News / MP stands up to EVEL and secures debate

MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has succeeded in securing an emergency three-hour Commons debate on the Tory government’s “outrageous” plan to force English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) through parliament.

It followed the Liberal Democrat bluntly criticising David Cameron’s government’s attempt to railroad such a major change through Westminster without proper consideration as “constitutionally outrageous”, saying it “puts a further unnecessary strain on the union”.

Under the little-used Standing Order 24, Carmichael asked the speaker to cancel Tuesday’s parliamentary business, instituting an urgent debate among all MPs on the Tories’ attempt to introduce English-only votes on certain issues without legislating on the matter.

The Conservatives – who Carmichael served alongside in the coalition until May’s election – are seeking to push EVEL through using standing orders. He said the move “may be technically competent but it is still an abuse of process”.

The MP said the scheme outlined last week “goes well beyond anything they have previously proposed or on which they have consulted, including an exclusion of Scottish members from voting on parts of the budget”.


“Their wish is effectively to set up an English parliament within this House of Commons and to do it by inviting the House to amend its standing orders,” Carmichael said.

He said he was not someone who “sought to avoid answering the West Lothian question. On the contrary, I long for the day when English members of my family may benefit from devolution in the way that we have done in Scotland since 1999”.

“This, however, is not how to do it,” Carmichael continued. “In this session alone we have already spent four days debating a bill giving extra powers to the Scottish Parliament. We still have more to come after which consideration will move to the other place.

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“Addressing the democratic position of the people of England, however, is apparently to be done from scratch in one day in this chamber alone.

“Obviously I am concerned  about the message that this proposal sends to the people of Scotland but, quite apart from that, I happen to think that the people of England deserve better treatment than this.”

He said politician were grappling with a “major constitutional change” and one which “undermines a fundamental principle of the workings of this house – namely that no matter where we come from, once we get here we are all equal”.

Meanwhile, the MP has also tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill calling for all functions of the Crown Estate in Scotland to be transferred to local authorities in the Northern and Western Isles rather than Edinburgh.

Both the UK and Scottish governments back the idea of devolving Crown Estate revenue – likely to be worth over £1 million a year for the seabed around Shetland alone – to communities.


But Carmichael accused the SNP of being “intent on centralising power in Edinburgh” and said the Holyrood government would “shy away from any moves to devolve responsibility to the Scottish islands”.

He said: “Those who live in the Northern Isles are in the best position to manage these resources which would have a substantial impact on the local economies. I want this to happen as quickly as possible.”

Carmichael added that Scottish finance minister John Swinney in May dismissed local government umbrella body Cosla’s suggestion that local authorities should manage the assets – instead stating that a new organisation, the Crown Estate in Scotland, would be granted control.

“This was disappointing, but not surprising,” he said. “The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the devolution of the Crown Estate to the island communities is guaranteed before the Crown Estate as a whole is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

“We can all imagine how, once control is passed to the Scottish Government, the need to deliver to the isles becomes less urgent.”

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