UK Politics

English laws options 'due soon', says Hague

Palace of Westminster Image copyright PA

Options to give English MPs more say over laws affecting England will be set out over the coming weeks, the House of Commons leader William Hague has said.

He also told the BBC there would be no going back on "vows" to Scotland made during the independence campaign.

The prime minister promised tax-raising powers for Holyrood, alongside moves "in tandem" to restrict Scottish MPs from voting on English matters.

But Labour opposes that - favouring more devolution within England.

Mr Hague said options for legislating on laws that only affected England would be put forward in the coming weeks, either from the government, or the Conservative Party.

'Prime requirement'

He dismissed the argument that it could create "second-class" MPs, who could not vote on all matters: "We already have two classes of Members of Parliament because the Scottish MPs are not voting on the health and education policies of Scotland [which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament], they are voting on what happens in Yorkshire, England, in my constituency."

"The question is how to be fair to the whole of the UK while meeting, by the way, all the vows to Scotland. Nobody is intending to go back on their vows to Scotland."

Earlier Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond - whose party, polls suggest, is set to take Westminster seats from Labour at the next general election - said any new SNP MPs would operate under a "prime requirement to see that the vow, that the promises, the commitment that were made to Scotland of near-federalism, of home rule, that were articulated by the three Westminster leaders... to see that that is implemented, delivered in full to Scotland."

'Not conditional'

Ahead of the 18 September independence referendum, the leaders of the three main pro-Union parties backed a timetable, set out by Gordon Brown, to deliver more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a "No" vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron took Labour by surprise on 19 September when he announced plans to end the anomaly which allows 59 Scottish MPs to vote on England-only legislation in the UK Parliament, such as health and education.

Downing Street later insisted that "one is not conditional upon the other".

Labour is boycotting a body set up by the Conservatives to look into whether Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should be stopped from voting on matters exclusively affecting England or whether English MPs should be given an enhanced role in the legislative process

It favours more devolution within England. On Saturday, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would replace the House of Lords with an elected senate with representatives from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions, if he wins power at next year's general election.

The Conservatives' coalition partners, the Lib Dems, are not on board with plans to block Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs voting on laws affecting England, calling them "Tory votes for English laws".

They favour new procedures in the Commons to allow English MPs to make their views known on 'England-only' issues..

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