English votes for English laws plan

Published: Friday 24th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Conservative plans for English votes for English laws will be implemented in time to ensure that English MPs have the final say on income tax rates in England after the 2016 Budget if Tories win the General Election, David Cameron has announced.

The Prime Minister was launching the Tories’ first ever English manifesto, which sets out a timetable to deliver the policy within a year of the May 7 poll and to extend it to financial issues, in reflection of the devolution of tax-raising powers to Scotland.

From the Budget expected in March, whenever taxes – such as income tax – have been devolved to Scotland, the consent of English, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs will be required to set the level in those parts of the United Kingdom.

A Conservative government would bring forward proposals within 100 days of the election for amendments to House of Commons rules to give an effective veto over England-only issues to English MPs. Where measures also apply to Wales or Northern Ireland – as with income tax – MPs from those nations will also be involved.

Launching the English manifesto, Mr Cameron is expected to say: “We do not support English nationalists, we do not want an English Parliament, we are the Conservative and Unionist Party through and through. This manifesto simply recognises that the democratic picture has got more complicated in the UK, so beyond our main manifesto, English voters deserve one document, clarifying in black and white what they can expect.

“Soon, the Scottish Parliament will be voting to set its own levels of income tax – and rightly so – but that has clear implications. English MPs will be unable to vote on the income tax paid by people in Aberdeen and Edinburgh while Scottish MPs are able to vote on the tax you pay in Birmingham or Canterbury or Leeds. It is simply unfair. And with English votes for English laws we will put it right.”

New tax-raising powers are being devolved to Holyrood under the recommendations of the Smith Commission, following last year’s No vote in the independence referendum.

Mr Cameron’s proposals mean that, while members of the Scottish Parliament will set the level of income tax north of the border, Scottish MPs will not be able to decide rates elsewhere in the UK.

Under English votes for English laws, the committee stage of the parliamentary process – during which bills are subjected to detailed line-by-line discussion – will be reserved for MPs from the nations affected by the legislation.

And a new legislative stage would ensure that no bill or part of a bill relating only to England could become law without being approved in a Grand Committee made up of all English MPs.

The Tories’ English manifesto contains guarantees for England to continue with policies – such as rising NHS budgets, more freedoms for schools, the extension of right to buy to housing association tenants, a real-term freeze on rail fares and more free childcare for three and four year-olds – even where they do not exist or are called into question elsewhere in the UK.

Mr Cameron will say: “My message to people who want these things, who want their own home, more childcare, an NHS protected and their taxes cut, is: there is only one way to guarantee it: Vote Conservative on May 7. A vote for anyone else makes an Ed Miliband-SNP government more likely, which will put all these things at risk. Only a strong Conservative Government will deliver for you and your family.”

Launching the manifesto alongside Mr Cameron, Leader of the Commons William Hague will promise that English votes for English laws is more than just a “vague promise”.

“This is a plan ready to be implemented,” he will say. “We will table our proposals within the first 100 days after the General Election. And after consultation with the Procedure Committee of the House of Commons and running a pilot test of the new rules, we will fully implement our plan within the first year of the new Parliament and apply it to the Budget of 2016.”

Labour shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn responded: “People across England are worse off under this Tory-led Government. They have failed working people and have taken the NHS backwards with waiting lists at their highest for six years, A&Es in crisis and one in four people unable to see their GP within a week.

“The truth about what the Tories are offering England is a plan for extreme cuts – double the cuts next year – which will put the NHS at risk.

“Only Labour has a better plan for working people: for living standards, the NHS and the next generation. It’s also a plan which will see us pass an English Devolution Act and transfer £30 billion and new powers back to England’s cities and counties to boost economic growth in every part of the country.”

Chancellor George Osborne posed with a flag of St George to mark the publication of the English manifesto.

Mr Osborne told The Sun: “Our country has changed. The flag of St George is something we’re proud to fly. We have recaptured the flag from when I was a kid.”

He added: “The Conservative Party understands the constitution of our country has changed.

“There are going to be more powers for people in Scotland and Wales and it’s imperative we don’t allow England to be unfairly treated or left out.

“It’s also crucial English MPs don’t have imposed on them an income tax rate voted on by Scottish MPs when that rate wouldn’t apply in Scotland. That would be grossly unfair, so they will have a veto.”

Published: Friday 24th April 2015 by The News Editor

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