English Votes for English Laws: What does it mean and how will it work?

How will it work?

Currently a bill goes through the following stages in the House of Commons:

First Reading -> Second Reading -> Committee stage -> Report Stage -> Third Stage

This will significantly change if EVEL is introduced.

⇨ Stage one

When a bill is introduced in the Commons, the Speaker will be required to ‘certify’ whether the bill, or parts of it, relates exclusively to England, or England and Wales.

⇨ Stage two

The Bill will go through its Second Reading and Committee Stage as normal.

⇨ Stage three

If the Speaker has decided a bill relates only to England it will go through a special, additional Committee Stage. A legislative Grand Committee will be set up, where only English MPs will consider the Bill. The membership of this committee will reflect the electoral makeup of England.

If the Speaker has decided a bill relates only to England and Wales, the legislative Grand Committee will be made up of English and Welsh MPs.

This stage allows English or English and Welsh MPs to debate legislation, and either consent to it or veto it, with no involvement from Scottish MPs – regardless of any knock on effects the legislation may have on Scotland.

⇨ Stage four

The Bill will go through its fourth stage before progressing to the House of Lords.

⇨ Post House of Lords stage

The legislative process in the House of Lords is unchanged. However any amendments made in the House of Lords which relate exclusively to England, or England and Wales, will be subject to a double majority vote.

This means that these amendments will have to be supported by a majority of English, or English and Welsh MPs, as well as a majority of all MPs, before they become law.

Finance Bills will also go through this new procedure.

What does it mean?

  • Scottish MPs will become second-class citizens in the House of Commons. These EVEL plans exclude MPs from Scotland, and from other areas outside England, from voting on legislation that could have consequentials and effects on other parts of the UK.
  • There are also financial implications – as decisions taken for England only can lead to changes to Scotland’s budget from the UK Government.
  • These plans also put the Speaker in a position where he needs to make political decisions, with no clear procedure about how he will make decisions on ‘certifying’ a bill as England only.

What could it affect?

  • Many issues which may appear to be ‘England-only’ can often have knock-on consequences in terms of Scotland’s public finances – for example decisions on NHS spending. The SNP would look to vote against any privatisation of the NHS to protect Scotland’s budget as well as retaining the NHS as a proper public service in England.
  • Any plans and subsequent legislation to build a third runway at Heathrow would also appear only to relate to England, but will have a huge knock-on effect in Scotland.

Photograph by Phil Dolby