More powers are being given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As they get greater control over their own affairs does this mean English MPs should have English Votes for English Laws (EVEL)?
Though the system means it takes an age to get anything done, there are plenty of opportunities for MPs to raise concerns if they don’t agree with the bill.
The Conservative government is trying to make a change called English Votes for English Laws. It’s a simple idea; only English MPs should have a say over matters which affect England only.
When a bill is announced, the Speaker will decide if the bill has sections which relate to England only, or England and Wales only. The first stages will go ahead as usual.
At Committee Stage, Bills are examined by small groups of MPs. The number of MPs who go on the Committee depends on how many MPs that party has in the country. So at the moment expect to see lots of Conservatives.
In the new system Bills which affect England would only be looked at by a Committee made up of MPs from English Constituencies. So MPs in Scotland wouldn’t get on the panel. See you later Scotland.
After this point English MPs (and Welsh MPs depending on the bill) will have two opportunities to veto or block the bill.
When the Bill goes to the House of Lords they may make changes. Any changes would need a “Double Majority” to pass into law. This means a majority of ALL MPs would have to vote YES to the changes; a majority of English and Welsh MPs would also have to vote YES.
Complicated? You have no idea.
Devolution; transferring powers from a higher authority (think: national government in Westminster) to a lower authority (think local government). The government gives away some of its power to local representatives.
At the moment most political power resides in Westminster, London. This is where the Houses of Parliament are, and where the decisions are made. After the Scottish Independence Referendum, where the Scots decided to stay in the UK, more powers were promised to Scotland.
The Smith Commission (which explored the different ways power could be given to Scotland) recommended that the Scottish parliament be given more controls of taxation and welfare.
You may hear the term “West Lothian Question” being thrown around. This refers to the fact that as more powers are handed over from Westminster, English MPs will have less say over matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs do get a say over matters that affect England only. Sounds totally reasonable.
So to make the system a little fairer the government will introduce English Votes for English Laws.
Not surprisingly the Scottish National Party (they have ALL the power in Scotland) is pretty annoyed about this.
They see English Votes for English Laws as a way of cutting them out of the loop and a “cobbled together unworkable mess”. And of course this means everyone is talking about whether we will have another Scottish Independence Referendum. #IndyRef2 more like #tiredofthis?
Depending on which political party you support, English Votes for English Laws will mean different things to you.
Traditionally the Conservatives always do better in England than in other parts of the UK. Labour used to have a lot of power in Scotland and Wales; after this year’s election things have changed a bit.
However that doesn’t mean things can’t change again in the future.
If in the future we had a Labour/SNP coalition in government, the Conservatives could potentially block new laws on the NHS and Schools in England. This is because these are devolved issues, and under the new system, English MPs would get a greater say in what happens. As the Conservatives are likely to have more English MPs, under the new English Votes for English Laws system, they could make it very difficult for a potential Labour/SNP coalition.
Possible outcome; the government in power would not be able to make changes in England. This doesn’t sound so democratic to me.
The Small Print; the next election is five years away, and a LOT can happen between then. We don’t know who will be in government next. It’s possible (but maybe unlikely) that another party could win lots of seats in England. But a system which favours a particular party is probably a bad idea.