"English votes for English laws" (EVEL) procedures in the House of Commons should remain on trial until after completion of the Brexit process, the House of Lords Constitution Committee reports today.
The committee, which was asked by Chris Grayling as Leader of the House of Commons to review the constitutional implications of EVEL, says the Government’s plan to review the impact of EVEL this autumn should not be seen as a final judgment on the procedures since it is too soon to assess fully their impact on the Union. If the EVEL procedures are retained, it should be on a trial basis until the end of the current Parliament in 2020.
Its report points out that between now and the next general election there are likely to be a series of votes on Brexit-related issues which may well provide a "stress test" for the EVEL procedures, and an appropriate test of whether EVEL works when used "in anger". After the 2020 election a Joint Committee should be established to review the technical and constitutional aspects of EVEL, as well as whether EVEL has altered public perceptions in England of a "democratic deficit", and public attitudes in the devolved nations.
The report makes clear that EVEL does not create any constitutional restrictions that would prevent an MP who represents a non-English constituency from becoming Prime Minister, or from holding any other ministerial office. Nor have the EVEL procedures had an effect, to date, on the House of Lords, or on the Government’s legislative programme.
Committee chairman Lord Lang of Monkton commented: "EVEL did not benefit from cross-party political agreement upon introduction. It is never ideal for constitutional changes to be made without cross-party consensus.
"The Government is due to review EVEL later this year but, assuming they decide to keep the procedures in place, that should not be the end of the matter. EVEL should continue to operate on a trial basis until after the 2020 election. By that time the procedures will most likely have been subjected to a real stress test as Parliament votes on issues related to Brexit.
"After 2020, a Joint Parliamentary Committee should be established to undertake a thorough review of EVEL including an assessment of its impact on perceptions of fairness in England, and in the other nations of the UK."