Michael Gove issues warning to SNP over transparency

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Ministers have tabled a vote for today to scrap the English Votes for English Laws (Evel) system that was first introduced in 2015. If backed by MPs it would mean that matters only impacting England will be allowed to be voted on by MPs from other parts of the UK.

The system was introduced after the 2014 Scottish referendum in a bid to try and correct the imbalance of powers between English and Scottish MPs.

Campaigners had for years been left frustrated Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had their own devolved administrations, while matters relating to England were debated more widely by Westminster.

The system introduced by then-Prime Minister David Cameron required matters impacting only England to be supported by a majority of MPs representing English constituencies.

If voted through later today SNP MPs and those representing areas in Wales and Northern Ireland will be given a say on areas such as England’s judicial system, education and the NHS.

Meanwhile, the devolved administrations will continue to retain the power to vote on those matters impacting their own countries.

Evel was suspended in March 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking last week Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the system had “not served our Parliament well”.

“The procedure has been suspended since April 2020 and having reflected, the government believes it has not served our Parliament well and that removing it would simplify the legislative process,” he said.

“It’s a fundamental principle that all constituent parts of the United Kingdom should be equally represented in Parliament.

“The operation of this procedure and the constraints on the role of certain MPs does not support this aim.”

Evel has been opposed by Labour and the SNP ever since its introduction.

Labour accused the Conservatives of using the measure to try and orchestrates a larger majority in votes.

Meanwhile, the SNP have claimed the system creates two tiers of MPs – those who can vote on all legislation and those who can only vote on matters impacting the whole UK.

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Last week the SNP’s Pete Wishart said Evel created a “quasi-English parliament squat” in the UK Parliament.

He said: “I do not know whether it was dividing the membership of this House into two different and distinct classes of Member or the ridiculous attempts to have some sort of quasi-English Parliament squat here in the national Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that convinced the Government to back down.

“But it is a massive victory for the Scottish National part.

“Our campaign of ridicule and disparagement of the whole nonsense has won.”

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg also declared the planned changes as “a victory for people of my way of thinking about our constitution”.

He said: “This is important because, within this House, we are the Parliament of the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Scottish Tory MPs have pushed for the abolition of Evel since 2017.

Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, said the system has given the SNP “a stick to beat” the UK government with.

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