HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By local MP John Hayes
Winston Churchill once remarked that “of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.”
It is this history, with our shared achievements at its heart, that makes our union so strong – a reminder of why it was so vital that Scots voted, in the end overwhelmingly, to remain part of the United Kingdom in last year’s referendum.
Following the vote, wisely, the Prime Minister committed to look again at the unfair practice whereby Scottish MPs in Westminster can vote on matters which affect people in England, but English MPs have little or no say over important issues north of the border.
Most of us in England believe that Scottish MPs should not be voting on fixing the level of tuition fees for university students in England, when such fees are not charged in Scotland; nor that they should be voting on prescription charges in England when such charges in Scotland have been abolished.
The status quo is unsustainable. What, for example, if the Scottish Parliament voted to reduce income tax in Scotland, while Scottish MPs in Westminster voted to increase it in England? Such a prospect is as unsustainable as it is unjust.
That’s why I’m committed to the principle of English votes for English laws. Under the Government’s plans, English MPs will effectively have a veto over legislation – including income tax – that only affects England.
As the people of Scotland have more say over Scottish matters, it follows that we, the people of England, must have a bigger say over ours.
With the post referendum reforms meaning that Scotland will be granted more powers to raise tax, in the future much less of our money should be transferred from Westminster to Edinburgh.
This isn’t about one part of the UK gaining an advantage at the expense of another; I love the union and want it to prosper and thrive. But to preserve our United Kingdom more powers to the devolved nations must mean more powers for England too.
The thought of Ed Miliband, when struggling to muster a majority in the House of Commons, making a grubby deal with Scottish nationalists – putting our nuclear deterrent at risk – doesn’t bear thinking about, but we must consider the consequences of constitutional change which has left England disadvantaged. It is time for our lionhearted country to roar.