Q&A: English votes for English laws

Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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Here’s what you need to know about English votes for English laws proposal, which will be voted on in the House of Commons today.

• The Government’s leader of the Commons Chris Grayling thinks it would be fairer that when laws only apply to England, that only MPs representing English constituencies can vote on them. This should tackle the long-standing West Lothian Question where Scottish MPs can vote on issues such as health and education affecting England, but the House of Commons has no say on similar matters relating to Scotland, where such policies are devolved. Mr Grayling has said all spending decisions that affect the whole country would not be subject to an English only vote.

• The technical stuff. Ready... stick with me...Chris Grayling wants an additional “parliamentary stage” to allow English MPs to scrutinise legislation without the involvement of Scottish MPs.

England’s MPs would be asked to accept or veto legislation only affecting England before it passed to a vote of all UK MPs at its third and final reading in the Commons. If English MPs veto a bill, then it will not proceed any further, so it effectivly blocks certain measures being introduced in England. Let’s take the example of an imaginary bill to ban sweets in the UK. English MPs could use their veto power to stop this being introduced in England, however the full vote of MPs could see a sweet ban introduced in Scotland and Wales.

Who is in favour? A lot of Conservative MPs.

This debate has been around for decades, but following the Scottish referendum in September 2014, the demands for an English solution became far more noisy. A clear example of how Scotland can influence English decision making was the government proposal to relax the foxhunting ban in England and Wales. The Scottish National party said it would vote against the change, despite it not affecting their country. This forced the Government to put the plans on hold, but it will no doubt be back on the agenda as soon as English Votes for English Laws is ironed out.

Who doesn’t like it?

Scotland and Wales aren’t fans. Wales shares a lot of cross border services with England, particularly those living in North Wales, who relate to Manchester and Liverpool. For example if English Votes for English Laws was passed, they might still be using NHS services in England, but their MPs had no say in forming the legislation that will govern it. Scottish MPs thinks it weakens their status, and there is a belief that English matters are Scottish ones too. Labour thinks it creates two tiers at Westminster.

What else is annoying people?

The Speaker John Bercow, or whoever holds that post in the future, actually has the power to determine which bills affect only England, or England and Wales under Mr Grayling’s proposals. Some are unhappy at the position of power this gives him and how it would politicise his role.