Devolution: A Decade On - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Questions 457-459)


22 APRIL 2008

  Chairman: Lord Steel, welcome. We have some interests to declare first of all.

Julie Morgan: I am married to the First Minister in Wales.

  Q457  Chairman: We are very glad that you have agreed to come along this afternoon and give us the benefit of your experience presiding over and being a Member of the Scottish Parliament and observing the Scottish Executive, now calling itself the Scottish Government, in action. May I start with a rather specific point which is about Sewel motions? It has been suggested that this whole process needs clarifying and tidying up and that there need to be some clear principles setting out when the British Government will invoke the Convention. Given that a number of issues have come up even at the moment, for example over terrorist trials being moved between Scotland and England, do you think there is a framework that could be created to tidy this up?

  Lord Steel of Aikwood: I probably cannot help you very much on that one because in my four years, we did not have any problem with it. It may be that there have been problems more recently, but certainly during the four years that I was presiding over the Parliament, there was general agreement when a Sewel motion was in operation and we did not have any problems. I have not lived through a time when there has been some argument about whether it was or not appropriate to use them.

  Q458  Julie Morgan: As part of this inquiry we interviewed the Secretary of State for Scotland and I wondered what your view was about whether Scotland needs a voice at the Cabinet level, post devolution?

  Lord Steel of Aikwood: I always thought at the time when we were putting the Scotland Act through that it would have been sensible at that stage to have had a Cabinet minister for the UK with a junior minister under him for each of the entities: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That would have been a tidy arrangement. Technically that person would have had to have been Secretary of State for Scotland, Secretary of State for Wales, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland because of all the legislation, but it would have been a tidy arrangement and it would have avoided the criticism that there has been several times and is again currently about somebody holding a major Cabinet post and being Secretary of State for Scotland at the same time. I do not quite know why that did not happen. It would seem to me to have been the logical consequence of creating devolution all round.

  Q459  Julie Morgan: Is this something you anticipated would have happened by now?

  Lord Steel of Aikwood: Yes, I thought it would have happened by now. It still should happen.

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