Monthly Archives: October 2015

EVEL IS AS EVEL DOES

I was asked on Twitter by Carl Gardner for “a concrete example of a bill that this plan [for EVEL] would take away Scottish rights on, and an explanation of how.”

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This short post seeks to do that, with some considerable trepidation as there are countless tens of better placed devolution experts than me, but here goes. It does not offer a normative view on the soundness or otherwise of excluding MPs representing Scottish constituencies from voting on matters that concern solely the massed millions of English constituents.

It seems to me very simple that the EVEL proposals both dilute the value of Scottish MPs votes, numerically by conferring two votes on English MPs (so in numerical terms a vote by a Scottish MP is relatively worth half of an English MP’s vote, and in reality much more since that crucial second English MP vote has no Scottish equivalent, setting up as it does a one-way veto exercisable without response (since if the veto in Grand Chamber is voted on and rejected by the House in full, the ping-pong that results leads to only one winner, the English veto)

Let us assume a Parliament slightly differently constructed:

Labour 305 comprising 265 English MPs, 25 in Scotland and 15 in Wales

Conservative 275 comprising 255 English MPs, 5 in Scotland and 15 in Wales

SNP 25 MPs

LibDem 27, comprising 13 English MPs, 4 in Scotland and 10 in Wales

(along with 18 N/Irish MPs from UUP, DUP, Sinn Fein and SDLP)

and assume further a Labour/SNP coalition with a majority of 4 (330 seats).

 

An English-only Health Bill passes 2nd Reading with those SNP votes, and the Scottish Labour votes carrying the day. We can exclude from this example a Bill that fails to pass 2nd Reading since this new system leads to no change – it goes nowhere, and not even the possibility of English MP consent can save it, since it never reaches that stage. Similarly, a Bill that passes 2nd Reading but with Scottish MPs voting against will go into the new system but if the veto is exercised, that is in accordance with their wishes and if consented to there, there had been no change in result in the new EVEL system

Thus, it passes through Public Bill Committee in the usual way but then the new EVEL system triggers a legislative Grand Committee of (here) English only MPs. The 25 Scottish Labour MPs are excluded, as are the 25 SNP MPs, the few Scottish LibDems and Conservatives, as well as Welsh and Northern Irish MPs. The anti-Bill minority in the House (275 Conservatives and 27 LibDems) is now turned into a majority: against the 265 English Labour MPs there would be ranged 268 English Conservative and LibDem MPs combined. They will, we can assume, veto the Bill – they didn’t after all want it when it went to a full vote on 2nd Reading. While it will go back the House as a whole to seek compromise, eventually if that cannot be reached, the Grand Committee is reconvened and “asked to consent to the amendments made by the whole House. If no agreement is reached at this point, the disputed parts of the bill fall.”

It seems to me that it cannot be anything but a diminution, removal even, of the equal rights of Scottish MPs over the legislative output of the House. Their one chance, as part of a rump of 650, to say yea to legislation is outflanked by the later right afforded to a smaller group to say nay.

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