The SKWAWKBOX understands that a senior Tory is in Belfast today for discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) with a view to establishing a formal coalition rather than a ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ (CSA).
However, either arrangement may in fact be unlawful.
In late 2015, against the objections of Labour, the SNP and other parties, the Tory government rammed through its ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) legislation:
The Tories had tabled a bill under the coalition, out of a desire to prevent Labour and SNP MPs, who dominated Scotland, from hampering Conservative plans – and David Cameron also wanted to appease ‘little England’.
That bill became law and was used for the first time in January last year:
This means that on any ‘England only’ or ‘England and Wales only’ matters, the DUP would have no standing and would not be entitled to vote. As the SNP would also be excluded, the Tories would be able to win many votes – but government defeats would be far more easily within reach for Labour with its increased number of MPs, especially ‘England and Wales’ matters, where Plaid MPs would also be able to vote.
Even more important is the constitutional viability of a coalition/CSA. As DUP MPs do not have full powers in the House, there would be a question mark over the legitimacy of the arrangement – either rendering it void or, at the very least, enough to justify the House of Lords rejecting any Commons legislation to a far higher degree than usual.
The matter needs to be examined urgently by parliamentary and constitutional lawyers – and before Theresa May attempts to get a Queen’s Speech through Parliament.
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