English votes for English laws: House of Commons bill procedure

On 22 October 2015, the House of Commons approved Standing Order changes that gave effect to the Government’s plans to introduce 'English votes for English laws' (EVEL). 

The ‘English votes for English laws’ process affects 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 does not affect Private Members’ Bills, or bills certified as Scottish or referred to the Welsh or Northern Ireland Grand Committees.

EVEL procedure in Parliament 

You can download the above diagram of the 'English Votes for English Laws' process as a pdf.

How is it decided that the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ process applies to a bill?

The Speaker must 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 are to pass through the process. The Speaker is advised by the Clerk of Legislation and Speaker’s Counsel, who are senior members of the non-partisan House service, and may also consult two members of the Panel of Chairs appointed for the purpose.

If the Speaker decides that the process applies to the Bill it is given a Speaker’s Certificate.

Certification may occur at a number of stages during the passage of a bill. It may happen before Second Reading, after Report stage, after a new stage called Reconsideration, and on Commons consideration of Lords Amendments.

Does the English Votes for English laws’ process only apply to England?

No. Government bills can be certified as relating to England, or to England and Wales, or a mixture.

What stages does a bill subject to ‘English Votes for English Laws’ go through?

Bills subject to ‘EVEL’ will go through First Reading, Second Reading, Committee stage and Report stage as for other bills.

If a bill is certified as England only in its entirety the members of a public bill committee will only be chosen from MPs representing constituencies in England. If an England only bill is considered on the floor of the House at committee stage it will be considered only by MPs representing constituencies in England.

There are now three new stages that a bill could go through between Report stage and Third Reading. These are Legislative Grand Committee, Reconsideration and Consequential Consideration. Whether a bill needs to go through all these stages depends on decisions made during its progress.

Legislative Grand Committee (LGC)

After Report Stage the Speaker considers the Bill again for certification, if it has been amended. If the whole Bill or certain provisions of it, are certified by the Speaker as relating exclusively to England and Wales, and/or England, and as within devolved legislative competence, a consent motion must 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 can proceed to Third Reading.

The consent motion is 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) meet as soon as possible after Report stage has completed.

All MPs can take part in debates in the Legislative Grand Committee, but only those MPs representing constituencies in England, or England and Wales, can vote on the consent motions or move amendments to them.

Reconsideration

If consent is withheld by a Legislative Grand Committee to an entire Bill, or any part of it, it has to be reconsidered by the whole House. The purpose of this stage is to consider amendments aimed at resolving the dispute between the Legislative Grand Committee(s) and the House. The Speaker has to consider for certification any changes made to the Bill by the House, and the relevant Legislative Grand Committee has to give its consent to them if they are certified.

If consent is withheld by the Legislative Grand Committee(s) to the whole bill following Reconsideration it cannot be given a Third Reading and will not progress any further. If consent is 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) will be removed from the Bill. The Bill can then progress to its next stage.

Consequential consideration

This stage allows the House, if necessary, to consider any minor or technical amendments that are required as a consequence of removing provisions from the Bill following Reconsideration and a second Legislative Grand Committee(s).

What happens after the new stages?

If the Bill passes these stages it will proceed to Third Reading in the usual way. If the Bill started in the House of Commons and passes third reading it will then be sent to the House of Lords.

What happens if the Lords make amendments to a bill?

If the Speaker has certified a motion relating to a Lords Amendment and the decision on the amendment goes to a vote, a majority of all MPs and a majority of all English and/or English and Welsh MPs must agree to it. This is known as a ‘double majority’ division. If there is no double majority the amendment will be sent back to the Lords as disagreed to.

Image: PC