COMMUNITIES Secretary Eric Pickles has led calls to end the “platinum credit card wielding Scottish MPs” as the Tory conference in Birmingham heard a clamour for English votes for English laws.
With senior figures calling for the Conservatives to become “the party of England” demands for an answer to the so-called West Lothian question where Scottish and Welsh MPs can vote on English only matters, came as Chancellor George Osborne told the conference that Scotland would use new income tax powers “to cut tax not raise it”.
In an article for Conservative Home, former Welsh Secretary John Redwood said: “Now that we know the Scottish result it is time to speak up for England.”
Meanwhile Lord Digby Jones, who is a cross bencher in the Lords, used his speech to point out that the West Midlands region has 5.6 million people “more than the population of Scotland.”
He said that it would be “an unacceptable, disgraceful farce” if Scottish MPs could vote on tax “of people like me in Brum” while Holyrood decides tax for people in Scotland.
In his speech Mr Pickles said that “as an Englishman, I am proud to be part of the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a vibrant and powerful partner.”
But he went on: “After the referendum result, without holding back on more devolved powers for Scotland, the case for fairness for England must be heard in parallel.
“In the mother of Parliaments, we can’t have Platinum Card wielding Scottish MPs who can vote for measures in English constituencies, but not in their own Scottish seats.
“If I vote for changes to the NHS or schools or housing, I have to bear the consequences of my vote.
“I have to look the electorate of Essex in the eye and justify my actions.
Not so the Scottish MPs, who have power without responsibility in England.”
At a fringe event Labour peer Lord Glasman said: “What we’ve done is smash the Union.
“[Gordon]Brown stood up and made a speech after which it was incapable for any Scot to be Prime Minister again. He’s the last – he’s the last and the best.
“That’s a tragedy for our country. If there’s a Union, there’s a Union but you can’t have home rule, complete control over your own affairs. I think we’ve got to step back here and re-conceptualise the Union.”
In a criticism of efforts to keep the UK together, he added: “Essentially I saw the No campaign as being based on three things – begging, bullying and bribing. It was a nasty.
“There has to be a vision of the country.”
Scottish Tory MP Rory Stewart, who represents an English Borders seat, said he liked the McKay Commission recommendations on having English votes for English laws but was concerned about opening a constitutional “Pandora’s Box” on related issues such as Lords reform.