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English Votes on English Laws

11.26 am

The Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Grayling): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s plans to provide fairness for England in our constitutional arrangements.

I am proud to be a Minister in a Conservative and Unionist Government. As an Administration we are passionate supporters of the Union, and we are taking a whole range of measures designed to strengthen it and secure its future. To achieve that goal, we are committed to delivering a balanced and fair constitutional settlement for all the people of the United Kingdom.

One of the first things that the Government did after the election was to introduce legislation to give new powers to Scotland, with legislation devolving more powers to Wales and Northern Ireland following close behind. We are giving the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that stronger voice within the Union, and it is only right and fair that we do likewise for England. With the Scotland Bill already at Committee stage, it is important to make a start on that process now.

In 1977, when the then Labour Government first proposed a devolved assembly in Edinburgh, the veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell posed what has become the great unanswered question of our constitutional arrangements: why was it right that after devolution English MPs would lose the right to vote on key issues affecting his constituency in West Lothian, while he would continue to vote on those same issues in their constituencies? Since devolution was introduced in the 1990s, the West Lothian question has been very real and has remained unanswered.

It is right that we strengthen our Union by extending the powers of the devolved Assemblies, but it is also right that we now ensure real fairness in our constitutional arrangements. It is that process that we will begin today. Our proposals build on careful consideration and debate. I am indebted to my predecessor as Leader of the House, William Hague, and Sir William McKay and his commission, for their work, and to colleagues from throughout the House who have contributed their views and expertise.

There are different views and concerns about these matters in the House. The proposals that I am setting out today are designed to make a real start in addressing those concerns. They will give English MPs, and in some cases English and Welsh MPs, a power of veto to prevent any measure from being imposed on their constituents against their wishes. No law affecting England alone will able to be passed without the consent of English MPs. They will also give English MPs a power of veto over secondary legislation and a range of English public spending motions on matters that affect England only, and they will give the decisive vote on tax measures to MPs whose constituents are affected by those changes, once further planned devolution to Scotland takes place.

Many laws are of course common to England and Wales, which share a legal jurisdiction. The devolution settlements in Northern Ireland and Scotland are much broader than in Wales, where key areas like policing and justice are not devolved. So it is right that we extend the

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principle to Wales, too: no English and Welsh law will be made on matters devolved to Scotland or Northern Ireland without the agreement of English and Welsh MPs.

Today I am circulating an explanatory note for Members to set out how the new procedure works, but in summary it is this: to establish whether a matter is covered by this new procedure, you, Mr Speaker, will be asked to certify whether a Bill, or elements of it, are devolved in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, and are therefore to be treated as England only. It is very much like the way that you currently certify whether a matter is a financial one, and therefore a matter for the Commons only.

In considering such measures, we have endeavoured, where possible, to keep our proposed new process as close as possible to existing parliamentary procedures, with all Members from across the United Kingdom continuing to vote on Second Reading, in most Committees, on Report and Third Reading, and when considering Lords amendments. The key difference is that our plans provide for an English veto at different stages in the process.

There will be a new stage of parliamentary consideration before Third Reading, in which English, or English and Welsh MPs will be asked to accept or veto English and Welsh provisions that meet that devolution test. For England-only bills, Committee-stage consideration will be undertaken by English MPs. That will give them a voice in shaping the content of laws that affect their constituents. All other Committees will remain unchanged.

There will be no changes to procedures in the House of Lords, which will retain the right to scrutinise and amend Bills as it does now. The two Houses will continue to agree the text of Bills, as now, through the exchange of messages, or ping-pong. The only difference is that there will be an additional veto when Lords amendments are considered in the Commons. All Members of Parliament will vote on them, but where those amendments affect England, or England and Wales only, they will need the support of a “double majority” in the House of Commons, with both English and UK MPs needing to support an England-only amendment for it to pass.

That new “double majority” system will use a new system for recording votes in the Division Lobby. In future, votes will be recorded on tablet computers, so that it will be possible to give the Tellers an immediate tally of whether a measure has a majority of English MPs as well. I am grateful to the Clerks who have arranged a demonstration for Members of the new double-majority voting system that forms part of the Government’s proposals. It can be viewed in the Lobby between 1 and 2 pm today.

Much of the important law making that we do in this House is through means other than full programme Bills. Other key votes determining the distribution of spending will also be covered by those changes, such as on the revenue support grant in England and police grants in England and Wales. Overall spending levels will remain a matter for the whole House.

The rules governing the votes and procedures that I have described are set out in the Standing Orders of this House, and we propose to make English votes a reality through changes to those. We will table a motion in the coming days, but the text of the changes that we propose

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to the Standing Orders will be made available to Members in the Vote Office after this statement, and published on gov.uk.

Explanatory notes and a guide to the process will also be made available to ensure that Members and all those with an interest have the full details of what we propose. In addition to today’s statement, there will be a further opportunity to consider the proposals when they are placed before the House of Commons for full debate and decision shortly before the summer recess—as I indicated earlier, that will be on 15 July.

There will, of course, be views about the operation of the proposals in practice, and I inform the House that I have written to the newly re-elected Chair of the Procedure Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), to signal that I intend to invite his Committee to undertake a technical assessment of the operation of the new rules. We will also involve Members on both sides of the House in assessing the new system and what else we might need to do to strengthen fairness in our constitutional arrangements. I see today’s announcement as an important first step in getting that right, and we will hold a review of the new process once the first Bills subject to it have reached Royal Assent next year. There will be a clear opportunity to assess the workings of the new rules, and consider whether and in what ways they should be adapted for the future.

Today we are answering the West Lothian question and recognising the voice of England in our great union of nations. This change is only a part of the wider devolution package, but it is a vital next step in ensuring that our constitutional settlement is fair and fit for the future. I commend this statement to the House.

11.34 am

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I thank the Leader of the House for giving me, earlier this morning, advance sight of his statement and the draft procedural amendments he proposes.

The Leader of the House has announced in his statement the Government’s intention to rush ahead with controversial and complex changes to the procedures of this House, in an effort to ensure provision of what he likes to call English votes for English laws. The Official Opposition recognise that, in the light of the ongoing deepening of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is important for the views of English MPs to be expressed clearly on English matters, but we believe such changes would best be achieved by proper consultation and an attempt to reach cross-party agreement.

I am disappointed but not surprised that the Government have made no such attempt, and that they intend to rush the procedural changes through the House in the next two weeks, in a time-limited debate to change our Standing Orders. That is no way to make profound constitutional change. It is an outrage that the Government believe it is. The Opposition consider that the issue should have been properly dealt with as part of a constitutional convention to examine how our country is governed in a much more profound and holistic way than the rushed and partisan changes the right hon. Gentleman has cobbled together and put before us today. The proposals are complex and much more time will be needed to interrogate their effects, and the effect they will have in practice on our procedures in the House.

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An initial impression points to plenty of opportunities for procedural chaos, and I have some early observations, questions and profound worries.

The Leader of the House appears to have gone out of his way to ignore both the warnings and the recommendations of the McKay report, which his Government commissioned. Why has he done that? The creation of a veto rather than a voice for English MPs on England-only Bills, and on parts of other Bills, statements and statutory instruments, appears to go much further than the McKay commission envisaged in its 2013 report. Again, why has he decided to do that?

The decision to include an unprecedented double majority requirement for some Lords amendments—English MPs will get two votes and other MPs will get one—goes much further than the McKay report, which suggested a double count but no English veto. Is it not ironic that, just as the Labour party moves to one person, one vote for its leadership election, the Tory party decides to force the House to adopt multiple votes, but only for some MPs? Perhaps the Leader of the House is much more worried than he is letting on about losing important votes in the Lords.

Will the Leader of the House explain how his proposals avoid creating two classes of MPs in the House, which McKay cautioned strongly against? How does that square with the report’s recommendation that

“after due provision has been made for”


“views…to be heard and taken into account, the UK majority should prevail, not least…to retain the UK Government’s accountability at election time for decision-making during its time in office”?

Can the Leader of the House explain how his plans fulfil the very strong view expressed in the McKay report that we need to address feelings in England without provoking an adverse reaction outside England? Judging by the reaction in the Chamber today, he has certainly failed that test.

The proposals risk the Union rather than save it. As a self-proclaimed Unionist, why is the Leader of the House in such a rush to enact this partisan proposal that he has not even bothered to consult on, not least with the Procedure Committee? The Leader of the House is playing with fire. Why is he being so reckless? It is hard not to conclude that the proposals are not an attempt to address the West Lothian question, but rather a cynical attempt by a Government with an overall majority of just 12 to use procedural trickery to manufacture themselves a very much larger one.

Chris Grayling: The hon. Lady talks about rushing ahead. The West Lothian question has existed for 20 years. In 13 years of government, Labour did nothing to address it. This is something we worked on carefully in Opposition. It was a pledge in our manifesto. Last year, the former Leader of the House, William Hague, wrote to the acting leader of the Labour party inviting her to take part in cross-party talks on this very issue. Labour did not respond to that invitation, so I will take no lessons from Labour about an absence of cross-party discussion. The Labour party did not want to be involved, so we have gone ahead on righting this wrong without it.

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We need to move ahead now, alongside devolution. We are delivering more powers to Scotland. We will deliver more powers to Wales. It is right that we now address the issue of fairness for England too. The hon. Lady talked about the time needed to assess to the effects. That is precisely why I have written the Chairman of the Procedure Committee asking him to review this in action over the next 12 months and why I have said we will review its operation in 12 months’ time.

The hon. Lady said she expected a voice not a veto, but what is a voice? Surely this is a simple premise. It is not right that a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MP should be able to decide what happens on education in my constituency, whereas I have no say whatever the other way around. I say to the Scottish nationalists and the Labour party that I think most of their constituents would judge that simple proposition to be fair as well. Matters relating to schools and education in Scotland are decided in Holyrood in the Scottish Parliament. Why is it wrong for English Members of Parliament to have the ultimate say in what happens to schools in their constituency?

The hon. Lady talked about English MPs having two votes. This is not going to work like that. Everyone will walk through that same Division Lobby side by side. It is simply that an electronic system will enable us to establish in this House whether a vote is carried by both the whole House and by a majority of the MPs affected when the territorial extent of a measure is limited to either England, or to England and Wales. Again, why is that the wrong thing to do?

The hon. Lady talks about two classes of MP. The West Lothian question created two classes of MP. We are trying to restore fairness to the system. There is a central question for the Labour party. The Labour party is now a party of England and Wales. It is not a party of Scotland. Against all expectations, it has been wiped out in Scotland. In fact, the Conservatives came within 300 votes of being a larger Scottish party in this Parliament than Labour. Labour Members will have to explain to their constituents—if, as it appears, Labour is going to oppose these measures—why it is that they oppose fairness for England when it is okay to argue that powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be extended. I support the extension of powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are doing the right thing. It is also surely right to ensure that we can give a fair deal to the English too. That is what these measures are about.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. The Procedure Committee will do a quick and dirty technical review of the changes in the time that remains before recess, but it will take time for the procedural implications of the changes to Standing Orders to become apparent. I suspect we will need to revisit this issue at some stage within the next 12 to 18 months.

