Tories to ban Scottish and Welsh MPs from English votes

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH AND Welsh MPs will be barred from voting on "English- only" affairs in Parliament if the Tories win the next general election.

William Hague will propose the controversial policy next week when he finally unveils his party's answer to Labour's programme of devolution in Scotland and Wales.

The Government announced its plans yesterday to recreate a special Commons Committee of the Regions to give English MPs a greater say.

But The Independent has learned that the Tories will try to capitalise on what they believe will be growing discontent among English voters who will feel marginalised by the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Mr Hague will announce that there should be "country-designated legislation", with bills specifically aimed only at English MPs. "Under this system, you would not get the recent farce of Scottish and Welsh MPs voting to abolish English grammar schools, for example," one senior Tory source said.

The plan will form a centrepiece of the Tory party's answer to the notorious West Lothian question, which suggests that devolution leaves Scottish MPs with a say over English affairs while English MPs have no rights over Scottish affairs.

The Tories, who have ruled out the idea of an English Parliament and English-only voting days in Parliament, have drawn up the proposal as the best means of preserving the union of the United Kingdom.

Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the House of Commons, said a special Committee of the Regions will be revived under plans to be published in the next few weeks.

The Standing Committee of the English regions last met in 1978 as the Conservatives decided to ignore its existence. The House of Commons modernisation committee will consider Mrs Beckett's proposals.

Mrs Beckett said the membership of the committee was to be decided by MPs. It may even meet in the regions, when they were considering the problems of a particular area, she said.

Liam Fox, the Tory spokesman on constitutional affairs, said that the idea proved that Labour had not thought through the consequences of its plans for a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Liberal Democrat spokesman on the regions, Nick Harvey, welcomed the plan but warned that it was no substitute for devolving real power to regional assemblies across England.

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