We will not of course be involved in assessing or commenting on the merits either of the amended Standing Orders or indeed of the policy of English votes for English laws itself—that is not our function. We value the independent, non-partisan nature of our all-party committee. We will, however, proceed with our inquiry over the next few months in our usual way—calling for evidence and interviewing experts and practitioners, including, very possibly, Members of your Lordships’ House—as the new arrangements start to deliver legislation or other business to this House through the use of EVEL. We shall seek to identify any constitutional implications and anomalies that may emerge and, in our usual way, we will draw them to the House’s attention as deserving of further consideration in a report that we will publish thereafter. I hope that my giving that background and clarifying what I see as our role in this business has been helpful to the House.

8.16 pm

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, first, I will say that I understand the strategic objective of the Government, which is to enable a fairer system of sharing decision-making throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed, the statement that was made by the Prime Minister, with the support of the other leaders, the week before the referendum—which in my view had no purpose and no effect—made the discussion of these issues inevitable. That is my starting point, but I have grave concerns about the Government’s approach in addressing those objectives, especially the political implications. I will put my concerns as simply as I can.

The Government are rushing this issue when there is no need to do so. They have five years ahead of them—if you believe some of the more cynical commentators, perhaps an extended length of time in government even beyond that. As result of rushing, they are avoiding the reflection and consultation that are necessary, in absence of which they will inevitably produce a flawed solution. This in turn will lead to dispute and to grievances where none existed before. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said, grievance is the platform on which the Scottish nationalists produced almost every strategic objective they have. But if he believes that it is not possible for them to discover new grievances, I say to him that we should not help them in that task by mass-producing potential grievances out of a flawed scheme such as this. That is the politics of it. If I am right, in attempting to solve one political dilemma—the West Lothian question—the Government will introduce another more dangerous one, satisfying neither the English nor the Scottish, and further prising apart the union. In short, where they set out to establish a level playing field, they are actually laying a potential minefield, politically. That is my concern.

I will just deal with a couple of those issues. I cannot for the life of me understand the haste with which the Government are trying to rush this through. Indeed, if anything, they are increasingly dealing with the issues presented in an offhand fashion. Several other noble Lords have mentioned this as well. I welcome the involvement of the Constitution Committee but the reality is that, a few months ago, as the noble

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Lord, Lord Butler, pointed out, this House voted by an overwhelming majority for the consideration by the Commons of a Joint Committee on these issues. That would have been a wise course in my view, yet the Government did not even deign to respond to that advice from this Chamber, as has been pointed out. I would like to believe that they were too busy. I would like to believe that it was delayed in the post. I would like to believe that there was some serious reason why they found it impossible over those few months to respond to us. I suspect, however, that their position was more influenced by the old adage that it is easier to seek forgiveness after the event than to ask permission before it.

Everything that the Government have done suggests to me that that is not only discourteous but extremely unwise, because consideration of this issue would benefit from the wisdom and experience of those of us who have for 40 to 50 years been through the question of the British constitution and the politics of nationalism —including English nationalism.

Lord Tyler: As the former Leader of the other place, will the noble Lord confirm that the Government could redeem themselves now if they ensured, as they are in a position to do, that Mr Graham Allen’s amendment, which is supported right across all other parts of the House, is not only tabled but accepted for debate in the House tomorrow and they persuade people to vote for it?

Lord Reid of Cardowan: Indeed, that would be extremely helpful. It is no coincidence that the potential alibi has been presented tonight, but we may well discover tomorrow that it is a non-existent alibi.

I make no personal attacks on the Leader of the House. She assured us tonight that she would be ever vigilant in monitoring what was going on. I believe her. I recall that some 50 years ago, we had a Scottish goalkeeper called Frank Haffey who was ever vigilant. He carefully monitored the ball as it entered the Scottish net nine times in a game against England. There is a difference between monitoring and vigilance on the one hand and action on the other. The action is necessary to address the questions that arise.

I will raise only a couple of the questions on the current proposals tonight. The first is on stage 1, the certification procedure, which was mentioned by the Leader of the House. The new procedure is intended to apply to government Bills, individual provisions and secondary legislation which are certified by the Speaker as containing English and Welsh provisions only. Under the revised Standing Orders, the Speaker of the House will have an important role in certifying whether a Bill or part of a Bill relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales.

I have to say that that is an enormous, onerous responsibility. In the interests of good governance and public transparency, it would seem appropriate that the Speaker in that case should be obliged by Standing Orders to publish the criteria, the principles and the legal advice that he will apply in reaching such determinations. However, no such provision is presently made. Anyone who is experienced in deciding such

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issues from a Scottish point of view knows that they are extremely complicated and will be more complicated when it comes to deciding on this provision.

On the question of whether the Speaker has the necessary advisory resources to address such a task, I have grave doubts. I have to say that they are not dispelled by the most recent revisions to the proposals, which were mentioned by the Leader of the House. She mentioned the revised proposals after consultation on the question of certification: how the resources and expertise available to the Speaker would be enhanced. Let me just read from the briefing on what the proposals amount to. I will not go through all the clauses, but it states:

“These new additions enable the Speaker”—

it says here with authority—

“to consult two backbench MPs to assist him in the process of certifying bills, clauses and schedules as relating exclusively to England or England and Wales, should he wish to do so”.

So the action after the consultation on the vital issue of resources is to extend to the Speaker the facility of the advice of two Back-Bench MPs—should he wish to do so. Well, there you are. We can all expect that that will add definitive expertise to the Speaker to make such decisions. That does not hearten me that the Government have learned from anything that has been said.

Secondly, on the test, of course revised Standing Order 83J sets out the consideration and certification to be given by the Speaker but, as I said, it is not an easy task to determine that a Bill, clause or schedule relates exclusively to England or to England and Wales and is within devolved competence. Whether a Bill applies only to England is not determined simply by looking at the extent provisions. It requires a significant constitutional and legal assessment of the measure, how it may operate in practice and what its legal effect may be.

At present, the proposal contains two tests: a territorial test and a content test. A number of serious questions arise even before we consider the omission, which is the purpose test, because the purpose is a third area that ought to be an essential element in deciding whether or not the proposals apply. Let me ask the question simply: would it include an English Bill or clause analogous to a Bill, or a clause which concerns a reserved matter but which applies, whether exclusively or not, to Scotland? The example was already given by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, of the Partnerships (Prosecution)(Scotland) Act 2013. Would it exclude all Bills or clauses which, under the current definition of the Sewel convention, would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, such as the Scotland Bill, which affects the competence of the Scottish Parliament or Government?

I confess that I am not a lawyer. I am not complaining about that, nor am I boasting about it, but as far as I can see the revised Standing Orders do not clarify those essential questions, nor do they set out the criteria and principles by reference to which the Speaker will determine whether a Bill or clause falls within the proposals. As I said, these are elementary questions which are outside the omission of the purpose test, which is essential, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, outlined in our July debate.

