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Thursday, October 22, 2015

How I came to love EVEL

There is a lot of fuss today about the UK Government's plans for English Votes for English Laws or EVEL for short.

As the BBC explain, the plans being brought forward mean that MPs from English seats will get an effective veto on bills that are classed as England-only under the plans. Though in fact the same veto will apply for English and Welsh MPs where the law concerned affects Wales as well.

Opposition to the proposals from some Welsh MPs concentrate on two issues. Firstly, that changes in the law on some matters may have an impact on Wales where for example we rely on cross-border health services, and secondly that some law changes will lead to a Barnett consequential for Wales when a large item of expenditure is involved on policy that deviates with that on the other side of the border. Tuition fees are a good example of the second issue.

The big problem with this change of course is that it is being levered into the existing constitutional settlement for England. Thus, there will be an English veto over English laws but no English government per se to propose or administer those laws. It is not even a proper form of devolution.

As sops go, it is a pretty weak one, and certainly so in the context of the original proposals. However, as a supporter of a Federal UK, should I really worry about it or oppose it? After all, if my party and I had our way there would either be an English Parliament or English Regional Assemblies all passing laws that also had an impact on Wales.

What is the difference between a law passed by the UK Parliament introducing tuition fees and one passed by an English Parliament, doing the same? If a Midlands Regional Assembly reformed its health service, it would have the same impact on Mid Wales as if that reform had been carried out by a UK Parliament. And in both cases Welsh MPs and the Welsh Assembly would be powerless to stop the changes. Except that is not the case with EVEL, as there would still be a vote by all UK MPs on every bill.

What is being proposed therefore is actually less impactful on Wales and Welsh representation than a full Federal structure for the UK and on that basis good Liberal Democrats should have no problem with it.

The argument that EVEL creates two tiers of MPs is nonsense, as we already have that due to the asymmetric devolution which the UK has embraced. And as for SNP MPs arguing that EVEL will make them a second class representative, isn't it about time they accepted the logic of their own support for Scottish Independence?

All-in-all, I can happily live with EVEL in the form it is being proposed. In the meantime though could the UK Government now give Wales the same respect that it is offering to English MPs and stop trying to claw back powers from the Welsh Assembly.
Arrrgggh no Peter please no.
I would be interested in your reasoning Matt
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