English Votes for English Laws

– in the House of Commons at 7:53 pm on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 7:53 pm, 13th July 2021

I beg to move,

That Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83X (Certification according to territorial application etc) be rescinded and the following changes be made to Standing Orders:

(1) in sub-paragraph (3)(b) of Standing Order No. 12 (House not to sit on certain Fridays), leave out “Consent Motions under England and Wales only provisions">Standing Order No. 83M (Consent Motions for certified England only or England and Wales only provisions) and of”;

(2) in paragraph of Standing Order No. 39A (Voting by proxy), leave out “or in any legislative grand committee”;

(3) in paragraph of Standing Order No. 51 (Ways and means motions), leave out “or, in the case of a motion to which Standing Order No. 83U applies, forthwith upon the announcement of the Speaker’s decision with respect to the motion under that Standing Order”;

(4) in bills not subject to a programme order">Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order) leave out paragraphs and (6);

(5) in Standing Order No. 64 (Notices of amendments, &c., to bills), leave out “, of Consent Motions under Standing Order No. 83M (Consent Motions for certified England only or England and Wales only provisions)”;

(6) in Standing Order No. 73 (Report of bills committed to public bill committees), leave out “or the Legislative Grand Committee (England)”;

(7) in Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions), in paragraph (9), leave out “up to and including”;

(8) in Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees),

(a) in paragraph (1), leave out “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration” and

(b) in paragraph (5), leave out “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration”;

(9) in Standing Order No. 83C (Programming sub-committees),

(a) in sub-paragraph (5)(e), leave out “up to and including”,

(b) in sub-paragraph (12)(b), leave out “up to and including”, and

(c) in sub-paragraph (14) leave out “up to and including”;

(10) in committee of the whole House, etc.">Standing Order No. 83D (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings in public bill committee or in committee of the whole House, etc.),

(a) in the title, leave out “, etc.”, and

(b) in paragraph (1), leave out “, in the Legislative Grand Committee (England) when exercising functions under Legislative Grand Committees">Standing Order No. 83W(6)(a) (Legislative Grand Committees)”;

(11) in Standing Order No. 83E (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration up to and including third reading),

(a) in the title for the words “and up to and including” substitute “or”,

(b) in paragraph (1), leave out “up to and including”, and

(c) leave out paragraph (5);

(12) in Standing Order No. 83F (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments), leave out paragraphs to (11);

(13) in Standing Order No. 83G (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords),

(a) in paragraph (5), leave out “, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7),”, and

(b) leave out paragraphs (6) to (9);

(14) in Standing Order No. 83I (Programme orders: supplementary provisions), in paragraph (1), leave out “or in legislative grand committee”;
and

(15) in Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of general committees) leave out sub-paragraph (2)(iv).

The motion in my name on the Order Paper would rescind Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83X and make related changes across the House’s Standing Orders to remove the English votes for English laws—EVEL—process from the legislative process.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My Lord, my right hon. Friend has come in very early! Yes, of course I give way to him.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Am I to assume from the motion that the Leader of the House does not have an answer to the West Lothian question? Or does he take the view that it does not deserve one and that it was impertinent of the late Tam Dalyell of the Binns to have asked it in the first place?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The West Lothian question has not had a very satisfactory answer since it was posed by Tam Dalyell, who was a most distinguished Member of this House, but if there were an answer, EVEL would not be it.

The EVEL measures were first proposed by way of a counterpoise to the extension of devolution, which saw further legislative powers handed to the devolved Administrations and their Parliaments in the wake of the 2014 once-in-a-generation Scottish independence referendum. The argument put forward then, as some Members may recall from a Chequers summit held at that time, was that an English votes for English laws process represented an honest attempt to answer the West Lothian question.

Proposals for Standing Order changes were not brought forward until after the 2015 general election, during which the potential influence of Scottish MPs on English matters featured especially prominently. Some Members may remember a rather marvellous election poster, depicting the then Leader of the Opposition tucked into the pocket of Mr Alex Salmond in the place of a pocket handkerchief. Once the initial excitement over the proposals’ introduction had abated, it quickly became obvious that their practical implementation would prove unwieldy and—dare I say it?—even baffling.

The procedure amended the legislative process to provide MPs representing English constituencies—or English and Welsh constituencies—with the opportunity to have an additional say on matters that applied to England only or England and Wales only. The procedure also applies to legislation introducing a tax measure that affects only England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which must be approved by a majority of MPs representing constituencies in those areas.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has been following.

Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons)

I represent a border area and many of the specialist hospitals that my constituents go to are on the English side of the border. Indeed, the Countess of Chester Hospital was built as a Welsh and English hospital to serve the residents of Deeside in Wales and Chester in Cheshire. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it was unfair that I could not effectively vote or express a view on that whereas someone from the south-east of England, who had no interest in that matter, could?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

As the majority of taxation is set on a United Kingdom basis and the Barnett formula ensures that the level of spending provided for services is proportionate to decisions taken by the Union Parliament, I do not think that is as unreasonable as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. Sometimes the West Lothian question’s significance gets exaggerated.

Last week, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the House that the Government believe that the procedure has added complexity and delay to the legislative process. Slightly over 10% of all our Standing Orders are taken up with enabling EVEL-doing and its additional parliamentary stages, notably the Legislative Grand Committee, which is held on the Floor of the House between Report and Third Reading. In theory, that allows English MPs to veto provisions, but not to propose them. In practice, it has resulted only in short-lived and poorly attended debates that have always concluded with English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, giving their consent to England only, or England and Wales only, provisions.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been waiting with bated breath. His breath is now unbated.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Does the Leader of the House recall who has made the most contributions to the Legislative Grand Committee? Perhaps he could tell the House how many contributions that Member made.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I have a sneaking suspicion that we may get the accurate statistics from a careful consultation of Hansard that took place earlier this afternoon by the hon. Gentleman himself. May I point out that I made a speech on the matter in 2011, when I outlined all the difficulties that the system would have? I therefore predate the hon. Gentleman in that I opposed EVEL before it had even been proposed. As a good Catholic, I would be expected always to oppose evil.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Will my right hon. Friend explain why the Government think that England uniquely of the four main parts of the United Kingdom should have no devolved powers at all?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am loth to disagree with my right hon. Friend, who understands these issues very well, and had a better scheme of his own, which would have been called EVEN—English votes for English needs—rather than EVEL. We could be having a very different debate this evening had EVEN been adopted rather than EVEL.

