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Sewel Convention

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2006

5. When he expects to respond to the report of the Scottish Affairs Committee, “The Sewel Convention: the Westminster perspective”. (80910)

As is customary, the Government’s response to the Scottish Affairs Committee will be submitted within two months of the report’s publication date.

The Prime Minister has ruled out a ban on Scottish Members from voting on English-only issues on the grounds that

“if you end up with two classes of MP you will end up with a host of real problems”.

Does the Minister accept that there are already two classes of MP? For example, I speak for my constituents on matters such as education and health, but he does not do that for his. My constituents are rather fed up with the situation and want to know what the Government are going to do about it.

No, I do not accept that. I believe that the Conservative proposals would lead to multitude of different classes of Member of Parliament and, inevitably, the break-up of the United Kingdom. It is not just me saying that. I quote:

“The danger is that Mr Cameron’s plans will only hasten the damaging break-up of a united kingdom…It is up to responsible politicians to seek a more constructive solution.”

That was the voice of the Daily Mail this morning. If even the Daily Mail recognises that the Conservative plans are grossly irresponsible, it is time that Conservative Front Benchers did so too.

Is my hon. Friend aware that under the Conservative proposals the shadow Secretary of State would not be allowed to vote on the future of health services in Carlisle—

When my hon. Friend responds to the consultation document, will he ensure that the idiotic and dangerous Conservative proposals, the logic of which would lead to—

The West Lothian question was rightly flagged up as a problem in the report by the Scottish Affairs Committee. Apart from the radical idea of a penalty shoot-out suggested yesterday in a Scottish newspaper, which of the four suggestions does the Minister prefer? Given the success of independence for the United States, which is marked today, as well as for Norway, Ireland and Iceland, surely independence is the only serious solution, especially for the largest stateless nation in Europe—England?

At least the hon. Gentleman is entirely consistent in his view. It does not bother him in the slightest that there would be multiple categories of MP in this House or that some MPs would vote for some things and some for others, because his party is a separatist party. I understand why his party supports such a daft proposal, but what beggars belief is that the Conservative and Unionist party supports it.

When people from all parts of our country have fought together for Britain, traded and worked together for centuries, and built an NHS established by a Welshman, will my hon. Friend rule out any suggestion that we should destroy centuries of successful partnership for short-term, party political reasons? Crossrail, a London Mayor and Northern Ireland are all examples of issues on which many MPs vote, even though the result will never affect many of their constituents. Will my hon. Friend join me—

And an excellent point it was, too. My hon. Friend correctly points out that the United Kingdom is one of the most successful countries in the history of the world. It is successful because it has brought together in a Union nations who stood together, fought together, traded together and built up a country that is the envy of the world. We put that at risk at our peril. It is a shame that the party that used to be a unionist party has abandoned that principle.

Let me make it clear: this party will take no lectures from the Labour party on our unflinching commitment to the Union. The Minister’s complacency on this issue is astounding. It is the fact that Labour will do nothing about the so-called West Lothian question that puts the Union in question. Although there are many different views about the answer to the West Lothian question, the Minister cannot deny that there is now cross-party support for the view that the present arrangements are unsustainable—apart from the Scottish Affairs Committee, the Father of the House, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Members for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope), for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) and for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle). Will the Minister, for once, agree with Jack McConnell that there should be a mature debate on this important constitutional issue, not the usual yah-boo politics?

The hon. Gentleman is entirely correct to say that there is a multitude of opinions on the matter. That is why his colleague the shadow Defence Secretary, not to mention his colleague the former Foreign Secretary, have legged it in the opposite direction of his proposal to create a multitude of types of MP in this House. Not only that, but Professor Vernon Bogdanor, who successfully torpedoed the last daft proposal that emerged from the Benches opposite—the Bill of Rights—has said that the in-out solution that the Conservatives are putting forward would be the worst of all possible worlds. When will the hon. Gentleman accept that his proposal to have a multitude of different MPs in this House is a massive step along the road to breaking up the United Kingdom?

Speaking of questions, I jumped a question, so we go back to Question 4. I call Mr. Lazarowicz.