England-only votes move outlined

Published: Tuesday 16th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Proposals for allowing English MPs a “decisive say” over legislation affecting national laws are expected to be outlined by the Government.

Commons leader William Hague, who led cross-party talks on the issue, will present the options for reform as the Conservatives push for a ban on Scottish representatives blocking laws which do not apply north of the border.

Since the Scottish independence referendum result and the promise of further devolved powers north of the border, there have been calls for English-only votes on English-only legislation.

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the implementation of further devolution north of the border should go “in tandem with” moves to resolve the long-standing dispute over whether Scottish MPs should be allowed to vote on laws which affect only England or England and Wales.

An effective veto is one of three options proposed by the Tories – and one by the Liberal Democrats – due to be set out in a government paper.

Labour – which boycotted cross-party talks under Mr Hague as a “stitch-up” – last week suggested it could back giving English MPs a greater role in scrutinising legislation that applies only to their country.

It said a solution put forward by an independent review of the issue last year led by Sir William McKay, which would allow detailed consideration of English-only legislation, could be a “sensible reform which would strengthen England’s voice”.

Under the most radical option to be put forward by Mr Hague, MPs from across the UK would have the chance to amend all legislation at the penultimate hurdle of its usual Commons passage – known as report stage.

But English MPs would then have a separate vote in which they could reject the entire package – forcing the Government either to abandon the proposals or make changes in a bid to secure majority support.

The Liberal Democrats are pressing for the handing of a veto to a grand committee of MPs that reflected the proportion of the vote share won by each party at the previous general election.

Switching from the established practice of basing memberships on the proportion of MPs elected would, on present numbers, deprive the Conservatives of an overall majority on the committee.

Tories hope to have a consensus of their MPs behind one option by the middle of January which the party plans to press to a Commons vote before May’s general election to put pressure on other parties to act.

The two other options are based on previous reviews led by Lord Norton of Louth and Ken Clarke.

Published: Tuesday 16th December 2014 by The News Editor

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