Tag Archives: english votes for english laws

Looking beyond Brexit

The sense of things going horribly wrong is likely to get much worse as 2019 gets under way and #BrexitShambles becomes #BrexitFarce.

In the probable chaos of the coming months the country needs us to articulate our hope for the future.

Putting some flesh on those bones, in no particular order:

  • Improve Benefits. Universal Credit could have been a good idea, but under-funding has hit it hard and people are suffering. Improving the funding is a good place to start. We also need to go further. It is a scandal to have people needing to use food banks or losing the roof over their head because of the way the system works. I’ve spoken with people struggling to live on benefits, who voted Leave in the desperate hope that things would improve.
  • Wealth inequality. Back in the autumn, Vince Cable put forward a raft of tax reforms to make the system fairer, especially around inheritance and investment income and pensions. Univeral Basic Income has been on the edge of discussions for a long time. It is time to take it seriously — it can’t be done overnight, but it is time to start the conversation as a way to pick up where we are, and fears around the way in which technology is reshaping the world.
  • Brexit has pushed climate change from the top of the agenda. People have every reason to be worried. That means is that it is high time to turn that worry into action — around renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, zero carbon housing, improved public transport, and more.
  • The Blair government had some good ideas on devolution, with elected regional assemblies and pulling government offices and development to the same boundaries. The imbalances around devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland and particularly to Scotland would look very different if there was meaningful devolution in England.
  • It’s time to talk openly about federalism. Too often it’s a dirty word in British (or at least, English) politics. It’s time to dispatch the myth that it is about centralising power and put the case for doing centrally only what needs to be done there and pushing decisions as close as possible to the people they affect. That applies as much to devolving power from Westminster as it does devolving it from Brussels.
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Alistair Carmichael 1 Chris Grayling 0

So, after Alistair Carmichael’s use of a parliamentary device to deliver  a whomping defeat on the Government over their attempt to railroad through English Votes for English Laws, Chris Grayling has announced that he’s not going to put the matter to a vote on Tuesday after all. During the 3 hour debate instigated by Alistair, the Government’s case became even more incoherent. The Herald has the story:

Ministers were facing potential defeat in the Commons vote on ‘English votes for English laws’ – due to be held next week.

Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and the DUP were all expected to vote against the proposals, which also caused disquiet on the Tory backbenches.

Chris Grayling, the leader of the House, told MPs the proposals would be redrafted and reintroduced later this year.

This is not over by any manner of means, but Alistair’s victory is important because it means that a major constitutional reform has not been brought in on the say-so of just one parliamentary chamber. This should be properly scrutinised. A draft bill examined by both Houses of Parliament would seem sensible to me – a bit like we had for the Snoopers’ Charter, or, indeed, just bring a proper bill through Parliament in the usual way.

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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:

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Paddick: Tories are playing a dangerous, divisive game over English votes for English laws

I still feel aggrieved that in the immediate aftermath of a bruising referendum campaign, our Prime Minister, rather than say something comforting and unifying, came out and picked a fight with Labour over English votes for English laws. Today, the Tories are highlighting their plans to resolve the constitutional conundrum. From the BBC:

Under the Conservatives’ proposals, the line-by-line scrutiny of new bills would be reserved for MPs from the nations affected by the legislation. A new grand committee of all English MPs – or English and Welsh MPs where appropriate – would also have to approve any legislation relating only to England.

Mr Cameron will promise firm proposals within 100 days of forming a government, which would be “fully implemented” by the time of the Budget in March of the following year.

Speaking on Question Time, Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney said the proposals ignored the fact that elements of income tax policy that will still apply to the UK as a whole would remain reserved to the Westminster government.

Labour says the issue should be considered along with other potential changes by a constitutional convention after the election.

The Liberal Democrats favour a grand committee of English MPs, with the right to veto legislation applying only to England, with its members based on the share of the vote.

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Devolution must go beyond Westminster

Yesterday in parliament, William Hague announced four options to address the “English votes for English laws” issue. They are:

  1. Barring Scottish and Northern Irish MPs from any role in English and Welsh bills and limiting England-only bills to English MPs
  2. Allowing only English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, to consider relevant bills during their committee and report stages, where amendments are tabled and agreed, before allowing all MPs to vote on the final bill
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Opinion: Could PEVEL help to secure the triumph of good over EVEL?

england-flagEvery time a Tory mentions English Votes for English Laws they have a certain daemonic glint in their eyes. The power junkies think they are about to get the keys to the pharmacy. They say nature abhors a vacuum, but the Tories can hardly conceal their delight at the vacuum created by the meteoric rise up the political agenda of the West Lothian Question (which they and their friends in the media have helped to propagate). In 2010 they gained 56% of English MPs with 40% of the English vote. Implementing overdue boundary revisions and reducing MP numbers would tilt the balance further in their favour. Requiring a good deal less than 40%, they could gain a majority of English MPs for the foreseeable future if historic voting patterns persist.

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Opinion: And you thought EVEL was difficult…

Manchester Town Hall ClockOur party has saddled itself with a totally unworkable policy on devolution, but the formulators and protagonists of devolution on demand simply don’t understand why it’s a passport to total confusion.

Let’s consider a future House of Commons where legislation is being considered for schools. A vote is needed. Ah, but not everyone can vote because there’s been some devolution.  Let’s see now. This legislation won’t cover Scotland and Wales or Northern Ireland, but neither will it cover Yorkshire (except for Selby which opted out), Cornwall, the city regions of Manchester and Birmingham (minus Solihull which didn’t join) and of course education is now the responsibility of the Mayor in London and a quango in the North East. So who exactly will be able to vote? And if an English Committee for English laws is OK in the Commons what will happen in the still unreformed House of Lords?  Will it be necessary to stop peers who come from the devolved regions from voting?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 25 Comments

LibLink: Sam Ghibaldan: Time to end constitutional quirk

england-flagEnglish votes for English Laws has become the great rallying cry of the last week ever since David Cameron decided it was appropriate to use the exact moment that almost half of the 85% of Scots who voted in the referendum said they wanted to leave the UK to pick a fight with Ed Miliband over what has been traditionally called the West Lothian Question. Sam Ghibaldan was Special Adviser to two Liberal Democrat Deputy First Ministers in Scotland and he has some advice for Ed in an article in today’s Scotsman.   He urges him to stop prevaricating and embrace the potential change.

First of all he sets the context:

In the 18th century, of course, the whole political system was largely corrupt and the rotten boroughs provided yet more opportunities for bribery. The West Lothian Question does not do that, thankfully, but it is nevertheless a serious democratic aberration, pushed back to the top of the political agenda by the independence referendum.

The concern is something we British like to think of as our own: fairness. Why should Scottish – or for that matter Welsh or Northern Irish – MPs, vote on English issues, when their English counterparts cannot vote on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish ones?

The answer to that – they shouldn’t – is so obvious that most Scottish voters, let alone English ones, oppose their MPs voting on English issues. It is one of those rare constitutional questions that chimes with the electorate, appealing directly to their inherent sense of justice.

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