There is of course devolution within England, but it is different. It is not to England as a country, because England makes up 85% of the total of the United Kingdom. As far as I am aware, there is no federal system in the world where one part makes up such a great proportion. The size of England—and of course the influence that comes from that—would unbalance any settlement we tried to create.

It is not just the ability of this place to legislate effectively that has been constrained. More fundamentally, the EVEL procedure has undermined the role of Parliament as the Union Parliament in which all parts of the United Kingdom are represented equally. Pete Wishart has made that point very eloquently, and I greatly agree with him that there should be equal representation of all Members. I have spoken elsewhere about the ways in which the UK Parliament has become a more important place in our national life following the return of powers from the European Union. Since our departure, we have once again begun legislating properly in areas touching on devolved matters, including trade, health and safety, employment laws and state aid. All of these are now powers returned to the United Kingdom, and we are able to legislate properly because all MPs are equal once again in a Parliament that considers the matters put before it from the broadest possible Union perspective.

Rather than returning to an unhappy, asymmetric answer to the devolution question, the evolving operation of this Parliament has made this much less of a black and white issue than it would have felt in 2014. That is good news, because it reflects the way in which Brexit has strengthened the Union. We have now restored authority in this Parliament to address the problems of voters in every part of the United Kingdom. That is in all of our interests, because our country is much more than the sum of its parts. Just as George III gloried in the name of Britain, so do I, for our global influence together is far greater. Take, for example, our security relationships; the nuclear deterrent, based in Scotland; our shared history as brothers in arms; the economic successes that we have had; or the global reach of the empire builders. One may visit Argyle Street in Hong Kong, the Glencairn suburb of Cape Town, the Aberdare national park in Kenya, or even sunny Cardiff-by-the-Sea in California to see our past shared influence writ large across the world.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire

The Lord President is making a magnificent speech, as one would expect, but how would he feel if hypothetically, the outcome that was depicted back in 2015—with Alex Salmond having the shadow Business Secretary, Edward Miliband, in his suit pocket—had come to pass, and the Lord President’s constituents in North East Somerset faced a situation in which they were having laws made for them without there being a majority view in Parliament in England?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

We are one country, and I accept that voters in Gloucestershire can have an influence on what happens in Somerset—that is a much greater thing for me to confess to than that voters in Scotland should have a say. We are one nation, and I accept the basic principle of democracy that the overall will of that nation must be observed. However, I put it to my hon. Friend that that poster had an effect in the campaign, because it made people think about what the consequences of voting Labour could be, and they did not particularly want to be ruled by Alex Salmond.

I have mentioned all those places around the world that are named after places in the United Kingdom, and I have not yet had the chance to mention Belfast. There are many Belfasts around the world, but there are many English place names, too: there are 22 places in the United States called Somerset, in addition to the one in Wisconsin, and there is also a Somerset in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Bermuda, and of course Pomeroon-Supenaam. There are Somersets everywhere; there are Scottish place names everywhere, Welsh ones and Northern Irish ones, as part of the success of our country as global Britain before the term “global Britain” was invented.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that there are many places called Bath, and on that basis, I of course give way to the hon. Lady.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

Can I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are many streets in this country called Hanover Street, which is my home town in Germany?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady is absolutely right, and we should be very proud of all that the Hanoverians did in this country, not least providing us with a royal household that served with great distinction.

We have had great success as a United Kingdom across the globe, and after our EU exit, we can work together to do more to increase prosperity across the whole country. Members need look no further than the Subsidy Control Bill or the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 for examples of us making good use of competencies taken back from Europe. In that context, the tiresome and ineffectual EVEL process seems less of a priority, particularly given the ease with which Governments can make changes to Standing Orders of this kind to suit them—a point that will not be lost on those of us elected in 2010 or before, who are now spending time trying to unpick the poorly thought through constitutional changes made by previous Administrations. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is already on its way to the knacker’s yard.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way, because he has made reference a number of times now to powers that are being repatriated subsequent to our departure from the European Union. Does he not accept that when it comes to matters such as agricultural payments and fisheries management, we now have the highly unsatisfactory situation where the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for example, acts as a UK and an English Ministry? Does he not think that that makes the case for devolution within England?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

There is a case for devolution within England, and that is part of the Government’s approach—there are the mayoralties in London, in Manchester and so on—but no, we are also a United Kingdom. It is important that we operate as a United Kingdom and ensure that powers are used where they will be most effective, and it is natural that most, though not all, powers that came back from the European Union should be used at United Kingdom level.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The Leader of the House is being generous with his time. Surely the logic of his position is that if it is unsatisfactory for this House to be at the same time a UK and an English Parliament, the same thing must apply to the Executive.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I do not think that is quite what I am saying. I am saying that this Parliament is the Parliament for the United Kingdom and is therefore able to take a broad swathe of decisions. It also takes decisions that affect only England, and it has votes from people from outside England affecting them. The Ministers are United Kingdom Ministers who, like this House, also make decisions for England, but they are held accountable by Members from across the whole of the United Kingdom, and I think that that is a perfectly rational constitutional settlement, considering that 85% of the population of the whole of the United Kingdom live in England. They are not, however, necessarily English.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I want to try to clarify this, as the Leader of the House is saying that our Ministers are United Kingdom Ministers. When the Government are consulting the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Irish Government, who then speaks for England so that it is a fair consultation?

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Ministers have their different areas of responsibility. Within Ministries some areas are devolved and the Ministers will obviously consult with devolved Ministers; it is important that we have a good relationship with them. Other areas are not devolved and remain the competences of the UK Government, and those matters are decided by the Ministers themselves on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom. This system is quite well known and understood.

