Last week, I spoke in Parliament on the removal of English Votes for English Laws, or EVEL. EVEL meant that English MPs could vote on matters related to English law, whilst excluding Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Labour opposed EVEL since it came into force in 2015, as this created two classes of MP; some with the right to vote on all debates put to a vote, and some with restrictions on issues that affect their constituents, particularly those in border areas.
We need real constitutional change. Labour’s Constitutional Commission is working hard to establish our next stage of devolution amidst country-wide calls for the “Westminster- knows- best” status quo to be reformed.
There are also other routes of constitutional change to be explored, such as lowering the voting age to 16, proportional representation and restructuring the House of Lords. The government could learn from Labour’s lead on these matters.
Instead, we have the government’s piecemeal attempt at sweeping these issues under the carpet. The integrity of the government’s original decision to introduce EVEL is questionable at best.
The government have a poor record on constitutional matters, exemplified by the recent repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which required a Parliamentary vote to pass before the Prime Minister could call a snap election. The repeal of this Act means the Prime Minister could now call a General Election when he thinks he has a political advantage over opposition parties.
The government are also bringing forward the review of Parliamentary Constituency Boundaries and the outrageous proposals to require ID to allow British people to take part in votes, risking disenfranchising countless people all over the country.
The government scrapping their own rules proves that the induction of EVEL was indeed a mistake. Unfortunately, many people living in devolved administrations have not been represented in Parliamentary votes over the last six years as they should have been. I was happy to vote to abolish this divisive policy.
Though we welcome the abolition of EVEL, this may be too little too late on the government’s part. At a time when the Prime Minister claims that he supports the strength of the Union, we need meaningful change, not the alternative that policies like EVEL offer.
You can read my contribution to the EVEL debate here.