Labour boycotts Scottish talks

LABOUR has been told it risks infuriating voters after the party confirmed it will boycott talks on English-only votes.

Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed William Hague to lead talks on English-only votes

Cross-party talks aimed at addressing the problem of Scottish influence on English laws will go ahead without Labour MPs after Ed Miliband refused to take part.

Leader of the House William Hague said yesterday he remained open-mined as to how parliament should be reformed once further powers are devolved to Scotland next year.

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The Conservatives have backed plans for English-only votes on matters which will not effect Scotland, meaning Labour would risk losing the support of dozens of its MPs north of the border.

A Labour source confirmed the party will not take part, saying: “We need proper reform, not a closed-shop stitch-up in a Cabinet room.”

Mr Hague yesterday warned Labour that “insensitivity and indifference” to concerns over the English votes issue risked the future of the United Kingdom.

“I know there are MPs who argue that to address this question is to somehow put the United Kingdom itself at risk but I say to them the United Kingdom is in greater danger if the legitimate arguments and expectations of English decision making, on decisions effecting only England, are not responded to,” he said.

MPs last night debated the impact of proposals to increase devolution to Scotland, with firmer proposals due to be published by Lord Smith next month.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has said that implementing proposals to devolve income tax to the Scottish Parliament in full and then depriving Scottish MPs of voting on the Budget would be “absolutely lethal to the constitution”.

The Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said: “You cannot have one United Kingdom if you have two separate classes of MPs.”

But Conservative MPs lined up to attack Labour for refusing to acknowledge the need for change.

Graham Stuart said “there is a sense of neglect and frustration that the votes of people in Yorkshire are being diluted by those who represent areas where decisions have no effect.”

The Beverley and Holderness MP repeatedly intervened to challenge Labour on claims it could meet those concerns without constitutional change.

Mr Stuart told Labour it was is going to “set itself on the wrong side of the people” at a time when “there is a real sense of neglect and frustration as a result of the failure to listen.”

Brigg and Goole Tory Andrew Percy said he believed “Labour will pay the price politically” if it continues to oppose English votes.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman has said that while he supports extra devolution for Scotland, he would not back a “blank cheque” approach without knowing what Yorkshire would receive in terms of devolution.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan warned against a “Westminster elite solution” in which MPs rather than the public dictate what happens next.

He also insisted they should not accidentally create a system that aids those arguing for the break-up of the union, as he outlined Labour’s backing for a constitutional convention in which politicians are in the minority and the public “has the loudest voice”.

Mr Khan accused Mr Cameron of chasing Ukip votes with a “blatant tactical manoeuvre” by opting to announce his proposals in Downing Street in the hours after the Scottish referendum result.