Select Committee on Procedure Fourth Report


1. The Committee intends a full review of the procedural consequences of devolution in due course (paragraph 1).

2. We recommend that the same principles as govern the admissibility of Questions after devolution should govern the admissibility of daily adjournment debates (paragraph 6).

3. We recommend that, after devolution, the range and details of questions to be put to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales should be reduced to matters relating to their Ministerial responsibilities (paragraph 8).

4. We believe that any reformulation of the rules about Questions must

  • recognise the fact of devolution, and limit the range of permissible questions accordingly;

  • provide guidance to Ministers about the matters the House will expect them to deal with;

  • avoid drawing Ministerial responsibility so tightly that questions about the relationship between the devolved legislatures and administrations and the United Kingdom government or parliament are ruled out of order.

To this end, we recommend the following resolution, drafted by the Clerk of the House.

"Subject always to the discretion of the Chair, and in addition to the established rules of order on the form and content of questions, questions may not be tabled on matters for which responsibility has been devolved by legislation to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Welsh Assembly unless the question—

(a)  seeks information which the UK Government is empowered to require of the devolved executive, or

(b)  relates to matters which —

(i)    are included in legislative proposals introduced or to be introduced in the UK Parliament,

(ii)  are subject to a concordat or other instrument of liaison between the UK Government and the devolved executive, or

(iii)  UK Government ministers have taken an official interest in, or

(c)  presses for action by UK ministers in areas in which they retain administrative powers" (paragraph 10).

1. We recommend that Scottish Questions be reduced to thirty minutes duration, but that they should continue to be taken once every four weeks, as now. In making this recommendation, we are mindful of the fact that it will be entirely in order for Scottish Members (as for any other Members) to table Questions about the operation of particular reserved matters in Scotland to the relevant departmental Minister (paragraph 12).

2. We recommend:

—  that there should be Select Committees relating to Scotland and Wales;

—  that these Select Committees should be concerned with the role and responsibilities of the relevant Secretary of State and on occasion, the policy of United Kingdom departments as it affects Scotland or Wales.

We recommend that such Committees liaise with colleagues in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly, but it is not for Westminster to prescribe such liaison. Similar conditions should apply to any successor of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (paragraph 21).

3. We support the principles behind the Government statement on legislation and agree that the House should not legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the legislature concerned (paragraph 23).

4. We recommend that the provision allowing the Speaker to certify Bills as relating exclusively to Scotland be transferred to a new Standing Order and adapted so that the Speaker may certify that a bill relates exclusively to one of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom (paragraph 27).

5. We consider that it should be usual for bills relating exclusively to England, Scotland or Wales to be considered by an appropriately constituted Second Reading Committee, but this should not be an absolute requirement. We further recommend that the provisions of paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 90 (Second reading committees) should be amended to provide that any Member, not just a Minister of the Crown, should have the power to set down a Motion referring such a bill to a Second Reading Committee and that it should require a minimum of twenty Members to rise in their places to block such a Motion made by a private Member, as it does if a Minister makes it, rather than a single shout of 'object' (paragraph 29).

6. We recommend that Standing Committees on the Committee stage of bills certified by the Speaker under the new Standing Order should contain at least sixteen Members from the area concerned (paragraph 30).

7. We recommend that Money Resolutions should be required for Bills which imply an increase in the expenditure of the National Assembly for Wales (paragraph 31).

8. Erskine May states the principles to be followed in determining that a private Bill should not be allowed to proceed as such are:

(1)  the magnitude of the area and the multiplicity of the interest involved;

(2)  that the bill proposes to amend or repeal public Acts. In these cases, the nature and degree of the proposed repeal or amendment have to be considered;

(3)  that public policy is affected".

These criteria clearly rule out the possibility of using the private legislation procedure as a means of initiating primary legislation of a public character for Wales as a whole (paragraph 32).

9. We endorse the Government's pragmatic approach to the procedures for dealing with delegated legislation (paragraph 33).

10. We recommend that Standing Order No. 151 should be amended to exclude orders passed by the devolved legislatures alone from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instrument's remit (paragraph 34).

11. Orders made under Section 85 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 should not be excluded from the remit of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (paragraph 35).

12. We recommend that Select Committees appointed under public business Standing Orders be given power to communicate documents to the devolved legislatures or their committees (paragraph 40).

13. Committees should not hold formal meetings in conjunction with Members of the devolved legislatures without the express authority of the House and Members should be aware that there is no guarantee that their words enjoy the protection of Article IX of the Bill of Rights in any informal joint meetings (paragraph 45).

14. We support the European Scrutiny Committee's readiness to work with our colleagues in devolved legislatures, and believe it is appropriate for the arrangements for such co-operation to be made by the committees concerned (paragraph 46).

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