The Procedure Committee publishes its report on its technical evaluation of the English votes for English laws (EVEL) Standing Orders agreed by the House in October 2015.
In this report, unanimously agreed, the Committee looks at the EVEL procedures one year on from their implementation. The Committee's has identified several areas of unnecessary complexity in the process. The current EVEL Standing Orders are opaque and defy interpretation by Members: their grafting on to the existing body of standing orders is alien to the House's traditions and runs directly counter to efforts to make the House's procedures more accessible.
The Committee recommends that the Government should seek to simplify and improve the EVEL process, which does not currently command the respect and support of Members from all constituent nations of the UK that is needed if the process is to sustain the political stresses it may face in the future.
The Committee finds that the certification process for legislation, which some feared would lead to undue pressures on the office of the Speaker, has not given rise to controversy in the first year of the procedure's operation. Applying the certification tests to legislation has already thrown up unexpected outcomes, and these may be expected to continue. A perception of unfairness persists, and will continue to persist without changes to the way Government financial allocations to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considered and approved by the House: this is the subject of a parallel Committee inquiry.
The Committee's main recommendations, detailed in the report, are:
- The Government should commission a redraft of the present EVEL standing orders to make them more accessible and comprehensible, and to deliver orders more likely to command respect, support and understanding from Members representing all constituent nations of the UK.
- The little-used legislative grand committees are complex and largely unnecessary, and existing procedures should be amended to allow them to be bypassed unless any Member objects.
- The Government should examine proposals to allow Members from constituencies in England or England and Wales to indicate their consent to legislative proposals affecting those parts of the UK only at an earlier stage in the legislative process.
Mr Charles Walker MP, Chair of the Procedure Committee, said:
"I hope that the Government will reflect on our report and use it as an opportunity to greatly simplify the procedures around EVEL. The current procedural complexities around English votes for English laws do no credit to the House."