English votes for English laws: a brief comment

Given Tuesday’s Commons debate and vote against the Government (also reported in a Guardian liveblog here), I thought it was worth reposting here an amended version of a short piece which appeared earlier on the Democratic Audit blog

Chris Grayling’s proposals for English votes for English laws (EVEL) should not be much of a surprise.  They are very largely a straightforward implementation of ‘option 3’ set out by the party in the December 2014 Command paper, endorsed in a speech by William Hague in February 2015 and set out in the party’s election manifesto.  The Conservatives will claim credit for having done what they said they would.

In doing so, they have not addressed some key problems.  First, they have abandoned the McKay Commission’s test of provisions having a ‘separate and distinct’ effect for England.  That had the merit of principle.  Instead, the test is whether a provision ‘relates exclusively’ to England.  But, second, that test is mis-applied; provisions may relate to England in a legal sense but have a major effect on devolved governments, whether through the Barnett formula and consequential changes in funding, or their effects across a border (a major issue for Wales if not Scotland).  This means, third, that the problems arising from a piecemeal approach to constitutional change have been maintained and aggravated, not resolved.

There are ways of implementing EVEL that would give England the distinct voice in the Union that it badly needs.  That needs a much further-reaching reconstruction of how legislation works, and perhaps the machinery of government too.   We canvassed these issues in the recent Bingham Centre devolution review, and set out a path to achieve it.  (The report can be downloaded here.)  Instead, the Conservatives have ticked a box on their to-do list, but stored up yet further constitutional problems for the future.  To work properly, EVEL needs to form part of a much broader programme of reform in Westminster and Whitehall, not be a one-off revision to Commons procedures.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under English questions, Westminster

One response to “English votes for English laws: a brief comment

  1. Cathy Maclean

    The distinctive problem with the conservatives is that there is barely a statesman among them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s