PM Questions: Blair told to ditch Welsh and Scottish ministers

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Indy Politics
TONY BLAIR was told yesterday to reduce the number of Scottish and Welsh Office ministers in his forthcoming reshuffle because of devolution.

But the Prime Minister insisted during question time that the seven ministers still had much to do in areas such as tackling crime and education. Paddy Ashdown, the out-going Liberal Democrat leader, had protested that it was difficult to justify ministers' calls for everyone else to "do more with less, when it appeared the Government was doing less with more".

Mr Blair was also challenge over the so-called `West Lothian Question' by Tory leader William Hague, who asked why, since devolution, Scottish MPs were able to vote in the Commons on matters concerning only England and Wales when Westminster MPs could not vote on purely Scottish matters.

Mr Hague claimed there were now two classes of MP - "those who vote on matters in their own constituencies and those who only vote on matters in other people's constituencies".

He said Labour's Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) - who originally raised the issue when he was MP for West Lothian - had said that, since devolution, he "simply does not have the brass neck to vote on purely English business" in the Commons.

Replying, Mr Blair said: "Because they are all UK MPs and we should have one class of UK MP. That is the position and that is the way it should stay."

But Mr Hague accused him of not thinking through the consequences of what had happened in Scotland and Wales.

"You have not understood that making a success of devolution requires the fair representation of the voters of England," the Tory Leader said.

"If you refuse to make such changes, you will have weakened the UK and gerrymandered the British constitution."

Dismissing Mr Hague's claims, Mr Blair said: "In relation to overall expenditure in Scotland and Wales, all the MPs of the House vote upon that."