English votes for English laws Standing Orders: report of the Committee’s technical evaluation Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Certification

1.We consider that it would be helpful to the House and to the Government if in due course the Speaker, at his discretion, made and published rulings on established precedent relating to certification. (Paragraph 21)

2.The present procedures provide that Members representing constituencies in England, or England and Wales, can withhold consent from measures which pass the certification tests; but a measure with the support of a majority of such Members cannot pass the Commons unless it also has the support of a majority of all Members. (Paragraph 26)

3.Members representing constituencies in Scotland have not previously, on their own, been able to veto legislative provisions which have had potential consequences for levels of public expenditure in England and, therefore, for corresponding budgetary allocations to the Scottish Parliament through calculation of the block grant under the Barnett Formula. The introduction of EVEL procedures on legislation has not altered this position. But if the Government wishes to maintain the principle of EVEL, and the corresponding position that all Members may participate in the House’s decisions on Government requests for supply—as indicated by the then Leader of the House from the Despatch Box on several occasions—then there has to be a proper process for considering the effects on the calculation of the block grant arising from spending decisions made for England which are underpinned by legislation passed under EVEL procedures. We expect to make recommendations to this effect in our report on scrutiny of the Estimates. (Paragraph 27)

4.We consider that it would be to the benefit of all Members, and external interested parties, if the Speaker would, at his discretion, arrange for a more detailed statement of the process and timescale for certification decisions to be published on the Parliamentary website. (Paragraph 28)

5.The practice of provisional certification of the elements of bills to be considered in Legislative Grand Committee if adopted on Report has caused no difficulty and is helpful to the House. We recommend that it continue. (Paragraph 29)

6.We recommend that the House Service examine the feasibility of publishing consolidated information on the certification status of eligible Bills and instruments online. (Paragraph 30)

Effect on the legislative process

7.There is an apparent lack of appetite for debate in legislative grand committee at present. A forum for Members representing constituencies in England, or England and Wales, to debate consent to certified provisions of Bills is scarcely being used for such debate. (Paragraph 39)

8.We recommend that supplementary programme motions governing the programming of remaining stages of Government bills should make separate provision for time to be taken in legislative grand committee and on Third Reading. It is not acceptable for the programming of remaining stages of such bills to allow a position to arise where proceedings in legislative grand committee have to be taken forthwith without any debate. (Paragraph 40)

9.Legislative grand committees are at present performing a function which suits the Government—namely delivering decisions and validating certified elements of legislation—but are not effectively serving the broader objective of allowing Members from constituencies in England or England and Wales a separate voice on proposed legislation. The attempt to combine the twin functions of voice and veto in a single legislative stage is not delivering significant and worthwhile benefits to Members representing constituencies in England and Wales. (Paragraph 45)

10.We recommend that the Government, in its technical review, examine proposals to allow Members from constituencies in England or England and Wales to consider whether or not to consent to legislative proposals affecting those parts of the UK only at an earlier stage in the legislative process. The withholding of consent would not represent a veto on legislation, but the political cost to the Government of proceeding in the face of such circumstances would be substantial. (Paragraph 52)

11.We recommend that the Government bring forward, without delay, proposals to amend Standing Order No. 83M so as to provide that where a Minister has indicated under 83M(3) the intention to move a consent motion, it shall be deemed to have been passed by the legislative grand committee for the area to which the certification relates unless an objection is taken. (Paragraph 54)

12.We recommend that the Government bring forward a proposal to amend Standing Order No. 83R to remedy the omission of the Referendums Relating To Council Tax Increases (Alternative Notional Amounts) (England) Report and any similar instrument. (Paragraph 60)

13.As a matter of principle, we consider it highly undesirable that standing orders proposed to this House for adoption should be specified with such explicit reference to the statute book. We therefore recommend that any revision of the standing order package should seek to define a class of instrument to be subject to a particular procedure, rather than enumerating each instrument. (Paragraph 61)

14.We recommend that the Government, in its review, evaluate and set out clearly the principles which underpin the EVEL standing order provisions on the treatment of motions for annulment, and where necessary bring forward amendments to standing orders to provide that they are consistent with such principles. (Paragraph 64)

15.We expect to return to the issue of delegated legislation procedure in the context of the Government’s proposals for the incorporation of EU legislation into domestic law through the “Great Repeal Bill”, to be announced in the 2017–18 Session. (Paragraph 65)

16.We consider that the standing order provisions for the application of EVEL to consideration of Lords amendments have the greatest potential for procedural confusion and unintended outcomes. This is, quite frankly, unacceptable. We recommend that as part of its technical review the Government consider the outcomes it wishes to achieve from all scenarios where there might be double majority voting in respect of Lords amendments, and elaborates them clearly for the benefit of both Houses. The Government should then propose standing order revisions which simplify the present Standing Order No. 83O in line with these principles. In doing so, it should take particular care not to disturb the existing principles which underpin the relationship between the two Houses on the consideration of legislation. (Paragraph 67)

17.The House has developed and adopted standing orders to regulate its own procedures in ways which its Members can interpret and comprehend. The drafting of the October 2015 package has grafted onto the House’s existing standing orders procedures which, in their drafting, are alien to the House’s traditions. It is wholly unacceptable that their drafting is so opaque as to defy interpretation by Members. They fly in the face of any attempt by the House to make its procedures more open and accessible. (Paragraph 69)

18.We expect the Government, in its technical review of the EVEL procedures, to give serious attention both to the unsatisfactory design of the present system and to the over-elaborate means whereby it is implemented. We recommend that the Government, as a matter of urgency, should commission a project to redraft the present EVEL standing orders to make them more accessible and comprehensible, and to deliver a package more likely to command respect, support and understanding from all sides of the House. We look forward to working with the Government and with House staff on this project, with a view to incorporating the outcome into our revised proposals for Standing Order revision. (Paragraph 71)

19.We wish to put on record our appreciation to all staff of the House Service for the excellent work they have done to facilitate the implementation of all aspects of the new procedures agreed to be the House. (Paragraph 74)

Conclusions

20.The complexity of a system which seeks to join two separate functions—a political voice and a legislative veto—has led to imperfect results. It is this contradiction at the heart of the system’s design that the Government must urgently address. (Paragraph 75)

21.One year on from their introduction, we find that the new EVEL procedures do not command the respect and support across all parties that they should if the system is to be sustainable through the political stresses it must expect to face in the future. This is not a sound basis for a major long-term change to the legislative process in this House. When reviewing the operation of the present system, and contemplating any change, it is vital that the Government seek consensus from Members representing constituencies in each constituent nation of the United Kingdom for the basis of a system which will meet its policy objectives. (Paragraph 76)

22.We recommend that a further evaluation of the EVEL system should be undertaken later in the present Parliament, addressing any changes to be made as a result of our recommendations and of the Government’s own technical review, and that our successors in the next Parliament should also assess the operation of any system then in place. (Paragraph 77)





16 December 2016