It looks like The Scotsman was right. Michael Howard announced on Friday that the Tories will go into the next election on a platform of English votes for English laws. (hat-tip to the CEP for the link to the speech.)
Fair play really matters in Britain. It’s part of our character. It’s the way we do things. But I don’t think Parliament operates fairly at the moment. The Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly make many decisions about how their countries are governed. On those issues, MPs from English constituencies have no say. That’s what devolution is all about and we support it. Fine. Absolutely fine.
But when it comes to laws which apply solely to England, they are voted upon, not just by MPs from England but by MPs from Scotland. Now, in my book, that’s not fair play.
And there is a fair way to do it: "English votes for English laws". A Conservative Government will ensure that when laws are passed which only affect England, only MPs representing seats in England will vote on them.
Let me spell out why this matters. Mr. Blair was only able to drive up university top-up fees through the House of Commons because of the votes of MPs from Scotland. Those top-up fees applied to England, not Scotland, so England has less control over its affairs than Scotland. I don’t want England to be a second class country in the United Kingdom.
We will bring in a new procedure for Bills that exclusively affect England. After the First Reading of any Bill in Parliament, the Speaker will determine whether its provisions relate exclusively to England. If it does, the Speaker will issue a certificate ensuring that the legislation is voted on only by MPs who represent constituencies in England.