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M-3: Devolution and Brexit


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Mr Speaker, 

I humble submit the following motion to this House for consideration:


This House believes maintaining the free trade of goods and services in the UK should not be a rationale for reversing devolution and there should be a presumption of devolution for any powers acquired from the EU from Brexit.

Mr Speaker, 

Given the recent policy announcement spearheaded by the Right Honourable Member for Winchester for an "Internal Market Bill," wherein the Right Honourable Member admits the aim is to reserve powers acquired from the EU- powers such as agriculture and fishing- as well as to empower this House to direct spending in areas that have long been devolved, it is important this Motion be considered and debated. 

I know that the Conservative Party, in an attempt to live up to the otherwise little used "and Unionist" part of its name, is a believer in what could only be described as muscular unionism. But what I did not know is that the Conservative Party decided to be hostile to existing devolution which has come about thanks to pledges, promises, and efforts by all parties in the United Kingdom. 

"We are only having this debate at all because of Brexit," said the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, who was until recently the Vice Chairman of the Tory Brexit Taskforce as though we are children that don't deserve to have continued conversations about how to ensure that governments are empowered at a level closer to the people. Of course now that the Brexit Task Force or whatever seems to have fallen from grace in petty squabbles over whether the Tories should inflict as much damage as possible to our businesses- and, apparently, the devolved governments.

Talking about protecting devolution is merely "grievance politics," said the Right Honourable Member for North East Bedfordshire.

These sorts of statements, coupled with the politically charged decisions that we must make as it relates to our exit from the European Union- if it happens and however it happens- threatens to run roughshod over a spirit of cooperation among the devolved governments and Parliament and it threatens to unravel constitutional settlements and conventions that have strengthened accountability of governments to people living in Northern Ireland, Wales, and of course Scotland. And when you look at the powers that the Conservatives want to ensure they reserve in the name of the Single Market- again as it relates to clearly devolved areas such as agriculture and fishing or economic development- there's little question that this proposal wants to walk back devolution that has been in place- with respect for Scotland- for almost two decades. 

Mr Speaker, 

We are told time and again that Brexit is about taking back control. There are plenty of political debates about what that means and we will continue to have more. But taking back control cannot mean that we're moving power from Brussels to Westminster and telling the devolved administrations to just pound sand, and giving Westminster more powers to boot.

How is "taking back control" going to work for a constituent in Peterhead when they see that control just going to Westminster officials and bureaucrats who will made decisions on fishing policy based on the South West of England? How is "taking control" going to work for students in an educational system that is local- except for some funding mandates that will come from a new "power of the purse" which is apparently going to be reserved? How is "taking control" going to work for businesses who can't be sure- particularly in the immediate term after Brexit- knowing which government agency or agencies are there to aid them or have oversight for local development aid and initiatives? 

The fact is that it won't work. 

We believe in a strong internal market. We need one in order to make it easy to provide goods and services and allow people to travel freely- and we all want to see our respective businesses succeed. 

But that is not an excuse to take power away from the devolved administrations and move them to Westminster while also doing the same with power that we had assigned to the EU. It is an insult not just to the results of the Brexit referendum- those who voted Leave AND those who voted remain- but an insult to the millions who have supported devolution, oftentimes on a cross-party basis. 

We can, and should, send a message now: that we support devolution. That returning more power to devolved administrations where it makes sense- and without purse strings or other requirements attached- does more to build a stronger country that these proposals we've seen floated in the last few days. 

I humbly submit this motion to this House. 


Devon Milne MP

MP for Aberdeen North (2015 - ) | Scottish National Party


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Mr. Speaker, 

I thank the Member for Aberdeen North for the motion has has presented to the House today. 

I want to first focus on the areas of agreement between himself and I: the devolution settlement between Westminster and the other devolved administrations must be respected. When all the leaders of the devolved administrations and the former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom are on the same page in that the devolution settlement must be respected, its a warning that any sensible government or opposition should take seriously. I fear the opposition have not in their attempt to appeal to attempt their own Parliamentary Party, which is engaged in its own civil war. 

So before I continue I’ll have to offer an olive branch to the Leader of the Opposition: when I successfully reach an agreement with my counterparts in the European Union, I hope it gives me an impressive enough CV that I can offer to be a mediator and help him and the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys come to a suitable compromise after weeks of infighting that is surely inspiring screenwriters across the country. Though if I’m right in believing that the Conservatives are now engaging in “unsanctioned preemptive strikes” against each other I think I’d have more luck in resolving Israel-Palestinian relations first, Mr. Speaker, so it is probably best I stay away. 

But joking aside, I want to be clear that respecting the devolution powers and giving the devolved administrations powers that are rightfully theirs is not “grievance politics.” It is respecting the constituent nations of the United Kingdom to manage their own affairs as a cherished part of this union. The only strength in ‘muscular unionism’ is the strength it exerts when it pulls our union apart. 

