Northern Ireland

Westminster hears call to bar MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The Houses of Parliament, London
Image caption The Conservatives have proposed that only English MPs should be allowed to vote on English laws at Westminster

Controversial plans to ban MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales from Westminster have been debated in the House of Commons.

It followed Scotland's vote to remain in the UK in last month's referendum.

The Conservatives have proposed that only English MPs should be allowed to vote on English laws.

If adopted, this move would prevent MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales from participating in votes concerning English matters.

'Political stitch-up'

The leader of the Commons, William Hague, told MPs that as well as honouring devolution promises to Scotland they must also deliver "a balanced settlement" for the rest of the UK.

He told the Commons: "It is time for the way decisions are made to be fair to all constituent parts of the United Kingdom."

The Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan told the Commons that the proposed measures from the Conservatives had not been thought through.

The Labour Party is to boycott cross-party talks designed to give greater devolution to England, calling it a "political stitch-up".

It is clear there is not a political consensus on how devolution should change across the UK in the years ahead.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has already dismissed plans by the pro-union parties for more financial responsibility for the Holyrood parliament in Edinburgh.

'Hijacked'

Those plans will be drawn up by a commission led by Lord Smith of Kelvin.

It aims to agree a way forward by the end of November, before the UK government puts forward draft legislative proposals in January 2015.

However, the SNP said the commission could be a "bit of a cut-and-paste job".

The SNP MP Pete Wishart said the debate should concentrate on Scotland only and claimed it was being "hijacked".

The North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said the devolution debate following the Scottish vote had a knock-on effect for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Democrat Unionist Party MP said: "Where Scotland goes, in terms of devolution with increased powers, Northern Ireland is destined to follow. I call on Lord Smith to make contact with the Northern Ireland parties and engage us in that process."

'Divisive'

The North Down MP Lady Hermon said the issue of English votes for English laws was flawed.

She told the BBC: "I certainly don't want to become a second-class MP at Westminster just because I represent a constituency in Northern Ireland. If we want to hold the United Kingdom together, then it is the national parliament at Westminster which has to do that."

She added: "Banning me from voting on so-called English laws, whatever they are, will surely be divisive."

Margaret Ritchie, SDLP MP for South Down, said her party was opposed to a two-tier system of MPs.

"MPs are elected on the same basis and must be allowed the same degree of freedom to participate and vote on pieces of legislation. The government must now abandon such plans for parliament as they will create unfairness and cause dissension in the Commons," she said.

The North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: "Northern Ireland and the parties from Northern Ireland cannot be excluded from the discussions around devolution. Powers being given to Scotland, Wales and potentially to English regions will have an effect on Northern Ireland and how we govern ourselves within the UK."

'Promises'

The DUP MP added: "If devolution is to be discussed in the context of greater devolution to the nation states and regions, it is important that no region and no constituent part of the UK be left out."

The East Belfast MP Naomi Long, from Alliance, said pledges made during the Scottish referendum campaign must be followed through.

She told the BBC: "Promises made must now be kept. They were made in the last few days of the campaign and may well have influenced the vote, so people have to get what was stated."

The Alliance deputy leader also said: "I still support the devolution of corporation tax for Northern Ireland but delivering a change in it would require a degree of ability to manage the budget strategically, which is sadly lacking in our two largest parties."

It is understood the Conservatives are preparing to stage a Commons vote on the issue of devolution before the end of the year.