The House will be delighted to note that I am now coming to the end of my speech. Mr Carmichael said that I was being generous with my time, but I am not really; I am being generous with the House’s time, and I am aware that this debate is time-limited. The motion seeks to make the process of legislating on matters that deliver for everyone in the UK just a little easier, and it is on that basis that I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Commons)

There will obviously there will be a limit of three minutes on Back-Bench speeches, but as Members have already worked out, most will not have the opportunity to speak. I see that they are dealing with that by making interventions, which is fine because that is what a debate is all about.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 8:07 pm, 13th July 2021

Oh, it is so very hard to avoid starting this speech with the “I told you so” dance—which does actually exist—but alas, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is just making it too easy. In a written ministerial statement yesterday about English votes for English laws, which I will hereafter refer to as EVEL, he said:

“The introduction of the procedure in 2015 added additional stages to the legislative process in Parliament and in doing so introduced complexity to our arrangements and has not served our Parliament well.”

He also said:

“It is a fundamental principle that all constituent parts of the United Kingdom should be equally represented in Parliament, and Parliament should deliver for the whole UK. The operation of this procedure—and the constraints on the role of certain MPs—does not support this aim.”—[Official Report, 12 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1WS.]

Goodness me! If only somebody could have spotted this sooner. Hmm. Let’s just see what my hon. Friend Dame Angela Eagle—who, incidentally, did warn me against using sarcasm in the Chamber—the then shadow Leader of the House and a fantastic role model for me, said in the July 2015 debate on the EVEL proposals. She said that

“as currently written, they are deeply flawed. We do not think that the Government’s proposals are either wise or viable. Indeed, they are likely to put the Union at risk by creating an English veto rather than a voice, possible gridlock in Parliament, and two classes of MP.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 949.]

My friend David Hanson, the truly right hon. and sadly not current Member for Delyn, said in that same debate:

“When Members walk through that door into the Chamber, they do so as equal Members.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 1011.]

However, he and many others identified that the English votes for English laws provision would undermine that equality, and so indeed it has proved.

In the Leader of the House’s recent appearance at the Procedure Committee, he said:

“It is of fundamental importance, constitutionally, that every Member of Parliament in this House is absolutely equal: Minister, non-Minister, spokesman for Opposition party”— thank you—

“Front Bencher, Back Bencher, Privy Counsellor, well established, newly elected—there is absolute equality of the regions of the country they represent. That has been the most ancient constitutional principle, which EVEL contradicted to some extent.”

I so agree. I am glad that the Leader of the House can now see the points that my hon. and right hon. Friends made so clearly and eloquently six years ago.

Then there is the contradiction between the two Houses. The written ministerial statement observes:

“The English Votes procedure does not apply to the legislative process in the House of Lords”.—[Official Report, 12 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1WS.]

It is so hard to avoid that stricture from my hon. Friend Dame Angela Eagle not to use sarcasm at this point because, as David Hanson put it six years ago:

Lord Thomas of Gresford in Wrexham, who has never won an election in his life in north-east Wales, will vote on these matters in another place, while I, who have won elections on six occasions in north-east Wales”—

I hope he will one day again—

“will not be able to do so.”—[Official Report, 22 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 1212.]

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

How can the hon. Lady defend the idea that her party believes in a single category of MP when there is a huge difference of powers, responsibilities and aptitudes between an MP representing a Scottish constituency and one representing an English constituency? I cannot pass any comment here on health and education and so forth there, but they can pass any comment on that in England.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I was expecting references to the West Lothian question. As the Leader of the House has said, we have different bits of devolution for different parts of the country. We have indeed a Labour metro Mayor of the West of England, who was elected quite properly by the people of the west of England. There are different elements of devolution across the entire country. That does not take away from the fact that in this place we should all be equal.

The then Leader of the House, Chris Grayling totally failed to absorb the wise counsel from my hon. Friend Jessica Morden and my right hon. Friend Mark Tami on the subject of matters of interest involving the border between Wales and England. My right hon. Friend said:

“The Government like to tell us that English votes for English laws is a clearcut issue, but it is not—and we have heard today many reasons why it is not. Residents of Alyn and Deeside use healthcare services both sides of the border.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 993.]

My right hon. Friend has already referred to that and other issues today. I fail to understand why Ministers at that time did not understand what my hon. and right hon. Friends were saying. Now, wonderfully, they do, but why not at the time? We could have saved so much time and effort.

Also, what of the need to reform the constitution of this country? Does this procedure in any way add anything useful? Well, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey observed at the time:

“Labour Members consider that this issue should have been properly dealt with as part of a much wider process involving a constitutional convention to examine a range of issues in a more holistic way.”

That might have answered what John Redwood was asking. My hon. Friend continued:

“A genuine attempt should have been made to come to a cross-party agreement between the parties represented in this place, and with wider civil society.”

We could still try doing that. She continued:

“Proceeding in this consensual way, rather than in the blatantly partisan way the Government have chosen, would have hugely increased their chances of introducing a successful and sustainable change. No such attempt has been made.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 951.]

If only the Government had heeded her wise words.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because, in Scotland in the 1990s, her party and mine were part of exactly that: a constitutional convention. However, I remind her in the House that that was not about a question of national identity, as John Redwood suggests. It was about better governance, and it was about bringing control of affairs back closer to the people. So the question of who speaks for England is not the appropriate question. The question should be: who should be speaking for the various parts of England?

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I do so commend to all Members the Labour party’s constitutional convention work, which continues to this day. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey said at the time that there should be that attempt at a cross-party piece of work. If that had happened, perhaps the Government would not have had to admit yesterday that

“Parliament should deliver for the whole UK. The operation of this procedure…does not support this aim.”—[Official Report, 12 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1WS.]

As my friend, the sadly not current Member for Scunthorpe, the wonderful Sir Nic Dakin said in his winding-up speech:

“That is why we are asking the Government to learn from their mistakes and proceed in a genuinely cross-party way that allows all interests to be properly examined. We need to go back to the McKay commission report”.—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 1043.]

