Charles Walker backs proposals for English votes for English laws
Charles Walker backs the proposals for English votes for English laws as the most practical solution to a complex problem and attempts to redress the imbalance created by devolution which has resulted in MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having a say in legislation affecting England only.
Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I shall try to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, because although the 50 hon. Members waiting to speak are very interested in what I have to say, I know that they are much more interested in what they have to say. Now is not the time for great oratory.
I would first like to thank the Procedure Committee, which I chair, for working so hard and producing an excellent report. I also thank the Leader of the House, who has been open and straightforward in his dealings with the Committee, which makes a welcome change from his predecessor. I know that the issue ignites strong feelings in the House, which is another reason why I shall be brief, because we need to hear as many views as possible. Also, I do not understand why we cannot move the vote to 5 o’clock this afternoon, or perhaps later.
The concept of EVEL is easy to understand, but the proposals attached to it are extremely complex, and Members on both sides of the House should be in no doubt about that. The shadow Leader of the House said that 742 additional lines of Standing Orders are proposed. I disagree, because I make it 733, but who is going to quibble over nine lines. Between four and eight additional stages are potentially being injected into the legislative process, which may have huge consequences for the transacting of legislation in this place. We cannot have any truncation of Report stage or Third Reading.
The idea that certification will always be done smoothly, with one stage followed by the next, is for the birds. There will be times when the process of scrutinising Bills is interrupted for a significant period of time while finely nuanced decisions about certification are taken. I do not believe that the decisions taken by the Speaker will end up before a court. Someone might try to bring them before a court, but the proceedings of this House are protected by the Bill of Rights. The Speaker will be able to call on his Counsel, senior Clerks and two senior members of the Panel of Chairs.
We are entering new territory, so of course we will have to experiment. That is why the Procedure Committee will return to the House in a year with a review of the early stages of the process. We will be forceful in putting our view at that stage.
Mr Alistair Carmichael: On the point about justiciability, is the hon. Gentleman aware of the views of Lord Hope of Craighead, a former Lord President of the Court of Session and Justice of the Supreme Court, who addressed that very point in the other place last night and said that the procedures would be subject to judicial scrutiny?
Mr Walker: There are thousands of lawyers in this country, and they all have different views—that is how they earn a living. I am sure that Lord Hope’s views are sincerely held, but I disagree with them, as I am sure does my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), who served with such distinction on the Committee. Is he seeking to intervene?
Mr Rees-Mogg indicated dissent.
Mr Walker: I was trying to be generous to my hon. Friend.
We are where we are. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said that he did not give enough consideration to the impact of devolution on England in 1998. What we are debating today is, in my view, the least worst option on the table. Would we start from this point in a perfect world? No, we would not.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I had a long and distinguished speech to give, and there are many things that I would like to say, but I am not going to do so on this occasion, because 50 Members wish to speak and we need to hear from as many of them as possible.