Tory plans for English Votes for English Laws face heavy criticism from MPs in emergency debate
THE CONSERVATIVE government’s plans for English Votes for English Laws (Evel) came under fire from all corners of the House of Commons on Tuesday as MPs took part in an emergency debate on the issue.
David Cameron’s government is seeking to introduce Evel through amendments to parliamentary rules known as standing orders, meaning it is not facing full parliamentary debate and scrutiny.
The SNP and others argue that this will make Scottish MPs “second class politicians” and will mean they have no say in bills which have a knock-on effect on Scotland because of the way devolved nations are funded.
“Isn’t the leader acting like a male rights activist?” Geraint Davies, Labour
In the debate, Tory leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling was accused of acting like a male rights activist, and it was said that the plans put the union at risk.
Labour MP for Swansea West, Geraint Davies, said: “Isn’t the leader acting like a male rights activist, in the sense that when female gets rights, they think that takes away rights from him?
“When we pass a law about education in Wales, there’s no effect in England. But when a law is passed about health at Westminster, it has a Barnett consequential. So there’s an asymmetry here and it’s quite wrong for him to plod forward when it isn’t a zero sum game at all.”
Grayling said the government is doing what it pledged to do in its manifesto. “The people who elected us would expect nothing else,” he added.
Evel is an attempt to address the unbalanced nature of the UK constitution where Scottish MPs can vote on issues such as health and education affecting England but English MPs have no say on similar matters relating to Scotland.
“If this is an attempt to try and save the union then God help them.” Pete Wishart, SNP
The proposed changes would mean bills primarily affecting England would require the explicit consent of a majority of MPs representing English constituencies.
A motion on the debate, which had no binding consequences and asked whether the plans had been properly consider by MPs fell by 291 votes to 2 against. The Conservatives abstained on the issue.
Pete Wishart, the SNP’s shadow leader of the house told the government: “If this is an attempt to try and save the union then God help them.”
Wishart also commented on the government’s plan to give English MPs iPads in the lobbies in order to vote on issues that are England-only.
“It’s not only English votes for English laws, it’s English iPads for English laws,” he said.
The debate was proposed by Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael. He said the issue known as the West Lothian question (click here to read more) had to be resolved, “but not by trashing the union and the United Kingdom parliament of which we are all members”.
Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle acknowledged that there are issues that need to be considered for England.
However, she said that these should be dealt with as part of a constitutional convention which examines how the UK is governed in a “much more profound and holistic way than the reckless and partisan fiasco that the prime minister is pursuing.”
She added: “I hope at this late change the government will think again. The unintended consequences of what they are doing could be very large indeed and the precedents they are setting are dire.”
Labour MP Madeleine Moon also interjected and said that the history of the UK is one of “constitutional abnormalities”.
“We are a nonsense but somehow it works, because in this chamber we are all equal,” she added.
The role of the Speaker also came under attention during the debate as under the plans, the Speaker will decide if a bill affects England, or England and Wales, only.
Alex Salmond said this would be a burden greater than the shoulders any one man can bear.
The plans are set to be debated further next week before being voted on by MPs.
Picture courtesy of Herry Lawford