The procedure for calling such emergency debates is set out in Standing Order 24 -
(1) On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday a Member rising in his place at the commencement of public business may propose, in an application lasting not more than three minutes, that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration. If the Speaker is satisfied that the matter is proper to be so debated, the Member shall either obtain the leave of the House, or, if such leave be refused, the assent of not fewer than forty Members who shall thereupon rise in their places to support the motion, or, if fewer than forty Members and not fewer than ten shall thereupon rise in their places, the House shall, on a division, upon question put forthwith, determine whether such motion shall be made.
(2) If leave is given or the motion is so supported or the House so determines that it shall be made
(3) Proceedings in respect of a debate under this order may last not more than three hours and, at the conclusion of the time allocated to them, pursuant to paragraph (2)(b) of this order, the motion, unless otherwise disposed of, shall lapse.
(4) A Member intending to make an application under this order shall give notice to the Speaker by twelve o’clock on a Monday, halfpast ten o’clock on a Tuesday or Wednesday or nine o’clock on a Thursday, if the urgency of the matter is known at that hour. If the urgency is not so known he shall give notice as soon thereafter as is practicable. If the Speaker so desires he may defer giving his decision upon whether the matter is proper to be discussed until a named hour, when he may interrupt the proceedings of the House for the purpose.
(5) In determining whether a matter is proper to be discussed the Speaker shall have regard to the extent to which it concerns the administrative responsibilities of Ministers of the Crown or could come within the scope of ministerial action. In determining whether a matter is urgent the Speaker shall have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House in time by other means.
(6) The Speaker shall state whether or not he is satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed without giving the reasons for his decision to the House.
(7) If the Speaker announces that the debate will take place on the same day as the application is made, proceedings on any business postponed as the result of that announcement, may continue, following the conclusion of proceedings on that debate, for the same time beyond the moment of interruption as that taken by the debate, and shall not be interrupted, except as provided in paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business).
The House of Commons Library has produced a list of emergency debates granted since 1979 - which is available here.
Yesterday's Hansard report records the application and its grant -
I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the means by which the Government seek to deliver the objectives outlined by the Leader of the House in his statement on English votes on English laws.
Last Thursday the Leader of the House outlined a scheme that goes well beyond anything the Government have previously proposed or on which they have consulted, including an exclusion of Scottish Members from voting on parts of the Budget. Their wish is effectively to set up an English Parliament within this United Kingdom House of Commons and to do so by inviting the House to amend its Standing Orders. The substantive issue will be debated in due course, but that is not what I seek to bring to the House now. Rather, it is the process that I submit is specific and important and that should be given urgent consideration.
I am not one of those who has ever sought to avoid answering the West Lothian question. On the contrary, I long for the day when the English members of my family may benefit from devolution in the way that we have done in Scotland since 1999. This, however, is not the way to do it.
In this Session alone, we have already spent four days debating a Bill giving extra powers to the Scottish Parliament. We still have more to come, after which consideration will move to the other place. Addressing the democratic position of the people of England, however, is apparently to be done from scratch, in one day, in this Chamber alone. Obviously, I am concerned about the message this proposal sends to the people of Scotland, but, quite apart from that, I happen to think that the people of England deserve better treatment than this.
Let there be no doubt: we are dealing with a major constitutional change. It is one that undermines a fundamental principle of the workings of this House, namely that no matter where we come from, once we get here we are all equal. To seek to do this in one day by amendment to our Standing Orders may be technically competent, but it is, I would suggest, an abuse of process. It is constitutionally outrageous and I fear that it puts a further unnecessary strain on the Union. That is what the House must consider and what the country must hear debated before we go any further.
The right hon. Gentleman asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the means by which the Government seek to deliver the objectives outlined by the Leader of the House in his statement on English votes on English laws. I have listened carefully to the application from the right hon. Gentleman and I am satisfied that the matter raised by him is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the right hon. Gentleman the leave of the House?
Application agreed to.
Leave has very clearly been given. The right hon. Gentleman has the leave of the House. What remains is for me to communicate to the House the necessary details. The debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July, and in conformity with normal practice on these occasions—albeit these occasions are relatively infrequent—it will be held as the first item of public business. It will last for three hours and it will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the right hon. Gentleman’s application.
The Parliamentary website published this statement -
The House of Commons has agreed to an application for an emergency debate on the means by which the Government seeks to deliver the objectives outlined by the Leader of the House in his Statement on English Votes on English Laws.
The Speaker has decided that this debate will take place on Tuesday 7 July, after Questions, any Statements and the Presentation and Ten Minute Rule Bills, for up to three hours. The scheduled opposition debate will be held afterwards.