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Business of the House

Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

With permission, I should like to make a short statement on the business of the House:

Tuesday 14 October—General debate on devolution following the Scotland referendum.

The business for the rest of the week remains unchanged:

Wednesday 15 October—Opposition day (6th allotted day). There will be a debate on the minimum wage, followed by a debate on the NHS. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 16 October—Debate on a motion relating to progress on the all-party parliamentary cycling group’s report “Get Britain Cycling”, followed by a general debate on the national pollinator strategy. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 17 October—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 20 October will now include:

Monday 20 October—Remaining stages of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, followed by a motion to approve a Church of England measure relating to women bishops.

Tuesday 21 October—Second Reading of the Recall of MPs Bill.

I will announce further business, as usual, during the business statement on Thursday.

I thank the Leader of the House for his business statement. I welcome tomorrow’s debate on devolution following the Scottish referendum and the Command Paper on further powers that has just been published by the Scottish Secretary. After Scotland’s historic decision to remain part of the United Kingdom, we must now honour our commitment to deliver further powers within the promised timetable.

It is also right that as we debate further powers to Scotland we consider further devolution to the rest of the UK to help to address the declining trust in our politics and the widespread feeling of disempowerment. However, Labour Members believe that, instead of petty partisan games and 7 am announcements, we need a considered process that seeks to achieve broad public support as well as cross-party agreement. That is why a partisan fix in Westminster just will not wash.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing our Opposition day debates on the minimum wage and on the NHS this Wednesday. During the NHS debate, perhaps senior Tories can use the occasion to explain to the House and have the guts to admit on the record what they have told The Times today—that their top-down reorganisation of the NHS has been their biggest mistake. If they did that, for once there would be something on which we could all agree.

I take that as a warm welcome for the change of business, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady. She is right: my right hon. Friend the Scottish Secretary will be making a statement, coupled with the publication of the Command Paper that has indeed just taken place. Across the Government, and I think across the House, we are all very determined that the commitments made to the people of Scotland will be honoured. She said it is right that we should consider further devolution and its consequences for the rest of the UK. That is quite right. No one is looking for a partisan fix, but equally no one should imagine that the question of the consequences for England can now be evaded. Many of us will want to make that point in tomorrow’s debate.

As I said, I will give the details of further business on Thursday.

If the Liberal Democrats agree to a simple amendment to Standing Orders on a Government motion as soon as possible, so that we can have English votes for English issues, can that be tabled urgently? When will the Leader of the House know whether the Liberal Democrats want justice for England?

This is a matter of fairness for the whole of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend raises now, and has raised before, this very important issue. Discussions are taking place within the Government under the auspices of the committee that I chair. I have also invited Labour Members to attend that committee and put forward their own proposals. As I have said publicly, I believe we need to set a deadline and say that if we do not have cross-party agreement by the end of November—the same timetable as that for Scotland—then it will be important to test the opinion of the House.

On 5 September, the House granted a Second Reading to the Affordable Homes Bill, which will go some way towards getting rid of the bedroom tax. So far the Government have not yet tabled the money resolution that would allow it to go into Committee. Will the Leader of the House please commit this afternoon to tabling it by the end of business tomorrow?

I will not make any commitment about that. Two private Members’ Bills went through in September. The Government are examining the money resolutions in the usual way, and we will make announcements in the usual way.

When will the Government’s response to the McKay commission report, which is over 18 months late, be produced, and will it be produced in time for tomorrow’s debate?

I will seek to open tomorrow’s debate and much of what I will say will be updated following the events of the Scotland referendum and comprise the Government’s response to those issues. Given that the situation has changed considerably, even since the McKay report was produced, it would be right for us to take stock of opinion in the whole House and for us all to be able to express our views.

May I thank the Leader of the House for responding so positively to my request for a full day’s debate tomorrow? Does he agree that the debate has to be about the solemn vow, promise and guarantee made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition? The people of Scotland will be appalled if the debate is hijacked by English Members of Parliament making it about English votes for English laws. Should it not be the Prime Minister who stands at the Dispatch Box tomorrow in order to look the Scottish people in the eye and tell them that the vow will be honoured without condition, caveat or any reference to any other external issue?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that all three leaders of the pro-Union UK parties have made it very clear that the commitments will be honoured. He should not go about his business by trying to frighten the people of Scotland into thinking that they will not honoured when all of the political parties are absolutely determined that they will be. My right hon. Friend the Scottish Secretary will make a statement later about the Scottish issues, but let me make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that tomorrow’s debate is for all Members in the United Kingdom. It is about the consequences for Wales, Northern Ireland and England as well as for Scotland, and that is entirely appropriate in the United Kingdom Parliament.

I hope the Leader of the House will agree that, given that the party leaders have already decided what is going to happen about Scottish devolution, surely tomorrow’s debate must primarily be about English votes for English laws.

Of course, the debate will primarily be about what the House will make it about, but this is about the whole of the United Kingdom following the Scotland referendum. Therefore, it is a debate for all Members, including those who wish to raise the vital issue of English votes for English laws, as it has become known.

Will the Leader of the House assure the 55.3% of the people who voted to keep the Union that his committee will not do anything further to threaten the Union, including changing the franchise for UK Members of Parliament from Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman and I support the 55.3% and, indeed, the Union being able to work successfully, not just for them but for everyone in Scotland. For the great majority of us, all of our business should very much be about strengthening the United Kingdom, but the hon. Gentleman should not think that strengthening the United Kingdom will be achieved by indifference or insensitivity to the needs of other parts of it. This is a matter of fairness for the whole United Kingdom.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that tomorrow’s debate will be not only for those who represent the 45% who wanted independence for Scotland and the 55% who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, but for those who represent the 85% of the population of the United Kingdom who want to see English votes for English laws?

As the questions go on, we are beginning to have tomorrow’s debate. It will be an opportunity to discuss all of those issues, including, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, views about the governance of England as well as of the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although I recognise that this is a matter entirely for English MPs, does the Leader of the House not recognise that English votes for English laws is a certain slippery slope to the break up of the United Kingdom?

That may well be a topic of debate tomorrow. That is why we are having the debate, so that such issues can be aired and all points of view can be put. Many of us would emphasise that fairness to all parts of the United Kingdom, including the voters of England, is a necessary part of keeping the United Kingdom together.

Although I understand the import of debating the Command Paper and the new devolution settlement, the Leader of the House is effectively replacing a day’s debate on a major Government Bill on the recall of MPs with an admittedly important but general debate. Would it not have been better to replace Thursday’s Backbench Business day with the Scottish debate, thus not only preserving the Government’s legislative timetable this week, but advancing Scottish and English issues?

I try, whenever possible, not to remove the days selected by the Backbench Business Committee. I have announced that the Second Reading of the Recall of MPs Bill will take place a week tomorrow—just one week later than intended, so the Government’s legislative programme will remain on track—while also facilitating the debate tomorrow.