MPs debate meaning of Scottish vote for Wales

MPs have now spent almost two hours debating "Devolution following the Scotland referendum".

So what have we learnt so far? (Newcomers may find this dictionary helpful.)

In summary, William Hague wants to press ahead with more devolution and find a solution to the West Lothian question: Labour don't like "English votes for English laws" as a solution, and the SNP say Scotland is being betrayed by the Westminster elite.

Mr Hague opened the debate by saying: "We must not only meet the vows to Scotland but also deliver a balanced settlement that is better and fairer for England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well." He said that the need and demand for constitutional renewal was "palpable and serious", and warned that "dither or delay" is not an option.

The issue of fairness to England - the English question - featured prominently during the opening exchanges. Mr Hague said: "I know there are MPs who argue that to address this question is to somehow put the United Kingdom itself at risk, but I say to them the United Kingdom is in greater danger if the legitimate arguments and expectations of English decision making, on decisions effecting only England, are not responded to.

"Insensitivity and indifference is the danger to the union in all nations including in England."

Cardiff West Labour MP Kevin Brennan told Mr Hague: "It's true that on devolved matters English MPs don't have a vote, but neither do Welsh MPs, Scottish MPs, or MPs from Northern Ireland. Although SNP MPs have traditionally taken resiled themselves from voting on some of these matters because they believe that helps to lead to a break-up of the United Kingdom. Wouldn't any such proposal be part of a slippery slope towards a break-up of the United Kingdom?"

Mr Hague disagreed. He also rejected the argument that "English votes for English laws" would create more than one class of MP, arguing that devolution had already done so.

There will have been whoops of joy in Cardiff Bay as Mr Hague said the government could be open to the idea of a constitutional convention but warned that it must not be used as a way of delaying further devolution or finding an answer to the English question.

He said Labour could come to the cabinet committee on devolution to put the case for a convention, but had chosen not to. He added: "The government will consider the proposals for the establishment of such a body on the right terms and at the right time. It's my view there is merit in this, the British constitution is a living entity and no one is pretending it will have reached a perfect form in the coming months, whatever we decide on Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland or England.

"But no one is suggesting delay in the commitments we have made to Scotland in order to wait for a constitutional convention. No one is suggesting delay in the amendments we make to the Wales Bill and other commitments to Wales.

"Equally, it is right to address the needs of England without delay in the coming months and that is why we propose to do so."

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve raised concerns about the way in which laws relating to Welsh devolution had been drafted.

He said: "Is it not the case that when one looks at Welsh devolution particularly, one of the problems we have is that the legislation has been so badly drafted that in fact it is quite unclear what has been devolved and what has been reserved, and doesn't that highlight the fact that, if we are to carry out a proper revision of our constitutional arrangements, we are going to have to look at the totality of those arrangements whilst at the same time honouring the commitment that we have made in Scotland."

That sounded like a plea for a "reserved powers" model and Mr Hague confirmed that it was now on the agenda. The debate continues until 7pm tonight. There's unlikely to be a vote.

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