I interrupt that quote to explain for those who do not know that the McKay commission did indeed look at issues of devolution. It was commissioned by the coalition Government, and I urge the Government to go back and look at it. The report, Sir Nic said, examined the issue

“properly and thoroughly. That should be our starting point. As this issue has far-reaching implications for the way in which this Parliament operates, it is well worth seriously considering taking things forward through a Joint Committee of the Commons and Lords. That will be a proper way to proceed with a constitutional issue of such significance.”—[Official Report, 15 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 1044.]

There are probably not many people in the House who would not agree with my friend, Nic Dakin. The Government cannot complain of a lack of constructive suggestions, either at the time or now. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether, having seen the error of their ways, the Government would now consider a cross-party non-partisan piece of work in which we do what we need to do to strengthen our constitution, make it fit for the 21st century for the United Kingdom, go back to the McKay recommendations and try to work out what we need to do to bring power as close as possible appropriately to people?

What of the words of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was recently quoted in The Times? He said:

“Ultimately, it’s a convention which arose out of set of circumstances after the 2014 referendum, where you had a coalition government and so on. We’ve moved on now, so I think it’s right to review where we are on it.”

Dear, oh dear, this doesn’t half reek of partisanship.

At the time, it was dressed up as the democratic thing to do. The Government accused those who objected to it of being party political, but it turns out that the opposite was, in fact, the case. I am afraid that this rather looks as if the Tories will do anything to cling on to power, even if it undermines democracy and even if it undermines our Union of nations, which the EVEL procedure does by creating different classes of MP in the House, depending on the nation their constituency is in. The Prime Minister is always claiming that he is a strong supporter of preserving and strengthening the Union, but in reality he seems to be a cheerleader for Scottish independence. The more atrocious he sounds, the happier SNP Members seem to be, as that makes their case for them. Feeding their indignation helps them to make their case that their sole purpose for being here is to campaign not to be here.

Creating two tiers has added to a narrative that does nothing to help preserve the Union. Poor legislation on constitutional matters seems to be a theme for the Government. For example, the Northern Ireland Secretary said last year that the new post-Brexit law was breaking the law

“in a very specific and limited way”—[Official Report, 8 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 509.]

That is an extraordinary thing for a law maker to say about something as important as our constitution and the way in which we operate legally.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Will the hon. Lady explain why Labour told us that Scottish devolution would solve the problem of independence, but it led directly to an SNP Government and the demand for a referendum?

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Well, I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that that is democracy. There is a Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish people elect its Members. At the moment, Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, and long may that continue.

If the Government want to reform the constitution, they are going about it in an odd way by doing things piecemeal. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 was repealed last week; the boundary review is happening at some point, when it may suit the Government to put it in the legislative timetable; and there is the outrageous, anti-democratic, totally unnecessary, using-a-wrecking-ball-to-crack-a-wholly-imaginary-nut legislation on voter identification. If the Government want to reform the constitution, perhaps they could return to the McKay commission report, and emphasise the need for a national consensus-building approach to constitutional reform.

Once again, the Labour party is happy to oblige the Government with news of our constitutional convention. Over the past 15 months, EVEL has been suspended. The Leader of the House himself said in an evidence session with the Procedure Committee that

“EVEL has been suspended for a year without any loss of effectiveness to the way the House operates, any loss to the constitution, or any loss to MPs’ ability to represent their constituents.”

I quite agree, and would go further in saying that I very much doubt that anyone outside the House has even noticed. He added:

“I think the EVEL Standing Orders take up more than 10% of all our Standing Orders, for a procedure that has not had an effect on our business once in the time in which it has been available.”

I really am struggling to avoid the “I told you so” dance. Given that the Government strongly supported EVEL six years ago and have now decided to think again, I have to ask the Leader of the House what changed? What have the Government learned about EVEL in the past 15 months that has led to this devastatingly obvious conclusion that the Labour party was, in fact, right all along? What plans do the Government have for developing devolution and constitutional reform within the context of a strong and united United Kingdom?

The most disappointing element of this whole completely pointless process is the disdain that the Government repeatedly show for the people of this country and for the concept of national identity and national pride. We have seen that very recently when many senior Cabinet Ministers so badly misjudged the public mood on the England football team taking the knee in solidarity as a team with their black teammates and to show their opposition to racism everywhere. It is time that the Government looked at the leadership qualities shown by Gareth Southgate, so inspiringly set out in his incredibly patriotic letter, “Dear England”, which I have read many times, despite the fact that I have very little interest in football. It sets out a richly layered, values-based patriotism.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire

The hon. Lady is rather digressing from the subject at hand in the 60 minutes that we have available. Will she accept that both the 2010 and the 2015 Conservative manifestos pledged to address English votes for English laws and that we are able to implement that because we won a majority in 2015? She talks about respecting democracy. She should respect that.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I am entirely respecting it by helping to abolish EVEL right now. If we are talking about digressing from the subject, may I refer the hon. Lady to the Leader of the House’s very interesting geography lesson, which I rather enjoyed.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Being English means being proud of our values, which are generous and inclusive and valuing our diversity. It does not mean petty pointless gestures that divide us and undermine democracy—a value that we all hold dear. In ending EVEL, I urge the Leader of the House to remedy the pointlessness of the entire sorry saga and commit his Government to a constitutional convention fit for the 21st century.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 8:21 pm, 13th July 2021

I am thrilled to be called to speak now, Madam Deputy Speaker.

May I start by setting something straight? There is an answer to the West Lothian question. Tam Dalyell and I actually came up with two answers some 17 years ago. One, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you know, is the Harthill services, and the second is salt and sauce. I will leave it to the House to determine which one is the correct answer.

What an utter humiliation this is for the Government. A flagship policy of the 2015 manifesto will soon be nothing more than a footnote in future constitutional history books, and, remember, it is just another Tory policy disaster. God knows what they were thinking about when they introduced this some six years ago. They were consumed with the notion that we, the unkempt Caledonian hordes, were somehow stopping them securing the democratic outcomes that they desired—us, the 59 Scots MPs out of 650 MPs, needed to be constrained and curtailed. EVEL was just about the worst solution to a problem that did not even exist.

