I spoke yesterday during the first meeting of the Legislative Grand Committee (England) following the passing of the English votes for English laws standing orders:
John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I rise to thank Ministers for taking England on its first step on the journey to justice and fairness for our country. Having participated in recent Parliaments and seen very large powers transferred to Scotland for self-government in accordance with the wishes of many Scottish people and their now vocal representatives from the SNP, I would have thought that on this day of all days it was time for Scotland to say, “We welcome some justice for England to create a happier Union, just as we have fought so strongly for so long for more independence for Scotland.” I hope that SNP Members will reconsider and understand that just as in a happy Union, where there are substantial devolved powers of self-government for Scotland that they have chosen to exercise through an independent Parliament, so there needs to be some independent right of voice, vote and judgment for the people of England, which we choose to do through the United Kingdom Parliament because we think we can do both jobs and do not wish to burden people with more expense and more bureaucracy.
On this day of all days, when Labour has been reduced to a party of England and Wales, having been almost eliminated from Scotland in this Parliament, I would have thought that the Front-Bench—[Interruption.] Our party is speaking for England. The point I am making is that now that the Labour party represents parts of England and Wales but has so little representation in Scotland, it behoves Labour Members to listen to their English voters and to understand that although they might not want justice for England, their voters do want it and are fully behind what this Government are doing.
Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he has done for many years in championing the need for EVEL to be introduced. Does he agree that, given that they completely failed to persuade the Scottish people to end the Union, the greatest hope of the nationalists was that such would be the grievance and resentment in England that Scotland could be pushed out? Does he agree that this modest step is a way of alleviating that grievance, and that that is why the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was quite so angry?
John Redwood: I entirely agree. We need fairness for England, in respect of the new financial settlement as well as our legislative procedures, but the way to preserve and develop the Union is to show that it is fair to all parts. I am sure that that will mean greater powers of independence for Scotland than we will gain for England, but we cannot ignore England. England deserves a voice, England deserves its votes, and England deserves, at the very least, the right to veto proposals that do not suit England but only affect England. I think that we shall need fair finances as well, because otherwise the English people will not be as happy with their Union as we should like them to be.
I hope that today is a day on which to advance the cause of the Union rather than to damage it. I hope that it is a day on which other Scots will welcome this small step on the road to justice for England, and will see that it helps them as well as us. What is wrong with England having a voice, its own political views, and some of its own political decision-making, in a Union in which Scotland took a great deal of that following the general election? In that election, all the main parties fought on the united proposition that there should be more rights to self-government for Scotland, but my party wisely said that that meant that there had to be some justice for England too. This is a small step towards that justice, and I hope the House will welcome it and not oppose it.