EVEL

Michael Kenny and Daniel Gover consider the constitutional implications of parliament's approval of English Votes for English Laws. This article was first published on the Constitution Unit blog.

The decision by MPs to approve changes to the House of Commons Standing Orders that implement the principle of ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) may prove controversial. 

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Why should Scottish MPs vote on English issues, when the same matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh? The famous “West Lothian question” became a major theme for the Conservative Party during an election (2015) that might have seen SNP MPs holding the balance of power. Following its victory, the Conservative government produced proposals for “English votes for English laws”. 
 
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The growing debate over English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) has so far focused on the difficulties facing the government as it seeks to design and implement a complicated, and potentially incendiary, set of changes to the procedures of the Commons. Faced by a united front from the opposition parties at Westminster, as well as disquiet from within its own ranks, Chris Grayling has been forced into delays both on the vote to change Standing Orders and, as many have portrayed it, the related issue of fox hunting.
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The government’s detailed proposals for introducing English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) into the House of Commons are a significant moment in our constitutional history, say Michael Kenny and Daniel Gover, but there is good reason to think that EVEL is unlikely to represent a sufficient answer to the English question.
 
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The government's announcement of its much anticipated proposals for the introduction of ‘English votes for English laws’ in the House of Commons, involves changes to the rules for scrutinising individual Bills, or clauses within them, that affect England, or England and Wales only. The reforms are proposed as an answer to the West Lothian question – the situation whereby MPs from the devolved territories can vote on matters that affect England only, such as Education, but English MPs cannot reciprocate on issues that are devolved. 
 
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The introduction of English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) faces a problem, says Michael Keating, in that only a minority of English voters will ever have supported the laws in question. 
 
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