Never before has a procedure come to this House that has divided the membership of this House into two different and distinct classes. Not only did it do that, it did it by nationality and by geography. It is a procedure that barely anyone understands, that is a burden to the management and administration of the business of this House, that is entirely unnecessary, and that produces almost unprecedented resentment. Something that it will be remembered for more than anything else is what it has done for the cause of English devolved governance. This was the first serious attempt to create some sort of forum for English democracy. We actually agree with them. They do deserve their English Parliament. They should always get the outcomes that they want and deserve. We have even got a neat, practical and elegant solution to that, but, of course, they will not even start to look at that. There are myriad solutions to resolving this within the precious Union. The thing is that they could not be bothered doing the work. They could not be bothered rolling up their sleeves and designing a Parliament of their own. They decided instead to come here and to use the national UK Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for this doomed experiment. Imagine a quasi-English Parliament squatting here in the national Parliament. What an absolute and utter disgrace.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I do not have time to give way to the right hon. Gentleman.

It satisfied absolutely no one. All it did was infuriate Scotland. Instead of securing the near federalism that was promised, Scotland instead saw its MPs become second-class Members in the Parliament that they had just been invited to lead. There were signs in the Division Lobby saying, “England only.” They would have been better saying, “Scots out.” That is what the Government did with this procedure.

The Government knew it would never work. From the first moment when they suggested this nonsense, we have told them again and again that it was madness and that, at some point, they would be here—as they are this evening—to withdraw it. Now under pressure from the SNP, EVEL is to be abandoned. This is a spectacular victory for the Scottish National party, and I congratulate all my hon. Friends on bringing down this nonsense. This is one victory that we have secured this week in the United Kingdom and, by God, we are going to celebrate like it is 1966. Believe me, we will be banging on about this for the next 55 years and we will enjoy every minute of it.

There is a part of me that will miss the entertainment of it all and the laughs that it gave us. It was designed to quell this tartan menace, but I ended up making the most contributions in the Legislative Grand Committee. With 57 contributions, not only was I the most committed and dedicated Member of the English Parliament but I beat all the English Members combined two times over.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire

Given the hon. Member’s digression on to football, which team did he support on Sunday night?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I supported the best team on Sunday night. I enjoy my football, and I can say quite clearly Forza Italia.

English votes for English laws started its sorry and doomed journey just hours after the Scottish independence referendum result was announced. Instead of the statesmanship and consensus required at a sensitive and raw moment in Scottish constitutional history, David Cameron announced that the English question should now be addressed. With that, as well as bringing us to this point, he ensured that the campaign for Scottish independence started once again almost immediately. That campaign will soon be concluded with a victory for the Scottish National party and a victory for Scotland.

We believe it is legitimate for English representatives to secure the outcomes they want, and SNP MPs do not vote on English-only legislation or business that does not affect Scotland. If it is not in the Scottish interest, we take no interest in it. If there are financial consequences or an inadvertent impact, we will represent our constituents—but it is us who will decide that, not the diktat of a Tory Government. We commit not to participate in legislation that does not impact on our nation, but, please, let us never, ever do anything like this again.

Instead of going on about KwaZulu-Natal, the Leader of the House should be apologising to the House for wasting hours of the House’s time on a stupid experiment that went absolutely nowhere. Let us now work together to resolve this and ensure that our nations get what they want. We are on different trajectories and we want something different. Let us now give our nations what they want.

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 8:28 pm, 13th July 2021

EVEL was a genuine attempt in good faith to answer the long-lasting West Lothian question on the asymmetric nature of devolution. However, EVEL is a cumbersome and ineffective constitutional innovation that has won few friends in its short life. Its abolition would simplify our procedures and remove a source of resentment. It would reaffirm the fundamental constitutional principle that we are one United Kingdom with a sovereign Parliament comprising Members elected on an equal basis, representing every community in the land and able to make laws for the whole kingdom. It would be the Unionist act of a Unionist Government.

EVEL has introduced a layer of complex and time-consuming bureaucracy into the legislative process. It has also, as we have heard, given our nationalist opponents a pretext to degenerate the UK Parliament. Worse still, as the procedure is set out only in Standing Orders, it would provide no meaningful protection in a hypothetical situation in which a UK Government lack a majority of English MPs.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is the first Prime Minister to be Minister for the Union. He is abolishing EVEL on Unionist grounds. The principle underlying his decision to become Minister for the Union and underlying that this Government’s whole approach to the Union matters is that this Government are for the whole United Kingdom, accountable to a Parliament representing the whole United Kingdom. This is a qualitative difference that separates the UK Parliament and the UK Government from the devolved legislatures and Administrations. On this basis, the Government have a constitutional and democratic mandate to serve the whole UK, as they do in the exercise of reserved responsibilities and through measures such as the UK Internal Market Act.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I am following the hon. Member’s argument as closely as I can, and it seems to be that he is arguing that the Government brought in EVEL to strengthen the Union and now are scrapping EVEL also to strengthen the Union. Does he realise that this just makes it look like his Government are clueless, directionless and, when it comes to the constitution, simply making it up as they go along?

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

I do not accept the hon. Member’s analysis. The introduction of EVEL was an attempt to answer the West Lothian question, which many people have struggled with for many years. But listening to Pete Wishart, it is very clear that he loves this place so much and wants to participate. I sometimes wonder whether he really does want independence for Scotland, given his great love of taking part in parliamentary activity here at Westminster.

The existence of a parliamentary procedure that separates English or English and Welsh MPs from Scottish and Northern Irish MPs offends this core principle of acting for the whole of the United Kingdom. As we have heard, it allows our nationalist opponents to misrepresent the treatment of Scottish MPs at Westminster as second class. In the very short time available to me, let me say that, however well intentioned, the severe limitations of the EVEL procedure are now very apparent for us all to see, and retaining it would serve no practical use whatsoever. The time has come to put it out of its misery.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 8:32 pm, 13th July 2021

It is a pleasure to follow John Lamont, a fellow member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, as well as, before him, the Chair, Pete Wishart.

