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John Bercow: Evel in 'experimental territory'

By Jack Maidment

John Bercow has told MPs they are in "experimental territory" as he sought to explain how the new system of English votes for English laws will work.

The Government won its push to deliver its so-called Evel measures on October 22 by 312 votes to 270 amid concerns the plans would create two classes of MP and also potentially politicise the role of the Speaker of the House.

Evel will see the creation of new stages in the legislative process where the Speaker will declare a Bill, or clause within a Bill, is English or English and Welsh only.

All MPs will continue to speak and vote on the existing legislative stages but only relevant MPs will be allowed to vote at the new phases.

The goal is to eliminate the anomaly where Scottish MPs in Westminster can vote on matters such as health or education in England, but English MPs cannot do likewise on issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Explaining how the new system will work, Mr Bercow told MPs: "After a Government Bill has been introduced, a note will be published in the appropriate place on the order paper to the effect that I have not yet considered it for certification.

"The same process will be followed for statutory instruments requiring consideration.

"If I sign a certificate the note on the order paper will be changed accordingly.

"Any certification will also be recorded in the votes and proceedings.

"I do not propose to record a decision not to certify.

"The absence of any note on the order paper will indicate that no certification has been made.

"Before report stage begins I will seek to identify in advance those changes made in committee which I would expect to certify together with any Government amendments tabled for report stage which, if passed, would be likely to lead me to issue a certificate."

He also told MPs proceedings in the House are likely to be suspended while decisions are made.

"At the end of report stages of bills where I am required to consider any matter for certification I would as a matter of course expect a brief suspension of the House so that I or a deputy can leave the chair and decide whether to certify," he said.

"Similar brief suspensions may be necessary at later stages."

He said he would accept the advice of the Procedure Committee "not as a rule to give reasons for decisions on certification during this experimental phase of the new regime".

"As set out on Thursday we are in experimental territory and I may indeed myself experiment by adjusting these arrangements as the new regime develops," he said.

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