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Paper to detail English law options

Proposals to give English MPs a "decisive say" over legislation affecting English laws will be published next week as the Conservatives push for a ban on Scottish representatives blocking laws which do not apply north of the border.

An effective veto is one of three options proposed by the Tories - and one by the Liberal Democrats - due to be set out in a Government paper.

Pressure to find a solution to the so-called West Lothian question were greatly fuelled by Westminster's promise of extra powers for Holyrood during the Scottish independence referendum campaign.

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the implementation of further devolution north of the border should go "in tandem with" moves to resolve the long-standing dispute over whether Scottish MPs should be allowed to vote on laws which affect only England or England and Wales.

Labour - which boycotted cross-party talks under Commons Leader William Hague as a "stitch-up" - yesterday suggested it could back giving English MPs a greater role in scrutinising legislation that only applies to their country.

It said a solution put forward by an independent review of the issue last year led by Sir William McKay, which would allow detailed consideration of English-only legislation, could be a "sensible reform which would strengthen England's voice".

But the Opposition - which at present has 40 of Scotland's 59 MPs - is cautious about any approach that could weaken its voting power in the Commons.

Under the most radical option to be put forward by Mr Hague, MPs from across the UK would have the chance to amend all legislation at the penultimate hurdle of its usual Commons passage - known as report stage.

But English MPs would then have a separate vote in which they could reject the entire package - forcing the Government either to abandon the proposals or make changes in a bid to secure majority support.

Tory sources said the extra powers being granted to the Scottish Government meant a stronger version of the McKay option was now justified.

The Liberal Democrats are pressing for the handing of a veto to a grand committee of MPs that reflected the proportion of the vote share won by each party at the previous general election.

Switching from the established practice of basing memberships on the proportion of MPs elected would, on present numbers, deprive the Conservatives of an overall majority on the committee.

Tories hope to have a consensus of their MPs behind one option by the middle of January which the party plans to press to a Commons vote before May's general election to put pressure on other parties to act.

The two other options are based on previous reviews led by Lord Norton of Louth and Ken Clarke.

The paper - which also looks at how to devolve more powers to English regions - could be released as early as Tuesday although negotiations are ongoing within the Coalition.

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