Chris Grayling: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I congratulate him on his uncontested re-election as Chair of the Procedure Committee. That shows the respect this House has for him. I ask him to see this as an ongoing task for his Committee. I have said I will

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return to this in 12 months’ time. In the meantime, I would like him to track the workings of this not simply over the next few weeks, but over the next few months. I would like the Procedure Committee to be absolutely central to deciding how this evolves as the months go by.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. This issue, of course, evokes very strong feeling in all parts of the House. Let me say at this early stage that colleagues can be assured that if they wish to contribute to the exchanges on this statement, they will have the opportunity—everyone will have the opportunity—to do so.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): What a lot of constitutional bilge and unworkable garbage! What this statement is creating is two classes of Members of Parliament in this House, which will have a significant impact on our ability to look after our constituents and to stand up for their interests in this House of Commons. With this double majority—the new thing introduced this morning—we would do as well to stamp the foreheads of Scottish MPs before they go into the Lobby, and I thought that the Leader of the House was quite close to suggesting or proposing it.

This is the most dramatic and important constitutional statement that we have had since the days of Gladstone. Never before has there been an assault on the rights of Members of Parliament in this House to look after the interests of their constituents. This places you, Mr Speaker, in the most intolerable and politically invidious situation where you will be dragged into a political role and you will have to decide and determine, almost on your own, whether my honourable colleagues get to vote and participate in full. I wish you all the best with that, Mr Speaker. The fact that the Government have placed you in such a situation is a matter of eternal shame on them.

This is the reality of asymmetric devolution across the United Kingdom. It is never going to be tidy: there is unhappiness in England and there is most definitely unhappiness in Scotland and increasing unhappiness in Wales. The way to solve this is to have our own Parliaments. What is wrong with an English Parliament? Then we could all come to this House as equal Members and determine and decide issues such as foreign affairs, defence and international obligations. Instead, we get this cobbled-together, unworkable mess that will indeed be challenged all the way, right down the line, and it will probably end up in the courts.

Only this week, 99% of my hon. Friends voted for something that is the sovereign will of the people of Scotland, but it was voted down by English Members of Parliament. English votes for English laws? Then there is a veto, and it becomes English votes for Scottish laws. This is unacceptable, Mr Speaker.

We had a referendum last year and we lost it. By God, though, this lot are doing their best to ensure that Scotland becomes an independent nation. I almost congratulate them on the almost ham-fisted approach they are adopting on Scottish issues. All this is going to do is to make the whole movement towards independence even more irresistible. For that, I almost thank the Leader of the House.

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Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman seems a tad on the exercised side. I simply do not accept that what he says would represent the common-sense view of the Scottish people who, after all, voted for the Union a few months ago. This is not about his constituents. It is about my constituents and the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House. We have a Scottish package of devolution; we have a Welsh package of devolution; and we have a Northern Irish package of devolution. The SNP has argued for 20 years and more for the Scottish people to have more control over their own destiny. We are giving the Scottish people more control over their own destiny. Why is it therefore wrong for the English people to have some additional control over their own destiny? That is the point between us. It is not about wrecking the Union; it is about ensuring that there is fairness across the Union.

If we are to have a Union in which the different component parts have greater control over what takes place in the constituencies and areas represented, why is it wrong for England to have the same? I am afraid that this is something that Scottish MPs should welcome and accept as being part of a constitutional settlement that means that there will be a stronger Parliament in Scotland—probably the strongest devolved Parliament anywhere in the world. That is what SNP Members called for and it is what the Scottish people voted for, but they cannot turn round and say to the English, “It is not okay for you to have a bit of that same control over your destiny”.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I am pleased that the Government now have an answer to the question I posed before the Scottish referendum—the question of who speaks for England. I am very glad that they are tackling the problem that devolution has posed—that Scotland could vote for a lower rate of income tax in the Scottish Parliament and then send Scottish MPs to this Parliament to impose a higher rate of income tax on England. Is it not a sign that the Opposition still do not get it—that there needs to be justice for England in this Union, as well as for Scotland?

Chris Grayling: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, as ever. I find it difficult to understand how it is possible, in one week, for the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and his colleagues to vote in favour of full fiscal devolution for Scotland, and then to vote against the idea of England’s having greater control over tax measures that affect England. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) must calm himself. He is an aspiring statesman. He must simmer down.

Mr MacNeil: We will let you have full fiscal autonomy.

Mr Speaker: Ah! A long time to go.

Sir Gerald Kaufman rose—

Mr Speaker: A lecture in calmness will be provided by the Father of the House, I feel sure.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Even the title of the statement sounds racist. [Interruption.] Yes! Yes!

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The Leader of the House talked repeatedly about constitutional arrangements, but is it not a fact that the glory of this country is that we do not have a constitution, and that we are governed by the Queen in Parliament? Furthermore, is it not a glory of this House that all its Members, from those who hold the highest office to the most newly elected Member of Parliament, are equal in the Division Lobby? Is it not a fact that the Government are not just underlining whatever differences there may be between the outlooks of people from different countries within the United Kingdom, but undermining the whole basis of British democracy, all the way back to when Magna Carta was signed? I hope that there will be enough Conservative Members of Parliament who have sufficient love of this wonderful House not to co-operate in destroying it.

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished Member of the House, but I have to say that his opening comment about racism demeans his point, and I therefore will not respond to it. [Interruption.]

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Mr Speaker—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. I have known the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) for more than 20 years, and I have never previously detected him having any difficulty in making himself heard, but such is the noise that today may be an exception.

Mr Gray: The only occasion on which I recall having had difficulty in making myself heard, Mr Speaker, was when I was the briefest ever shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. I was sacked by Michael Howard after five days for raising some of the issues that we are trying to address today.

I warmly welcome what the Leader of the House has announced. It is a major, major step in the right direction. I foresaw it 10 years ago, but there we are: a prophet in one’s own country. It does not go quite as far as I, at that time, proposed—I would much prefer some form of federal solution to our difficulties—but I take great comfort from my understanding that we will see how this thing works, and if it does not work, the door will remain open for more radical solutions to the West Lothian question.

Chris Grayling: It is important for me to stress that what we are delivering is what was voted on by the people of the United Kingdom on the basis of our manifesto, and I think it right and proper for us to deliver on that manifesto. I intentionally left the door open to Members in all parts of the House so that in 12 months’ time, when we have seen how the proposals bed in and when the first Bills have received Royal Assent, we can review the whole package and decide what is working and what is not.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP): The general election saw the Conservative party fall to its worst level in Scotland since the introduction of universal suffrage. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for my party to strengthen the Scottish Parliament. Why do the Government have such a disregard

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for the views of the Scottish people, reducing the ability of Scottish Members of Parliament to vote on matters that have an impact on the Scottish budget?

Chris Grayling: The people of Scotland voted for the Union, and we are delivering more powers for the Scottish Parliament so that we can strengthen the Union. That is what we committed ourselves to doing in our manifesto, and it is what the whole House agreed on before the general election. We are fulfilling our promise, which is the right thing to do.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): The point has been fairly made that, because of the funding system we have in the UK, many decisions that might appear solely to have an impact on England can have a UK effect, but my understanding of what my right hon. Friend was saying was that the Government fully understood that and that it would be recognised in the structures put in place. If that is the case, I have to say I find some of the arguments being advanced by the SNP to be rather synthetic. I have a great interest in all sorts of subjects, including wind farms in the Monadhliath mountains, but I have to recognise that they are not ones that I can pursue as a Member of Parliament in this Chamber.

Chris Grayling: The point that SNP Members seem to have failed to take on board is that no measure will be able to pass through this House without the consent of the whole House, and the whole House includes Members of Parliament from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is how it is today; that is how it will continue. It is absolutely right and proper that that should be the case. They will continue to vote in all the Divisions they vote in at the moment. They will speak in the debates and ask all their questions. This does not create a second tier of Members of Parliament. It actually addresses the existing West Lothian question, which creates a division in competence between different Members of Parliament.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman is a Member of Parliament from England. I am a Member of Parliament from Wales. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me one additional power I have in this House because I am from Wales?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman will of course as a result of these proposals continue to vote on all UK issues. He will also have the opportunity to take decisions about matters that affect Wales and affect England and Wales, such as policing and justice, which are devolved in Northern Ireland and Scotland. This should actually strengthen his role in this House because it will give him greater control over matters that affect the country he represents.

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): My constituents who have written to me about this will warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I think it is the first important step in ensuring that the constitution is fair and is seen to be fair for everybody, and it will support the Union. Will he confirm that what he has announced is a modern-day “no taxation without representation”

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measure, and that taxation visited solely on England will have to have a majority of English MPs to get through this House?

Chris Grayling: This is an important point; it is absolutely right and fundamental. Over the next two years, we shall see, for example, the creation of a Scottish rate of income tax—the power of the Scottish Parliament to set its own rate of income tax. Is it wrong that at the same time English MPs should have a right to say no if a UK Parliament imposes a tax that will apply only to English MPs’ constituents? I think they should have a say on that, and this proposal will do that.

Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): If there are not to be two tiers of MPs in this House after these changes, what on earth does it mean to have a double majority at Report stage? I have to say I think it is an outrage that the Government are seeking to drive ahead with a fundamental challenge to the constitutional integrity of this House as the Parliament of the UK through Standing Orders. If the Leader of the House really thinks these proposals will bear scrutiny, he should bring forward primary legislation for proper scrutiny both on the Floor of this House and in the other place. If he thinks he can do that, let him come ahead and do it.

Chris Grayling: Standing Orders can be amended and changed by hon. Members, but if it is the view of Members of this House that there should be primary legislation when we carry out the review in 12 months’ time, the right hon. Gentleman should bring that forward as a proposal.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): I fully understand the mischief that my right hon. Friend is seeking to address, but he will understand the particular circumstances of north Wales, where people are heavily reliant on services provided in England, particularly health services. They are already disadvantaged by the defective devolution settlement put in place by the Labour party. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that they will not be further disadvantaged by the measures he is now putting in place?

Chris Grayling: I am acutely aware of the issues affecting people, particularly in north Wales, where there are cross-border issues and where Manchester and Liverpool can often seem closer than Cardiff. It is none the less the case that a matter such as health in Wales is devolved and something for the Welsh Assembly, so while my right hon. Friend can vote on health matters throughout England, the same does not apply the other way around. But his position in this House will remain the same: as a Welsh Member of Parliament, he will be able to vote on and contribute to decision making about health service matters in England, as he does at the moment, but such matters cannot simply be imposed on the English against their wishes.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Why does the House of Lords remain unreformed—a model of democratic perfection, where it is still possible, with the connivance of all three main parties, to buy places—while we stagger and stumble with ad hoc steps, now EVEL, that will lead to the certain break-up of the United

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Kingdom? Why do the Government not work with all parties and have a constitutional convention to work out a federal system that will be right for all four nations?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman talks about the House of Lords, but if he is so exercised by that perhaps he will explain why, when House of Lords reform was before this House in the previous Parliament, the Labour party did not support the programme motion that would have allowed it to continue.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): The fact that the programme motion was never moved might be a reason.

The Leader of the House has half answered the West Lothian question; he has given English Members a veto. What he has not done is allow them the right to initiate legislation. That happens in Scotland. Will his review in a year’s time take that into account?

