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22.10.15

MPs set to debate English Votes for English Laws reform

MPs are set to debate today (22 October) on controversial plans that would give English members a veto on Bills that only apply to England.

The proposal, ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (Evel), is designed to ban MPs from voting on laws that do not apply to them, much like English MPs do not vote on issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The government says it will make the system fairer and more balanced in giving the English “more say over their own destiny”.

Chris Grayling MP, leader of the House of Commons, where the issue will be discussed this morning, said the move is meant to strengthen the union and ties into the widespread devolution of powers taking place around the UK.

“Our plans provide a fair balance by giving England more control over decisions which it alone is affected by, while ensuring that Westminster continues to be a place where those from across the UK govern in the best interests of those living within the union,” he continued.

The proposal, which has gained more momentum since more powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament after last year’s independence referendum, is also intended to address the so-called West Lothian Question – the position where English MPs cannot vote on policies devolved elsewhere in the UK, but Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs can vote on exclusively English matters going through the UK Parliament.

But the plans are fiercely opposed by Labour and the SNP, who claim they will “exacerbate the further alienation of Scotland from the UK Parliament”.

SNP shadow leader of the House, Pete Wishart MP, said: “Nothing that has happened in the course of the past few months has satisfied us that these plans for Evel are anything other than a dog’s breakfast that will provide to be unworkable in the long run.

“Outside the ranks of the Conservative party, the leader of the House has managed to convince absolutely no-one over the quality of his plans. All other political parties are opposed to them, all the devolved assemblies and Parliaments are resolutely against.

“Even the unelected House of Lords and the Tory-dominated Procedure Committee have a range of issues and concerns. The lack of consensus on such a huge constitutional change should be enough for the leader of the House to think again.”

Wishart added that Scotland is concerned Evel will make Scottish MPs ‘second class’, and Labour likewise argue that the plans would create “two tiers of MPs”, which would ultimately threaten the union.

How the proposal would work

Under the proposed laws, every MP would continue to have a vote on every Bill, but the House of Commons will have the power to consider a new Bill ‘exclusively English’.

A new Parliamentary procedure will apply, whereby the speaker of the Commons will be responsible for establishing which Bills, or parts of them, meet the English-only test.

And under reforms, another Parliamentary stage called the ‘legislative grand committee’ would allow English (or English and Welsh) MPs to debate proposals without involving non-English MPs.

All MPs will continue debating and voting on legislation at second reading, third reading and report stage, but English and Welsh laws will only be made with the consent of representative MPs.

The proposals would also be reviewed after 12 months to ensure the process is effective. During the debate, Grayling promised that the Commons would monitor “very carefully” the operation in practice, and members would be able to raise concerns as part of the review process.

But Labour MP Andrew Gwynne warned that, unless Grayling drafts the new rules very carefully, they would have the unintended consequence of making members from the House of Lords more powerful than those in the Commons.

Comments

Gillian   23/10/2015 at 10:24

It always surprises me in this debate that particularly Scotland get so hung up on English laws for England. All three parts of the United Kingdom have their own parliaments, but the English population is always held hostage by the other three in Parliament when they choose. I think the bill should go further and create an English Parliament, where English laws and business relating to England only, are only the business of English MPs and that we have the same autonomy as the rest of the UK. It should be remembered that the House of Lords is supposed to be a "Monitor" and hold the House of Commons to account to avoid and not allow a powerful Executive to overide the democratic process.

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