The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) publish its Report on English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).
EVEL Standing Orders may not survive a change of Government, say MPs
While there is evidence that the principle behind English Votes for English Laws commands popular support, the new Standing Orders may not survive the election of a Government that cannot command a double majority of both English and UK MPs, says the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Its report on EVEL forms the first part of the Committee’s long term Inquiry into the Future of the Union.
On the 22 October 2015, the House of Commons voted, by a majority of 312 to 270, to amend Standing Orders so as to establish a system of English Votes for English Laws. But the Committee has concerns about its complexity and workability. It was particularly worrying, for example, that a former Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir William McKay, described the new Standing Orders as a "forest in which I lose myself".
The stridency of the opposition to the new Standing Orders from the Opposition Benches underlines their vulnerability. With only the Conservative Party in favour of the new arrangements, these Standing Orders face a high risk of being overridden as soon as there is a non-Conservative majority in the House of Commons.
Chairman of the Committee, Bernard Jenkin MP, says:
"The proposed solutions to the problem of English Votes for English Laws have little cross party support. The new Standing Orders should have been drafted by the highly-experienced Clerks of The House of Commons rather than by Government officials. The Government should use the twelve month review period we are in now to develop some more comprehensible proposals that all parties can get behind."
The report notes the difficulty in reconciling the implementation of English Votes for English Laws and the continued retention of the Barnett Formula. While PACAC makes no comment on the desirability or otherwise of retaining the Barnett Formula in this report, the subject of territorial funding will be examined in a later stage of the overall inquiry into the Future of the Union.
While these are the Committee’s conclusions on English Votes for English Laws, PACAC’s mind remains open on a constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom. Working towards such a settlement will be the focus of PACAC’s ongoing inquiry into the Future of the Union. As part of this inquiry, PACAC will be holding conversations with all parties in all parts of the country on the future of the UK’s constitution.