N. Ireland Politics

Hermon: 'English votes policy has no mandate in NI'

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Image caption Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon has been critical of English Votes for English Laws

The North Down MP Lady Hermon has said the policy of English votes for English laws in Westminster has 'no mandate in Northern Ireland'.

The Independent MP criticised the move which creates new stages in the legislative process.

The Speaker now declares whether a Bill, or clause within a Bill, is English or English and Welsh only.

'English Votes for English Laws' known as EVEL was voted through last year.

It is in operation in Westminster but is currently being reviewed.

Image caption 'English Votes for English Laws' is currently in operation and is being reviewed

If a law is certified as English or Welsh then as it makes its way through Parliament, only English and Welsh MPs are given the chance to consent to or veto it.

The Commons Leader Chris Grayling defended the votes move to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and faced questions from Northern Ireland MPs.

Lady Hermon said she could not find any reference to the plan in the manifesto of the Northern Ireland Conservatives and said: "this procedure has zero mandate in Northern Ireland".

However, Chris Grayling told the committee that the move had been contained in the nationwide manifesto for the 2015 General Election.

The Commons Leader said he believed the EVEL plan was working and said that there were "no reports back from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales that this came up as an issue in the election".

Image caption Commons Leader Chris Grayling told the committee the entire UK parliament would vote on the Barnett formula

SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell said he was worried the English votes move "could prejudice more deprived regions" and he was concerned changes to the Barnett Formula could become "an English matter".

The Barnett formula is a system of grants which dictates the level of public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Chris Grayling said any changes to the Barnett Formula would not be an English matter only and would be a vote for the "UK parliament".

DUP MP Ian Paisley queried if the EVEL move made for "good politics" and he questioned whether the general public were "confused by procedure here".

UUP Danny Kinahan wondered what effects the move would have on the Union and also raised concerns about the way Northern Ireland Question Time was organised in the Commons.

He said it was often difficult to catch for MPs from Northern Ireland to actually get to ask questions.

Mr Kinahan said: "it is still very hard for many of us from Northern Ireland to get in".

He suggested ways should be found to allow Northern Ireland MPs to be allowed to ask more questions.

Image caption Mr McDonnell said he had worries that EVEL "could prejudice more deprived regions"

Those sentiments were endorsed by the DUP MP Gavin Robinson who said he and other local MPs had a sense of "frustration" when many Labour and Conservative MPs got the lion's share of questions at the expense of Northern Ireland representatives.

The East Belfast MP said many Labour and Conservative MPs asked the same questions routinely at Northern Ireland Question Time and they provided no "new information". He said the current way Northern Ireland Questions was organised "really doesn't make it a valuable part of parliamentary procedure".

Chris Grayling told MPs that the review of 'English Votes for English Laws' would look at how it had operated over the past few months and this was an opportunity to "road test" the policy but it was the government's intention to continue with it.

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