Liz Kendall has urged Labour to do a U-turn by embracing “English votes for English laws” even though the move is opposed by many of the party’s MPs.
The Blairite candidate in Labour’s leadership race parted company with her three rivals after Labour condemned the Conservatives’ plans to give English MPs a veto over legislation affecting only England. The Opposition will vote against the proposals, which will be fast-tracked through Parliament this month.
Ms Kendall said: “It is time for the Labour Party to stop swimming against the tide and back the idea that English voters should have the right to determine things that solely affect England.”
English votes for English laws: What is it all about?
English votes for English laws: What is it all about?
1/6 So Scottish MPs would still be able to vote on matters which do not relate to their constituents?
Yes, but Mr Hague has insisted the plans would mean English MPs would have the "decisive" say. Asked whether former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who is hoping to win a Westminster seat at the upcoming election in May, would be able to vote on English legislation, the Commons Leader said: "He will be voting on it but the decisive votes will be cast by the English Members of Parliament"
2/6 Who would decide on what was an 'England-only' matter?
So far, Mr Hague has said it would probably be for the Speaker of the Commons to decide which measures should be treated as England-only, adding there would have to be "a mechanism" for making the decisions. He told the BBC: "Most of the recommendations from all the studies have said you would have to ask the Speaker of the House of Commons or some other impartial authority to certify when a piece of legislation or part of it is English or English and Welsh or United Kingdom. That's the system we would have to adopt"
3/6 Why does Mr Hague want to introduce the proposal?
The Commons Leader is expected to argue that the reform is a "fundamental issue of fairness." He will say: "How could it possibly be right for the Scottish Parliament, for example, to vote for a reduction in Air Passenger Duty in Scotland and then for Scottish MPs to come to Westminster and be able to impose an increase in Air Passenger Duty in England? "You only have to think about this for a moment to see how fundamentally important this is and how such issues have to be addressed. Under our proposal this would not be possible without the agreement of English MPs. "The English veto should be extended to taxation when the equivalent decisions have been devolved to Scotland - and under a Conservative Government it will be"
4/6 Are we likely to see the proposals in place anytime soon?
Mr Hague wants to see the reforms debated in the Commons before the general election and has said the proposals will feature in the Conservative manifesto for the general election on 7 May. He said the plans will be "a very high priority" for the Tories if they win an outright majority in the election
5/6 Is everybody happy with these proposals?
Not really. The proposals have fallen short of the English parliament demanded by some MPs, including Tory former Cabinet minister John Redwood, who told the Daily Mail that the plans need to be "strengthened" in order to win support from Conservative MPs. He said: "Scotland can do what it likes under its devolved powers – we are asking for the same." It is believed that some Conservative MPs believe only the more radical option of giving Scottish MPs no vote at all on English matters would meet promises made by Prime Minister David Cameron, who directly linked the English votes issue to the granting of new powers to Holyrood in his immediate response to the rejection of independence by the electorate in Scotland. A Downing Street source has acknowledged there were "clearly different views" within the party but expected "very widespread support" for the chosen option
6/6 How is this likely to affect Labour?
While some Tory MPs may feel the powers do not go far enough, there is likely to be some cheer among Conservative ranks over the potential difficulties it could raise for any future Labour government, reliant on its own Scottish MPs, or the support of the SNP, for a Commons majority. Mr Hague has in fact pointed out the proposed changes would curtail the ability of a future government which did rely on Scottish MPs' votes for a Westminster majority to pass legislation on England-only matters, including health, education and transport. He told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It would be able to get many things through that are United Kingdom matters, but when it came to England then it would have to have regard to the majority in England. That is a necessary corollary of greater devolution to Scotland and Wales"
The Shadow Care Minister added: “Over the next five years, there’s going to much greater devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There must be a stronger voice for England too.”
However, Ms Kendall warned that the Tories were “deluded” if they thought that “English votes for English laws” or an English Parliament were a “magic bullet that will stop people feeling fed up with politicians and the way they are governed”. She added: “We need to get power out of Westminster and down to our cities, towns and counties.”
Ms Kendall believes that Labour can no longer win the argument against reforming the way genuinely English-only laws are passed when so much power is being devolved in England and Wales. She wants her party to embrace the principle and be proud of “English identity” so that it can do battle with the Tories on the detail of their proposals.
Angela Eagle, the shadow Leader of the Commons, said the Tory plan “smacks of a cynical attempt by a government with an overall majority of just 12 to use procedural trickery to manufacture itself a very much larger one”. She warned: “It’s more than that – it’s reckless and dangerous. It’s playing with fire and threatening not only the constitutional integrity of our Parliament but the future of our Union.”
Other leadership candidates back Labour’s official line, which is to call for a constitutional convention. Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, believes that David Cameron has stoked the cause of separatism for his own narrow political ends. He argues that Labour believes the historic Union working together for the common good. But he accepts that people across the UK want more say over the Government and more control over their lives, and recognises that the Union needs to evolve rather than stand still.
Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, believes that changes are needed but is “not a fan” of the Government’s plans. She wants the issue addressed by a convention rather than rushed through in a divisive way.
Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing standard bearer, said: “We need a constitutional convention to look at different powers between regions and nations, and an elected second chamber, the voting age and voting systems. The current situation is messy and uneven, and we need to look at these things together with wide consultation.”
Ms Kendall dubbed Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper as “continuity Miliband” candidates.Reuse content