When people in the United Kingdom demanded we take back control, they didn’t demand they take that back from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland Mr. Speaker. And considering Scotland and Northern Ireland voted remain, to allow Brexit to be seen as an English power grab would, as I have outlined, risk the social fabric of our union and in the process damage the integrity of the Brexit process.

Unfortunately, while I am resolute in my call for a presumption of devolution I still find the motion before us overly simplistic. The Member for Aberdeen North, I acknowledge, says he believes in the free trade of goods and services within the internal market. It’s a statement I’ll take in good faith, even if he is leading the cause to destroy the Union and as a consequence the internal market. But I cannot allow the Honourable Gentleman to assert he believes in the free trade of goods and service in his speech while in the motion he says it cannot be an ‘excuse.’ Once again the SNP’s nationalist cakeism is matched only be the Conservative Party’s Brexit cakeism. 

The internal market is crucial for the wider UK economy and the Scottish economy. To borrow from the Member for Aberdeen North’s examples, if there is a risk some technical aspects of devolution creates trade barriers for a fisherman in Peterhead that makes exporting to constituents in the South East of England more difficult, costing money, time and possibly jobs in the process. The SNP’s  grandstanding will not put food on the table. It won’t keep my constituents fed or businesses in my constituency open. And when the UK is Scotland’s largest trading market, representing up to £49.8 billion in experts, it is important the integrity of the United Kingdom’s internal market is maintained and standards across the United Kingdom can be maintained to deliver for businesses and consumers in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. 

We do not want this to be an adversarial or unilateral process. That is why the government is proposing if any devolutionary powers are to be recalled to maintain the United Kingdom’s internal market, this is done following consultations with the Joint Ministerial Council, with a statutory duty for the JMC to act in good faith, and for this only to be done in a scenario where it is resolutely clear action is to be taken to maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom’s internal market and that this is necessaey. Further, Mr. Speaker, we’re clear we want these requirements and this process to be put into law. 

So while the Conservative Party and SNP squabble between respecting the devolution settlement of the integrity of the internal market, the Labour Party is clear we can do both. And we will do both. 

Mr. Speaker, that’s why today I move to amend the motion to read:


“This House believes there should be a presumption of devolution for any powers acquired from the EU from Brexit, unless following consultation with the joint ministerial council it is found such powers must remain within the remit of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to maintain the integrity of the internal market.” 

I hope this would be satisfactory to the Honourable Gentleman. 

Ruth Murphy.

Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton (1974-).

Opposition Whip (1982-).

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Mr Speaker,

I will accept the amendment offered, at least half in good faith, as friendly.

But when I used "should not be a rationale" I did not use it lightly; I was specifically referring to a belief of the Opposition- one that they expressed repeatedly and clearly- that the internal market would somehow require that Westminster should have the authority to dictate the direction of funds, potentially with conditions set by Westminster, in areas clearly devolved. I am fully consistent in wanting to see a single market- again, that is why I'd rather us stay in the European Single Market- where we have agreed to play by the same rules. I am confident that we will still have e that voluntary component through the JMC. But just because we are leaving the EU it does not mean that Westminster should gain authorities without a discussion in the JMC or without taking the devolved authorities into account. This opinion is not just "SNP cakeism," as it was an opinion expressed and shared by Welsh Labour and even Scottish Tories. So I hope the Right Honourable Member will hear their words too which are the same as mine. 

We can respect the internal market and the devolution settlement and the SNP does desire to do both. That is a clear and consistent position that I and that the SNP have taken. While perhaps that wasn't clearly recognised I am glad the Government seems to be supportive of its original promise to presume devolution... rather than reverse it.

Devon Milne MP

MP for Aberdeen North (2015 - ) | Scottish National Party


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Mr Speaker,

I feel I must begin by noting the fact that the Scottish Nationalists, when given the opportunity to hold the government to account by means of an Opposition Day debate, have chosen to direct their focus upon the policies of the Conservative Party. Clearly, Mr Speaker, they recognise that we Conservatives are the natural party of government, and that the chaos and leftist shenanigans occurring on the benches opposite demonstrate that the Labour Party are not fit to govern this country, just as the people of Britain are increasingly recognising the same.

Mr Speaker, this motion is a red herring. A fresh, Scottish, red herring, if you will. It is a red herring, Mr Speaker, because the Scottish Nationalists do not want these powers. No matter the protestations of the Hon Member for Aberdeen North, he does not actually want these powers.

How do we know this, Mr Speaker? We know this because the SNP manifesto from the last election contains a commitment to rejoin the European Union “as soon as possible”. The Hon Gentleman reiterated that in the House today: “I'd rather us stay in the European Single Market”, he told us. If the Scottish Nationalists had their way, Mr Speaker, these powers would not be held in Edinburgh, nor even in Westminster, but in Brussels!

Even if the Government can successfully take back control of these powers, and that very much remains to be seen, Mr Speaker, the SNP want to give back control as soon as possible! It is Brexit that enables us to repatriate these powers, Mr Speaker.

