David Cameron has said that the wishes of English MPs will never again be “overruled” by those in Scotland as his government announces plans to give them a veto on English-only laws.
Chris Grayling, the leader of the Commons, is expected to unveil plans to use a parliamentary procedure known as a standing order to stop Scottish MPs from shaping legislation that only affects English voters.
The move, one of the Conservative’s flagship manifesto proposals, is likely to be put to a vote on the floor of the house later this month, meaning it could become law by the summer.
Mr Grayling will also announce plans for a review to establish the “next steps” which could see English MPs given even more power over English issues.
The announcement will trigger a fresh battle with the SNP, which warned that the plans would “break the Union”. They accused Mr Cameron of creating a “two tier” system of MPs which will relegate the role of those with constituencies in Scotland.
Mr Cameron rejected the claims and said: “What we are putting in place is fair and balanced UK. We are not creating a system of two tiers forMPs, all MPs will still vote on all bills. Laws which only apply in England should only pass if they are supported by a majority of English MPs.
“What we are proposing is actually a very measured and sensible step which says when there is a bill that only affects, for instance, England, the committee stage should be only English MPs. What this is going to introduce is a system to make sure the wishes of English MPs cannot be overruled.”
The move would create a special committee of English MPs which can make changes to Bills only affecting English voters before they are finally voted on in the Commons.
William Hague, who drew up the English veto shortly before retiring at the end of the last Parliament, said it would ensure that no law could be imposed on English MPs without their approval. However, the proposals were criticised at the time by some Tory backbenchers angered that Scottish MPs would still be allowed to vote on all laws – and therefore possibly inflict defeats.
The Tory MPs will be offered the chance to put forwqard stronger proposals under a review proposed by Mr Grayling. One back-bencher said: “This has effectively taken the sting out of the tail for many MPs”.
John Redwood, a leading back-bencher, said: “This is hugely important and an historic moment in the history of our democracy. It is the first time since 1997 that England has got anything out of all the debate from devolution.It has always been lopsided up to this point.”
Therese Coffey, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, said it was right that further devolution was balanced by addressing the English question.
Responding, she said: “As promised in the Queen’s Speech the Government will bring forward changes to the standing orders of the House of Commons to ensure that decisions affecting England or indeed England and Wales can be taken only with the consent of the majority of members of Parliament representing constituencies in those parts of the UK.
“We do this in the context of further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Government has demonstrated that it will meet its commitments to devolve further powers to these countries and it’s right that this is balanced by addressing the English question.”
John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, will be dragged into a row about whether he is being forced to make political decisions by the Conservatives’ proposals.
Mr Bercow will be given the power to determine what is and is not an “English-only law” in a move that will beheavily criticised by SNP MPs.
“This puts him squarely into the political firing line,” Pete Wishart, the SNP’s shadow leader in the House of Commons, told The Telegraph. “He is being asked to take a political view.”
Labour looks set to join the SNP opposing the move, meaning just a handful of Tory rebels would be needed to defeat the government.
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