Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 7th March 2017.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 5:08 pm, 7th March 2017

It seems to me that SNP Members agree with English votes for English laws and do not want to defend the principle that we are against them, or they want to vote with the Government this evening, or they want to abstain. I am not quite sure what they are doing. However, if I heard the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire correctly, he is going to vote with the Labour party against the motion. I am not sure where the hon. Lady stands on that particular argument, but the point I am trying to make is simply about division and unnecessary complication in the House. The Government’s majority will see any Finance Bill that they wish to present before the next general election—whenever that may be—through the House, because that is the way in which Governments and majorities work. If the Government have a problem with their own Back Benchers when they are trying to change income tax rates, that is entirely fine.

The hon. Lady was right to raise the point that she has just made, but let me gently say to her that we wanted to debate this matter today because it is the first opportunity that we have had to return to the EVEL regulations. It does not make sense for it to be possible to invoke this procedure in the context of income tax.

That brings us to the great repeal Bill and what will come back from the European Union. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire has raised that issue on a number of occasions. What will happen then? Will more technical changes be made by means of statutory instruments and Standing Orders to determine whether provisions are subject to English votes for English laws? We do not even know where some of the powers will lie when they are repatriated. It is important to note that none of these issues were examined in depth at the time of the McKay commission’s proposals. There was no consideration of the impact and the knock-on effect of the provisions on the way in which the House operates.

On four separate occasions, under the premiership of Gordon Brown, the Scottish National party asked for English votes for English laws. In fact, they used the term “EVEL”. Then, after 2015—I do not know what happened in 2015; they must have won more seats—SNP Members became opposed to English votes for English laws. Now they are reluctantly voting against this measure. I think the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire just said that he profoundly disagreed with it as a matter of principle, but was not sure whether he would vote against it. He seemed to be saying that these were merely technical changes.

On top of all that, the greatest anomaly in all the regulations, including the one that is before us now, is that even when the hon. Gentleman has sprung up in that strange Committee where the Mace goes down, Madam Deputy Speaker moves to the Chair in order to take the proceedings and no one speaks, and when he has—invariably, and quite rightly—railed against English votes for English laws, SNP Members do not vote when they are allowed to do so, on Third Reading. They are, in practice, demonstrating English votes for English laws in any event.

I remember the circumstances surrounding the housing Bill where the EVEL provisions were put in place for the first time in this House. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire rightly railed against EVEL, and we supported him on that, but then the SNP Members did not vote on the Third Reading of the Bill in any case, when they were entitled to, so I am not quite sure where the principles of that lie, or whether or not the hon. Gentleman should have been voting on the housing Bill.