This afternoon in the House of Commons, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael will use a unique parliamentary procedure to attempt to secure an urgent debate on the Government’s rushed plans to implement English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).
Under the little-used Standing Order 24, Mr Carmichael will ask the Speaker to cancel Tuesday’s business in the House of Commons. Mr Carmichael will instead argue for an urgent debate for all MPs on the Government’s proposal to change standing orders instead of using primary legislation to introduce EVEL.
Mr Carmichael said:
“Mr Speaker, I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the process by which the government intends to implement its policy on English Votes for English Laws.
“The House heard the statement by the Leader last Thursday in which he outlined a scheme of English Votes for English Laws which goes well beyond anything they 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 House of Commons and to do it by inviting the House to amend its standing orders.
“The substantive issue will be debated in due course. That is not what I seek to bring to the House now. Rather, it is this process which, I would submit, is specific and important and which should be given urgent consideration.
“Mr Speaker, 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 that 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 here with a major constitutional change. It is one which 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 still 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.”