Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has said the Government are losing support for their own plans for English Votes for English Laws (EVEL), following an urgent debate in the House of Commons in which the Conservatives refused to vote.
Mr Carmichael successfully secured an emergency 3 hour debate on the Government’s plans to introduce EVEL through amending standing orders rather than primary legislation open to scrutiny from all MPs.
Opening Tuesday’s debate, Mr Carmichael attacked the Government for seeking “to use the United Kingdom Parliament as a proxy for an English Parliament” and called for a fairer devolution settlement for England that is properly debated as what is being brought forward by the Government “goes too far, too fast”.
The “irresponsible” Government’s proposals still leave many questions unanswered. By creating the need for a “double majority” to pass legislation, Mr Carmichael questioned what impact this would have on the role of MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Parliament. Mr Carmichael asked whether this would result in fundamental changes to the way the House of Commons is run; for example, would Select Committees now exclude Scottish MPs or would important Finance Bills or Budget resolutions exclude certain MPs.
Commenting after the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“The fact that the Government abstained on this vote just shows that they know they do not have the support to put their EVEL plans into primary legislation. When unionists in Northern Ireland are joining forces with nationalists in Scotland, you know that these proposals are ill-thought out.
“The Conservatives have been wholly irresponsible in their handling of the EVEL situation and are now an English nationalist party with no regard for the future of the Union or a commitment to a fair constitutional settlement.
“The Government’s own paper on EVEL failed to address key issues about the processes and application of their plans. I hope the Leader of the House, and his ministerial colleagues, have seen the strength of discontent amongst MPs – some from his own party – about the timescale and lack of consultation on this policy. We are dealing with major constitutional change and this deserves proper scrutiny.”