Hague outlines English-only Income Tax plans

Leader of the House of Commons William Hague
Leader of the House of Commons William Hague
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William Hague has set out proposals to give English MPs “the decisive say” over English legislation.

The senior Conservative MP revealed a plan to tackle the English Votes for English Laws question in which Scottish MPs can have a say on English issues but devolution deals prevents MPs elsewhere interfering north of the border.

Mr Hague said Bills which impact only on England and Wales will have to undergo special scrutiny, and possibly rejection, by an English Grand Committee, meaning no final say for Scottish MPs.

Where taxes have been devolved to Scotland the equivalent taxes in England would require the consent of English MPs, Mr Hague said, meaning there would be an English rate of Income Tax, subject to the democratic approval of the representatives of England.

But Conservatives back benchers have warned the moves do not go far enough, saying Scottish MPs will still have a the chance to vote on English-laws when such Bills return to the Commons.

Mr Hague said: “With significant further powers being handed to Scotland, it is no longer fair or just for Scotland to be able to decide its own laws in devolved areas, only for Scottish MPs also to be able to have the potentially decisive say on similar matters which affect only England. This situation is simply not sustainable.

“I know there are people who would like to think this issue will go away if only they avoid it. But it will not go away, because it is manifestly unfair.

Mr Hague added that the proposal would help preserve the union, something he was “passionately committed to, as a Yorkshireman married to a proud Welsh woman, having represented a northern constituency for nearly 26 years, and as someone who has had the privilege of serving my country as Foreign Secretary.”

Turning to Labour’s need to safeguard the voting power of its Scottish MPs, Mr Hague said: “Any government will have to tackle this vital issue, but only the Conservatives will grip it decisively.

“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.

“Within the last few days, Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander have been repeatedly asked to deny that they would enter a coalition with the SNP and they have refused to do so.

Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said: “Labour will take forward the McKay proposal of an English or English and Welsh only committee stage.

“Done in the right way, we believe this is a sensible reform. Labour’s people-led Constitutional Convention will consider this as part of a wider package of reforms after May’s general election.

“But there’s no hiding the fact that what William Hague has come forward with today is not what his backbenchers were expecting.

“David Cameron has played fast and loose with the future of the United Kingdom ever since his speech just minutes after the referendum result.

“As the party of the Union, only Labour will devolve real power and resources from Whitehall to all parts of England and only a Labour government will be in a position to deliver the change we need for the whole of the United Kingdom.”