Chris Grayling: The programme motion was not moved precisely because the Labour party said its Members would not support it. That is the story of the previous Parliament. They have a habit—as my hon. Friend will know—of saying one thing and doing another.

In 12 months’ time, when we carry out the review, I will be very open to submissions from all parts of the House about how the process should work, the way it is working and the extent of its working.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): At the foot of page 2, the explanatory notes state:

“Any bills that the Speaker has certified as England-only in their entirety will be considered by only English MPs”.

It would help the House if the right hon. Gentleman were to identify past Bills that he considers to have been England-only in their entirety.

Chris Grayling: There will be a relatively small number of England-only Committees; most Bills are broader in extent, and in the previous Session there were only four. One example in particular is education, which is devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I would expect most Committees to continue to be configured in exactly the same way as they are today, with representatives from throughout the United Kingdom.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): I support the rights of, and the transfer and devolution of powers to, not just the different countries in the Union but the regions in England, particularly those in the north. To me it is pretty obvious—a logical consequence—that today’s announcement had to happen and to take the form it has. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the underlying principle behind it is a fair settlement for all nations in the United Kingdom?

Chris Grayling: I can absolutely confirm that. As I said at the start, I am a Minister in a Conservative and Unionist Government, and we have every wish to protect and preserve our Union. That is why we are providing far greater powers to the Scottish Parliament and the Administration in Wales, and will move to introduce corporation tax in Northern Ireland. We have stronger and stronger devolved Assemblies throughout

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the United Kingdom, and it is absolutely right and proper to provide some degree of fairness for English constituents and English Members of Parliament. That is what we are doing.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): The right hon. Gentleman talked earlier about Scotland having a stronger voice in the Union, but this week 95% of Scottish MPs voted for more powers for Scotland, and we, the 56, were vetoed. Now he wants a veto for England. Just where was Scotland’s veto this week, when Scottish-only matters were being blocked? May we have, for fairness, a veto-for-veto principle?

Chris Grayling: The Scottish National party is struggling to come to terms with the fact that the Scottish people voted to be part of the Union and to have a United Kingdom Parliament. I know that that is difficult and I know that SNP Members do not like it, but I actually think they have brought value to the House and I enjoy debating with them. They make an important contribution to the House on behalf of Scotland, but they are part of a United Kingdom Parliament. Constitutional changes will be voted on by United Kingdom Members of Parliament, including Scottish MPs, as will these measures on English votes on English laws.

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): I welcome this limited start on English votes for English laws, but I am intrigued as to how we will achieve an English vote on English income tax, given that only part of the tax is being devolved. The tax on employment income is being devolved, but not the tax on savings income. Will the Leader of the House explain what process will be used to achieve an English, Welsh or Northern Irish-only vote on the main rate of income tax to be paid by our constituents?

Chris Grayling: Once the devolution of tax rates has been completed, and when we are debating the Finance Bill and—as with other legislation—the House resolves into Grand Committee, the Members of Parliament affected by those tax changes will be able to vote on whether to accept them.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Leader of the House clarify the position for London MPs? As a London MP, I have no say over transport or policing in London. Those matters come under the jurisdiction of the Mayor. I therefore feel doubly disfranchised, because I cannot vote on matters that relate to my own city and I apparently will not be able to have a say on certain other issues. This is not only a West Lothian question; it is also an east London question.

Chris Grayling: The difference is that Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast have Parliaments and Assemblies that legislate. In London, there is no such separate legislative power. This House legislates for London. There is administrative devolution in London, and there will soon be greater administrative devolution in Manchester as a result of the Bill that is now going through the Lords, but the key point is that this House will continue to legislate for London.

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Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): My constituents will warmly welcome this Bill—

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): It’s not a Bill!

Martin Vickers: This statement. I can see why our Scottish colleagues fail to understand the feelings of hostility and unfairness that English voters experience, but I am surprised that Labour Members cannot understand how people in Cleethorpes and elsewhere in England feel. I welcome the statement, but may I add a caveat? I am concerned that we are stumbling towards a major realignment of our constitution without knowing what the final destination will be. Will the Leader of the House assure me that there will be adequate time to debate all our constitutional issues during the coming months and years?

Chris Grayling: We are clear about the end point, which involves a strong Parliament for Scotland, with more devolved powers than any comparable assembly in the world, and strong powers for Cardiff and Belfast, alongside a United Kingdom Parliament that legislates for and is participated in by the whole of the United Kingdom but also has provisions to ensure fairness for England as the largest country in the Union. Some degree of justice needs to be visible for the people we represent in England.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing the voice of Northern Ireland to be heard. As these proposals will affect Northern Ireland quite dramatically, I appreciate your letting me respond to the statement. We will use our eight votes and make up our minds on these kinds of issues on the basis of what will strengthen the United Kingdom and not weaken it. I have great sympathy with English Members on this matter, and I understand their arguments. I understand the problems and the challenges, but as we on these Benches have said before, we need to avoid unintended consequences. We need to think these things through properly, without rushing, and we should consider all these matters in a constitutional convention. The principle will be that no law affecting England alone will be able to be passed without the consent of English MPs, but there are matters that remain in this House that affect Northern Ireland, including the legacy of the past, parades and so on. Will the Leader of the House allow the same principle to apply to Northern Ireland MPs in regard to Northern Ireland-only matters that are not devolved?

Chris Grayling: The simple principle of these changes is that if a matter is not devolved, it will be and is a matter for the UK Parliament. If we are talking about strengthening the Union, then it should be the case that those are matters for the UK Parliament. We would weaken the Union otherwise. If a matter is devolved, it is the responsibility of the Administrations in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. If it affects English-only constituencies, it will be for those who represent English-only constituencies to decide whether to accept or reject it.

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): My right hon. Friend rightly referenced the fact that some Opposition Members cannot vote on education in their own constituencies, but can vote on education

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in his and my constituencies. This goes further than education, as it extends to policing, health and other areas. Does he agree that the Government’s proposals balance the principle of English consent for English measures with the ability of MPs from all parts of the United Kingdom to continue to deliberate and vote together?

Chris Grayling: Yes, I do, and it is important to pick up on what the leader of the Democratic Unionist party said. We need to ensure that we keep the Union strong. We are passionate Unionists. At the same time, the Union is not strengthened if English citizens feel somehow that the constitutional settlement lets them down. We need to address their concerns to strengthen the Union that we regard as so important.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I proudly represent an English constituency, but I am also a proud Unionist. I am shocked by this nasty little measure, which has not been properly debated. Will the Leader of the House say why the House has a proper system of debating legislation when it has a simple majority on, for example, issues such as Standing Orders? Will he agree to bring legislation before the House, because the questions from my colleagues from Northern Ireland and Scotland—

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): And Wales.

Fiona Mactaggart: And Wales. Their questions are merely a precursor of what will happen when the right hon. Gentleman makes me a Member of an English Parliament as well as a United Kingdom Parliament.

Chris Grayling: If the right hon. Lady and others wish to come forward as part of the review and say that they now want this set in legislation, we will obviously consider it. Let me remind her of the facts: her former colleague, John Denham, who was a member of the shadow Cabinet in the previous Parliament, argued very strongly for the need to do this. Labour Members of Parliament must decide whether they want to say to their English constituents, “You should not be a part of the devolution changes that are taking place.” I am happy to have that argument with them on the doorsteps of this country. I think that people in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will think that this step is fair.

Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that fairness also extends to timing? My constituents expect that, as I vote in favour of more power for Scotland in the Scotland Bill, at the same time we should be delivering English votes for English laws. The two must be on the same timescale.

Chris Grayling: That is the key point. Whether Opposition Members accept it or not, this Parliament is currently legislating to create the strongest devolved Assembly that this country—and probably much of the world—has ever seen. We are extending significant new powers to Edinburgh. Additional powers will go to Northern Ireland in due course. It is absolutely right and proper that, as we do that, we also address the obvious question, which is raised by constituents in constituencies represented by Conservatives and Labour in England, that there has to be a part of the process that focuses on their interests.

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Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) (SNP): The Leader of the House said: “and they will give the decisive vote on tax measures”. For me, that is the nub of it. We have heard much talk today of huge new powers for the Scottish Parliament. Let us look at the facts: 70% of tax decisions and 84% of welfare decisions will remain in this House. That amounts to patsy powers. That is why we have such a contingent of Scottish National party MPs. We need to make Scotland’s voice heard—on justice and on fairness. I ask the Minister: what is it he is afraid of in hearing Scotland’s voice?

Chris Grayling: Well, nobody is afraid of hearing Scotland’s voice. As I have said before, I welcome all the new SNP Members; they have added value to the debate in this House. The hon. Lady has just made the point that the vast majority of tax decisions will remain in this House. Those Members will continue to vote in a United Kingdom vote, without an English dimension, on all tax measures that fit within that category. We are talking about when a tax has been devolved. If there is a Scottish rate of income tax, and an English counterpart to that rate of income tax, it will be voted on in the Scottish Parliament and English MPs will have the right to say, “Well, it actually only applies to them, and they will accept it or not accept it.”

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con): Does the Leader of the House agree that it is simply unpalatable for those living in English constituencies to see us devolve more powers to Scotland and yet not address the West Lothian question? Much is made of future threats to the Union, and does he agree that not dealing with this issue is one of them?

Chris Grayling: Absolutely, and my hon. Friend represents a large number of Scottish constituents, and he is a powerful advocate for them. It is important that he is able to take decisions on matters that affect them. It is also right and proper that, when a matter exclusively affects English constituencies, he and his English colleagues should be able to say no if it is something that their constituents do not want.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): Going back to the London question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), I listened carefully to the answer of the Leader of the House gave when he talked about legal jurisdictions. The logical conclusion to that is that when the police grant and transport issues in London are discussed, Welsh Members will be allowed to vote because we come under the same legal requirement as the English. Is that the case? How is it fair that elected Welsh Members will have their powers reduced when unelected Welsh peers will not?

Chris Grayling: Policing is a classic example of something that is not devolved. We do not have a separate Welsh policing system. Therefore it is right and proper that we should retain the involvement of Members of Parliament from England and Wales in voting on police matters. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, those matters are devolved. That is the key difference. The situation in London is straightforward: London does not have a devolved Assembly in the way in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do. It does not legislate. This House

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legislates for London. Therefore the decisions about new laws in London should be and will be a part of this package.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I can recommend some good breathing exercises for Opposition Members to calm them down. Many of my constituents are extremely concerned that we are legislating to devolve power to Scotland—quite rightly—as part of our manifesto commitment, but at the same time we are not taking further action to strengthen the powers of English MPs to have a veto over what happens. I warmly welcome the statement, but will my right hon. Friend undertake that, after this 12-month period, we will consider introducing legislation? As we devolve more power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of England, we need a law to give us oversight of what happens in this place.

Chris Grayling: I have said that in 12 months’ time we will be open to listening to the views of Members. I hope that my hon. Friend will make that case when the moment arises. He is right about the views of his constituents. I still do not truly understand why two Opposition parties, which support devolution, do not think that it is fair to provide England with an element of increased control in that overall devolution package. It is incongruous and strange. For the Labour party, in particular, which represents a large number of English seats, it makes no sense. I look forward to seeing its Members argue their case on the doorsteps because I do not think that they will win.

Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I listened carefully when the Leader of the House said that there would be no changes in the House of Lords. He went on to say that if amendments were made that affected England only, there would be a veto by English MPs. What happens if the House of Lords decides to extend the extent of a Bill to bring in Scottish matters or to change things affecting Scotland? Will Scottish MPs get a veto over that?

Chris Grayling: A Lords amendment will be subject to the same certification process whether it is UK in its extent or English only in its extent, and the votes will take place accordingly.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): Following on from what the hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir) said, I too am very concerned about what could happen in the other place. As things currently stand, we could go forward with this particular measure and be held hostage to fortune in the other place not only because of the political persuasions in the Lords but because they would not have the same criteria applied to them. We would spend a lot of time in this place trying to figure out what are English laws for England, and down there they could spend twice as long debating what we have given to them, with all the machinations that go on.

Chris Grayling: The Lords will debate what we send to them as a House. If they send back legislation with material differences, as is the case at the moment, we will vote on whether to accept the changes or not. If the

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legislation concerns matters that affect England or England and Wales and are certified as such, to be accepted and passed into law it will require the support of the whole House and also of the MPs affected, either those in England or those in England and Wales.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I must say that I think that this is one of the most ill thought through statements that I have ever heard from the Dispatch Box, and there have been quite a few recently. I want to ask about the Yorkshire problem. Given that the population of Yorkshire is greater than that of Scotland and given the Leader of the House’s so-called concern for English votes, particularly, obviously, English votes in the south, will he give Yorkshire MPs a veto on those matters that directly affect Yorkshire, such as last week’s decision to pause the electrification of the TransPennine Express route?

Chris Grayling: I gently remind the hon. Lady that this proposal was part of a manifesto on which we were elected and on which her party was not, so it has hardly arrived new. It has been studied and supported. In Yorkshire there is no assembly that legislates. The difference is that we as a Parliament are passing additional responsibilities that would previously have been dealt with here to the Assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so this is simply a compensatory mechanism for the rest of the country.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): The Leader of the House states that today he is answering the West Lothian question and recognising the voice of England in our great Union of nations. There are 56 SNP MPs who have been given a strong mandate to speak up for Scotland. When will the voices of the people of Scotland be not only recognised but heard? All the powers we seek are given to us without any vetoes attached. We have just had three Committee days to discuss the Scotland Bill and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart)stated, each and every amendment was voted down by the Government. The content of this statement is indeed “evil”.

Chris Grayling: I do not think that with the SNP there is any danger of Scotland’s voice not being heard. I simply remind SNP MPs that we are passing to Scotland more power for the Scottish Parliament than it has ever had before, as we promised the Scottish people. That is right and proper.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House ponder for a moment on the fact that had his proposals been in place over the past hundred years, Alec Douglas-Home, Andrew Bonar Law, James Callaghan, Lloyd George and Gordon Brown would not have been able to vote on their own Governments’ proposals in this House of Commons? Does that not strike him as incongruous, coming as it does from a Conservative and Unionist party?

Chris Grayling: That is simply not true. They would have been able to vote. As I said earlier, every Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MP will continue to vote in the same Divisions except on the very small number of Bills for which there is an English-only Committee.

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Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): The Leader of the House has already shown his disdain for Welsh MPs by timetabling the debate on this matter for 15 July, when there will be a Welsh Grand Committee. Without simply saying that it will be up to the Speaker, will he tell us his view of what will happen to legislation on matters of economic or other importance to the whole of the UK that are geographically situated in England, such as Crossrail or a potential third runway at Heathrow? Would that legislation be subject to a veto by English MPs?

Chris Grayling: The test is that if a matter is devolved to the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is covered by these measures.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): It is something of an irony that this announcement is made today when the first item of business was the Transport for London Bill. Under the new proposals, who would vote on that? Would my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith)be precluded from doing so while the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris),whose constituency is rather further away, could vote on it? Why would my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) and the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) not be of equal status with other Members of this House under these proposals while their predecessors, now in the House of Lords, would be?

Chris Grayling: The answer is that they would all vote on the proposals. The difference is that if there is a legislative measure on transport in north Wales, it is voted on by the Assembly in Cardiff and Members of Parliament in this House have no say on it. Under these proposals, every Member of the House will take part in Divisions, but a Division that affects only one of the four nations of the United Kingdom will need the support of the Members from that country.

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): Will the Leader of the House recognise that although 95% of the MPs in Scotland are from the SNP, 100% of the MPs of Kent are Conservative and their constituents voted for this measure?

Chris Grayling: That is absolutely correct. This is a United Kingdom Parliament. We have a majority in the United Kingdom Parliament and we are fulfilling our manifesto commitments. We are doing so not simply on this issue but by delivering more powers than ever to the Scottish Parliament.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): I am not sure whether we are hearing proposals for English votes for English laws or for Tory votes for Tory laws. It is interesting to hear the words “double majority” in the statement because, of course, that principle was ruled out for the European referendum. May I build on the question asked by my hon. Friend from Plaid Cymru, the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams)? He asked for worked examples of legislation from history, about how they would have worked, and about how this would apply to other procedures in the House, such as private Members’ Bills, ten-minute rule Bills, Opposition day debates and so on. Are we going to get detail on that?

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Chris Grayling: I can tell the hon. Gentleman that for now we will not apply this to private Members’ Bills. It will not apply to ten-minute rule Bills and the intention is that all Members of this House will continue to participate in all Divisions that affect the United Kingdom in general. The only change will be that Members of Parliament representing England or England and Wales will have a decisive say on matters that affect only their constituencies.

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP): I am concerned that these proposals mean that Scots MPs will be ceding power over matters that have a financial impact on our constituents. Part of the role of the Speaker is to certify money Bills with the aid of an extensive guidance note. Will the Leader of the House commit to ensuring that the guidance note on England-only laws receives the scrutiny of and debate by this House before the provision is put into Standing Orders?

Chris Grayling: As I said, there will be a full day’s debate in which all these matters can be raised. The Speaker will have the job of certifying whether a Bill is England-only, England and Wales-only or UK-wide in its entirety or in part. This will ensure that when we have devolved a tax rate to the Scottish Parliament and decisions are being taken by MSPs, if an equivalent tax rate applies only to England, rightly and properly the decisive vote will be decided by those people who are directly affected by it and not those who are not.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): The House should reflect that when the Leader of the House rose to make his statement at 11.30 this morning he was probably signalling the end of the Union that he wants to preserve. The people of my constituency and of Scotland will reflect on the fact that in this proposal he is creating two classes of MP in the House of Commons and that is a disgrace. If he wants an English Parliament, why not make proposals for it?

Chris Grayling: I am afraid I think that that is nonsense. The SNP seems to believe that it is fine to have more devolution for Scotland and additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, but that England and England and Wales should not get any fairness in that mix. I disagree.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): As devolution to the nations continues apace, we need to find a solution to the English question. The Liberal Democrats remain of the view that a constitutional convention must be part of that solution. The Leader of the House has proposed a novel process, but will he confirm that he will engage with all the parties over the next few weeks and will not proceed with these changes to Standing Orders if they will have severe consequences for the future of the Union?

Chris Grayling: I think that these changes are essential to the future of the Union, but we will consult extensively across the House. That is why I have said that the Procedure Committee will review the matter over the next 12 months and we will have a review in 12 months’ time. We will, of course, continue to discuss it, as I already have, with Members on both sides of the House.

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Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP): The West Lothian question is as of nothing compared with the utter shambles in the House today. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart),I think that the Speaker of this House is being put in an utterly invidious position. Will you pass on the message to Mr Speaker, Madam Deputy Speaker, that, with the utmost goodwill, I shall be the arbiter of what is in the interests of my constituency? Nobody in this House speaks for my constituency other than me.

Chris Grayling: That is not strictly true. The hon. Gentleman does not speak for his constituents on education. It is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for his constituency who speaks on education. That is why these changes are necessary. The situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is different, and it is right and proper that when a matter that relates to schools in my constituency and affects schools in constituencies across England, ultimately English Members of Parliament can say, “That is not what we want.”

Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP): I want to extend a hand of friendship somewhat to the Leader of the House, who is proposing to introduce the use of tablets to ensure that English MPs’ votes count twice, but what will that cost? Does he agree that in this time of Tory austerity cuts, simply to tattoo the foreheads of Scottish MPs would be cheaper and would underline their status as second-class MPs?

Chris Grayling: I have no idea if any of the new intake of Scottish MPs have any tattoos, but personally I prefer to spend perhaps a couple of thousand pounds on six iPads that can do the recording for us.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): The Minister woefully misunderstands the essence of the West Lothian question. I say this as a close friend for 30 years of the former Member for West Lothian, Tam Dalyell. He has sat in my kitchen and we have discussed this ad nauseam. The essence of the West Lothian question is that if the Government introduce and continue to introduce multiple competences for the different Members in this House, that will end this House, cause confusion, create political chaos and end the Union. It is better, therefore, to have separate Parliaments with separate jurisdictions, whose Members are clear about what they do and the role they have with their constituents, or to have a unitary Parliament, which is what Tam Dalyell always wanted. The Government cannot have something in the middle—a dog’s breakfast. I put it to the Minister that simply saying—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please be seated? I think he would like to come to a question for the Leader of the House now.

George Kerevan: Does the right hon. Gentleman understand the West Lothian question?

Chris Grayling: I absolutely understand the West Lothian question. The people who did not understand the West Lothian question were Labour Members when they introduced a new approach to the constitutional structure of this country without giving any consideration

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to the views of and impacts on electors in England. As we take a further step down the road towards devolution, we are ensuring that we do not forget the English, unlike Labour did 20 years ago.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): The comments that we have heard from Government Members show a remarkable ignorance or that Ministers are trying, as we say in Scotland, to be sleekit. The double majority issue surely now extends to the rest of the discussion of the Scotland Bill and what powers are transferred to Scotland, and to other UK legislation, such as the European Union Referendum Bill, where a majority of Scottish MPs or Welsh MPs may decide that we do not want that referendum on the EU. Surely this is a morass and must be taken away. Will he go back and consider the entire document?

Chris Grayling: I say again to the SNP and in particular to the hon. Members for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) and for East Lothian (George Kerevan), that one of the great ironies is that they can vote on education in my constituency, but they cannot vote on education in their constituencies. Such constitutional arrangements do not pass muster. We are putting in place changes that I think are right. They are necessary to hold the Union together and to provide fairness in this Parliament; they are right and proper, and their time has come.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): Will the Leader of the House answer this question on the specifics of voting in this House and not try to dodge the issue? He says in his statement: “The key difference is that our plans provide for an English veto at different stages in the process.” Does he not recognise the rank hypocrisy of this position when his MPs flooded in to veto the proposals of Scotland’s MPs on the Scotland Bill?

