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Too soon to judge EVEL – extended trial period required

The House of Lords Constitution Committee—which was asked by Chris Grayling as Leader of the House of Commons to review the constitutional implications of English votes for English laws (EVEL)—has today published its report calling for an extended trial period up to 2020. 

The Committee say the Government's plan to review the impact of EVEL this autumn should not be seen as a final judgement on the procedures since it is too soon to assess fully their impact on the Union. They state that if the EVEL procedures are retained, it should be on a trial basis until the end of the current Parliament.

The Committee point out that between now and the next general election there are likely to be a series of votes on Brexit-related issues which may well provide a ‘stress test' for the EVEL procedures. These would be an appropriate test of whether EVEL works when used ‘in anger'. The report says that after the 2020 election a Joint Committee should be established to review the ‘technical and constitutional' aspects of EVEL. The report recommends that the Joint Committee's review includes an assessment of whether EVEL has altered public perceptions in England of a ‘democratic deficit', and of whether EVEL has affected public attitudes in the devolved nations.

The report makes clear that EVEL does not create any constitutional restrictions that would prevent an MP who represents a non-English constituency from becoming Prime Minister, or from holding any other ministerial office. Nor have the EVEL procedures had an effect, to date, on the House of Lords, or on the Government's legislative programme.

Commenting Lord Lang of Monkton, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"EVEL did not benefit from cross-party political agreement upon introduction. It is never ideal for constitutional changes to be made without cross-party consensus.

"The Government is due to review EVEL later this year but, assuming they decide to keep the procedures in place, that should not be the end of the matter. EVEL should continue to operate on a trial basis until after the 2020 election. By that time the procedures will most likely have been subjected to a real stress test as Parliament votes on issues related to Brexit.

"After 2020, a Joint Parliamentary Committee should be established to undertake a thorough review of EVEL including an assessment of its impact on perceptions of fairness in England, and in the other nations of the UK."

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