Select Committee on Procedure Fourth Report


The Procedure Committee has agreed to the following Report:—


1. On 1 July devolution will go "live", and the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly will become operational. This report sketches some of the changes which may be required to House of Commons' procedure as a result. We agree with the Government and the great majority of our witnesses that there should be an "evolutionary" approach;[1] our recommendations are intended to assist the House in the first stage of this evolution since some issues need to be resolved at a fairly early stage, even though the arrangements made may well have to be adapted in the light of experience. We do not attempt a definitive account of all the changes which might be needed; in the light of this the Committee intends a full review of the procedural consequences of devolution in due course.

2. Moreover, as a general principle, we do not believe any final statement can be made about the procedural consequences of devolution without experience of the new Parliament and Assembly. Part of the reason for considering changes to the way in which the House operates must be to provide the means for healthy dialogue. This will be impossible if we do not take into account the views of the other legislatures within the United Kingdom. In the long run we believe that it may be necessary to establish some sort of "constitutional affairs committee" to consider the relationships between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom;[2] in the short term, as the Leader of the House suggested, we ourselves intend to remain alert to any consequences of devolution which may make procedural change desirable.[3]

3. In this Report we have concentrated on those matters which need to be addressed before July; we have consulted widely and we are very grateful to all those who have given us evidence. We are particularly grateful to those from outside the House who submitted evidence, including the New Northern Ireland Assembly, which sent the Report of its Ad Hoc Committee on the Procedural Consequences of Devolution and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. In addition to the numerous letters and memoranda we have received from our colleagues, we took oral evidence from Chairmen of each of the Grand Committees and from the Chairmen and Members of the Select Committees on Northern Ireland Affairs, Scottish Affairs and Welsh Affairs, the Leader of the House and the members of the Study of Parliament Group Study Group on Welsh Devolution. We also had the benefit of informal meetings with Mr W R McKay, the Clerk of the House of Commons, and with Mr Ian Harris, Clerk of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia.

4. In its evidence the Government identified a number of areas for consideration. They may be summarised as the relationship between MPs and Members of the devolved legislatures, including consultation on European Legislation, and ways of maintaining harmonious relations; Questions; Grand Committees; Select Committees; Legislation and Subordinate Legislation; Budgets. Our report does not follow the structure of the Leader of the House's memorandum, or restrict itself to the points she raised, but we have attempted to deal with each of these matters in the course of our argument. We have also attempted to consider what changes, if any, will be required if responsibilities are successfully devolved to Northern Ireland, as we hope they will be, and some of our recommendations will need to be interpreted in the light of the stage of devolution attained by Northern Ireland.

1  HC (1998-99) 148, Appendix 1, paragraph 1, QQ 148, 176, 197-8, 204, 244-5. Back
2  See Q 209. Back
3  Q 271. Back

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