I have come out of the hat in the ballot for questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today and at number 13 I am pretty much sure to be called. My published question is asking what progress the government has made on the renegotiation of the term’s of the U.K.’s membership of the EU. Not surprisingly given the topicality and high profile of this topic there are other questions along similar lines from other members so my question might be grouped and all dealt with at the same time. Either way it is the supplementary question I am entitled to which is of more interest.
The main business of the day is the final stages of the Housing and Planning Bill. The interesting aspect of today’s proceedings is that after the report stage (and before the Third Reading) there will be the first ever use of the new procedure which means that on Bills which affect only England they can only proceed if they have the consent of M.P.’s representing only English Constituencies (or England and Wales if the Speaker has certified the Bill applies to England and Wales).
This means that for the first time there will be a new stage in the legislative process when what has been called a Legislative Grand Committee will debate whether the Bill should be agreed to. If English M.P’s decide they do not agree the Bill will fail.
This is what has been referred to as EVEL English Votes for English Laws. Actually it is really a veto English Veto for English Laws. This is another manifesto pledge completed. Ever since Scotland got its own Parliament people have complained that it was not fair that M.P.’s representing Scottish constituencies could vote on issues that affect constituencies in England but because of devolution not their own constituents. This new procedure will re-balance the scales a little.