Chris Grayling: No, I do not because constitutional matters—[Interruption.] I say to the Scottish nationalists that this is a Union Parliament that will vote collectively across the United Kingdom on constitutional change. That is true of the Scotland Bill and it will be true of the Wales Bill, as well as changes in respect of Northern Ireland and the Standing Orders on English votes. It is a Union Parliament and it will vote together on those issues.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): I think this is a case of last and least, given the fine contributions from my hon. Friends. We on the Opposition Benches know that over the years the House has been resistant to change. I find it incredible that a form of electronic voting is to be brought in simply to downgrade the Scottish MPs, although it had been resisted before. As I am the last to speak, I will try to help the Leader of the House understand what we have been trying to say in the numerous questions that we have asked. Our concern is that if Parliament passes English votes for English laws on matters that are devolved, we might not be able to vote on matters that affect the budget consequentials for our Parliament and our constituents, so the Government must make it clear that the double majority will not apply to matters relating to budget consequentials.

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Chris Grayling: All Members of Parliament from all parts of the United Kingdom will continue to vote on budget matters. All Members of Parliament will vote on the Budget. If tax changes have been devolved to Scotland and an equivalent rate that does not apply in Scotland applies in England, it is right and proper that English Members of Parliament have the right to say yea or nay to those changes. What the Scottish National party seems to be saying is that devolution and increased powers for Scotland are fine, but the English should not be allowed any fairness at all. That is not acceptable.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): The Scottish National party Members here wisely and honourably make a vow of abstinence that they will not vote on what they perceive to be English matters. However, that was not the case with Scottish Labour Members of Parliament before the general election. On many occasions they voted on matters to do with education and health that affected my constituents and made my constituents, rightly, angry about how things were being dealt with in this House. I welcome the statement, although I do not think it goes far enough. I also welcome the review, but would like to be assured that it will take into account the views of all Members of this House, including English Members.

Chris Grayling: I can absolutely give that assurance. It is right and proper. These changes are necessary because, as I said earlier, all Opposition Members are, to say the least, in the strange position of being able to vote on education in my constituency but not in their own. That suggests that there is something wrong with our constitutional arrangements. As part of our plans to strengthen the Union and to provide more powers to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there has to be an English dimension. That is what this is all about. I am disappointed that the SNP and the Labour party support devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but seem to oppose the English having anything as part of that change.

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Points of Order

12.38 pm

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Some time ago I tabled a question to the Attorney General to ask what steps the Crown Prosecution Service had taken to prosecute people more effectively for illegal littering. It might sound like a trivial matter, but it follows incidents of glass being found in feedstock on farms, so it raises animal welfare issues. The question was accepted by the Table Office and pulled out of the shuffle for today’s Question Time as Question 6, so I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the Department has decided to transfer my question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, despite the fact that it was willing to accept similarly worded questions on what steps the CPS was taking to ensure successful prosecution for the criminal offence of forced marriage, for example. Forced marriage is obviously much more serious than littering, but they are both serious issues.

I seek your guidance on whether it is in order for a question that has been accepted as being perfectly in order by the Table Office, and which appears to be worded in exactly the same way as other questions that have been accepted by the Department, then to be rejected at such short notice by a Department.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): I thank the hon. Gentleman for notice of his intention to make a point of order. As I am sure he is aware, departmental matters are the responsibility of the Government, so it is not for the Chair to make decisions on them. The Leader of the House is in his place and will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said, and the hon. Gentleman has put the matter on the record.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Yesterday we had an excellent debate on equal pay and gender inequality. You might recall that many women Members made the point that they were very uncomfortable with how they are addressed in the House. I do not think that can be ignored. Will you and the Speaker look into the matter and perhaps consider making the language more gender neutral in order to address those concerns?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I will certainly take the matter back to the Speaker. The hon. Gentleman might also like to take it to the Backbench Business Committee as a matter for debate and discussion with the rest of the House.

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Britain and International Security

12.40 pm

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I beg to move,

That this House has considered Britain and international security.

Last Friday a terrorist carrying a Kalashnikov murdered 38 tourists on a beach in Tunisia and injured many more. Thirty of those who lost their lives were British, in the worst terrorist incident we have faced since 7/7. Several hundred miles away in Kuwait, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shi’ite mosque, murdering 27 worshippers. Across the channel, on the same day, the boss of a company in Chassieu in France was beheaded by an Islamist extremist. It was a day of terror. It offers a chilling reminder that the world we are living in has become a darker, more dangerous place, and that we are engaged in a fight that will last a generation. Today’s debate on international security could not be more timely.

I want to take this opportunity to do three things: first, to update the House on our response to Tunisia and how we are confronting Islamist extremism in the middle east; secondly, to explain how we are acting to tackle the wider state and non-state threats we face; and, thirdly, with the strategic defence and security review now under way, to give hon. Members an early insight into our thinking.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State accept that those terrible events are part of a deliberate ploy by ISIS to change what is a regional conflict between Sunnis and Shi’as, and between nations in the middle east, into a world conflict between what they see as the Christian west and the Muslim east? Would it not be a terrible mistake to react to that provocation by having mission creep that would make a world war more likely?

Michael Fallon: I will reflect on that analysis, but I certainly hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that we should not react to the events that took place last Friday and the murder of our constituents. I will set out how we are reacting.

As Tunisian security forces investigate accomplices in what looks like an ISIL-inspired plot, RAF aircraft have been bringing home the seriously injured and have started repatriating the bodies of those who died. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time, as well as with those who have lost loved ones in France and Kuwait. Tomorrow we will hold a national minute’s silence to remember them.

The Government continue to work with tour operators to ensure that all those who want to come back from Tunisia can do so. Extra flights have been organised and several hundred counter-terrorism officers are at our airports, supporting travellers and gathering evidence. The UK national police response will be one of the largest counter-terrorism operations in a decade. Here at home, the threat level from international terrorism remains unchanged—severe. That means an attack is highly likely. Our police, security services and armed forces are working day and night to protect us. This year we have increased funding for our police and intelligence services, and we are legislating to give them stronger powers to seize passports and prevent travel.

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Disrupting violent threats to the UK mainland and our interests overseas is just one element of our broader strategy to counter ISIL. I want to assure the House that Britain is playing a full part in the international coalition to defeat ISIL by targeting the financiers, disrupting supplies of weapons and discrediting its poisonous ideology.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State will be aware of the very concerning incidents in my constituency of individuals travelling to fight for ISIL. Will he say a little about what is being done to step up the co-ordination between agencies in order to prevent travel? We need to ensure that passport agencies, airlines, security services, police and community organisations are all working together to share information on vulnerable individuals who might be considering travel. We are still seeing cases every week, which is deeply worrying.

Michael Fallon: Absolutely; it is worrying. I will explain exactly what we are doing shortly.

Since September RAF planes, with the agreement of this House, have carried out nearly 1,000 missions in Iraq and 300 strikes against ISIL bases. Last month we sent another 125 troops to train Iraqi forces and help them counter roadside and vehicle-borne bombs. Our surveillance aircraft are already assisting other coalition countries with their operations over Syria, and British forces are helping to train the moderate Syrian opposition. Overall, we now have more than 900 British personnel in the region. Last year we spent £45 million in the fight against ISIL. This financial year we plan to spend at least £75 million[Official Report, 9 July 2015, Vol. 598, c. 1-2MC.].

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): Last year the Defence Committee visited Iraq and Jordan. We were briefed by the King of Jordan about his ambition, shared by other players in the region, for what he called “Arabising” the narrative and taking control of the strategy. How far is that going, and what more can be done to ensure that it is their strategy we are supporting, so that nobody can label us as somehow imposing our views on the region? We are supporting a serious attempt to deal with this cancer of Daesh in the region.

Michael Fallon: I discussed exactly that with His Majesty the King of Jordan when he was here last week. I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing everything we can to encourage the region itself to assist the legitimate Government of Iraq. For example, we are taking the lead in the strategic communications group, which is a smaller group of nations helping to battle that ideology. It is a fight in which the region itself must be fully engaged.

Several hon. Members rose—

Michael Fallon: I will give way in a moment.

As the Prime Minister said on Monday, there must be a full-spectrum response to deal with ISIL at its source in places such as Syria, Iraq and Libya. We know that ISIL is organised and directed from northern Syria. That is why the Prime Minister said during last September’s debate on taking military action in Iraq that

“there is a strong case for us to do more in Syria”.—[Official Report, 26 September 2014; Vol. 585, c. 1259.]

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However, he recognised the reservations that some Members had, and we will not bring a motion to the House on which there is not some consensus. However, this is a new Parliament and it is for all Members to consider carefully how best to tackle ISIL, an evil caliphate that does not respect state boundaries.

Therefore, our position remains that we would return to the House for approval before conducting air strikes in Syria. The exception, as the House knows, is if a critical British national interest was at stake, or if there was the need to act to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. We are also clear that any action we take must not provide any succour to Assad or his regime.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): In 2013, the Government wanted to remove Assad without helping al-Qaeda or similar groups that later became Daesh. Now we apparently want to remove Daesh but without helping Assad. Those two things are incompatible. It is a choice of two evils. Which does my right hon. Friend think is the lesser of those two evils?

Michael Fallon: We do not want to give any succour to Assad. I do not think that anybody in this House wants the Assad regime to continue for a day longer than is necessary; we want Assad to go. But we are equally clear that ISIL operations in Iraq and elsewhere, probably including Libya, are being directed from northern Syria. We already have American air strikes being carried out in northern Syria and air strikes being carried out from other Gulf countries. We have air strikes being carried out by Canadian aircraft that are helping to keep our streets safe as well.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): The Tunisian Government have today arrested 12 Daesh suspects whom they believe were trained, along with the gunman himself, in jihadist camps in Libya. Why, then, is the Secretary of State not proposing to bomb jihadist camps in Libya as opposed to extending the bombing campaign to Syria?

Michael Fallon: We have to deal with ISIL extremism right across the board. We are working with the Tunisian authorities to find out exactly how the outrage last Friday was carried out, how it was planned, and who was involved in it. Let the House be in absolutely no doubt: the people who perpetrated the murders of our constituents are going to be tracked down, whether they are in Libya, in Syria, or anywhere else.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): If we have a Daesh terrorist plotting murders in the United Kingdom, we arrest them, prosecute them, and put them in prison. If that same terrorist goes to Iraq, we try to hunt them down and kill them and blow up the building they are living in. How does that help create a rule of law or democratic pressures in Iraq? Is not the most important thing to try to impose a rule of law and diplomacy and work away to get some solution?

Michael Fallon: I recognise my right hon. Friend’s view, which he has honourably held for a long time and advocated very eloquently in the debate two years ago. However, I am afraid that the people we are dealing with—ISIL—do not respect the rule of law, do not respect our system of prosecution, and do not respect

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international boundaries. Everything we are doing in Iraq is at the request of, and with the authority of, the legitimate Government of Iraq, and any action that we are supporting in Syria is in aid of our operations to assist the Government of Iraq.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): In one sense, the Secretary of State’s desire to get consensus across the House is laudable, but many of us have been calling for these air strikes to go on across the border, which is not recognised by the extremists, since the action in Iraq began. He has a majority now. If he wants to do this, he should make the case, put it to a vote, and get his own side in order.