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The Government have obviously decided that it is worth countenancing all those risks: that they will lay the minefield and then we will all walk through it for years to come. I hope that they will weigh those risks heavily, because it is at least questionable whether the game is worth the candle as regards these proposals.

A House of Commons Library standard note of 4 December entitled England, Scotland, Wales: MPs & Voting in the House of Commons observed the statistics on voting on Bills in the House of Commons. Of approximately 3,600 Divisions between June 2001 and September 2014, a total of 22—that is, 0.6%—would have concluded differently had the votes of Scottish MPs not been counted. It may be proper to address this question, as I said at the beginning, but to rush ahead with the present proposals and all the risks when there is no major practical problem to face on the basis of those statistics seems irresponsible for a Government who supposedly stand for the retention of the United Kingdom. You cannot discuss the constitutional aspects of this without the context of the politics. Do not wittingly mass-produce grievances which could otherwise be avoided.

I will not say much about scrutiny but, at the very least, the Government should provide for the utmost scrutiny of the operation of this through the Procedure Committee of the House of Commons. That should be done in a more formal fashion. Even before that the Government should be willing to embark on the widest possible consultation so that these proposals are placed within the wider constitutional objectives.

The Government may consider all these matters trifling details. They may consider them small mines in the minefield, but their potential number is so huge that it will produce the political basis for the grievance politics of the SNP and friction between England and Scotland over an extended period of years. If we are going to address the question of fairness to the English, no one in this House would object, but we need to do it in the context of the wider constitutional settlement and the political implications of what we are doing. I hope that even at this stage the Government may be persuaded to change their approach because the constitution of this country, the country itself—the United Kingdom—and its unity deserve better than we are being provided with at present.

8.31 pm

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB): My Lords, the principle of EVEL was not only was a specific manifesto commitment of this Government; it appears to command widespread popular support. Like the noble Lord, Lord Butler, I support the principle, but I support it only if it is implemented in an appropriate way. That surely must be by way of primary legislation after full debate, in both Houses, of all the various matters that we have brought up today, not merely by rule changes in the House of Commons, as is now proposed. To create, as the Government propose, two classes of Members of Parliament, one with more extensive powers than the other—essentially a power of veto over the other in certain circumstances—is a measure of such obvious constitutional importance and sensitivity as to demand legislation.

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There are basically two different ways to resolve the long-outstanding West Lothian question to reflect the fact that, logically, in devolved areas of law, Scottish MPs should have a lesser input than English MPs or, as the case may be, English and Welsh MPs, given that legislation in these devolved areas has no effect—put aside the possibility of some purely incidental effect through the operation of the Barnett formula—on their constituents. Scottish MPs’ constituents’ interests in these devolved areas are taken care of by Members of the Scottish Parliament. One possible approach is that which has been advocated in earlier debates by, as I recall, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and, I think, also the noble Lords, Lord Lawson and Lord Cormack. It is based on the Irish precedent and is to reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to reflect the fact that, because of a measure of devolution, their constituents have fewer interests being decided by the Westminster Parliament. The intended reduction of Westminster MPs from 650 to 600 and the existing requirement for a new Boundary Commission report surely offer a good opportunity to deal with the problem in that way. Clearly, as in the past in the case of Northern Ireland devolution, this would need, as it attracted in Ireland, primary legislation.

The alternative way of implementing EVEL is essentially the one now proposed by the Government—although inappropriately proposed by way of rule change—limiting in some ways the powers of Scottish MPs in respect of such legislation as following devolution will apply only in England or, as the case may be, in England and Wales. For simplicity’s sake, let us just call the dichotomy England/Scotland. Logically, on this approach, Scottish MPs’ powers should surely be limited no less in respect of their ability to vote down fresh legislative proposals affecting only England—for example the proposed modification of the existing fox hunting laws, as was proposed earlier in the year—than in respect of their ability to promote legislation which is otherwise opposed by a majority of non-Scottish MPs. The rule change currently proposed would limit Scottish MPs’ powers only in this latter respect. In other words, it would give non-Scottish MPs what effectively amounts to a veto over legislation proposed by a majority which is dependent on the votes of Scottish MPs. Perhaps that is because the proposal was originally devised in order to combat what seemed during the election campaign to be—as some certainly saw it—the threat of a Labour Government dependent upon support from Scottish MPs. It must be recognised that the current proposal would not enable a Government to pass legislation which Scottish MPs could help to defeat. There seem to be obvious pros and cons to each of these two basic ways of limiting the powers of Scottish MPs in respect of devolved matters—respectively, reducing the number of such MPs or reducing their ability as Members to influence certain new legislation. The latter method is more nuanced and targeted to particular cases, but it is of course hugely more complicated.

The latest Cabinet Office document from October 2015 extends to no fewer than 31 pages, seeking to set out and explain the proposed revised changes to the House of Commons rules. Indeed, this scheme still

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leaves a number of unresolved problems, many of them identified today, including of course that canvassed earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. I wonder whether the answer to his question is that if these changes are indeed achievable simply by a rule change, as proposed, then a Government in the position that he postulates would simply change the rules to revert to where they are, so we would not at all have the permanence that we would hope to get with primary legislation.

For my part, because of these obligations and difficulties, I prefer the solution, imperfect though it is in turn, of limiting the numbers of Scottish MPs, as happened in Northern Ireland. Crucially, though, whichever of these solutions is adopted, it really should be by way of legislation. I, too, deplore the fact that the Government seem simply to have discourteously presented us with a fait accompli. In common with others, I hope that the House of Commons may in fact thwart the Government’s desires in that tomorrow.

8.39 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, this is probably going to be the only occasion in my lifetime when I can get up and say that the person who has just made the speech that I was going to make is a former distinguished member of the judiciary. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, has made all the points that I would have made. Indeed, so has everyone else; I agree with all the speeches that have been made so far.

I confess to a sense of weariness because I am running out of new things to say. I am also coming to the conclusion that it does not matter a damn what I say or what this House does; it is just going to be ignored and the Government will charge on regardless. The fact that it is more than 100 years since the House of Commons failed to respond to a Motion from this place—and a Motion that was passed by such a majority—is a scandal of the first order. I just wonder why we are here and what we are doing at 8.40 pm. What is the point?

The annunciator says, “The Government’s proposals on English votes for English laws”. These proposals are not about English votes for English laws; if you want English votes for English laws, you need to set up a Scottish Parliament. I am sorry, I meant an English Parliament. Of course, by setting up a Scottish Parliament, we provoked the situation that we are in today. However, English votes for English laws imply an English Parliament, an English First Minister and an English Executive. So if the point of all this is to satisfy the feelings of resentment that have occurred in England because of the existence of the Scottish Parliament, a false prospectus is being sold to the British people and to the English people.

For me, it is really quite weird that a Conservative Government with a majority—in the past I could have blamed the Liberals, but this is a unionist Government—are bringing forward proposals of this kind. If on the annunciator we had proposals for “Scottish votes for Scottish laws”, I suspect that people would be a little more careful in considering the implications for the United Kingdom as a whole—a point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and others.