During the independence referendum in Scotland in 2014, I was not a member and indeed had never been a member of any political party. I would describe myself as a typical no voter in that referendum—which was in many ways a great demonstration of engagement with the democratic processes, but in other ways a divisive debate that pitted family, friends and colleagues against one another—in that I kept my views to myself. Would I had continued in that vein, some might say. If that sounds familiar in relation to the subsequent Brexit referendum, too, that is partly because a referendum—popular democracy—is on the surface an easy way to resolve a complex issue. But when it comes into conflict with our system of parliamentary democracy, as it clearly did post both votes, the shortcomings of such an approach become clear, and that has been the issue with English votes for English laws.

As I sat, on 19 September 2014, watching the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by pivoting immediately to plan to introduce EVEL without acknowledging the need to properly reflect on how the UK had evolved and developed in advance of its parliamentary systems, it was easy to see—even for me, as a layperson then—that this was the wrong approach. Telling Scots, regardless of their vote in the independence referendum, that the first steps of their Prime Minister was to prevent their representatives in this place from participating fully and telling those in other devolved nations that their voices would also be neutered, was giving the SNP and others an ongoing grievance publicity point at every single vote.

It is important to remember that, when we talk about a four nations approach, as we often do in this place—for me in all seriousness, for others perhaps less so—we are talking about Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the UK. It is right that those in England query how their views are best represented, and an increased prominence of regional Mayors during the pandemic perhaps suggests that the English are finally waking up to the democratic deficit that they experience. But creating a two-tier system in this place, where MPs held a mandate at 6 pm and had it withdrawn at the next vote at 8 pm, was never the answer. It certainly did not sound like all votes or constituents counted equally.

Where I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire and his party is that the systems here are broken and need to change. Where we disagree is that the answer to this broken system is to break away completely, causing economic and cultural damage to these islands—it is salt and vinegar. EVEL has been suspended now for an extended period of time and, frankly, no one has noticed because it has never been needed to offset the scenario for which it was put in place, because that scenario has never arisen. I hope that this is the first step by the Government to recognise political reality on these islands, but, frankly, I hae ma doots.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 8:34 pm, 13th July 2021

England deserves better, and England expects better. It is a sad occasion that this Government should wish to dismiss the only modest devolution ever offered to England, with nothing to put in its place. They leave instead Labour’s lopsided and unfair devolution, a devolution proposed and forced through a previous Parliament, on a large majority, by a Labour party that said it would settle the constitution and unite the country behind the Union once and for all. It did nothing of the sort.

Surely this Government can now see that if they carry on, as Labour did, appeasing the forces that would pull the Union asunder, they will not bring the Union together but give those forces greater strength and a better platform. Instead of Scottish electors welcoming their devolved powers and deciding to continue in the traditional mould of two United Kingdom parties contesting power, they chose a party that wishes to pull the Union apart. Some of them chose that party because they thought the Government would give in to it, and so get a better deal for Scotland; and some of them chose that party because they genuinely wanted to pull the Union apart, although they were, of course, in a minority.

The Government and I treasure our United Kingdom. We wish this Union to work for everyone, but it has to be a fair Union and it will not be held together better by appeasing the SNP or by appeasing the EU over Northern Ireland, when we above all in this House should be speaking up for all the millions of Unionists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and throughout England and Wales, who expect better and expect fairness.

One of the crucial values that our United Kingdom shares is that idea of fairness. How is it fair to have these totally different categories of MP, with different powers, different responsibilities and different opportunities to influence how they are governed in their parts of the United Kingdom? Why is it that England, the home of many more millions of Unionists and more loyal to our country than anyone else in our Union, is the one part of the Union that gets no justice and no fairness from this Government or their predecessors?

Labour introduced policies that sought to break the Union in the name of keeping the Union. I want this Government to mend the Union, and that means standing behind all those people throughout the United Kingdom who believe in the Union, and to stop appeasing those who would pull it apart.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North 8:37 pm, 13th July 2021

I know the Leader of the House is enjoying delivering us from EVEL but, yet again, we have another debate and another attempt by the Government to disavow the work of their predecessors. This afternoon the 0.7% aid target was unceremoniously dumped, and now this evening another element of David Cameron’s legacy is overthrown.

What was it about the EVEL Standing Orders proposed by David Cameron, introduced by Chris Grayling and overseen by John Bercow that made the Johnson regime so keen to get rid of them, I wonder? As my hon. Friend Richard Thomson said, they were introduced to strengthen the Union and they are now being abolished to strengthen the Union. We have Schrödinger’s Standing Orders, strengthening the Union by existing and not existing at the same time, although the Union does not feel desperately strong to me right now.

Maybe it is more like the Schleswig-Holstein question: anyone who understood EVEL has either died, gone mad or forgotten what it was all about, although there were a few folk around here who had a sense of how it worked. We should recognise that and express our thanks to them for their support in navigating the system: Sir David Natzler, Sir Roy Stone, Ian Davis and many of the Clerks who supported the team of Deputy Speakers as they convened and unconvened the Legislative Grand Committee—not that any of them, least of all you, Madam Deputy Speaker, are dead, mad or forgetful, I hasten to add.

There is also Daniel Gover and the team at the Constitution Unit who literally wrote the book, or at least several scholarly articles, on EVEL. Maybe they will now get to write the history book, too. My hon. Friend Pete Wishart—my right hon. Friend, as he should be—is going down extremely well with his many fans in Scotland’s online community with his contributions to the English Parliament.

Tonight, Scottish MPs and all their constituents will rest easy in their beds, in the knowledge that never again will their right to debate and vote on matters affecting Kew gardens, the Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill or the Neighbourhood Planning Bill be denied. On all those issues and more, parity of esteem has been restored between Tory MPs from Scotland and their colleagues from the red wall in the north of England—but of course in the SNP we have already exercised a self-denying ordinance on such issues anyway. We did so tonight with the covid regulations, and that was kind of the point: it should be up to us to decide what is relevant to our constituents, not a process, procedure or rule invented by the Government.

