English Votes on English Laws

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 6 July 2015.

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Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat, Orkney and Shetland 5:19, 6 July 2015

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the means by which the Government seek to deliver the objectives outlined by the Leader of the House in his statement on English votes on English laws.

Last Thursday the Leader of the House outlined a scheme that goes well beyond anything the Government have previously proposed or on which they have consulted, including an exclusion of Scottish Members from voting on parts of the Budget. Their wish is effectively to set up an English Parliament within this United Kingdom House of Commons and to do so by inviting the House to amend its Standing Orders. The substantive issue will be debated in due course, but that is not what I seek to bring to the House now. Rather, it is the process that I submit is specific and important and that should be given urgent consideration.

I am not one of those who has ever sought to avoid answering the West Lothian question. On the contrary, I long for the day when the English members of my family may benefit from devolution in the way that we have done in Scotland since 1999. This, however, is not the way to do it.

In this Session alone, we have already spent four days debating a Bill giving extra powers to the Scottish Parliament. We still have more to come, after which consideration will move to the other place. Addressing the democratic position of the people of England, however, is apparently to be done from scratch, in one day, in this Chamber alone. Obviously, I am concerned about the message this proposal sends to the people of Scotland, but, quite apart from that, I happen to think that the people of England deserve better treatment than this.

Let there be no doubt: we are dealing with a major constitutional change. It is one that undermines a fundamental principle of the workings of this House, namely that no matter where we come from, once we get here we are all equal. To seek to do this in one day by amendment to our Standing Orders may be technically competent, but it is, I would suggest, an abuse of process. It is constitutionally outrageous and I fear that it puts a further unnecessary strain on the Union. That is what the House must consider and what the country must hear debated before we go any further.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The right hon. Gentleman asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the means by which the Government seek to deliver the objectives outlined by the Leader of the House in his statement on English votes on English laws. I have listened carefully to the application from the right hon. Gentleman and I am satisfied that the matter raised by him is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the right hon. Gentleman the leave of the House?

Application agreed to.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Leave has very clearly been given. The right hon. Gentleman has the leave of the House. What remains is for me to communicate to the House the necessary details. The debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July, and in conformity with normal practice on these occasions—albeit these occasions are relatively infrequent—it will be held as the first item of public business. It will last for three hours and it will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the right hon. Gentleman’s application.