Michael Fallon: I am laying out some of the case today. However, the Prime Minister has made it clear that we will not return to the House for parliamentary authority to conduct air strikes in Syria unless there is a sufficient consensus behind it. It may be that opinion in this Parliament is rather different from opinion in the previous Parliament. A number of things have changed, not least the attacks that have multiplied and the spread of ISIS itself.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State knows that in the absence of an effective Iraqi Government response, the people who have been fighting bravely on the ground are the Kurds—the peshmerga from the Kurdistan Regional Government. At the same time, Kurds in Syria have been fighting bravely against the same forces. Is it not the case that those Kurdish forces have been calling out for heavier weaponry and for military support from this country, as well as from other countries? Why are our Government not giving the Kurds the weaponry and the support that they need?

Michael Fallon: As I think the hon. Gentleman knows, we have supplied heavy machine guns to the Kurds. I have seen the training on those weapons for myself. As I have told the House, we are stepping up the counter-IED—improvised explosive device—training that we are offering to the Iraqi and the Kurdish forces. We are now doing that training in all four of the so-called building partner capacity centres.

Let me turn to the domestic front—

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way before he moves on?

Michael Fallon: Of course, but I am conscious that a lot of hon. Members want to speak in this debate.

Mark Pritchard: The Secretary of State mentioned a full-spectrum response, whether at home or abroad. Does he agree that electronic surveillance is a key part of that response? As our enemies move ahead in technology, we need to move ahead of them to have the technological advantage to keep us safe in this country, as well as our armed forces abroad.

Michael Fallon: Yes, we are playing our full part in the intelligence and surveillance efforts. Some 30% of the intelligence effort that the coalition is mounting is British. It is being flown by our aircraft—Sentinel, Sentry, and Rivet Joint—and utilising our other assets.

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Several hon. Members rose

Michael Fallon: I have been generous in giving way and I will do so again in a moment.

I want to deal with the particular issues on the domestic front. We are preventing those who have been radicalised from travelling. Last year, the Home Secretary removed or refused, under the public interest criteria, 24 passports of individuals intending to travel for terrorism-related activity. We have given the police new powers to temporarily seize passports at the border. We have put our no-fly list on a statutory footing. The police have issued new guidance to airlines to ensure that vulnerable children travelling on high-risk routes are identified and referred. I accept that, as the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) said, this needs to be fully co-ordinated across Government, and that is the case. Our world-class security services work day and night to disrupt terrorist plots, and we will continue to give them the investment they need. We will introduce new investigatory powers legislation to ensure that law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies have the capabilities they need to keep us safe from those who would do us harm.

At the same time, we are challenging the extremist narrative, using strategic communications to get out a faster truth to counter the malicious misinformation of our adversaries; joining with internet companies to take down more than 90,000 pieces of extremist material; training over 300,000 people since 2011, including front-line public sector workers, to ensure that they can identify and prevent radicalisation; and excluding nearly 100 preachers of hate—more than any other Government. We are using moderate voices across the middle east and north Africa, and in the United Kingdom, to air a counter-narrative. We spend about £10 million a year with social media and local journalists to encourage millions to reject ISIL’s recruiting slogans. The terrorists should know that every cowardly attack will only harden our resolve. We are in this for the long term and we are determined to win this fight.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): On the protection of the UK as a whole and border security, the Secretary of State will be aware that the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic—the land frontier between the United Kingdom and another member state of the European Union—is very open. What measures are in place to ensure that people are not exiting and getting into the United Kingdom there for nefarious purposes? We do not have the kinds of border controls that are present in relation to, for instance, people crossing from France into England.

Michael Fallon: I shall certainly look at the right hon. Gentleman’s specific point about the border. We now have a very strong defence relationship with the Government in the south. I recently signed a defence co-operation agreement with my counterpart. There needs to be a north-south partnership as well as an east-west partnership, if I may put it like that.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP): One of the most striking images of the terrorist attacks in Tunisia last week was of Muslim hotel workers who lined up to prevent Daesh terrorists from slaughtering more guests in a neighbouring hotel. Would it not be

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more appropriate, for the purposes of this debate and beyond, that we refer to the perpetrators of these attacks as Daesh rather than granting them the legitimacy and association with Islam that the term “ISIL” or “Islamic State” provides?

Michael Fallon: I have a lot of sympathy with that view. Of course, our interlocutors in the Gulf and our coalition allies refer to it as Daesh, and as the Prime Minister reported on Monday, we have now got the BBC to move away from calling it any kind of state. I have referred to it in shorthand as ISIL, and it may be too late to replace “ISIL” with “Daesh”, but the hon. Lady is right to say that we need to reflect on it and not to confer any further legitimacy on ISIL.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): My right hon. Friend says that the BBC has been persuaded to drop the term “Islamic State”, but is he aware of reports that the BBC has in fact said that it

“must be fair with Islamic State…on the ground that its coverage of the terrorist group must be impartial”?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the BBC need not be impartial with murderous scumbags such as ISIL and that calling them Daesh is perfectly correct?

Michael Fallon: I agree with my hon. Friend. The BBC needs to be impartial about the facts, but we cannot be impartial on terrorism and the rules by which the rest of us live.

Let me move on to my second point regarding state and non-state threats. ISIL/Daesh is not the only danger we face. Russia is sabre-rattling in eastern Europe and has followed up its illegal annexation of Crimea by backing rebels in Ukraine and repeatedly entering Baltic and, indeed, British air traffic regions. Russia is continuing to modernise its military capability, and by 2020 it will have spent some $380 billion upgrading or replacing 70% to 100% of its equipment. It has brought into service new missile systems, aircraft, submarines and surface vessels and armoured vehicles, as well as modernising its nuclear capability. It has chosen a path of competition with the west rather than partnership.

In Africa, failing states are falling prey to insurgency and triggering large-scale migration. These crises threaten not just our national security and interests, but the whole international rules-based system on which our values of freedom, tolerance, and the rule of law rely.

From Defence, we make a threefold contribution to protecting national security and upholding the international system. First, we protect and deter. All day, every day, our aircraft, ships and bomb disposal teams are employed in and around the UK, supporting counter-terrorism efforts and ensuring the integrity of our territorial waters and airspace and demonstrating our resolve to those who would threaten us.

Secondly, our defence personnel, ships and planes are out in the rest of the world, helping us to understand the challenges we face, as well as building the capacity of our partners and shaping events to prevent the spread of conflict and instability which could threaten our interests.

Thirdly, when our efforts to deter adversaries are not enough, we will respond with all the military force at our disposal, working with our allies and partners, to defeat aggressors, contain instability and sustain the rules-based system which is the key to our prosperity.

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That is why today 4,000 brave and capable men and women of our three armed forces are working around the clock on 21 different joint operations in 19 countries—double the number of operations five years ago.

Stephen Doughty rose

Martin John Docherty (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP) rose

Michael Fallon: I have already given way to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), so I must give way to the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin John Docherty).

Martin John Docherty: I am glad that the Secretary of State has mentioned the threat posed by the Russian Federation, especially its recent manoeuvres on the borders of NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Given that we have already spent more than £900 million on redundancies in our combat-ready forces over the past four years, how are we going to be capable of invigorating our combat forces and ensuring that they will be ready to deal with any threat from the east?

Michael Fallon: We are invigorating our forces. It is because we have the defence budget in order now and have dealt with the mess that we inherited in 2010 that we are able to reinvest. We are one of the very few countries in the world that is now building aircraft carriers and hunter-killer submarines and ordering new armoured vehicles for the Army. We are reinvigorating our forces and I shall come in a moment to how exactly we are doing that.

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that during the cold war our and NATO’s defence and security policy was shaped by our assessment of the threat. In the current circumstances, what is the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State’s view of the threat today?

Michael Fallon: I have started to describe some of the principal threats today from state and non-state actors.

Mr Spellar: Not threats—the threat.

Michael Fallon: We face a number of threats—that is obvious to everybody. We cannot choose between them. They are out there, and this year, because we are conducting our strategic defence and security review, which I will come to in a moment, we are able to look at them in the round. That is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question.

As far as NATO’s immediate assurance measures are concerned, our Typhoons are protecting Baltic airspace and will be back next year to continue their mission for the third year running. Our warships have been patrolling the Baltic sea, and our ground troops have exercised this year alongside their counterparts in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania. We are also doubling spending on the training of Ukrainian forces to about £6 million and providing additional training tasks in medical evacuation, winter survival and reconnaissance skills. We have already trained about 650 members of the Ukrainian armed forces, and by this autumn we expect to have trained nearly 1,000. We have increased our contribution to

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NATO’s new very high readiness joint taskforce, and we will augment it with 1,000 troops each year into the next decade. At the same time, we have been playing a leading role in helping to address the migrant issue, with HMS Bulwark rescuing literally thousands from the Mediterranean.

We are not just tackling the symptoms of instability; we are working on its causes, too. We plan to deploy some 130 military personnel to Nigeria between now and the end of September. They will assist the new Government in a range of tasks, including training those Nigerian units deploying on counter-Boko Haram operations. That is a significant increase on the numbers previously deployed. We are continuing to mentor the next generation of Afghan army officers, and we are supporting the people of Sierra Leone in their struggle against the scourge of Ebola and bringing humanitarian help to those affected by the Nepalese earthquake.

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): My right hon. Friend has mentioned a number of operations on which I had the honour to serve. Although he is identifying military options for these problems, he will be more than aware that most of them do not really have a military solution. For example, in Nigeria, where we are helping against Boko Haram, the fundamental problem is the huge corruption in the Nigerian armed forces and the destructive element in the Nigerian Government. What can we possibly do with our Foreign Office colleagues to address the real problem rather than just the military fix?

Michael Fallon: I welcome my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour to his place in this House. He brings a wealth of experience from the armed forces and, indeed, the Ministry of Defence to debates such as this one. His question allows me to emphasise the importance of the work of other Departments. These cannot just be military solutions.

The work of the Department for International Development is extremely important and I have always seen development and defence as two sides of the same coin. The money we can spend up-front on capacity building helps to avoid a bigger financial outlay downstream. That money and the work by DFID and the Foreign Office can help prevent crises and conflicts. By strengthening countries in Africa, we can do more to discourage people from leaving them, and because today’s aid budget is much better focused, with fewer countries receiving it, it has greater impact.

We are spending some £60 million on supporting millions of people who have been displaced by ISIL/Daesh, and we have pledged £900 million to answer the specific humanitarian crisis in Syria—the biggest ever UK response to any crisis anywhere.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): The OECD is this month considering whether to re-categorise official development assistance so that it includes elements of the military, particularly peacekeeping. Would my right hon. Friend welcome that?

Michael Fallon: There are a number of measurements, including the OECD one and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute one. The return that I have filed on behalf of the United Kingdom is to NATO,

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and it complies with NATO guidelines. The House will want to know that, on the basis of that guidance, we spent 2.2% last year and expect to spend more than 2% again this year.

As well as the 4,000 service personnel committed to the operations I have described, more than 10,000 people working in defence are stationed overseas—from Brunei to the Falklands, and from Cyprus to Kenya. They delivered courses in some 15 countries last year, and we have helped to train representatives from 90 countries in our military academies. More than 1,200 naval personnel are deployed in the middle east, helping to keep our energy supplies flowing and to counter terror.

Stephen Doughty: Given the breadth and scale of the operations that the Secretary of State is describing and the fact that they involve service personnel from the Army in particular, what progress has been made on the reserve recruitment targets, and does the Army 2020 strategy still holds? Given the scale of those operations, we must ensure that we can resource them with personnel.

