UK Politics

David Cameron goes on attack over English votes

David Cameron
Image caption David Cameron: Scottish devolution would go ahead regardless of the issue of 'English votes for English laws'

David Cameron has gone on the attack over 'English votes for English laws' during heated exchanges in parliament.

The PM appeared before the liaison committee of senior MPs, with questions focusing on devolution within the UK after the Scottish referendum.

Mr Cameron said he was the only party leader to offer the people of England more rights over legislation.

He also defended the Barnett formula - used to decide spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All the main parties are committed to devolving further powers to Scotland but there is disagreement over the question of voting reform at Westminster.

Heated exchanges

Mr Cameron wants further Scottish devolution to be linked to changes at Westminster to bring in 'English votes for English laws'.

Questioned by the Labour MP Clive Betts over devolution to local councils, Mr Cameron went on the attack, more heated in his delivery than is usual in the committee.

"I seem to be the only party leader who is prepared to say to the people of England, 'you should have... the same rights over legislation that are being given to Scotland and Wales'," he said.

He told Mr Betts: "Your party is very happy to have discussions about devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but somehow, when it comes to England, the Labour Party seems completely unwilling to have any discussion about English votes for English laws."

Mr Cameron was rebuked by the committee chairman, Sir Alan Beith, who told him "his remarks belonged in a different venue".

The PM promised further devolution for Scotland would go ahead regardless of the progress over the so-called English question.

However, he gave this assurance for after the general election: "If you get me as prime minister, you get both."

Devolution within England

The Conservatives argue that it is unfair that Scottish MPs should help decide how things such as schools and the health service are run in England when English MPs have no such say over how they are run in Scotland.

Labour opposes the Tory plans, claiming they would create two classes of MPs. Instead Labour wants to see more devolution within England to regions and cities.

Labour has also accused the Conservatives of playing politics with the UK's constitution.

The Lib Dems favour more devolution within England and a tweak to the Commons system to ensure that England's MPs have more of a say than other MPs over legislation that only covers England.

Image caption The committee questions the PM three times a year

The Scottish National Party has warned that the Scottish people "would ensure" Westminster parties "would pay a heavy, heavy electoral price" if the promise, made during the referendum campaign, of more powers to Scotland was not delivered.

UKIP supports 'English votes for English laws' and has called for a new constitutional settlement for the UK.

Reform to Barnett 'not on the horizon'

Mr Cameron was also asked about the controversial Barnett formula which decides levels of spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He faces a Commons rebellion over the issue later on Thursday. Many Conservative MPs support a motion to review the formula, which they say is unfair to taxpayers in England.

Mr Cameron told the committee reform of the Barnett formula was "not on the horizon".

He said that as more tax powers were devolved to Scotland and Wales the formula's importance would decline.

Mr Cameron told the committee there was no better alternative: "If you don't have the Barnett formula, you would have to have another formula."

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