The Assemblys report calls on the political parties to continue discussions on the outstanding issues of timing and ministerial structures, agreement on which will enable the handing over of those policing and justice powers that the Assembly have agreed should transfer.
The Government support this call for further discussions and stand ready to assist the parties in reaching agreement on the completion of devolution at the earliest possible date. To this end my Department will have ready the practical arrangements required to make the transfer once the Assembly requests it, including a first draft of the necessary legislation, made available to Members of the Assembly to facilitate their debate.
In laying the report, I want to pay particular tribute to the work that Members of the Assemblys Assembly and Executive Review Committee, chaired until recently by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson), have done to get us to this point.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne):
I am pleased to announce today that Professor Sir Kenneth Calman has agreed to serve as Chair of a Commission to review the Scotland Act. Such a Commission was proposed in and approved by the Scottish Parliament. The Government welcome that Parliaments support
for the aim of strengthening devolution, and securing Scotlands place in the Union. We are therefore giving our full support to this cross-border, cross-party review.
To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to serve the people of Scotland better, that would improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and that would continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
The Government and the Scottish Parliament will work together to provide support for the Commission, which will be asked to make an interim report by the end of this year. Its report will be submitted to both the Government and to the Scottish Parliament.
I hope that there will be full engagement by people in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK with this review, which will provide an opportunity to assess the successes of devolution to Scotland, and identify ways in which the devolution settlement can be developed to work better for the people of Scotland within the United Kingdom.