Michael Fallon: I can confirm that Future Force 2020 is still our strategy. Reserve recruitment is now increasing rapidly—up by more than 60% on last year, with some 6,000 people having stepped forward to join the Army Reserve. We will continue to look at how to make the process of encouraging more people to join faster and simpler as the target becomes more challenging in its latter years, but that is still our ambition.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the sensible and pragmatic way in which he is dealing with all the problems around the world. He is talking about planes and ships, and about men and women doing various good things all around the world, as no doubt they are. As an ex-member of the armed forces, I am fully aware of the top quality of our men and women, and I cannot praise them enough. However, in my day those would have been called out-of-area operations, and we do not have the volume to meet a major threat. The Secretary of State has already said that we face many potential major threats. Surely we need to spend a lot more than 2% on defence to meet that awful inevitability.

Michael Fallon: I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that we are rebuilding our forces, not least our reserves, which were shamefully neglected for years. We are continuing to work at that. In the 2010 review, we set out the aim of being able to put a division into the field—obviously with notice, as in any other major operation—and we are still able to field a brigade at much shorter notice. This year’s strategic defence and security review will give us the opportunity to look at exactly those points all over again.

Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP) rose

Michael Fallon: I am in the hands of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that other Members want to speak, but I will give way to my hon. Friend.

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Nusrat Ghani: As a proud new recruit of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I look forward to gaining first-hand experience of the work done by our fantastic servicemen and women. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that our national security is not just about armies, but about individuals? That is why it is vital that the Government’s proposed extremism Bill is developed alongside our wider defence strategy.

Michael Fallon: I absolutely agree. That is what the Prime Minister calls a “full spectrum” effect. We have to deal with these things right across the board—with diplomacy and tackling radicalisation, as well as the harder power that we are charged with. I wish my hon. Friend well in her experiences with the armed forces parliamentary scheme.

In describing the personnel who serve this country across the globe, it would be wrong not to mention those who work in our nuclear submarines. In those submarines, unseen and undetected, we have an ultimate deterrent that has now been maintained for more than 46 years. It is right to pay tribute to the men and women of that service, whose work is unseen but never out of our minds.

Apart from the United States, no other country has our global reach or defence footprint, which I have described. In a world where global problems demand global solutions, we are leveraging that influence to strengthen our international partnerships. At the multilateral level, we have encouraged NATO, the cornerstone of our defence, to upgrade its capabilities and increase allies’ defence spending. Bilaterally, we have worked with the French to form the combined joint expeditionary force, with some 1,000 British and French personnel taking part in an exercise this year to bring us up to full operating capacity next year. Our relationship with the United States remains as strong as ever. We are working together not just in Europe and the Baltic, but in the Gulf, the Red sea and the Indian ocean. The United States Defence Secretary, Ash Carter, emphasised the importance of that relationship when I met him at NATO ministerial meetings last week.

We have been able to maintain this vast range of activity only because of the reforms we have implemented. We cannot have strong defence without a strong economy, so we had to take some tough decisions. We are now on course to deliver more than £5 billion of savings since 2010. We are making efficiency part of the culture of the Ministry of Defence and of our armed forces by making the drive to seek savings a habit. That approach has allowed us to protect the front line better, to maintain the existing size of our regular and reserve forces and to ensure that our personnel have the high-end capability they need, as well as to spend £160 billion over the next 10 years on the new hunter-killer submarines, helicopters, armoured vehicles and joint strike fighters that are needed.

Brendan O’Hara: Does the Secretary of State accept that there is a large defence capability gap, and does he now regret the ill-advised and short-sighted decision to abandon the maritime patrol aircraft that were chopped up and left to rot after the 2010 SDSR?

Michael Fallon: Tough decisions were taken back in 2010, but let me tell the hon. Gentleman that the maritime patrol aircraft, which were supposed to have

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been delivered some 10 years previously, did not exist. Not a single aircraft had been handed over to the RAF. The programme was years behind schedule. The Conservative Government ordered them, but in their 13 years the Labour Government did not deliver them. There was not an aircraft on the tarmac, so we had to take a tough decision to organise our maritime patrol capability differently. That will of course be one of the areas that will be considered in the 2015 review, which is now under way.

Let me turn to that review. We have to deal not just with the challenges of today, but with those of tomorrow, which I think was the point made by the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes). I know that the strategic defence and security review has generated high levels of interest in this House, and I am grateful to the Defence Select Committee of the last Parliament for its reports, which are certainly informing our work.

The 2015 review will build on the 2010 review. Much of its analysis still holds good. We were right to identify counter-terrorism and cyber as key areas for investment, to start reshaping the Army for a post-Afghanistan future and to reform our defence structures. The 2010 review was the first forward-looking review of national security policy, plans and capabilities to cover all national security departments, not just defence. It established the National Security Council, ensuring strategic decision making at the top of Government, and it underlined the need for more agile forces in an era that is placing a greater number of more diverse demands on defence, which we are meeting through our Future Force. We are therefore far better placed for a review today than we were five years ago.

The review that is under way must reflect a world that now looks darker and more dangerous than at any time since the end of the cold war. It will consider the full range of threats that we face now and in the future, examine the capabilities that we need to handle those threats, and help us to judge how to resource those capabilities. Underpinned by a strong evidence base, the review will unite diplomacy, defence, development and homeland security. It will recognise that our security and prosperity at home and abroad are interlinked. It will also focus on opportunity and innovation—on getting the most out of our whole national security workforce, not just the uniformed services; on strengthening the defence and security industries to harness their technological know-how; on promoting the prosperity agenda; and on cementing key international partnerships.

We expect the review to be completed before the end of the year, but today is a good chance for me to listen to colleagues’ views as well as to speak. The House has huge expertise in defence, development and national security, and I invite Members, whether they are going to speak today or not, to make submissions on the defence aspects of the review directly to me at the Ministry of Defence. We would welcome those submissions.

I say to those who are worried about the events of last Friday that we have highly capable armed forces, respected the world over, and we are putting in one of the biggest defence efforts of any nation in the world, with the fifth biggest defence budget. We are doing that right around the world, and for all the right reasons—to defend the values of freedom, tolerance and the rule of law that we hold dear. To the terrorists in Tunisia and extremists wherever they are, that is the best possible answer.

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1.21 pm

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): I start by welcoming the new Chair of the Defence Committee, the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), to his role. I hope it goes well for him.

Today’s debate is of great importance. As the Secretary of State said, it has taken on even greater significance after the harrowing events in Tunisia and the separate attacks in Kuwait and France last week. Like him, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of all those killed or injured. This must be a truly desperate time for them, and they deserve our full and unstinting support. I also pay tribute to the consular staff, police, Foreign Office officials, service personnel and others who assisted in the highly professional multi-agency response to the appalling tragedy and horror in Tunisia. I am sure I speak for the whole House in expressing our deep gratitude for their effectiveness in the face of a highly challenging and dynamic situation.

As if we needed reminding, the events of the past few days have shown that the security of British citizens does not begin and end at the border. The interconnected nature of the modern world is such that the radicalisation of a graduate in Tunisia can have consequences as profound for the safety of British citizens as if that graduate lived here in the UK. Last week’s tragedy again emphasised the fact that the fight against Islamic extremism will be gruelling and enduring. It would be easy to conclude, as some already have, that taking on such a poisonous ideology is all too difficult and we cannot win. That is a counsel of despair, and we should have no truck with it. This has to be the time when the democratic nations of the world come together with those battling the threat wherever it occurs. Terrorism cannot be allowed to succeed, and the terrorists have to know that our will to defeat them remains undiminished.

I wish to respond directly to the Secretary of State’s comments about the possibility of further action against ISIL. We are all horrified by what has happened in Tunisia and by the growing threat that ISIL poses. We must tackle that threat to our citizens both at home and abroad. We stand ready to work with the Government to defeat ISIL and will carefully consider any proposals that they decide to bring forward. We all need to be clear about what difference any action would make to our objective of defeating ISIL, the nature of that action, its objectives and its legal basis. Any potential action must command the support of other nations in the region, including Iraq, and the coalition that is already taking action in Syria.

This is a time for a considered assessment of the best course of action that we can take to defeat this deadly threat to the UK—an objective that unites all of us throughout the House. In redoubling our efforts to tackle extremism in the middle east, north Africa and beyond, we need to be honest not only about the scale of the challenge but about where we may have gone wrong. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent over the past decade, a territory controlled by jihadis, spanning northern Iraq and Syria, is hundreds of times larger and better organised than anything al-Qaeda ever conceived of. The fall of Mosul was a victory of 1,300 men over a 60,000-strong force of Iraqi army and police. The United States has said that five of 18 army and police divisions disintegrated completely in the fall of northern Iraq last year.

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The Syrian crisis comprises five different conflicts that cross-infect and exacerbate each other. It started with a popular revolt against Assad, which soon became intertwined with the struggle between Sunnis and the Alawites. That then fed into the wider Sunni-Shi’a conflict, with a standoff between the US, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states on one side and Iran, Iraq and the Lebanese Shi’a on the other.

That all demonstrates that it is essential that the Government and all of us recognise that, given the ever closer relationship between development, foreign policy and defence, political solutions are essential in order to ensure long-term stability. That is the crucial point at the heart of this afternoon’s debate. Military activity can create the conditions for politics to succeed, but there have to be strong alliances and clear objectives. That is the strategic challenge that will have to be met in the coming years if the threat to us both at home and abroad is to be tackled successfully.

I acknowledge that there are no easy solutions, but is it not crucial that the Government work with our allies to bridge the sectarian divide and bring together what seem, at least from the outside, implacable enemies to fight ISIL? Will the Minister who winds up the debate say what more the Government propose to do to tackle the threat of ISIL and how we can improve Iraqi resilience on the ground? How can we better empower and work with our regional allies and build up the relationships that are so crucial to the success we need? Similarly, what role are the armed forces playing here at home to support operations by the police and the security services to prevent Islamic extremist terrorism here in the UK?

Today’s debate is one of the most crucial of our time—not the debate in the House, although that is important, but the debate in our country about what our future global role should be. Many hon. Members have participated in that debate. Our belief is that the country stands at a crossroads. Which path should we take? Our view is that withdrawing from the world is not just undesirable but impossible. Britain can and must play a positive role in securing and improving international security. Our allies look to us to take up that mantle, and in short we have a responsibility to do so.

Mr Spellar: Before my hon. Friend moves on to the more general issue, will he clarify the fact that the House’s refusal in 2013 to become involved in a brief bombing campaign against Assad—Members of all parties were involved in that decision—has absolutely no logical connection with taking military action against Daesh? Linking the two does not serve the interests of developing a proper national policy.

Vernon Coaker: My right hon. Friend’s well made point is crucial to the debates that we will have in the House. The decision about whether we should take action in 2013 was related to Assad and his use of chemical weapons. The House as a whole took the view that it was not convinced that the motion before it would help us deal with that problem.

The Defence Secretary has not put a proposal before the House today, but he suggested that we may need to consider what further action can be taken, and how we

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should deal with Islamic extremism and with Daesh or ISIL. The situation is totally different today compared with 2013, and we do no service to the country—or to anyone—if we are not clear about the difference between 2013 and 2015. We must all consider how we tackle Islamic extremism and terrorism, and keep our country and citizens safe. There will be debate and discussion on that, and people will have different views, but if we conflate 2013 with 2015, or whenever, we will not do the country a service, let alone anyone else.

