Published On: Tue, Dec 16th, 2014

‘English Votes For English Laws’ Plans To Be Unveiled

The government is expected to set out proposals for introducing “English votes for English laws” later.Commons Leader William Hague is to present MPs with a range of options after the parties failed to reach agreement on the way forward.

English votes for English laws

There have been increased calls for English MPs to have greater power over matters that only apply in England.

It follows the promise of more power for the Scottish Parliament made ahead of the “No” vote to independence.

‘Stitch up’

The options in the command paper presented by Mr Hague are expected to propose either:

  • Barring Scottish MPs from any role in English and Welsh bills
  • Allowing English MPs to have a greater say over the early readings of bills before allowing all MPs to vote on the final stages
  • Giving English MPs a veto over certain legislation
  • A separate Lib Dem plan to establish a grand committee of English MPs to scrutinise legislation.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to bring in changes, saying this should be linked to the transfer of more powers to Holyrood.

Labour is opposed to this idea, claiming it would create two classes of MPs.

The party boycotted talks led by Mr Hague, calling it a “stitch up”.

Labour put forward its own proposals last week, which would create a committee of English MPs to scrutinise bills that would not apply elsewhere in the UK.

This was one of the options put forward by the McKay Commission set up by the government in 2012 to look at the so-called West Lothian Question.

The West Lothian Question

  • Named after Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP for West Lothian in Scotland
  • He raised the issue in a November 1977 Commons debate on the possible devolution of powers
  • Questioned whether it was right for a Scottish MP at Westminster to vote on matters only having an impact on English seats if they could not vote on the same issues when they affected their own constituency

Q&A: The West Lothian Question

‘Northern powerhouses’

There are differences in the Lib Dem and Labour proposals for how a committee of MPs to vet English legislation would work.

And the Lib Dems also suggest the make-up of any committee should be based on proportional representation, while Labour wants it to be linked to the number of English MPs in Parliament.

A commission on Scottish devolution set up by Mr Cameron after the referendum recommended that the Scottish Parliament should be able to set its own income tax rates, with all of the cash earned staying north of the border.

It also said a share of VAT should be assigned to Holyrood and Air Passenger Duty fully devolved.

The Conservatives argue that it is unfair that Scottish MPs should help decide how things such as schools and the health service are run in England when English MPs have no such say over how they are run in Scotland.

The government has also said it will give English councils more powers over transport and control over their finances in an attempt to create what Chancellor George Osborne calls “northern powerhouses”.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said that by connecting the two issues the Conservatives “risk reneging on the commitment made to the Scottish people”.