Westminster scrap law that banned Welsh MPs from voting on English laws
Westminster has scrapped a law that banned Welsh MPs from voting on England-only laws.
English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) has been described as “unwieldy” and “baffling” by Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, who introduced the motion to ditch it.
It was passed by David Cameron’s government in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 as a way try to address what is known as the West Lothian Question, where MPs from nations with devolved parliaments are able to vote on laws that only apply to England.
Plaid Cymru MP said the law didn’t deliver a “meaningful voice for English voters” and described it as “a fix, not a solution” while SNP MP Pete Wishart referred to it as “another Tory policy disaster”.
Wishart described the U-turn as a “spectacular victory for the SNP”, but Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted that the reversal is “showing we have confidence in our Union parliament”.
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said: “In the 1990s, the status of England had not figured sufficiently in the world view of the Labour architects of devolution. ‘Home Rule all round’ had been proposed in the 19th century.
“Indeed, it had appeared in the Labour party’s policy for the 1918 election. In 1997, however, England was overlooked—it was excluded from consideration. It was all too complicated.
“That devolution settlement has proved unstable. It was a fix, not a solution. English votes for English laws was an attempt to address this basic flaw in the post-devolution Union, but it too was a fix, not a solution.
“I think that EVEL was more of a symbolic concession to those Members who were constantly intruding English questions into devolution debates, and I do not think that it has ever delivered a meaningful voice for English voters, so I have some sympathy with the current proposal.
“Abolishing EVEL will not address the growing problem of accommodating people in England within a post-devolution United Kingdom.
“Even the reforms that I have outlined very briefly would only place an additional check on what is a flawed system. What we really need is independence for Wales – and no more fixes.”
Pete Wishart, who led the SNP in the debate, said: “A flagship policy of the 2015 manifesto will soon be nothing more than a footnote in future constitutional history books and remembered as just another Tory policy disaster.
“They were consumed with the notion that we, the unkempt Caledonian hordes were somehow stopping them securing the democratic outcomes that they desired.
“That us, Scots MPs … needed to be constrained and needed to be curtailed. Evel was just about the worst solution to a problem that didn’t even exist.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The West Lothian question has not had a very satisfactory answer since it was posed by Tam Dalyell, who was a most distinguished Member of this House, but if there were an answer, EVEL would not be it.
“The EVEL measures were first proposed by way of a counterpoise to the extension of devolution, which saw further legislative powers handed to the devolved Administrations and their Parliaments in the wake of the 2014 once-in-a-generation Scottish independence referendum.
“The argument put forward then, as some Members may recall from a Chequers summit held at that time, was that an English votes for English laws process represented an honest attempt to answer the West Lothian question.
“Proposals for Standing Order changes were not brought forward until after the 2015 general election, during which the potential influence of Scottish MPs on English matters featured especially prominently.
“Some Members may remember a rather marvellous election poster, depicting the then Leader of the Opposition tucked into the pocket of Mr Alex Salmond in the place of a pocket handkerchief.
“Once the initial excitement over the proposals’ introduction had abated, it quickly became obvious that their practical implementation would prove unwieldy and – dare I say it? – even baffling.”