Labour do not want different Income tax rates in Manchester from Leeds.
We have made clear in the discussions and consultations so far that we regard the Mackay proposals as completely unsatisfactory. Mr Hague started with some sympathy for this poor compromise, but now understands that most Conservative MPs including Mr Cameron do not think this is nearly good enough. This would only have given English MPs the sole right to sit on English Bill committees, leaving the full Commons the tasks of 2nd and 3rd Reading and Report stage and all the main votes. In other words it would not give English MPs control of their own affairs where these are devolved elsewhere in the UK.
We have made clear to Mr Hague that we want him to find out quickly if Mr Clegg will support a government motion to amend Standing Orders. Mr Cash has drafted a good motion, but it needs to include Northern Ireland and Wales appropriately to ensure that MPs only vote on issues which affect their part of the UK and not on issues where their part of the UK is exempted from the UK Parliament’s writ by virtue of devolved powers. I have suggested a tweak to Mr Cash’s motion to achieve this.
If Mr Clegg agrees we can do it quite soon after Parliament returns.
If Mr Clegg does not agree, then we wish the Conservative leadership to help us table a motion which despite not being a government or official opposition motion the Commons has to consider. The fact that all Conservative MPs would wish to vote for it and would be whipped to vote for it should help secure it a place in the Parliamentary timetable. It would be a travesty of Parliamentary procedure if there was no route to allow 305 MPs to debate and vote on a matter of such importance, and we think there is a route to allow us to do so. We may have a majority in such a vote, as it is quite likely some Nationalists and Labour MPs will abstain or vote with us.
Once we have established the procedure for English votes, it will be clear that Ministers handling business which is devolved elsewhere in the UK will need to have a majority of English MPs in support of their proposals. This may entail Ministers in English departments of a different party from the government of the UK, who would not have to be in the UK government, in those rare elections which produce a different majority in England from the UK.
I cannot understand why people think this would create two classes of MP. We currently have four classes of MP, with Scottish MPs the most wide ranging and powerful, and English MPs the least. A Scottish MP can vote on all English matters, and an English MP can vote on no devolved Scottish matter. We need to address that unfairness at the heart of Labour’s one sided devolution.