SNP Accuses Government Of 'Rush Job' Over English Votes for English Laws

The SNP's Pete Wishart said:
The SNP's Pete Wishart said:
Parliament TV

The SNP has accused the Government of "rushing through" plans to give only English MPs a vote over English laws - reducing the influence of politicians north of the border.

The accusation came after The Times reported reform to give English MPs a veto over legislation only affecting England could start as early as next week.

The start of the first big clash between the SNP's 56 MPs and Westminster came as the nationalist party said next week it will demand full tax and spend powers for the Scottish Parliament, giving Edinburgh full control the country's money.

So-called English Votes for English Laws - or "Evel" - was promised by David Cameron in the aftermath of last year's Scottish independence referendum.

But the SNP took offence to a smash and grab attempt to limit the powers of MPs representing Scottish constituencies, creating "two classes" of MP, so soon after the hard-fought campaign.

The Leader of the House, Chris Grayling, told MPs the Government would be "setting out our plans shortly" after announcing next week's Commons agenda, which lacked reference to "Evel".

During Business of the House Questions in the Commons today, the SNP's Pete Wishart confronted Mr Grayling over the proposed time-table for discussing the "huge constitutional issues".

The SNP Shadow Leader of the House said: "It's quite clear this Government intends to rush these plans through. It may not be next week or the week after. But they have already said there will be no legislation, no scrutiny.

"There are huge constitutional issues in this."

He warned Speaker of the House, John Bercow, would be put in the "invidious political situation" where he would be asked to judge whether SNP MPs can vote on matters that "may have an impact on our constituents".

He added: "We need to have a full and proper debate about this. We need to hear when the Leader of the House is bringing this forward and tell us how we are going to have a full consultation and full debate."

Mr Grayling responded that there "will be a full debate in this House", and that it will be decided by "Members of this House - each one individually, each with one vote".

He added: "We're not just talking about changes to the future - we're talking about changes that exist today.

"There are issues that affect my constituency in which he can vote, but there are very many issues that affect his constituency on which I cannot vote."

The clamour for "Evel", notably among Tory backbenchers, was prompted by the cross-party "vow" to devolve substantial new powers over tax and welfare to the Scottish Parliament in the run-up to the vote.

An English Parliament has been ruled out but the Government is looking to overhaul how the House of Commons conducts its business to make voting procedures "fairer".

One option is to set up a "grand committee" to give English MPs only the chance to consent or veto legislation at the final stage of its journey through Westminster.

Meanwhile, the SNP will table an amendment to the Scotland Bill asking for "full fiscal autonomy" as it gets a detailed second reading on the floor of the Commons next week. It knows the Government will likely vote it down, leading to a further confrontation.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said: “Scotland needs significant new powers over our economy, job creation, welfare, wages and living standards if we are to make the most of our nation’s potential. The proposals in the Scotland Bill do not go far enough.

“That is why the SNP has set out priority changes to the Scotland Bill to devolve responsibility for taxes, such as National Insurance, setting the minimum wage and protecting key parts of the welfare state."