Chris Grayling is Leader of the House of Commons, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.
We were all Scots last Sunday. Hoping that they could hold out, beat Australia and keep the flag of the home nations flying. And dismayed when that last minute penalty went over.
As an English fan, I cheered the Welsh and the Northern Irish when they made it through to Euro 2016.
We are one United Kingdom. We have our rivalries and our disputes, but there is much more that unites us than divides us.
The Scottish people’s clear decision for Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom was an important one, there can be no doubt the Union is stronger intact.
As the Government helps strengthen the Union further with greater devolution to the nations and regions of the UK we must ensure there is no sense that somehow the other parts of the UK are getting something but England is losing out.
It is clearly not in the interests of the Union that we should see mounting resentment in any part of the United Kingdom. We are now moving to extend devolution in Scotland and Wales, alongside the already extensive devolution settlement in Northern Ireland.
Issues like health and education have long since been the province of the assemblies and parliaments in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. We are now moving to a new stage of devolution, with responsibilities also passing for parts of our taxation system as well. Local decision making is at the heart of our strategy in this Parliament.
But England has to be a part of this as well. It cannot be in any of our interests to see English people becoming cynical about the Union. That is why it has been so important to secure what most reasonable people would think to be a fair settlement across the United Kingdom.
In May’s election, our manifesto set out a clear path to meet the challenge of England’s position in our new approach on devolution. It set out greater responsibilities for cities and localities in England, not just around the Northern Powerhouse, but elsewhere, too. It also set out a new mechanism to ensure that English voters have proper protections at Westminster. Given that the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question has been wrestled with now for four decades, this is no mean feat.
English Votes for English Laws means that a UK Government cannot impose policies on England unless those plans also have the consent of English MPs. It’s a simple concept really. When health policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is made in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, MPs from those countries should not be able to be part of imposing health policy on England against the wishes of its MPs.
It happened most obviously a decade ago, when Tony Blair – backed by Scottish Labour MPs – imposed fee increases on English students. His motion was carried by a handful of votes, and a majority of English MPs voted against. Yet the Scottish MPs who voted it through did so in the full knowledge that the students in their constituencies were unaffected.
It’s simply a question of fairness, of creating fairer Parliaments and Assemblies. We need to give the English a stronger voice on English matters.
That is what the House of Commons will vote on today. No MP will be excluded from any debate or vote that they currently take part in in the House of Commons chamber. Every part of the United Kingdom will still have a clear voice and a part to play on every issue. It’s simply that they will not be able to force the English – and sometimes the English and Welsh – to accept something that they do not want.
You may hear the argument that we are creating two classes of MPs. It’s simply not true. Indeed you can argue that we already have two classes of MPs. If you are a Welsh MP, you can vote on education matters in England, but not in your own constituency. You have an Assembly Member who works alongside you doing that part of the work in Cardiff.
I want us as a party to be able to look our electors in the eye and say to them that we have given England that strong voice on English matters, and that they also have a place in this new frontier of devolution. But I also want to reassure them that what we have done can strengthen and not weaken our Union. Some will claim otherwise, but they are siren voices with a different agenda.
I want that fairness, but I also want that Union to survive. And I want to be cheering on whichever of our home nations is in action.