DOWNING Street yesterday stepped into themiddle of the growing debate over devolution to reassure Scottish voters that the promise of further powers, made by David Cameron, will be delivered no matter what.
Number 10 was forced to clarify the Prime Minister’s position after accusations from both Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond that Cameron is pedalling back on his vow by linking Scottish devolution to the question over English votes for English MPs.
The latter has provoked a tense stand-off between Labour and the Conservatives, with Miliband’s party refusing to back the idea for fear of creating a two-tier system of elected members.
Labour is instead calling for a constitutional convention to draft proposals for greater English devolution, but it would be a slow process and even members of Miliband’s own party are concerned that it could force the issue into the long grass.
“I’m open to idea of greater scrutiny of legislation by English MPs. But we can’t do it in a back-of-the-envelope, fag packet kind of way,” the Labour leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday.
“You know we’ve spent two years trying to keep our country together. Let’s have a proper constitutional convention, let’s look at these issues.”
Cameron has promised draft legislation by January which will ensure further devolved powers for Scotland in the wake of the referendum vote.
The Prime Minister is understood to want a committee led by William Hague to report its recommendations on the English question to a similar swift timetable.
A Downing Street spokesman added yesterday: “Lord Smith of Kelvin has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments with powers over tax, spending and welfare all agreed by November and draft legislation published by January.”
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