Sunday trading and the limits of EVEL

In a previous guest post, Bob Morris discussed the principle of ‘English Votes for English Laws’, aka ‘EVEL’. On Wednesday MPs defeated the Government by 317 votes to 286 on its proposals to relax Sunday trading rules; and though the policy would have applied only in England and Wales, the votes of Scottish MPs proved decisive. In this guest post, Daniel Gover and Michael Kenny discuss the territorial dimensions to this episode, and why the recent ‘English Votes for English Laws’ reform did not help the Government to pass its legislation.


Wednesday’s decision by MPs to reject government proposals in the Enterprise Bill to devolve Sunday trading rules to local authorities was a rare example of a government defeat on the floor of the Commons. But what makes Wednesday’s vote contentious and important is that it brought to the fore a territorial angle to British politics that has already risen in prominence since 2014’s Scottish independence referendum. Earlier this week the Scottish National Party announced that its MPs would vote against the Sunday trading provisions – even though the policy would only have applied in England and Wales (while responsibility for comparable legislation in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament). In Wednesday’s division, MPs voted by 317 to 286 to delete the provisions from the bill. Had Scotland’s 59 MPs not participated in the division, the government would have won by 21 votes. Continue reading