What is more insidious and more dangerous is that we might be losing English votes for English laws, but we are increasingly experiencing Tory votes for Scottish laws. Perhaps the Government are abolishing legislative consent motions in the English Parliament because they so routinely ignore legislative consent motions from the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd Cymru. I say to hon. Members on the Government Benches: don’t think we can’t see what you’re up to.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire has said, we have an answer to the West Lothian question and we will be happy to put that proposition to the people of Scotland as soon as the opportunity allows. The answer is independence—and it is coming down the road.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip 8:40 pm, 13th July 2021

In the 1990s, the status of England had not figured sufficiently in the world view of the Labour architects of devolution. “Home Rule all round” had been proposed in the 19th century. Indeed, it had appeared in the Labour party’s policy for the 1918 election. In 1997, however, England was overlooked—it was excluded from consideration. It was all too complicated.

That devolution settlement has proved unstable. It was a fix, not a solution. English votes for English laws was an attempt to address this basic flaw in the post-devolution Union, but it too was a fix, not a solution. I think that EVEL was more of a symbolic concession to those Members who were constantly intruding English questions into devolution debates, and I do not think that it has ever delivered a meaningful voice for English voters, so I have some sympathy with the current proposal.

One advantage of EVEL, however, was that where it applied it gave an authoritative answer to the perennial question of some Welsh MPs: is this matter devolved, and is it Barnettable? EVEL told us. Now, as a consequence of this Government’s recent, more explicitly hostile stance on devolution and the lawmaking powers of the Welsh Government, a further question has arisen: what consequential effects might Westminster’s legislation have on Welsh law and Welsh Government policy?

My request to the UK Government Front Bench is not just that they reconsider the failed EVEL procedure—not just fix the fix—but that there be clarity as to what is devolved. Barnett has long been bust. In the medium term, we need a proper statutory duty on Westminster to seek devolved Government consent when introducing a Bill that might affect the laws or policies of the Welsh Government.

Abolishing EVEL will not address the growing problem of accommodating people in England within a post-devolution United Kingdom. Even the reforms that I have outlined very briefly would only place an additional check on what is a flawed system. What we really need is independence for Wales—and no more fixes.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 8:43 pm, 13th July 2021

I am coming to you from glorious isolation, Madam Deputy Speaker. Tonight, time and again, we have heard the Scottish National party’s representatives conflate their party and its MPs with the nation of Scotland. I think it is quite clear that the SNP is not Scotland.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, if the West Lothian question has an answer, EVEL is not it. In my opinion, English votes for English laws is the most ill-conceived, wrong-headed and damaging measure ever passed by any Government in modern times—well, possibly it comes a close second to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. I am grateful for the opportunity to outline why.

Devolution is often described as something that is new—as something that we are grappling with that has created an imbalance in how the UK is governed that has to be addressed. We have heard that repeated often, including today, but it is nonsense. Devolution has existed in the modern United Kingdom for more years than it has not existed. During this time, non-white boxers were barred from competing for a British boxing title. It seems impossible to believe it today, and it means that so many talented boxers were denied the right to compete for British titles purely due to the colour of their skin. Thankfully, progress was made with the lifting of that ban, and great strides have also been taken in other aspects of diversity through the nurturing of female boxing talent. I am sure that hon. Members will recall, as I do, their great pride in the first woman to win an Olympic boxing medal being our own Nicola Adams, back in London in 2012. Northern Ireland had a devolved Parliament from 1922 to 1972 and in that time no steps were taken to deprive Northern Irish MPs of their right to vote on areas that were seen to be devolved, even when those MPs deprived Labour of working majorities. And why? In the words of the then Conservative shadow Home Secretary Peter Thorneycroft,

“every Member of the House of Commons is equal with every other Member of the House of Commons”.

Peter Thorneycroft and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House are right, but I have heard the heartfelt arguments from my right hon. Friend John Redwood that the actions today are appeasing the separatists. I understand exactly where he comes from—he is a proud and passionate English MP —but I fundamentally disagree with him. In this Parliament, our sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom in which we are all privileged to serve, we representatives, drawn from across the whole of our United Kingdom, are equal and should be entitled to vote on every piece of legislation and at every stage of the passage of that legislation placed in front of us. As a Scot and a Unionist, I found it frankly offensive to be informed that I could not vote at certain stages of Bills on education or health, for example. As a Unionist, I care just as much about the welfare, health and education of people in Aldershot as I do about the people in Aberdeen. I have heard the arguments that EVEL does not prevent any MP from voting on a Bill before this House but only gives English Members the ability to veto certain legislation. We have already heard this evening that that is not true and in fact causes even greater issues.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, there is no such thing as English-only laws thanks to Barnett consequentials. Almost every single measure debated and voted on has financial implications for areas that appear on the surface to be wholly devolved. Therefore, EVEL is bad law. It does not work and it causes more problems than it solves. Let us have more devolution in England. It exists already through our regions and localities, but let us not divide even further down national lines. We are a proudly Unionist party and by repealing EVEL tonight, we are demonstrating that to the whole United Kingdom.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Conservative, Aberconwy 8:46 pm, 13th July 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Andrew Bowie.

I speak in support of the motion. I acknowledge the good intentions behind the creation of EVEL and I recognise, too, the anxieties of some of my English colleagues. However, EVEL was born out of an imperfect devolved settlement, or, as my right hon. Friend John Redwood called it, a lopsided settlement. Of course, no settlement is ever perfect, but it was conceived at least in part in an attempt to balance inequities that arose for English voters as a result of the devolved settlement. As a corrective, however, EVEL did not address the root cause and could never therefore have been an enduring or satisfactory solution.

Parliament stands as the expression of the sovereignty of the British people. Therefore, it is not the appropriate vehicle for a particular form of devolution. EVEL diminishes the standing of non-English MPs and by extension, non-English Ministers. It also clouds the perception of our British Parliament, hinting at an English Parliament with non-English MPs strapped on. But that is something we are not.

