PEERS have inflicted a large, embarrassing defeat on the government over its plans for English votes for English laws (Evel).
The House of Lords backed a call from former head of the civil service Lord Butler of Brockwell to establish a joint committee of peers and MPs to debate the proposals.
Although Lord Butler’s move will have no practical effect unless the House of Commons agrees to set up the committee, the vote, which the government lost by 320 to 139, majority 181, signifies peers’ anger at the scheme.
Ministers have already been forced to abandon plans to push through the changes to give England’s MPs a veto over English laws before the summer recess, postponing a vote on whether to go ahead with the amended standing orders until at least September.
Lord Butler, supported by peers from all sides of the House, said that although he backed a form of Evel, there were better ways of doing it than the government plan.
“Surely it is more important to get the proposals right than to rush them through,” he said.
He was backed by Labour leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon who described the idea of a joint committee as a “wise and moderate” plan.
But Baroness Stowell of Beeston, the Lords leader, urged peers not to support Lord Butler and said the plan for Evel was in the Conservative manifesto at the general election.
“There does come a point where we need to stop talking and get on with taking some action,” she said.
Lord Butler told peers: “We cannot compel the Commons to set up a joint committee, but what we can do today is say we believe this is a matter for Parliament as a whole, not a matter just for the House of Commons and it is best approached by Parliament as a whole.”