Plan to exclude Scots MPs from budget criticised

Alistair Darling. Picture: John Devlin
Alistair Darling. Picture: John Devlin
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A ROW over whether Scottish MPs should be excluded from parts of the Budget overshadowed the statement on the draft legislation for new devolved powers to Holyrood.

Senior MPs from both the Tories and Labour pressed the government to come up with a version of English votes for English laws while former Chancellor Alistair Darling warned that proposals by his tory successor George Osborne to exclude Scottish MPs from parts of income tax votes in the Budget would “undermine the fiscal integrity of the UK” and warned it could plunge the country into its own version opf the eurozone crisis.

MPs were responding to the statement by Tory Scotland Office minister David Mundell to a near empty house with just 38 MPs present.

And pressed on the issue of whether Scots should be allowed to vote on all aspect of the Budget, Mr Mundell avoided fully backing the Chancellor.

Earlier this week, Mr Osborne told the Treasury select committee that it would be wrong for a Chancellor “to be beholden to Scottish Nationalist MPs.”

And on the agreement in the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin to allow Scottish MPs to vote on all aspects of Budget he insisted that this should not apply to English only matters.

He said: “I take the words in the Smith report as applying to the things that are to do with the elements of income tax that are going to remain UK-wide.

“Smith did not have a remit to talk about the constitutional arrangements of the rest of the UK or the House of Commons.”

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In the Commons Mr Darling said: “The Smith Commission recommended in future all members of this House would decide on the Budget, which is all well and good. It appears to be accepted in this report but it is entirely inconsistent with what the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have been saying over the last few weeks?

“Can I put it to you and will you accept we must do nothing in any reforms in future that, yes, they have to be fair, but they must not undermine the fiscal integrity of the United Kingdom because if we do that we will end up with all the structures we see in the eurozone, which no one in this country north or south of the border wants to see.”

Mr Mundell replied: “I don’t think anyone, outwith perhaps one party in this House, would want to see the fiscal nature of the United Kingdom undermined in any way, and certainly not the Chancellor.

“What he has made clear is as we move forward with this different form of settlement in Scotland there will be elements of the Budget as debated here which will not apply to Scotland and clearly it is appropriate, as there is a debate about the governance of England that there should be a debate in respect of that too.”

English only matters

However, there was also pressure from the Tory backbenches for the government to move as rapidly on excluding Scots from English only matters less than 24 hours after SNP leadr Nicola Sturgeon announced a U-turn by her party to end its refusal to vote on English only matters start voting on English NHS decisions in Westminster.

Senior Conservative and former leader of the House Sir George Young said: “The coalition Government has moved with commendable speed to meet the aspirations of the Scottish people and I welcome the statement.

“Do you agree the Government should now move with equal speed to meet the aspirations of the English?”

Tory Treasury committee chairman Andrew Tyrie added: “It cannot be right that Scottish MPs can continue to vote on English only matters.”

There was also pressure from the Labour benches to address the English question.

Former communities secretary John Denham said: “It’s much clearer what the governance of Scotland is going to be. It’s much less clear what the governance of England is going to be and which decisions will be retained at a UK level.

“The paper produced by (Commons Leader William Hague) before Christmas was inadequate and inconclusive and isn’t it time now for a very clear statement looking at all aspects of the governance of England about where power should lie and where decisions should be taken?”

There were also exchanges on the value of the command paper.

SNP Perth MP Pete Wishart claimed it was “veto riddled”.

However, Lib Dem deputy leader Malcolm Bruce, the MP for Gordon, claimed it brought Scotland “Home Rule.”