Hague in bid to limit SNP power

Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague during a speech about English votes for English laws at the Ideas Space in Westminster
Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague during a speech about English votes for English laws at the Ideas Space in Westminster
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WILLIAM HAGUE has set out the English-only vote plan he hopes will block the SNP from dominating the next parliament.

Leader of the House Mr Hague has revealed proposals which in some cases will block Scottish MPs from voting on new laws.

Mr Hague said the Conservative manifesto would include a power allowing English MPs only to set England’s Income Tax rate, handing policy makers south of the border the same powers as those set to be handed to Scotland.

The Yorkshire MP acted after continued concern that while Scottish decision makers enjoy areas in which English MPs have no say, those same Scottish politicians can vote on English-only laws such as tuition fees.

Under the Tory manifesto proposals - which Mr Hague is seeking to put to a Commons vote before May’s general election - policies affecting England alone would be scrutinised by a panel made up only of MPs representing English seats.

A “grand committee” of all English MPs would then have to approve the legislation.

Welsh MPs would be included on matters not devolved to the Cardiff Assembly.

Some Tory backbenchers are angry however that the final - Third Reading - vote on Bills would still include MPs from the rest of the UK, in what they say is a watering down of David Cameron’s promise to act.

Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke said that while many would want to see stronger proposals, it was a good starting point.

“When dealing with major constitutional issues you cannot dive in with both feet,” Mr Shelbrooke said.

“Letting English MPs veto English-only bills is a strong starting point and gives us a powerful tool.”

Mr Hague agreed there was “a great deal of support” in his own party for the more radical of three proposals set out last year but said he expected the “vast, vast majority” of its MPs to support the alternative chosen by the PM.

It “gives an effective veto to English MPs over matters only affecting England, or England and Wales, while maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom Parliament”, he said.

“Both of these objectives are crucial, and both can be fulfilled by our chosen way forward.”

Mr Hague sought to switch focus instead to Labour, accusing the Opposition of ducking the issue because of fears it could hamstring any future Labour government reliant on the support of its own - or SNP - MPs for a Commons majority.

“It is abundantly clear that the Labour Party will not do so, and it is clear why: because they want to keep open the possibility of being propped up by Scottish Nationalists in government while betraying the voters of England,” he said.

Labour refused to rule out a deal with the SNP if May’s election produced another hung parliament, he said, and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said it was “perfectly legitimate” for the SNP to vote on English matters to “win big gains for Scotland.”

Labour has insisted the answer to the debate can only be found in a Constitutional Convention, bringing together ideas from UK regions after the General Election.

Today shadow chancellor Ed Balls sought to move the debate on to Labour’s commitment to English devolution.

He promised that a Labour Government would fast-track plans to establish an independent commission to examine major infrastructure projects, alongside a £30bn devolution package.