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Monday, October 4, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK

UK: Scotland

Hague demands voting ban on Scots MPs

William Hague is seeking a change in voting rights

Conservative leader William Hague has reaffirmed his party's pledge to stop Scottish MPs voting on English matters at the start of the Tories' annual conference.

The strong stance has found favour with the Tories Scottish leader David McLetchie who said the present situation is "unsustainable".

Mr Hague, who unveiled a new policy document at the Blackpool gathering, said the party would do all it could to protect the union in the wake of devolution.

He pledged that his party would reduce the size of the Commons and promised that, under Tory rule, Scottish MPs would be excluded from voting on matters purely related to England.

David Porter: "The Tory leadership will be hoping for calm seas"
Mr Hague was addressing the West Lothian Question, first highlighted by the controversial Labour MP for Linlithgow Tam Dalyell.

The question asked why, even in the light of a Scottish Parliament, a full quota of Scottish MPs at Westminster could still be allowed to vote on purely English matters when English MPs did not have the same facility in Scotland.

He said: "That does mean English votes on English laws, on things that purely affect England.

"In my experience in Scotland, people don't have any objections to that.

"They don't see why, any more than the people in England see why the MPs for Glasgow should be voting on everything that happens in Blackpool and the MPs for Blackpool don't vote on what's happening in Glasgow.

Mr Hague said recognising an "English political consciousness" would play an important part in keeping the United Kingdom together.

However, senior Tories stressed that it will be up to the Scottish Tories to decide which of the new policies on issues including health, education and transport they wish to adopt for their Scottish Parliament campaigning.

In his address to the conference, Mr McLetchie said it was right that Scots MPs be banned from voting on English matters at Westminster.

[ image: David McLetchie:
David McLetchie: "The Tories are a UK party"
He told the Blackpool gathering: "Our priority must be to restore balance to the constitutional relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"Not only is it wrong that Scottish MPs can vote on English domestic issues when English MPs cannot do the same for Scottish domestic issues, it is also unsustainable."

Mr McLetchie said the UK Government's reluctance to settle the question was causing resentment and an undermining of the existing Union.

He added: "To retreat into English nationalism would be to allow our opponents to define us and to betray all that we have stood for in the past.

"It is a blind alley that we must avoid at all costs."

And in a show of unity, Mr McLetchie said the Tories were a United Kingdom party or nothing.

In a separate debate, Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude said the party would also promise not to change Scotland's share of the UK budget under devolution.

[ image: Francis Maude: Budget promise]
Francis Maude: Budget promise
He told the BBC: "There is a concern following devolution that Scotland has much higher public spending per head than England and I think we have to accept there will be pressure from some quarters in England to look at this again.

"We will be studying this again very carefully but there is no question of us just stepping in to slash and burn."

These latest discussions over the politics of England and Scotland follows former Tory Prime Minister John Major's prediction that Scotland could be independent within eight years.

He said in an interview for The Sunday Times that when he heard Scottish National Party Leader "Alex Salmond saying we may have Scottish independence by 2007, I thought he may very well be right".

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