English votes for English laws: House of Commons bill procedure
From 22 October 2015 until 13 July 2021, the House of Commons Standing Orders gave effect to a procedure known as 'English votes for English laws' (EVEL). The House agreed to suspend the EVEL standing orders on 22 April 2020. They were removed altogether following a decision of the House on 13 July 2021.
Between 23 October 2015 and 22 April 2020, the ‘English votes for English laws' process affected all government bills (except for a few technical bills such as consolidation bills), founding resolutions for finance bills, and Lords amendments and subsequent messages. It did not affect Private Members' bills, or bills certified as Scottish or referred to the Welsh or Northern Ireland Grand Committees.
You can download the above diagram of the 'English Votes for English Laws' process as a pdf.
How was it decided that the ‘English Votes for English Laws' process applied to a bill?
The Speaker had to determine whether in his opinion whole government bills, elements of bills and proposals to change bills in the form of new clauses, new schedules and amendments should pass through the process. The Speaker was advised by the Clerk of Legislation and Speaker's Counsel, who are senior members of the non-partisan House service, and he could also consult two members of the Panel of Chairs appointed for the purpose.
If the Speaker decided that the process applied to the bill it was given a Speaker's Certificate.
Certification could occur at a number of stages during the passage of a bill. It could happen before second reading, after report stage, after a new stage called reconsideration, and on Commons consideration of Lords amendments.
Did the 'English Votes for English laws' process only apply to England?
No. Government bills could be certified as relating to England, or to England and Wales, or a mixture.
What stages did a bill subject to ‘English Votes for English Laws' go through?
Bills subject to ‘EVEL' had to go through first reading, second reading, committee stage and report stage as for other bills.
If a bill was certified as England only in its entirety the members of a public bill committee were chosen from only MPs representing constituencies in England. If an England only bill was to be considered on the floor of the House at committee stage it was considered only by MPs representing constituencies in England.
There were three new stages that a bill could go through between report stage and third reading. These were Legislative Grand Committee, reconsideration and consequential consideration. Whether a bill needed to go through all these stages depended on decisions made during its progress.
The reconsideration and consequential consideration stages were never needed.
Legislative Grand Committee (LGC)
After report stage the Speaker considered the bill again for certification if it had been amended. If the whole bill or certain provisions of it, were certified by the Speaker as relating exclusively to England and Wales, and/or England, and as within devolved legislative competence, a consent motion had to be passed by MPs representing constituencies in England and Wales, and/or England, either in relation to the whole bill or particular parts of the bill concerned, before it could proceed to third reading.
The consent motion was considered by the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) and/or the Legislative Grand Committee (England) on the floor of the House. The Legislative Grand Committee(s) met as soon as possible after report stage was completed.
All MPs could take part in debates in the Legislative Grand Committee, but only those MPs representing constituencies in England, or England and Wales, could vote on the consent motions or move amendments to them.
In practice, no amendments were ever moved to consent motions, and there were never any divisions in a Legislative Grand Committee.
If consent had been withheld by a Legislative Grand Committee to an entire bill, or any part of it, it would have had to be reconsidered by the whole House. The purpose of this stage was to consider amendments aimed at resolving the dispute between the Legislative Grand Committee(s) and the House. The Speaker would have had to consider for certification any changes made to the Bill by the House, and the relevant Legislative Grand Committee would have had to give its consent to them if they had been certified.
If consent had been withheld by the Legislative Grand Committee(s) to the whole bill following reconsideration it could not have been given a third reading and would not have been able to progress any further. If consent had been withheld by the Legislative Grand Committee(s) to parts of the bill following reconsideration, any clauses or schedules not agreed by the Legislative Grand Committee(s) would have been removed from the bill. The bill would then be able to progress to its next stage.
The Reconsideration stage was never needed.
This stage would have allowed the House, if necessary, to consider any minor or technical amendments that were required as a consequence of removing provisions from the bill following reconsideration and a second Legislative Grand Committee(s).
The consequential consideration stage was never needed.
What happened after the new stages?
After the bill passed the Legislative Grand Committee it proceeded to third reading in the usual way. As noted above, the reconsideration and consequential consideration stages were never needed.
If the bill had started in the House of Commons and passed third reading it would then be sent to the House of Lords. If the bill had started in the House of Lords and passed third reading it would the Commons amendments would be sent to the House of Lords in the usual way.
What happened if the Lords make amendments to a bill?
If the Speaker had certified a motion relating to a Lords amendment and the decision on the amendment went to a vote, a majority of all MPs and a majority of all English and/or English and Welsh MPs had to agree to it. This was known as a ‘double majority' division. If there was no double majority the amendment would have been sent back to the Lords as disagreed to.
There was no case of a motion failing to achieve a double majority.