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The last time we debated this, my noble friend the Leader of the House denied that there was an English veto—but the word “veto” has now been accepted. I would be opposed to a Scottish veto in the United Kingdom Parliament, and I can see what Mr Salmond and his colleagues will argue when this goes through: that the Sewel convention—which we probably need to rename, in the circumstances—should actually be enshrined in statute, and that the Westminster Parliament should not be able to do anything that would be covered by the Sewel convention. That would be a very retrograde step.

I have been sitting for some weeks now on the Economic Affairs Committee; we have had extra sessions. We are taking evidence on the implications of devolution for the fiscal and other arrangements of the United Kingdom as a whole. I have to tell the House—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who is also on the committee, will confirm this—that the advice we are getting from academics has on occasion reduced the committee to laughter because of the incoherence with which all these constitutional changes are coming together, and the inability of our expert witnesses to give assurances.

For example, one distinguished professor pointed out, on the subject of the impact of the changes that are proposed in the forthcoming Scotland Bill:

“If you do that, changes to English taxes affect the Scottish block grant, which I think is appropriate. However, if that is the case, you cannot possibly tell Scottish MPs that they are not allowed to vote on English income taxes, because there is no such thing as an English income tax that does not affect the Scottish block grant”.

In other words, the combination of the new powers being given to the Scottish Parliament, the retention of the Barnett formula and this new proposal to allow an English vote on English income tax will create a problem if you have English votes for English laws, in so far as the Scottish MPs who are not allowed to vote on English income tax will be able to say, “But that affects the block grant and so the Barnett formula, and therefore we are being disenfranchised”. That is a very important grievance of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Reid, suggested.

I have been trying to think of an analogy to explain the Government’s piecemeal approach to constitutional reform and the difficulties and complexities it is creating. It is a bit like having an Uber driver without a sat-nav. We are going from one destination to another, not sure of where we are trying to reach and without the road map that is required—which could be produced if we had had a constitutional convention, and which might be available if we had agreed to a Joint Committee of both Houses to deal with some of the anomalies that would have arisen.

For example, my old constituency in Stirling, which I used to represent, is now represented by a Scottish nationalist MP. I have had him here for tea in the House so that he could be made aware of the excellent work that we do here, and a very fine chap he is. However, under these proposals, we will get to a situation in which he is elected and not allowed to vote on matters on which I am allowed to vote as an unelected Member of this Chamber. I feel a bit uncomfortable about that—it seems slightly anomalous. A lot of my former constituents who went to the polls

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to get me out—albeit that was many years ago; those of them who are still alive—might feel a sense of grievance that I am voting on matters which their elected Member is excluded from voting on.

I therefore say to the Leader of the House: I know that we do not have much of a majority here, but is the proposal that I should abstain on all these matters—that all Peers who come from Scotland should not vote on matters which have been determined in the other place? There is no such thing as a Scottish Peer—constitutionally that is right—but try telling that to people in Scotland if these proposals go ahead: you will get short shrift. That may be a narrow debating point. But we are faced with a situation where, in Scotland, thanks in part to the way we fought the general election campaign, almost all the seats are now occupied by one party, which every day sets out to find a reason why Scotland is being damaged by its relationship with the United Kingdom as a whole.

I do not want to go repeat arguments that were made by others or that I put previously. However, I recall that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd—who is not in her place—whom I voted for as Speaker, who did a fantastic job in the House of Commons and who has a very good understanding, warned about the difficulties that would be created for the Speaker. My noble friend says that this has been addressed, because she will be able to talk to two other MPs. What happens if those elected MPs have different and perhaps opposite views? The Speaker will have to take a decision, and the very position that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, referred to, of putting the Speaker in a position where they are politicised, comes into being.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB): I agree, but it is even worse than that, because it is clear that the certification decision that the Speaker is required to take will be justiciable. That seems to make an enormous change, which will affect not just the House of Commons but the constitution as a whole.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I remember the days when the noble Lord used to tell me what to do at European Council meetings. As always, he sees the wood when I could only see the trees. That is a very important constitutional change. It is a diminution of the status of the High Court of Parliament.

All the issues may seem to be anorak issues for constitutionalists but I say to my noble friend that this is not something of little importance, and it is a matter of great distress to me that the House of Commons should rush ahead with it by amending Standing Orders. In an earlier intervention, I pointed out the implications for income tax and what would happen under a Labour Government. I suppose that, as was said earlier, if things were done just by Standing Orders, then if a Labour Government had a majority in the House of Commons, they could simply alter the Standing Orders to remove the position that had been established in order to create a constitutional balance as a result of the extra powers being given to devolved institutions. That is wholly and absolutely unsatisfactory, especially in the context of a situation where there is no consensus among the parties as to how this could be achieved.

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That is my final point, which I think I made on a previous occasion. I really do think that constitutional change should carry consensus. If we proceed on the basis that we think it would be a good wheeze to make a constitutional change or that it might advantage one party or another, then other parties will do the same when they are in power. As a result, people will lose faith in the integrity of the institution and it will be greatly damaged.

The Constitution Committee is going to look at these proposals and apparently we will have a year to consider whether they work—although, given our legislative programme, quite how we are going to do that remains to be seen. Will my noble friend consider once again whether it would be a good idea to set up some kind of body—we do not have to call it a constitutional convention—to look at all these issues? Will she also look at the implications of the Scotland Bill, which will be coming to this House, and how that will be affected by English votes for English laws, as they are being dubbed? All the evidence that I have seen indicates that there will be real and serious problems, which have not been resolved and which will do great damage to the relationships between the countries of the United Kingdom.

8.52 pm

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I had better not start by saying that I agree with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has said, because we will both then get attacked by the cybernats. Incidentally, that is a word that I coined, although the Oxford English Dictionary has not yet got round to including it. I keep telling these people who tweet obnoxious things from time to time that even a Tory can get it right sometimes, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has it absolutely right today.

I want to start off by not disappointing the noble Lord, Lord Lang: I have a wee grievance, which he anticipated I might raise. It is a great pity—I am very glad to see the government Chief Whip here because this refers to him—that we are discussing a major constitutional issue such as this at this hour, following a major debate on energy. This is a matter of great importance. It was listed on our business programme as being the subject of a whole day’s debate, but for some reason or another the Government took it off the agenda and put in a debate on the size of the House. I was here for that debate and it was the most useless waste of a debate that we have ever had. We could have had a proper debate on English votes for English laws.

The Leader of the House said that the whole purpose of this debate is to inform the debate that the House of Commons will be having tomorrow. I am not sure how that will happen. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, said that Members of the other place will be able to read Hansard. However, I do not see all 650 of them scurrying up in the morning to get copies of our Hansard and reading them assiduously. I noticed that my honourable friend Chris Bryant was here earlier for a large part of the debate, so he will be well informed, but perhaps the Leader of the House can tell us how she, as Leader, is going to make sure that

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the House of Commons is informed in its debate tomorrow about what has happened here today. If not, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said, we will begin to feel very frustrated and wonder whether we are wasting our time.

However, there is genuine concern. It has been coined by some people, because of Tam Dalyell’s concern, the West Lothian question. I call it the English democratic deficit. I really sympathise with people in England; whereas we in Scotland, along with the Welsh and the Northern Irish have had genuine devolution—it is nice to see the Welsh nationalists here—the English have not. Many years ago, my noble friend Lord Prescott suggested the setting up of English regional government. That was one of the right solutions but before its time, and he was not able, because of other Secretaries of State, to give it the right kind of powers. However, that is something that needs to be looked at properly. As so many people have said, we do not need to do it in this piecemeal way.

The Leader of the House said that a grievance had existed for many years. There is certainly a grievance, and it has existed for about 16 years, since 1999. But for more than 300 years, peculiarly Scottish legislation—on Scottish education, the Scottish health service and Scottish local government—was decided here by English votes. It was English votes that decided the poll tax. I am sorry to find a little bit of disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—although perhaps it is a good thing—but it was he and his colleagues who imposed the poll tax on Scotland against our will and a year earlier than in England. Look at local government reorganisation. To take one small example, the majority of Scottish Members wanted an all-Ayrshire authority, and yet it was imposed upon us to have three local authorities for Ayrshire.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: The noble Lord will recall that the poll tax was created in Scotland as a direct result of Scottish legislation that required a revaluation, which sent valuations sky high, and was driven by Scotland. If it was imposed on anyone, it was imposed on England in order to sort out a Scottish problem. I am very distressed that the noble Lord should be using nationalist arguments at this stage, given that his party has been wiped out north of the border.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: That was the argument that the noble Lord put forward at the time. It did not go down very well then and it is not going down very well now. However, I am glad that we have disagreed, because that will show the cybernats that we do not agree on every occasion.

We need to look at how we can solve the English democratic deficit. Incidentally, one thing I did agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on is that it is going to be difficult for us as Scottish Peers. There is a Scottish Peers Association, and all of us who are Scottish Peers are members of it. We have a territorial designation, although we do not represent a Scottish constituency. People know that there are Peers who come from Scotland and have Scottish designation. It is strange that I would be able to vote on English laws and Ian Murray, or whoever is elected to the House of

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Commons, would not. The House of Lords has no democratic legitimacy, but we would be taking part in a greater way than elected Members of Parliament. For them to have less say is really quite wrong.

As my noble friend Lord Reid rightly said, we are playing into the hands of the SNP. I do not think it does any harm to spell out to people south of the border that we will be building up resentment in Scotland because there will be two classes of MP. It beggars belief that Members of Parliament would be elected and then put into two classes, with some having more responsibility than others. That undermines the whole principle of our elected democracy.

I could understand that this might be forced upon us or something be done to deal with the democratic deficit—although as noble Lords have said, it is not urgent and does not need to be done for next month or next year—if there was no alternative. But there are alternatives, and there is one in particular. Again and again, I have taken part in debate after debate—with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, others who have spoken today and some who are sitting quietly—where the support for a UK constitutional convention has been growing and growing. The clamour has been getting louder and louder. Things are moving. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has introduced a Bill to set up a constitutional convention. An all-party committee has been set up, and an all-party panel chaired by a Member of this House—the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, a former head of the Civil Service who is now president of the Local Government Association. That panel—the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, is also a member—is going to work out what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, would call a road map towards a constitutional convention, to set up a structure that will deal sensibly with the English democratic deficit.

Whether the result is an English Parliament, or regions of England, or the cities and the counties, or a combination of any two of those, is something that should be decided by the people of England. That is what a UK constitutional convention would do. Would it not be much better to put all this EVEL talk on ice and take the initiative?

To take another example, the leader of the Opposition, my right honourable friend Jeremy Corbyn, has appointed a shadow Cabinet member with specific responsibility for the constitutional convention. Would it not be better to grasp this opportunity, to take advantage of these initiatives and move in that direction, instead of down the cul-de-sac of EVEL, which will cause so many problems and threaten the United Kingdom? I fear that if we take the course of action proposed by the Government, we shall be like lemmings going unthinkingly towards the cliff. That is the last thing we should be doing.

9.02 pm

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, I should like to contribute a few words in the gap. One or two others may wish to do so as well, so I shall be as brief as I can. I am sure that the Government are right to address the West Lothian question—or the English democratic deficit, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, called it—but what has puzzled me all along is why they seek to do it in this way and not by primary

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legislation, or at least under the cover of primary legislation. I should be grateful if the Leader of the House would explain why primary legislation is not being resorted to.

It seems to me that if the Government are to step outside the established procedures for legislation, which have the protection of the principle of the sovereignty of Parliament, they will do so at their peril. There are people outside here—we know who they are—who will seek to undermine, by means of judicial review, legislation that does not have the security of the established procedures. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, hinted at that point a moment ago.

The problem that I see goes back to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raised about taxation. I do not see how a Government can rely on legislation passed by this new procedure, which is subject to the risk of challenge in the courts, until the procedures have worked their way through the courts. I do not say that anybody who seeks to challenge the legislation is bound to succeed; that is not the point. The point is that so long as there is the risk of challenge, and the delay of waiting for the courts to resolve the issue, the legislation cannot be brought into effect, because of the risk of having to unravel everything if, by some mischance, it is declared to be invalid.

Leaving aside the problems of conventions and so forth, it has always seemed to me that if the Government wish to proceed now, and if they want to take the safest course, they should do so by means of primary legislation. I shall not elaborate on that, but it is an absolutely fundamental point. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would explain why that route has not been taken, in view of the risks to which the present solution seems to give rise.

Those risks were highlighted by what the noble Lord, Lord Reid, said about the problems of certification. I know from sitting in such cases how difficult it sometimes is to determine whether something is a devolved issue or a reserved issue. These are tricky points of law, and to solve the problem in the way that is being proposed seems to increase the risk of challenge, which is the last thing one would want in the case of legislation that the Government wish to pass to enable them to run the country according to the established procedures.

9.04 pm

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has just made the main point that I wanted to make and did so much more authoritatively than I could have done. But I will take the opportunity to add two more: first, I would not want your Lordships to think that there is unanimity on the Cross Bench that the West Lothian question needs to be addressed. In my view, the West Lothian question should be looked at and left. I profoundly believe that it does not need an answer. In any unbalanced—in population terms, not in talent terms of course—union like ours, the 85% needs to remember the maxim that magnanimity in politics is not seldom the highest wisdom.

My only other point is that I want to spring to the defence of the Leader of the House. I know her well. It is an almost impossible task to combine these two

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functions. She does it extremely well. I have absolutely no doubt that she very clearly delivered the message that we sent in July by such a large majority and that she advocated at least that we get the courtesy of a reply. I would like her to know that what is being said critically of the Government and of their handling of the House of Lords is in no way personally addressed to her.

9.06 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I must apologise, too, that I shall speak in the gap. This has been an excellent debate and I hope that the Leader will be able to respond to the substantive points raised.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I pay tribute to the Leader—I do not think that she has an easy job—but she needs to convince us tonight that the Government are at least paying some attention to the points raised by your Lordships, because, so far, there is scant evidence of it.

I do not want to go into the circumstances of the failure to respond to our request that a Joint Select Committee be established, but it is a very serious matter that there has been no response. The Leader has prayed in aid Mr Allen’s amendment. Although it may be considered tomorrow, there is no guarantee that the Speaker in the other place will choose it. The noble Baroness prays in aid the amendment as a reason for not responding to your Lordships, but of course her colleagues in the other place will then do everything they can to determine that, even if it is called, it will be defeated. That is not a satisfactory response.

I have noted the point that Chris Grayling made, that he wishes to see our Constitution Committee work with the Commons Procedure Committee, but what does this mean and what if the two committees disagree? If he wants the committees to work together, why on earth not establish a Joint Select Committee?

Of course, we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lang, who made a helpful intervention informing us that his committee has agreed to accept the task that it has been asked to do.

Lord Lang of Monkton: It is not being suggested that we work together with one of the committees in the other House; we all work independently and we would be more concerned with the output that came through to this House rather than what goes on down there.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I fully understand that, but the question I am raising is: what happens if the two committees reach different conclusions? That is why I think it would have been much better if there had been a Joint Select Committee. From what the noble Lord has said—and I hope that Leader will agree with me on this—it is clear that accepting this proposition and agreeing to do the work does not mean that the committee is saying that it endorses EVEL or the way in which the Government have chosen to do it.

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So many risks are involved in the changes—so many risks to our constitution and so many risks to the union—yet the noble Baroness describes them as simply a matter of procedure and the property of the other place. It is a terrible precedent to use Standing Orders in the other place to make what is a huge constitutional change. We have heard that the contrast between the position of Scottish Members here—the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, was very clear on this—and in the other place is not simply a matter of procedure, and nor is the role of the Commons Speaker. The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, spoke eloquently about the problems of a Speaker being embroiled in hugely controversial political decisions. The 31 pages of memorandum from the Cabinet Office that we have seen are mostly about the Speaker’s role. There are dangers in involving the Speaker—even with the aid of two wise people, as the health docs used to say—in sharing that decision does not fill one with confidence.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, raised an important point. A Bill passed by your Lordships’ House goes to the Commons and is passed there, but is vetoed by English MPs because of the lack of a double majority. The constitutional implications of that are profound.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, made a pertinent point on whether Scottish MPs are to be given a veto in the circumstances he described. My noble friend Lord Reid gave us wise words about the dangers of establishing a series of grievances that put the union at risk, and they should be a warning to us all.

My time is up. I would simply ask the noble Baroness to really convince us that the Government are going to listen. The profound threat to our union and the integrity of the United Kingdom is very apparent in the debate tonight. Procedures in the Commons are not the way to do it.

9.11 pm

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that this has been an interesting debate—if for nothing less than the fact that, in the two years to the week that I have been a Member of your Lordships’ House, I have not seen a government debate led by the Leader of the House which has not had a single member of her own party speak in support of the position of the Government. In fact, if it had not been for the noble efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, in the gap saying that this was not a personal reflection upon her, there would have been no support from this House in the entire debate for the position of the Government. That is worth the Government Front Bench reflecting on too.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, made a strong case of complaint, illustrated by my noble friend Lord Tyler, that this House made its view clear that very careful consideration of the implications of the Government’s proposals should be done in a Joint Committee. There are implications for the wider constitution, but there are implications for this House as well. We have heard quite a bit of bluster in the press this week about how mandates should be respected and the apocalyptic consequences if they are not. This

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House gave the Leader quite a considerable mandate in a majority of 181, and it is disappointing that a Joint Committee will not be considering this, which I will return to in a moment.

Equally to be reflected upon is a good article published during the summer, on 21 August, by Professor Adam Tomkins, who will be known to some noble Lords. He based the article on evidence he submitted to the Commons Procedure Committee. He said that:

“On one level the Government are right that their proposed Standing Orders are ‘a relatively modest step’ … But even relatively modest steps can have profound consequences—the ripple effect of these proposed Standing Orders may be significant, and may not yet be fully understood”.

I agree. He went on to refer to the potential consequences for the Select Committees of Parliament which cover areas of jurisdiction that apply only to England or to England and Wales, such as health, education and so on. Adam Tomkins’s views should be taken into very careful consideration because he was the Conservative nomination for the Smith commission and he is the constitutional adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland. This is not simply our Benches saying that we need to consider it carefully. He went on to say in his article that:

“If the Government want their ‘relatively modest proposal’ to stand the test of time, they would be well advised to proceed with less haste and more care”.

I agree with him entirely. It is therefore reasonable for us to argue the case for more care and less haste.

I say with respect to the Leader of the House that these are not proposals which should be, as she put it in her opening remarks, tested in real time. This is not a software program; it is the British constitution. We should not be creating a beta form of Parliament where we only see it operate in real time. As I will comment on later, the legal consequences should also give the Government pause for thought.

I understand the politics: we saw clearly the day after the referendum that Professor Tomkins and others should be heeded. How do we monitor success in this real-time evaluation? Is it about opinion polls or the views of voters in England about English votes for English laws; or is it about the proper functioning of Parliament and its impact on legislation? The impact on Parliament is under strong consideration. My noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness made the point that if this House amends a measure which goes to the other place and is vetoed by only one part of that House, what status does that give to legislation that should be from all parts of Parliament? I use, as an example, our consideration of the Energy Bill today. There are parts of that Bill which, under the Government’s proposals, would be certified as English-only. If, on considering English wind farms, for example, and seeing the wider impact of the proposals on other parts of the United Kingdom, this House amended the legislation because it believed that the whole of the United Kingdom should be taken into consideration, that would change the whole aspect. That could be vetoed—using the Government’s language—by only one part of the House of Commons. If that would not create constitutional friction, I do not know what would.

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This was not sufficiently addressed in the Leader’s speech, nor in the proposals for the Standing Orders. However, it draws into focus the complexities to which noble Lords have referred in this debate. The real difficulty will be when it comes to certification. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Lords, Lord Reid of Cardowan and Lord Foulkes, and many others have commented on this difficulty. It is not going to be at all straightforward to easily separate out measures that the Standing Orders suggest are,

“relating exclusively to England or to England and Wales”.

The fact is that no reasoned arguments for the certification need to be forthcoming and it will not be sufficient for there to be some form of reflection for only two individual MPs. This will add even more pressure to the concern, expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that this is now opening up a new approach where the decisions of the Speaker could be challenged. They will certainly not be exempted under this area.

When the Scottish Parliament was established as a primary legislature, it was no accident that the certification process was given a statutory footing and clarity in the Standing Orders under Section 32 of the Scotland Act and in other areas. The Government should reflect very carefully on the response of the Scottish Parliament’s lawyers to the Commons Procedure Committee. Their argument was that, even under the 1999 agreement—which had a statutory footing and clarity—there remain areas where it is not easy to distinguish between the two. It is not going to be a purely benign area and if the Leader of the House thinks it is not going to be subject to challenge then, with the greatest respect, the Government are naive. I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament; I have been a Borders MSP. My whole political experience has been involved in cross-border, cross-competence and cross-jurisdiction areas. My home town of Berwick has changed hands between England and Scotland 13 times. Perhaps as a Berwicker I have a genetic disposition to be warning the Government, but it will not be straightforward.

The position held by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, should be heeded very carefully because of the significant transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament that will be coming by 2018. I am strongly in favour of these unprecedented welfare and tax powers. They may not be universally supported across the House but, whether you are in favour of them or not, this is what the Government are proposing and the Leader mentioned it in her opening remarks.

If I may offer any advice from a humble, newish Member of this House, it is to take care and to pause until the implementation of these powers is in place. As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, indicated, the tax powers will be significant. It may mean that the Finance Bill in the Commons will have to be stripped out; there are specific aspects as regards the ways and means measures in the Finance Bill. The decisions on the rate of personal allowance will effectively be UK-wide decisions—one may wish to call it a federal tax—but the rates and the application will be applicable to England. I think that the splitting of the income tax between the areas that cover the Scottish rate for income taxpayers and others has not been considered

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in any great detail and there needs to be additional clarity. If the Government think that an area of certification or simply Standing Orders that are lifetime-tested, which the Procedure Committee in the Commons considers to be an experiment, are not vulnerable to tax law and potentially to cross-border fraud and tax competition issues, with the greatest of respect, they are naive.

I do not think that the Leader of the House appreciates that we are entering a new constitutional era with welfare. The Government’s own measures being debated in the Scotland Bill in the other place—they will be coming here—propose that UK Ministers will be exercising powers concurrently with Scottish Ministers. I would be interested to know how the Leader of the House can believe that powers that will be exercised concurrently with Scottish Ministers under legislation, and will explicitly cross competence between the two, can be certified straightforwardly.

In conclusion, the time is right for this to be looked at within the wider context of the constitution through a convention. As the Commons Procedure Committee called this “an experiment”, I do not believe that it is appropriate enough to be governing primary legislation in this Parliament. Surely it is better to approach it through a constitutional convention. I would even welcome amendments proposed by the Government to make the specific remit of this issue to be part of such consideration.

I have mentioned my home town of Berwick, which was famous for giving one word to the English language from when the Scots landowners gave their fealty to John Balliol as the protector of Scotland. They had to sign the Ragman Rolls. Over the centuries, “Ragman Rolls” has become “rigmarole”. As they stand at the moment, the proposals of EVEL are a rigmarole and they should be put on a better footing through a convention where we all debate a much more coherent way forward.

9.23 pm

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, this has been a very good debate with a lot of serious contributions by serious Members of your Lordships’ House. I scheduled this debate to allow for views to be expressed before tomorrow’s debate in the other place. Normally we do not refer to individuals who are not in the Chamber and may be standing below the Bar, but the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, highlighted that Mr Bryant had been listening to the debate. I do not know whether noble Lords noticed, but the Leader of the other place was also sat on the steps of the Throne for a good part of the debate. I know that, by coming here tonight, he was keen to hear what noble Lords had to say on this very important matter.

Many sincere views are held and many serious points have been made. In responding, I will approach the debate in two parts: I will address the substance of the proposals put forward by the Government and then come to the relationship between this House and the other place. First, I just want to say that, as much as I acknowledge the serious and sincere contributions that noble Lords have made tonight, we as the

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Government are also very sincere about this matter and how serious this issue is. As I have already said, but it stands up to repetition, there is currently a sense of unfairness among many people in England and a desire for that unfairness to be addressed and addressed sooner rather than later.

As we have heard acknowledged several times, this matter has been around for a long time. We have tried collectively, in different ways, to come up with an answer to the West Lothian question. As I said at the start of the debate, I am not sure that there is a perfect solution and answer to that question. We feel, having been clear in our manifesto that this is something we will address and get on with addressing, that our approach in amending Standing Orders in another place and allowing for a review in a year’s time allows us to do so in a way that addresses the important substance of the matter, but also means that we can start to look at it in practice, not just in theory. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked why we are not using primary legislation, and that is one of the reasons why we are not doing so at this time. However, we think that one of the things that we should look at when this is reviewed is whether primary legislation should be used. One of the benefits of addressing this matter by amending Standing Orders rather than through legislation—this has not been raised tonight, but was in earlier debates on this, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane—is that parliamentary privilege is protected.

I will move on to the substance of the proposals put forward by the Government, starting with the points raised on the role of the Speaker. The noble Lord, Lord Reid, my noble friend Lord Forsyth and others questioned whether the Speaker would be put in a very difficult position in terms of the responsibility added to his role in the other place. I argue that the Speaker is already required to take some often complex decisions and apply a judgment in a political environment and in difficult situations. Our revised proposals—we have adapted them since the summer, having listened to points made by Members of this House and the other place—give the Speaker discretion over whether to provide reasons for his certification. The judgment is his to make.

On the addition that the Speaker can consult members of the Panel of Chairs, these are not random Back-Benchers. They are Members who can already advise him on things such as money Bills. These are Members of the other place who already exist for a specific purpose. They would offer that advice and additional advice should the Speaker need it in this context.

My noble friend Lord Forsyth raised questions on spending and taxation matters, as did other noble Lords. I shall run through some of the specific issues in this regard. As I have already said, all MPs will be able to vote on all legislation, the Budget and supply estimates. MPs from across the House will continue to make all legislation together. The process for deciding the level of the block grants awarded to the devolved Assemblies will remain unchanged. All UK MPs will continue to vote on the Budget and all aspects of income tax but, additionally, English MPs will be able to approve changes to some taxes in the future. That is

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the same as for MSPs, who will have the final say on the relevant income tax after the Smith agreement has been implemented.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble—

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but will she deal with the following point? If English MPs are going to vote on English tax, and if they decide to reduce income tax, that will have implications for the block grant because, if they reduce income tax, less money will be available for the programmes; and the Barnett formula, which the Government wish to retain, would mean that they would get a proportion of that. So it is not true to say that decisions taken by English MPs on English tax have no effect on Scottish MPs’ constituents, or, indeed, on the decisions which the Scottish Parliament would then have to take. So how will that be resolved?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The process for deciding the block grant remains unchanged. All Members of the other House will continue to have the same powers as they have now in deciding that matter.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Following on from that, and with great respect, I do not think that she understands the question or the formula. The Barnett formula will allocate a proportion of government moneys to the Scottish Parliament. If, as a result of a decision of English MPs on English taxation, that reservoir is reduced, then the block grant by the formula under Barnett will be reduced. Therefore, the money going to the Scottish Parliament, and through it to the various constituencies, will be reduced. So here is an example of what appears to be an English decision that has direct financial implications for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish constituencies. How is that to be resolved?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord is not being unfair when he says that we are now going beyond my level of knowledge of the way in which the Barnett formula works. While I am on my feet, I will see whether I get any additional information to assist me in responding to the noble Lord on this matter. For the moment, it is probably best for me to move on from that rather than try to guess at an answer to the specific point.

Lord Purvis of Tweed: I am conscious of the time, but before the Leader moves on from tax, perhaps I may ask whether the consequence of what she has just said is that, going forward, all taxes will have to be certified. If there are to be separate votes for English MPs on taxes—which are equivalent to those to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, on the rates of income tax and all the other taxes within the Smith agreement that the Scotland Act is delivering—the consequence is that every single tax will have to be certified by the Speaker as to its competence; otherwise the system cannot work. Will that be the position?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The process that the Speaker has to follow in order to certify Bills will apply. As regards Bills being subject to the certification

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process, there is no separate arrangement for a separate kind of Bill. Each Bill that is introduced into the House of Commons will be subject to that certification process. If there are aspects of a Bill which concern only England or England and Wales, they will follow the respective process which will allow for the English, or English and Welsh, MPs to have a greater voice and say on the decisions that affect only their constituents. That is what the English Votes for English Laws arrangements mean.

This is probably a good time for me to move on to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and others about the veto of English MPs and other matters of that kind. The important thing to stress is that what these provisions do is give a stronger voice to English MPs. We are not removing power from any Members of the other place. It is about giving a greater voice to English MPs. As far as a veto is concerned, the point that I have made in previous debates, and I stress again, is that what English MPs will not be able to do is initiate something without the approval of the whole House. They cannot overrule the whole House but neither can the rest of the House overrule them. It is about a power to stop something which directly affects their constituents and nobody else’s. It is not about them having a power to introduce something which would be for the benefit of their constituents only, without the support of the rest of the House.

Lord Tyler: Dancing on the top of pins at this time of night is not a happy experience. What is the basic difference in principle between a veto that stops something happening and, in the terms that the Leader has been explaining, one that prevents something from being initiated by a group? It is playing with words. It is semantics. If there is a veto, there is a veto, and that veto is going to be exercised—for the first time ever in the Westminster Parliament—by a smaller group than the whole Westminster Parliament, including, as we discovered earlier today, matters that come from this House to the other place.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I will come in a moment to ping-pong and how amendments made by this House are considered by the other place, but I disagree with the noble Lord about his interpretation of what I am saying. I am very clear that there is a difference between somebody having the power to stop something and somebody having the power to force something through that others are not in agreement with.

Moving on to this House, and to pick up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, as I have already said, our powers remain exactly the same and our procedures are not affected. We will be able to consider legislation in the future in exactly the same way as we do now. When we amend legislation and we send a Bill back to the other place, the Speaker will have to certify our amendments again. He will certify whether the amendments that have been made—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Leader says that what has been proposed does not change anything in this House. My question is: why not? I go back to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. This is a

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most extraordinary situation, where his MP will not be allowed to take part in key decisions, whereas he, as a Member residing in Scotland, is. We have yet to hear any convincing argument about why the two Houses are being treated differently.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Although my noble friend does not agree with the reason why the two Houses are being treated differently, he answered his own question, which is that we are all Peers of the United Kingdom. We do not represent any particular part of the United Kingdom. As I said when I first repeated the Statement that introduced these proposals a few months ago, as much as I am proud to come from Beeston and wanted to take Beeston in my title, I do not represent Beeston. None of us represents any particular part of the country, so that is why we are treated differently.

When our amendments go to the other place, the Speaker will be asked to certify whether they apply only to England or England and Wales. The other place will consider our amendments in the Chamber in exactly the same way as they do now: the whole House of Commons will consider the amendments made by your Lordships’ House. When MPs come to vote on any such amendments, the votes will be counted for a double-majority. If the amendments that we have made to legislation affect only England or England and Wales, it will be necessary for those MPs to approve our amendments as well as the whole House of Commons.

The noble Lord says, from a sedentary position, that that is a veto. But we have to take a step back for a moment and remember that what we are introducing here is English votes for English laws. We are saying that we want Members of Parliament who represent English constituencies to have a stronger voice. It would make a mockery of that if MPs from those constituencies were not able to have a stronger voice when asked to consider amendments that affect only their constituencies.

This is not the process for amendments that apply to the UK as a whole, but for those that apply to England or England and Wales only. If the House of Commons as a whole votes in favour, but the English or English and Welsh MPs do not support measures that apply only to their constituencies, we will receive back a message that says the House of Commons does not agree with the amendments that we have made. The key point is that we will receive a message in exactly the same way as we do now, with a reason why the House of Commons has decided not to accept the amendments. It will be up to the Government, as they are now, to consider very carefully what has been said by the House of Commons and to consider what we might want to put forward to this House. This House will then decide what it wants to do. If this House still does not agree, it will send the message back again—so our amendments will be considered in exactly the same way. But we cannot introduce English votes for English laws without the MPs who represent English or English and Welsh constituencies having the stronger voice that they deserve when this House wants to introduce something that will affect only those places.

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Baroness Smith of Basildon: I apologise for detaining the House and to the noble Baroness for intervening—which I rarely do—but I want to make sure that I understand this for the sake of clarity. She talks about the voice of English MPs being heard, but it seems to me that this is about significantly more than that. An amendment passed by your Lordships’ House, whatever the size of the majority—such as the one on a Joint Committee which passed by 101 votes—would go to the House of Commons. It could be passed by the House of Commons, but a subset of MPs—the English MPs—would then have a veto. It is not just a voice—that would be an extra Committee stage, a discussion or a debate. This is a veto, and they would be able to say, “No we do not accept that”, even though it would have gone through the House of Lords and the entire House of Commons, and send it back to the House of Lords. So it does impact on your Lordships’ House. It is not just a case of being sent back by the whole House of Commons to be reconsidered; it is a subset of MPs who have a veto—not a voice—who send it back. It does impact on how we work, as we would be asked to reconsider something that we would not otherwise have been asked to reconsider.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The House of Commons as a whole clearly needs to consider what this House has put forward, and I am sure that we will want to know, when we are considering what comes back to us, not just what the English are saying. We will want to hear.

I come back to what I said earlier. We have come forward with a set of proposals which build on the many different forums that have considered how to implement English votes for English laws. We believe that it is a pragmatic proposal that will allow that to happen. We will review it once it has been operating; we cannot wait for ever to find a perfect solution—I am not sure that one exists—but I believe that we have come up with a clear way forward.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I promise my noble friend that this is my last intervention. It is on this point and the point made earlier by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me a serious point that if a matter has been passed without the support of both Houses of Parliament, where one part of Parliament has created whatever outcome it is, it loses the protection of sovereignty and is open to legal challenge. Can my noble friend deal with that point?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I just do not accept that argument. The House of Commons will consider our amendments. If we have decided to make amendments that affect only a certain group of constituencies, the English MPs, it will be for them to be able to send them back to us. The key thing which addresses the sovereignty point is that, in the end, both Houses have to agree. We will keep ping-ponging until we reach agreement.

Please let me make some progress, because I think that noble Lords want me to move on. On the issue of a Joint Committee, I fully accept and understand that when this matter was debated earlier, in the summer,

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this House was absolutely clear in its view that it wanted a Joint Committee of both Houses to look at the constitutional implications of English votes for English laws. As has been highlighted, I am the Leader of the House as a whole as well as the leader of the party in government and a member of the Government. I assure noble Lords that of course I made it clear that that was a firm view, resoundingly expressed by your Lordships’ House but, as I said earlier, and as I said when we debated this matter a couple of months ago, the Government are clear in their view about not wanting to delay the implementation of English votes for English laws.

My right honourable friend Chris Grayling has replied by approaching the Constitution Committee, as was outlined. Several committees in another place have been looking at the Government’s proposals: the Procedure Committee, the Public Affairs and Constitution Committee, and the Scottish Affairs Committee. The Government do not feel it necessary to create yet another committee to examine the matter, but I am grateful that the chairman of the Constitution Committee in your Lordships’ House, my noble friend Lord Lang, and his colleagues, have agreed to consider what the constitutional implications of the proposals may be and to feed in to the review to which I referred. I am grateful to my noble friend for what he said this evening about that work.

Lord Tyler: I think that all Members of your Lordships’ House appreciate the difficulties with which the Leader of the House is faced on this issue. I have one very small suggestion. In my experience, if the Government were to say that they wish the particular amendment which responds to the Motion from your Lordships’ House, the Speaker would be bound to ensure that there was an opportunity to vote on it. That is surely the very minimum that we should be asking the Leader of the House in the other place to do: simply to make sure that there is a proper response by the whole House of Commons to the whole House of Lords.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: That matter now sits in the House of Commons. I am the Leader of the House of Lords. I am not the Leader of the House of Commons, as is very clear. That is something that we will now have to leave with the House of Commons and see how it wishes to consider it.

I shall draw to a conclusion and make a couple of brief points. Several points were made this evening about noble Lords feeling that this House is being ignored by this Government and that we are not taking seriously the need for our legislation to be properly scrutinised and debated in your Lordships’ House. I absolutely reject that opinion. Although we are no longer in coalition and this is a new Government, it is worth remembering that in the previous Parliament 21,000 amendments to government legislation were tabled in this House and 6,000 of them were passed or accepted. That is a measure of how seriously this House is taken and of the importance of its work. In the past few weeks, acknowledging the need for greater time to be applied for debating government legislation, we recommitted parts of the Energy Bill when we wanted to bring forward government amendments to

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it. The Government responded to the Secondary Legislation Select Committee when it asked for more information on a piece of secondary legislation. So I can assure noble Lords that I take very seriously indeed the role of this House and the need for it properly to scrutinise government legislation, and I will continue to do that—and I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, for his remarks.

Points were made about the need for a constitutional convention for this and other matters to be considered. Noble Lords will have heard other members of the Government say from this Dispatch Box that we do not believe that a constitutional convention is the right way forward. We were very clear in our manifesto about the changes we want to make to provide greater devolution to all parts of the United Kingdom, and we made much of that during the general election campaign. Having been elected, we are seeking to deliver those commitments in our manifesto—and they include English votes for English laws.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: I am very grateful to the Leader of the House, and I do not want to prolong this. She said that she would come back on the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and me. I do not know whether the cavalry has arrived with the answer to that question or whether the answer arrived but was unintelligible. I say that with great sympathy. It has not been a habit in my life to feel sorry for Conservative Ministers, but I do. I think that she has been given what in sport is called a hospital pass on this one. So I quite understand if she, or indeed the Government and the Civil Service, cannot answer tonight. However, will she write to all those who have spoken today, not just the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, with the definitive answer to that specific question? Although it is specific, it has huge implications for the politics of the relationship between the two major countries, in terms of population, of the United Kingdom.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord, Lord Reid, is always very timely in providing opportunities for me to respond, and by intervening when he did he gave me the opportunity to quickly read the note that had come to me from the Box. I shall share with him what I have learned this evening. English MPs will not be able to reduce the income tax rate in England without the approval of the whole House. English MPs can only prevent the whole House imposing an English rate without their consent, not the other way around. All MPs are involved in all legislation, including on tax. I hope that that has clarified the matter, but it looks as if it has not.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: I am very grateful, although this may extend the discussion. I did not quite understand the noble Baroness’s reply. It may be a lack of mental capacity on my part, but I think that the second thing the noble Baroness said was that English MPs would be able to stop an increase in English income tax. Did I understand that correctly? I was not aware that there was such a thing as English income tax; I thought that there was just income tax. Perhaps she could explain that to me or have a quick word with her officials later.

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: What I shall do is read out the note a little more slowly, and then I will happily commit to sending the noble Lord and others a letter. The noble Lord actually has huge mental capacity; I have read this note and I understand it, so if I understand it then I know for a fact he will.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: Not necessarily.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: He has no idea how much of an idol he is to me in terms of his mental capacity, so I do feel that this is not a concept that he cannot cope with. Let me try again. English MPs will not be able to reduce the income tax rate in England without the approval of the whole House. This is about all MPs being involved in legislation, including on tax. English MPs can only prevent the whole House imposing an English rate without their consent.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: Veto.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord, from a sedentary position, shouted the word “veto”. I am afraid that that brings me back to the beginning.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: The second sentence is exactly what I am questioning—that they can prevent an increase in the English rate of income tax. That slightly confuses me since I assumed that the rate of income tax was a UK rate, and I do not quite see how we are now envisaging a potential increase in the English rate of income tax.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Because once we have implemented the full Smith proposals, some tax powers will be devolved to Scotland in future. So as far as

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income tax is concerned, in Scotland they will have devolved power in future, so what English MPs will have will be the power to change rates of income tax that affect only England. This will be a result of the greater devolution. I will give way one last time and then I think the House’s patience will probably have been exhausted.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: I think that the noble Baroness had better write to me, because I disagree with her on the second part of what she said. A power will be extended to Scotland to increase or decrease its rate of tax, but that will not in any way relate to the power of England to set the basic rate of tax on which the Scottish adjustments will be empowered. However, I will be happy for the noble Baroness to write to me.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I will write to the noble Lord but will say one last thing. Income tax and budget provisions will be considered by all MPs in the House of Commons in the future, as they are now. This is about changes to specific income tax rates as a result of greater devolution. We will have a situation in the future in which, because of greater powers being devolved to other nations, when there are changes to rates of income tax that apply only in England, English MPs should be able to prevent changes being made that they do not agree to. But I will stop now. I have enjoyed this evening, even if no one else has. I thank all noble Lords once again for their contributions on what is a very serious matter, and I am grateful to them for their contributions this evening.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 10.02 pm.