EVEL proposals prompt review of UK spending shares

19 Oct 15
The planned shift to English Votes for English Laws highlights the need to review “unsatisfactory” arrangements for approving public spending across the UK, a committee of MPs has said.

Examining the proposals to change the rules of the House of Commons to ensure that legislation affecting only England, or England and Wales, is approved by a majority of MPs from those countries, the procedure select committee said they represented “substantial change”.

They called for the changes not to be introduced for every vote, but piloted on only a limited number of measures.

“Where there is a political necessity to demonstrate an England or England and Wales majority on an issue, the whole House should debate and, if necessary, vote on whether the new procedures should be applied,” the report concluded.

However, the procedure should be simplified by allowing double-majority votes at report stage, with only those elements with a majority of votes of members for both UK, and England or England and Wales, passing to third reading – the final stage of the legislative process.

Committee chair Charles Walker said the committee’s initial review of the proposals had concluded they were “over-engineered and potentially burdensome on the House”.

He added: “Clearly the proposals represent a substantial change to the House's procedures, and they ought to be piloted on statutory instruments, and a small number of Bills, before they are fully implemented.”

Examination of the proposals has indicated concerns about the rules for approving public spending that the committee would now review further, Walker said.

It is currently “largely impossible” for MPs concerned about the Barnett Formula consequentials of public spending bills in England to exercise effective control over public expenditure proposals, the report concluded. The committee will therefore examine the means by which MPs can, through the House’s supply procedures and other rules, effectively examine the block grant allocations to the devolved legislatures.

“Given the manifest concern expressed about the adequacy of supply procedure provoked by the government’s proposals, we will also consider the merits of a broader inquiry into the House’s control of government expenditure plans,” today’s report stated.

“These substantial proposals have thrown up very real concerns about how the House scrutinises the government's plans to spend public money,” Walker stated.

“The committee will therefore be reviewing supply procedure as a matter of urgency.”

Responding to the report, a government spokesman said it would table its final proposals later this week.

“Our planned changes to the Standing Orders of the House deliver our commitment to introduce English votes for English laws.

“We are determined to strengthen the union – we are devolving more powers across the United Kingdom to ensure a fair deal for every part of the country. The process will be reviewed after a year to ensure it is working effectively.”

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