Voters must know where the buck stops and who to approach for redress. Politicians must agree with one another about who is in charge, something we debate regularly here. A system without such clarity risks being pulled apart. I support the principle of subsidiarity, but standing here today I am clear that an effective and strengthened relationship between this Parliament and devolved and local Administrations, one which would address the worries of underrepresentation in Glasgow, Grimsby or Glanwydden, must be built on clarity and the clear premise that sovereignty lies with and flows from this Parliament.

For this country to thrive in perpetuity, we must never surrender the belief that there is a British people and that their voice is expressed here in this Parliament. We must never allow the principle of one Britain, one vote to be replaced by a precarious balancing act between competing nations. This is reason enough for me to support the motion today. English votes for English laws may have been for some, and for a time, a necessary EVEL, but today I hope its day is done.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire 8:49 pm, 13th July 2021

It is good to be one of only two representatives of middle England objecting to the proposals to abolish these Standing Orders. My 2011 private Member’s Bill, the Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill, put pressure on the coalition Government to set up the commission that put forward the EVEL proposals, and I well remember the Lord President of the Council—in those days he was merely the Member for North East Somerset—making his speech. He is noted not only for being a great historian but now for being a seer and someone who can foretell the future, because he said that one day, a Government would be able to come in and simply abolish these Standing Orders. I very much regret that it is he who is doing it.

I think that we can all see the mood of the House this evening—we can all see that the motion is going to carry—but we must recognise that this was a pledge in the Conservative party manifesto in 2010 and 2015. It was a pledge that was there for a reason: because, at the time, our constituents were raising this on the doorstep as something they were very concerned about. A solution was put in place through the Standing Orders. As the Lord President said, it has not necessarily been needed in the interim, but it is not impossible to envisage a scenario in which its absence really would cause constitutional problems in this country. I regret very much that these Standing Orders are being abolished without a proposal for any kind of replacement to deal with that.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 8:51 pm, 13th July 2021

I am grateful to the hon. and right hon. Members who have contributed to the debate—to my hon. Friend John Lamont, who called for EVEL to be put out of its misery; my hon. Friend Andrew Bowie, who reminded us that, for about 50 years, Northern Irish MPs had a vote in this House when they had a devolved settlement, without any complaint; and my hon. Friend Robin Millar, who said that we needed clarity in our arrangements and should emphasise the sovereignty of Parliament, points with which I wholeheartedly concur.

I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend John Redwood and my hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin. There are few people I listen to more closely than my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham. When he makes a point and raises concerns about the constitution, I think a wise Government listen, and some of the points he makes are extremely fair. Devolution was lopsided and the constitution has become unsettled, and it has had too many variations to it in recent decades that have not improved or enhanced the unity of the nation.

I do not agree with my right hon. Friend that removing EVEL is an attempt to appease the Scottish nationalists. I think, in fact, that it shows we have confidence in our Union Parliament. Perhaps I am most confident in returning status quos ante. That is to say, both by abolishing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and by removing EVEL, we are trying to restore the beauty and the uniformity of our constitution so that it will work properly.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire quite rightly reminded us of the debate in 2011. I also had an exchange with Pete Wishart when these proposals were put forward in 2015, when I said that I was very strongly against any idea of a divided parity of MPs and supported the measure only because we could repeal it—which, Madam Deputy Speaker, we are doing.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83X (Certification according to territorial application etc) be rescinded and the following changes be made to Standing Orders:

(1) in sub-paragraph (3)(b) of Standing Order No. 12 (House not to sit on certain Fridays), leave out “Consent Motions under England and Wales only provisions">Standing Order No. 83M (Consent Motions for certified England only or England and Wales only provisions) and of”;

(2) in paragraph of Standing Order No. 39A (Voting by proxy), leave out “or in any legislative grand committee”;

(3) in paragraph of Standing Order No. 51 (Ways and means motions), leave out “or, in the case of a motion to which Standing Order No. 83U applies, forthwith upon the announcement of the Speaker’s decision with respect to the motion under that standing order”;

(4) in bills not subject to a programme order">Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order) leave out paragraphs and (6);

(5) in Standing Order No. 64 (Notices of amendments, &c., to bills), leave out “, of Consent Motions under Standing Order No. 83M (Consent Motions for certified England only or England and Wales only provisions)”;

(6) in Standing Order No. 73 (Report of bills committed to public bill committees), leave out “or the Legislative Grand Committee (England)”;

(7) in Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions), in paragraph (9), leave out “up to and including”;

(8) in Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees),

(a) in paragraph (1), leave out “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration” and

(b) in paragraph (5), leave out “or in legislative grand committee or on reconsideration or consequential consideration”;

(9) in Standing Order No. 83C (Programming sub-committees),

(a) in sub-paragraph (5)(e), leave out “up to and including”,

(b) in sub-paragraph (12)(b), leave out “up to and including”, and

(c) in sub-paragraph (14) leave out “up to and including”;

(10) in committee of the whole House, etc.">Standing Order No. 83D (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings in public bill committee or in committee of the whole House, etc.),

(a) in the title, leave out “, etc.”, and

(b) in paragraph (1), leave out “, in the Legislative Grand Committee (England) when exercising functions under Legislative Grand Committees">Standing Order No. 83W(6)(a) (Legislative Grand Committees)”;

(11) in Standing Order No. 83E (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration up to and including third reading),

(a) in the title for the words “and up to and including” substitute “or”,

(b) in paragraph (1), leave out “up to and including”, and

(c) leave out paragraph (5);

(12) in Standing Order No. 83F (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments), leave out paragraphs to (11);

(13) in Standing Order No. 83G (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords),

(a) in paragraph (5), leave out “, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7),”, and

(b) leave out paragraphs (6) to (9);

(14) in Standing Order No. 83I (Programme orders: supplementary provisions), in paragraph (1), leave out “or in legislative grand committee”; and

(15) in Standing Order No. 86 (Nomination of general committees) leave out sub-paragraph (2)(iv).