Carmichael accuses the Tories of abuse of process over English Votes for English Laws

Alistair Carmichael had a right old go at Leader of the House Chris Grayling over English Votes for English Laws. The Conservatives have chosen to take the easy route and merely amend Commons Standing Orders rather than have the House of Lords, where they don’t have a majority,  scrutinise it.

Questioning Mr Grayling in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:

If there are not to be two tiers of MPs in this House after these changes, what on earth does it mean to have a double majority at Report stage? I have to say I think it is an outrage that the Government are seeking to drive ahead with a fundamental challenge to the constitutional integrity of this House as the Parliament of the UK through Standing Orders. If the Leader of the House really thinks these proposals will bear scrutiny, he should bring forward primary legislation for proper scrutiny both on the Floor of this House and in the other place. If he thinks he can do that, let him come ahead and do it.

Grayling told him he was welcome to bring his proposals forward. After the exchange, Alistair said:

David Cameron is now a bigger threat to the continuation of the UK than Alex Salmond. It has now been confirmed today with this ill-advised plan for EVEL which the Government is not even prepared to offer up for proper scrutiny by all MPs. This will create two classes of MPs.

I have written to the Speaker today asking that he allows the House of Commons to debate the disgraceful tactics being employed by the Government in bulldozing this change through the House of Commons. The House of Lords will not even get to consider the changes.

Standing Order 24 is a little-used procedural device that allows the Speaker to set aside the next day’s business to discuss a matter that is important and urgent. This certainly fits the bill.

I don’t think any Liberal Democrat would argue that there isn’t an issue over how such matters should work. However, we think it should be resolved by the creation of a proportionally constituted committee of English MPs. Ideally, though, a Constitutional Convention should look at the constitution in a more holistic manner. We’re not going to get anywhere while any one party has a Commons majority. Maybe someone should just set up a convention anyway to establish a consensus round a set of proposals to put to the electorate in 2020.

The way the Conservatives are going about this shows utter contempt for Scotland. Anyone would think they were trying to give the nationalists a hand.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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14 Comments

  • David Evershed 3rd Jul '15 - 11:21am

    As a matter of principle, following devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, English MPs should be able to block MPs from non English constituencies having a casting vote on laws which only apply to England.

    Alistair Carmichael and other Lib Dems should stop putting political expediency ahead of integrity.

  • Except that the HoC is the elected forum for the UK (GB & NI). EVEL requires addressing the constitutional evolution of English representation in a democratic forum specifically constituted for that purpose. Using HoC procedures to fudge the issue is inherently undemocratic. The devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland followed periods of review with the Scottish Constitutional Convention (SCC) provides a template that can be applied in this context.
    I disagree that AC et al are “putting political expediency ahead of integrity”. The issue is that if Chris Grayling can use parliamentary procedure to affect this change in the constitution, what’s next….

  • George Potter 3rd Jul '15 - 11:59am

    I’d rather have a fair devolution deal for England than a Tory fudge designed to stitch up the House of Commons for their benefit.

    In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you at least get a proportional assembly to handle devolved powers. Under Tory plans England won’t get devolved powers but will have to have a FPTP-based committee of MPs in the Commons. No one who cares about England could support this.

    Plus EVEL does nothing about the issue that, for example, MPs from London can vote on issues affecting the rest of the UK despite being devolved to the GLA where they live.

  • Jonathan Pile 3rd Jul '15 - 12:27pm

    The Conservative Party was once called the Conservative and Unionist Party. David Cameron will go down in history as the Prime Minister who for temporary political advantage put the UK in jeopardy. The Conservative no longer a unionist party now just a petty english national party secretly allied to SNP and copying UKIP in threatening UK in Europe. EVEL is EVIL.

  • @george the voters in England were asked if the wanted a regional assembly and rejected it. So we have what we have, now please explain why scottish MPs should have the casting vote in devolved matters.

  • How can there be special rules for votes on “English laws,” a category of law which does not even exist? If there is an interest in devolving power to an English government and assembly which can create a body of English law, then let’s openly discuss that. Until then, all non-devolved UK matters that come under the ægis of Parliament have a right to be voted on by all MPs. There is no telling what the precedent of disqualifying certain MPs will lead to. The Government are asking Parilament to cut their own throats.

  • Some of the comments above seem to emanate from a fantasy land in which there are “devolved matters” related to England.

    England does not have a parliament. England does not have a government. There are no “devolved matters” for England. England is governed by the UK Government and UK Parliament under UK law. UK law is made by the nation as a whole. If you do not like that you need to change the constitutional structure, not change Commons procedure to strip MPs of the right to do the job to which they were elected.

  • John Tilley 3rd Jul '15 - 6:21pm

    David-1 3rd Jul ’15 – 6:06pm
    “……… you need to change the constitutional structure, not change Commons procedure to strip MPs of the right to do the job to which they were elected.

    As so often you are absolutely right. Fiddling with the procedures of the HofC to create different categories of MPs is a really stupid thing to do. It sets a precedent which the Conservatives might regret in the future.

    How would David Cameron feel if only London MPs could vote on the suggested expansion of Heathrow Airport?
    I guess he would have to resort to a lot of “No Ifs, No Buts” promises to get out of that one.

  • George Potter 3rd Jul '15 - 7:28pm

    @David

    Over a decade ago people in one artificially drawn region of the UK rejected an assembly of extra layer of full time politicians who’d have had no devolved powers given to them but would have only had powers sucked up away from local councils.

    In 2015 the facts are that more people in England want devolution but that, outside of the south east (London already has a limited form of devolution) most people don’t want another centralised assembly/parliament for the whole country. Cornwall wants its own assembly. Yorkshire wants its own parliament. The north in general does not want to replace decision making by a south-east dominated, centralised UK government of 64 million people with decision making by a south-east dominated, centralised English government of 55 million people. So since they don’t want an English parliament the only other option for devolution is devolution within England to smaller units than the entire country.

    That doesn’t necessarily have to be the same thing as regions based on the European parliament regions but it’s certainly the only feasible solution.

  • Mr Wallace and others – although it sounds fairly easy to just ban MPs from the devolved countries in the UK from voting on devolved matters, you quickly end up in the middle of an argument about where that line is drawn. Do you simply ban them from voting on anything their devolved assemblies handle? Simple enough. But no – the Barnett Formula dictates that spending in England has consequences for spending throughout the union. Given that, and other such entanglements, it is hard to say that anything is fully devolved. Only with full fiscal autonomy for Scotland and the accompanying end of the Barnett Formula could this EVEL proposal be fair.

    If this government were serious about sorting this out, there would be a full debate to be had about how to change England’s relationship with the rest of the union. As it is, we are seeing sweeping constitutional change being fudged on the quiet through adjustments to Parliamentary Standing Orders, rather than through the more usual route of legislation, debate and the vote.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '15 - 6:49pm

    Charles kennedy was in favour of full devolution and said so at federal conference in Glasgow,
    The artificiality of this scheme is the problem that Grayling is polishing.

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