Alex Salmond: Unless I am very much mistaken, the hon. Gentleman is preparing the ground to move the Labour party’s position potentially to support air strikes in Syria. Given the complexities of the Syrian situation that he has described, and given that terrorist targets in Syria are already being bombed by our allies, what exactly can he or the Government identify regarding the participation of UK forces that will make any vital difference in this situation?

Vernon Coaker: The right hon. Gentleman asks a fair question, but he should also reflect on what I have tried to say, which is that we will consider the Government’s proposals. As yet, the Government have made no proposals. This is not about preparing the ground; it is about saying what action we will take. The right hon. Gentleman will unite with everyone in the House in asking what we must do to tackle extremism and terrorism, and we must consider any proposals that the Government may bring forward.

Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I have access to the intelligence or military advice that is available to the Defence Secretary, and we must consider what that advice might include. If military or intelligence advice suggests that a headquarters is directing terrorism across the world from parts of Syria, and that those who are conducting terrorist activities and killing British citizens who are on holiday do so on the directions of people in northern Syria—[Interruption.] UK citizens—English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or whatever: all citizens who are under threat from terrorism. All I say is that it would be right and proper to consider that information, and take whatever action is felt appropriate to deal with it. That is not the same as saying to the Government, “It does not matter what you say. We will support you”. It means that we will be responsible—as will the right hon. Gentleman—and consider what advice the Government have received and what action we should or should not take.

Alex Salmond: We both know that the Defence Secretary, for some considerable time—as long as he has been Secretary of State—has wanted to extend the bombing campaign into Syria. If we examine the anguished debate that is taking place in America, does the hon. Gentleman agree that in Syria it is difficult to define targets, and to know who is who, which organisation is being struck, and what the effect will be of such airstrikes? Syria provides incredible complexity in such a campaign.

Vernon Coaker: I accept that point. Of course the situation in Syria is complex, as I stated earlier. All I say to the House is that we will consider any proposals that the Defence Secretary brings forward and, like the right hon. Gentleman, we are united in tackling Islamic extremism and terrorism. There is no difference between

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us on that. When the Defence Secretary comes forward with proposals—if he does—we must consider them and see whether we can support any such action. That is all I am saying.

I was speaking about Britain’s global role and how we cannot remove ourselves from that responsibility. We are uniquely placed: a P5 member, a leading EU country, the second largest contributor to NATO, a founding member of the G7 and—this is often missed out—a central partner in the Commonwealth. We are the only country that is part of all those things. That is not overblown rhetoric, jingoism or national chauvinism. We must be confident in the role that we could, should and will play. By the end of the decade we will have taken the decision to renew the nuclear deterrent, which we support, delivered new attack submarines, and be close to the regeneration of carrier strike. We are still a significant military force, and that is allied to our considerable political influence in the decision-making bodies of the world, and the defence engagement that we undertake in all regions by advising, supporting and training our friends. Such work is often unrecognised but it is crucial none the less. We must also accept that our armed forces have been shaped by more than a decade of conflict, and the British public have become far more sceptical about the use of military force. The case for our military must be made by us all.

Our highly capable armed forces are vital to the UK and its interests. Indeed, military power is not an alternative to, but acts as a support for, political solutions. Our armed forces project power on a global scale and deter potential enemies. The lesson of history is that deterrence, alongside politics, is the best course of action. In the modern world we must treat defence and security as separate sides of the same coin because we must do all we can to prevent a latent threat from becoming a patent one. We must ensure that we have responsive, high-tech armed forces with the capability to respond to emerging interconnected threats in an unpredictable security landscape, including hybrid warfare.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): As well as top-quality armed forces we also need the best security services, both at home and abroad, so that we can build up vital intelligence and utilise our armed forces to their best ability.

Vernon Coaker: My hon. Friend makes an important point about intelligence. We in this House are proud that our intelligence services are some of the best in the world, and the Defence Secretary will know about the work that our intelligence services are doing across the world to keep us all safe—the rest of us will not know so much, but no doubt attacks and various other terrorist outrages across the world are being thwarted. We must ensure that our intelligence services have the best possible support and resources.

This is a time of multiple and complex global challenges —a far more uncertain security landscape than was envisaged in 2010 by the coalition Government in their national security strategy. Countries such as Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen and Libya are being torn apart by internal conflict, helping to incubate groups such as ISIL and other ideologically affiliated groups from whom we face a growing terrorist threat. From Vladimir Putin’s Russia comes growing hostility, with military breaches

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of sovereign territory that we hoped had been consigned to Europe’s brutal past. Who among us believed that we would ever see the day when once again actions appropriate to the cold war era would be taking place within eastern Europe?

Alongside that, humanitarian crises are causing death and human misery with growing regularity and increasing scale, with migration not only a result of instability but a cause of it. We are all aware of the threat that climate change and resource scarcity will play in the coming years in causing instability and potentially sparking conflict, and new emerging threats such as those involving cyber seem to grow at an exponential pace. Our defence and security policies need to navigate that unpredictable and changing landscape by offering certainty and stability.

One part of the debate that gets little coverage or discussion is the renewal of the 2010 national security strategy, which is critical. I do not criticise the Government for failing to see into the future, but the fact that the 2010 strategy fails to mention many of the threats that we are now discussing shows the difficulty of this situation. For example, Russia and ISIL are not mentioned in the 2010 strategy, and the concept of hybrid warfare is not addressed either.

Let us be clear: the process must identify the threats the country faces. From that, we should identify the military capabilities needed to defend us from such threats. The debate is crucial but the Government need urgently to address the lack of transparency and sense of importance. The relationship between the national security strategy and the SDSR is vital. The strategy was a welcome innovation, but it is time to build on it.

In 2010, the Government trumpeted their rejection of strategic shrinkage, yet in the past five years it is said that Britain has lost influence in Europe and the wider world. The Defence Secretary argued just a few weeks ago that we are more engaged than we were in 2010, but we all know that, wherever we go and whatever the reason, it has seemed to our friends and allies that we are less globally relevant than we were five years ago.

The argument barely needs rehearsing, but the previous Government presided over a strategic defence and security review that was strategic in name only. They began by asking what could be cut instead of focusing on ensuring that we have a strong, high-tech armed force equipped for the many emerging and interconnected threats of the 21st century. This time, we should ensure that there are no last-minute deals or rushed decision making based on inadequate thinking. We should not be afraid to debate the future of our country in an open and inclusive way. We might not agree, but the argument is important. I believe there is a great deal of consensus about our global role.

We should ask the important questions on the regeneration of the carrier strike, and the operation of the two carriers and what that means. We should ask questions about the regeneration of the maritime patrol aircraft, which is essential; and the need to refresh Army 2020 and Future Force 2020. It will be interesting to hear what the Defence Secretary says over the next week or two about the future of the reserves, and whether there has been a change of policy. Is the policy on the integration of the reserves with the regulars the same as it was a year ago? Army 2020, Future Force 2020 and the upgrading of our ISTAR capability are major issues that we will need to address, alongside

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recruitment to 77 Brigade and the need for forces who are able to combat new forms of hybrid warfare. In short, we need to fill the strategic vacuum at the heart of the Government.

The Government have put us on the road to an EU referendum and we need to have a debate about the security aspects of that vital relationship. How can we ensure that NATO not only remains relevant in European security in the 21st century, but develops a coherent and effective response to Russian aggression on our continent? In that regard, the stakes could not be higher. With Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine, its upgrade of its nuclear arsenal and its bellicose rhetoric towards NATO, we have seen a dramatic shift in the strategic balance on the continent of Europe. Let us be clear: we must convince our allies to do more. The debate has mainly been about resources, but it should also be about our willingness to defend one another and to live up to our treaty obligations, especially article 5—and, yes, that means having a frank discussion about our country’s commitment to the 2% NATO target.

The MOD is scrabbling around Whitehall this year looking for pots of cash to include in our defence spending. It is redefining £800 million of war pensions. The Defence Secretary said on Monday, as he has said many times in the past, that spending plans will be set out in the autumn. Can he guarantee that, this year, the reductions he has been asked to make by the Chancellor will not result in any reductions in the training activity of our armed forces? Where threats are identified, they need to be addressed and appropriately resourced. That is how we expect an SDSR to be run.

Briefly on other parts of the world, I recently visited Japan, where there are growing concerns. Do we need to consider our strategic interests in that area? How do we build on our burgeoning relationships with Japan and how do we renew our deep links with Australia, New Zealand and Canada?

On Monday, the Prime Minister mentioned that the G7 wanted to create a kind of clearing house to ensure that countries that need assistance receive help from the nation most able to give it effectively. How will that work? What role can the UK play to ensure its success?

At the end of the previous Parliament, the Defence Committee produced a series of excellent reports on the SDSR. The third report came up with more than 70 questions that the SDSR should address. That would be an excellent starting place for a more wide-ranging debate.

In 1998, Robin Cook and George Robertson toured the country, holding in-depth seminars with expert panels, where the public could engage. The process may have taken longer and might have been more unwieldy from a Whitehall perspective, but it produced a piece of work that is unrivalled as an assessment of the UK’s role in a global context. So far, we have not seen that ambition from the Government. I call on them today to open up a wide-ranging dialogue with the British people about the future defence of our country.

I said that we stand once again at a crossroads as a nation. A few weeks ago, the Washington Post wrote that Britain had resigned as a world power. The Defence Secretary claims we are doing more than we did five years

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ago, but it is not good enough just to assert it—we need to demonstrate it. The Prime Minister has called ISIL an existential threat to the UK. The Government need to live up to their rhetoric. Britain remains a global power. The SDSR is a chance for us to refresh, renew and rethink our strategy as a nation. We should and must take that chance.

1.46 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): It has been touching to receive so many messages of congratulations on my becoming Chair of the Defence Committee. It is a great responsibility and I will endeavour to live up to it. I pay tribute to the work of my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), for the reports he produced in short order, some of which were slightly overshadowed by the advent of the election campaign and deserve further scrutiny. There was a lot of very interesting material in them.

If I may, I will begin by addressing the excellent interventions made by the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) relating to questions of terminology. In that connection, I pay tribute in his absence to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) for his achievement. He attracted support from every part of the House—he gathered 125 right hon. and hon. Members’ signatures—and petitioned the BBC to stop playing the propaganda game of Daesh and to describe it correctly.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): I am a former member of the Defence Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will recall a report from back in January that mentions the word “Daesh”. The Committee was ahead of its time.

Dr Lewis: I hope to be able to continue that degree of far-sightedness in future.

Mr James Gray: I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend to make such a tiny point. It is most kind of him to describe me as “gallant”, but I was only ever a private soldier in the Territorial Army. Surrounded as I am by brave soldiers who truly deserve the title, I should say that I am not in any shape, size or form “gallant”.

Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend is, in my eyes, as gallant as they come.

In my hon. Friend’s intervention, he drew attention—he was kind enough to give me the copy of the news article to which he referred—to what the head of the BBC had said. According to today’s edition of The Times: