English votes for English laws Contents

Chapter 5: Impact on the House of Lords

Procedural impact

93.The Government stated, on bringing forward the new procedures, that there would be “no changes to procedures in the House of Lords”.117 The Clerk of the Parliaments wrote to us to confirm that there had been no change to procedures in the House of Lords or to how the House’s existing procedures operate. His view was echoed by other witnesses.118

94.Although EVEL changes procedures in the House of Commons, it does not affect formal interactions between the two Houses. Specifically considering bicameral interaction, Daniel Gover told us that “it does not have an implication for the procedure of this House or how this House would be expected to respond to the Commons”.119 A bill, passed by the House of Commons as a whole, is passed to (or back to) the House of Lords irrespective of whether provisions in it were affected by votes by English (and Welsh) Bill Committees or Legislative Grand Committees. During the consideration of amendments stage, the House of Lords is informed in the usual way of the Commons’ agreement or disagreement with its amendments—irrespective of whether any disagreement was the result of a vote by the whole House or a veto by a majority of English (and Welsh) MPs on a matter certified under EVEL.

95.Secondary legislation is required to be passed by both Houses, a process that occurs in parallel rather than in the form of messages or legislation being passed from one House to the other. There is thus no procedural difference for the Lords if a division in the Commons produces an English (and Welsh) veto over an instrument, or a rejection by the whole House.

96.There has, to date, been no procedural impact in the House of Lords as a result of EVEL.

Political impact

97.The Clerk of the Parliaments told us: “I expect that the potential effects in the Lords … are likely to be political rather than procedural”.120 Thus far, there appears to have been no noticeable political impact in the House. The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, told us that “I have not sensed around the House that it is having a huge impact on how Lords approach their important role … or that it is constraining the role of the Lords.”121 Witnesses noted, that given the relatively small number of bills affected by EVEL procedures to date, it is too soon to tell what the impact might be in the longer term.122

98.Baroness Smith and Lord Wallace described circumstances in which political or constitutional controversy could conceivably arise in the House of Lords should a Lords amendment certified in the Commons as applying to England (and Wales) be supported by a majority of MPs but vetoed by those with English (and Welsh) constituencies. Lord Wallace told us that:

“We will therefore have a situation where a particular provision has been passed by the Lords and Commons, but it is not submitted in that form to the Queen for Royal Assent. I think that is quite a constitutional change it raises the issue of whether the will of Parliament as a whole can be vetoed by a subset of the House of Commons. I think that is an important constitutional issue.”123

99.We can envisage the potential for controversy rising should one or other party disagree with the certification of a particular provision as England-only. Should amendments to that provision then be supported by a majority of the Commons, but rejected by English MPs, it is possible that members in the House of Lords would feel entitled to continue pressing the amendments during Ping-Pong on the basis that they were representing the interests of the UK as a whole in a situation where the narrow interests of England were wrongly being given precedence.

100.Baroness Smith and Lord Wallace commented on the absence of certification of bills which start in the Lords. Lord Wallace told us that “for the Lords proceedings it would be useful to know” whether provisions were going to be certified under the EVEL provisions in the House of Commons.124 Given the absence of any procedural difference for the Lords when matters are certified, the only potential benefit would be political. Although Bills are not certified until they are introduced in the House of Commons, the ‘Territorial extent and application’ annex to each Bill’s explanatory notes sets out the Government’s interpretation as to which provisions in the Bill will be certified under the EVEL procedures.125

101.There is little evidence to date of any political impact in the House of Lords from the introduction of EVEL in the House of Commons. We will keep this matter under review, but we anticipate that adverse consequences are unlikely and should be resolved by the conventional deference shown by the House of Lords to the elected chamber.

EVEL in the House of Lords?

102.Our witnesses did not think that a form of EVEL could operate in the House of Lords itself.126 Lord Wallace said that the idea was “a non-starter, at one level for a very simple reason: with very, very few exceptions … we are all Peers of the United Kingdom, regardless of the territorial area in our title.”127

103.Some witnesses did, however, highlight the potential problems of EVEL applying in only one House. As the Constitution Reform Group told us,

“Having Bills on English matters passing through a House in which influence can be exerted by politicians whose political and other interests all relate to another part of the United Kingdom has the potential to contribute to the perception of unequal governance.”128

104.Mr Bryant echoed this point, referring to the positions of a peer and an MP from the same place in one of the devolved nations and describing it as “bizarre” that the peer would “have more say on legislation that affects the United Kingdom than the Member of Parliament”.129

105.Daniel Gover speculated that EVEL could affect how the Upper House perceives its role, when the Commons is legislating on certified matters:

“It may well be that a change in the Commons affects how [the House of Lords] interprets its role. For instance, if the House of Commons takes account of English interests more explicitly in its decision-making, might that affect how this House conceives of its role, perhaps in relation to a more explicitly union perspective?”130

106.EVEL cannot be applied in a House of Lords whose members are appointed to represent the whole UK, rather than specific regions or constituencies.

116 Constitution Committee, The Union and Devolution, para 430

117 HC Deb, 2 July 2015, col 1647 (Chris Grayling MP)

118 Written evidence from the Clerk of the Parliaments (EVE0001), EVE Q 16 (Daniel Gover) and Q 46 (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park). Baroness Smith of Basildon and Lord Wallace of Tankerness stressed the lack of experience of the new basis on which to assess its impact (Q 36)

119 EVE 16

120 Written evidence from the Clerk of the Parliaments (EVE0001)

121 EVE Q 51

122 EVE Q 36 (Baroness Smith of Basildon and Lord Wallace of Tankerness)

123 EVE 36

124 EVE Q 36

125 Of the first four Bills introduced in the House of Lords in the current session, this annex appears in the explanatory notes for three (the Bus Services Bill 2016–17, Children And Social Work Bill 2016–17 and Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill 2016–17); the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill 2016–17 applies to the whole of the UK so does not have a table signalling territorial extent and application.

126 See EVE Q 38 (Baroness Smith of Basildon), and supplementary written evidence from the Constitution Reform Group (UDE0072).

127 EVE Q 37. These exceptions are the small number Members with pre-Union Scottish peerages, see Constitution Committee, Scottish independence: constitutional implications of the referendum (8th Report, Session 2013–14; HL Paper 188), para 77

128 Supplementary written evidence from the Constitution Reform Group (UDE0072)

129 EVE Q 21

130 EVE Q 16

© Parliamentary copyright 2016