Now, the Hon Gentleman would like to make out that Westminster and Brussels are equally far off places. How can the Peterhead fisherman in his example possibly ensure that his voice is heard in such a distant land? The powers might as well stay in Brussels, the Hon Gentleman appears to say. Mr Speaker, the Peterhead fisherman knows exactly how to make his voice heard, because he and his fellow wise electors of Banff and Buchan chose to return a Conservative Member of Parliament! That is the difference between this House and Brussels: a strong local representative here can make a real change to how powers are used for the good of their constituents.

Mr Speaker, I understand that it is politically useful for the Hon Gentleman to build up Hadrian’s Wall. To make Scotland separate de facto if not de jure, with all the economic damage that comes from that to our friend the Peterhead fisherman. The Conservative and Unionist Party proudly stand against that, Mr Speaker. We want to build a strong economy across the whole of our islands, by taking full advantage of the freedoms we get from Brexit.

Norman Wingrove | Conservative Party

Secretary of State for the Environment (1983-present)

Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion (1969-present)

Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1972-74), Secretary of State for Social Services (1979-81), Secretary of State for Industry (1981-83)

Former Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras South (1959-1964)


Previous round: Nicholas Devereux, Conservative MP for Tewkesbury; Sir Robert Ayres, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs

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Mr Speaker,

I rise in shared bemusement with my Honourable Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs. The SNP have a long and storied history of supporting this Labour Government, indeed if the Right Honourable Member for Aberdeen North had not whipped an abstention, then the Government would have fallen at the first hurdle of the Queen's Speech. But Mr Speaker I feel duty bound to remind the Right Honourable Member that the Conservative Party is not in Government at this time and maybe his Opposition Day would have been better used holding the Government to account.

Mr Speaker the truth of the matter is that the SNP are merchants in grievance politics, they feign offence because they know that their own record in Scotland is poor. Health outcomes are so poor that the SNP are sleepwalking Scotland into an Opioid Epidemic, indeed Mr Speaker one in five Scots have received an opioid prescription which is traditionally reserved for palliative care and cancer treatment. Scottish Educational outcomes are worse than their counterparts in England having once led the way in all of Europe. Mr Speaker, the SNP can get offended all they want but their negligence when it comes to Scottish public services is what offends me.

But Mr Speaker the Right Honourable Gentleman expresses concern about the Conservative Party's future intentions for devolution and seeing as he clearly believes we are in Government or about to return there allow me to address a few points if he wills. Mr Speaker the Conservative Party's policy is to support all citizens of the United Kingdom. We have seen brutal austerity in Scotland far in excess of anything felt in England. The SNP, like their colleagues in Welsh Labour, cut their NHS budgets where the Conservative Party protected them in England, that is leading to demonstrably worse health outcomes. Mr Speaker the SNP and Labour might believe in a postcode lottery but I do not, I dream of a United Kingdom where everyone achieves their full potential, where all have access to the best education, and where all have access to the best healthcare outcomes. The present devolution deal does not work for this outcome.

Mr Speaker this is not about telling Scotland what to do with its Barnett Formula monies, these are devolved spending powers and under the Tories they will remain under the control of the devolved administrations in full, but where we see a clear failure, it is right that just as in England the Scottish people have the right to action by their democratically elected national government. If the English health and education systems failed as drastically as the SNP's systems then they would receive additional funding, but the SNP are not providing this funding, so in addition to Holyrood money there would be a system whereby Scotland could receive additional, direct, funding from Westminster. Whether that is the construction of a new school or hospital, whether that is investment in new teacher or nurse training, whatever it is it would be directly related to a stated aim of the British Government providing direct support to the people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in our capacity as the British Government.

Mr Speaker, devolution is not independence lite. As a Parliament we have a responsibility to our constituents, as a government we would have a responsibility to our citizens, letting them fail through inaction is literally cutting off our nose to spite our face. The SNP may be content to manage a decline of Scotland, but I am not, I believe in Scotland, I believe in Wales, and I believe in Northern Ireland because I believe in the United Kingdom. I believe that our shared history means that when one part of our nation suffers the rest should help, not ignore, our brothers and sisters. We are one nation. The SNP and Welsh Labour might be content to let educational standards fall, or healthcare outcomes suffer, I am not. The Conservative and Unionist Party is not.

Mr Speaker, it may confuse the Right Honourable Members for Glasgow South West and Aberdeen North that the Conservative Party will support the motion, but the truth is that there is nothing in this motion as it has been amended that conflicts with the policy as outlined by the Shadow Chancellor's recent statement. The Conservative and Unionist Party recognises that where we can devolve more power, we should devolve more power. But we must be clear with the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish people that protecting the UK's Internal market will mean making difficult choices. Even a simple change to food labelling could, if there were sufficient divergence, force knock-on divergences in the UK's Internal Market which would damage its integrity substantially.

Arnold J. Appleby

MP for North Bedfordshire (1979-Present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary

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