David Cameron has been asked repeatedly to reassure Scottish constituents that his plans to give English MPs a veto on English-only laws will not make Scottish MPs “second-class citizens”.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, the day before the government’s English votes for English laws proposals (known as Evel) are expected to be put to parliament, four Scottish National Party MPs pushed Cameron to admit that the moves would remove their influence over legislation that affects Scotland indirectly.
The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, asked Cameron to confirm that the plans would “exclude Scottish MPs from parts of the democratic process in Westminster”.
“Because of the way the United Kingdom is structured, decisions on health, on education, on much English legislation has an impact on the Scottish budget,” said Robertson.
“English MPs are entirely excluded from any discussion of Scottish health or Scottish housing or Scottish education,” replied the prime minister, who argued that the proposals were a “measured and sensible” step to make sure the wishes of English MPs on issues that only affect English could not be overruled.
“That, I think, is only fair in a system when the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament and indeed the Northern Irish Parliament have increased powers,” he added.
It is understood the proposals for English votes for English laws will be put before parliament on Thursday. The government plans to give English MPs a veto on English-only laws by amending the standing orders of the Commons, meaning it can be passed by parliament with only one vote and without the need for months of scrutiny, something that has angered the SNP.
Robertson criticised the prime minister for ignoring calls from all but one of Scotland’s 59 MPs – 56 of whom are from the SNP – to strengthen the powers that will be devolved to Scotland by the Scotland Bill.
“On overruling MPs, that’s very interesting because on the Scotland Bill, 58 of 59 Scottish MPs have voted for that legislation to be strengthened and they have been outvoted by English MPs,” said Robertson.
“Not content with outvoting Scottish MPs elected on a mandate to strengthen the Scotland Bill, he is now going to introduce second-class status for us as MPs elected from Scotland on issues which can impact on the Scottish budget.”
Cameron retorted: “I notice none of Scotland’s 59 MPs are arguing that the state pension should be devolved. In other words the principle of pooling and sharing our resources and risks across the UK, which I believe in as leader of the UK, is apparently shared by the SNP.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st July 2015 15.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010