PRIME Minister David Cameron has pledged that he will press ahead with plans to slash the size of the House of Commons by 50 seats to 600 MPs – including the loss of at least seven Scottish MPs.
The confirmation of plans came during Prime Minister’s questions and puts him on a collision course with Tory backbenchers who could lose their seats and had previously been given private assurances by ministers the plan would not go ahead.
The move will mean that at least seven of the 59 Scottish seats would be lost as the size of constituencies were equalised to around 75,000 each as well.
In reply to DUP MP Nigel Dodds question, Mr Cameron said that the manifesto pledge was “unfinished business” which “we will complete”.
In a heated set of exchanges in the Commons, Mr Cameron also was pushed in five questions from the SNP over plans to make Scottish MPs “second class representatives” by introducing English votes for English laws.
Mr Cameron replied by mocking SNP MPs for not putting an amendment to the Scotland Bill to devolve pensions, which he claimed meant they now back the “pooling and sharing of resources across the UK.”
He told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions: “I notice none of Scotland’s 59 MPs are arguing that the state pension should be devolved.
“In other words the principle of pooling and sharing our resources and risks across the UK, which I believe in as leader of the UK, is apparently shared by the SNP.”
He picked up on the point, also made yesterday by Scottish Secretary David Mundell during day three of the committee stage of the bill, in response to SNP Westminster group leader Angus Robertson who raised the issue of English votes for English laws.
The Moray MP said: “Because of the way the UK is structured, decisions on health, education and much English legislation has an impact on the Scottish budget.
“Will you confirm you plan to exclude Scottish MPs from parts of the democratic process at Westminster that will have an impact on Scotland?”
Mr Cameron replied: “English MPs are entirely excluded from any discussion of Scottish health or Scottish housing or Scottish education.
“What we are proposing is absolutely a very measured and sensible step which says that when there is a bill that only affects, for instance England, committee stage should be of English MPs, but then the whole House will vote at report stage and indeed at third reading stage.
“What this is going to introduce as it were is a system for making sure the wishes of English MPs can’t be overruled. That, I think, is only fair in a system when the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament and indeed the Northern Ireland Parliament have increased powers.”
Mr Robertson hit back: “On overruling MPs, that’s very interesting because on the Scotland Bill, 58 of 59 Scottish MPs have voted for that legislation to be strengthened and they have been outvoted by English MPs.
“Not content with outvoting Scottish MPs elected on a mandate to strengthen the Scotland Bill, you are now going to introduce second-class status for us as MPs elected from Scotland on issues which can impact on the Scottish budget.
“You are even planning to make the membership of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee a minority pursuit for Scottish MPs. Is this what you mean when you say the respect agenda?”
Mr Cameron replied: “Isn’t it interesting you object to a vote in the UK Parliament on a UK issue, which is what has happened?”