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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 16:52 GMT
Blair rejects England-only votes
Tony Blair
Mr Blair said the debate had gone on 'forever'
Tony Blair has ruled out stopping Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs voting on England-only issues.

The prime minister told the Commons Liaison Committee that creating "two classes of MP" could get Parliament "into all sorts of problems".

Campaigners say that as English MPs have no say over devolved issues, their non-English colleagues should not vote on things like English school reforms.

Conservatives accused Mr Blair of ignoring "fair play".

'Don't agree'

It was pointed out to Mr Blair that all MPs would have a vote on the proposed smoking ban in England, even though Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already made their own decisions.

Liaison Committee chairman Alan Williams, Father of the House and a Labour opponent of devolution, accused ministers of failing to address the issue.

Mr Blair said: "I'm not failing to address it. I don't agree.

"English MPs still remain in overwhelming majority. I think if you try to create two classes of MPs, you will get yourselves in all sorts of trouble and you will find it very hard to distinguish between those things that are purely English, purely Scottish and so on.

"We have got a UK Parliament. In the end I totally understand why people think it's a good idea from other political parties, but in the end, if you try to divide MPs up into two categories and then you have to define the legislation they are able to vote on, you will find it very hard.

"I doubt if a government is going to introduce this."

Shadow secretary of state for constitutinal affairs Oliver Heald, said: "The prime minister seems to have lost his sense of equity and fair play.

"Scots accept England should be treated equally with Scotland; why won't the Prime Minister?

"In ruling out English votes for English laws, he is thinking of the Labour Party's interests rather than the interests of the United Kingdom."

Scottish National Party constitutional affairs spokesman Pete Wishart said: "English MPs have every right to feel aggrieved that the Government's lobby loyalists from north of the border will determine controversial English outcomes on legislation."

Peter Facey, director of the New Politics Network think tank, said: "The answer is not necessarily England-only votes in the Commons or an English Parliament but to put decision-making at a level much closer to the people."

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