'English Votes for English Laws' rules must be rewritten, says Commons committee


New rules allowing English MPs to decide on matters affecting only England need to be urgently and comprehensively rewritten, just a year after their introduction, a new parliamentary report has said.

The "English Votes for English Laws" (Evel) procedure introduced by David Cameron is unnecessarily complex and does not command the respect and support of MPs from all parts of the United Kingdom, found the House of Commons Procedure Committee.

Since its introduction in October 2015, the Legislative Grand Committee established to grant approval to measures affecting only part of the UK has met only 15 times - on seven occasions with just English MPs, seven also involving those from Wales and one also including Northern Irish MPs - and each time the legislation has been approved without a vote.

The committees sat for a total of just one hour and 23 minutes, and just five MPs spoke - one of them on his own accounting for half an hour of the total proceedings - with most of the time taken up by formalities. But any time taken up by the proceedings simply ate into the period available for the passage of the legislation, rather than being additional to it.

Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg warned the committee that Parliament was left looking "faintly ridiculous" by procedures which mean that "we suspend for a minute, we come back, we pretend to have a committee, which then disappears and then we vote".

And the Procedure Committee warned that: "It does nothing for the reputation of the House if the most memorable moment of a formal legislative proceeding is the hanging of specific signs in the division lobbies and the movement of the Mace from above the Table to below the Table."

The cross-party Procedure Committee said it was "deeply dissatisfied" with the rules governing Evel, which were "opaque and defy interpretation by Members".

The way they were added to the standing orders which govern parliamentary procedure was "alien to the House's traditions and runs directly counter to efforts to make the House's procedures more accessible".

"We find that legislative grand committees are not acting as the bodies to allow Members for constituencies in England or England and Wales a separate and distinctive voice on legislation, and are not therefore delivering worthwhile benefits to such members," said the report.

There was "an apparent lack of appetite" to take part in England-only debates in the grand committee and the procedures "manifestly do not command the respect and support from all parties, which is the necessary foundation for a long-term and substantial change to the legislative process", it said.

The report called on the Government to use a review of Evel currently under way to "simplify and improve" the process.

Procedure committee chairman Charles Walker said: "I hope that the Government will reflect on our report and use it as an opportunity to greatly simplify the procedures around Evel.

"The current procedural complexities around English votes for English laws do no credit to the House."