184. Devolution in 1999 was a dramatic change to
the British constitution which has necessitated a new way of doing
politics in the UK. It was also the beginning of a process, especially
in Wales, where the scope and scale of devolution is already far
beyond the modest change initially envisaged.
185. Whitehall has, after an initial burst of concentration,
lost a focus on the devolution settlement. In particular, knowledge
and understanding of the specificities of the Welsh settlement
has too often been poor. There is an absence of a strong centre
at the heart of the UK which is managing the complexities of the
devolution process. In this report we have identified the need
for remedial action in the following areas.
186. At ministerial level, the Joint Ministerial
Council needs to maintain its momentum as a serious body where
the problems and opportunities of devolution can be addressed
and kept at the heart of the governmental process. Ministers at
all levels also have the duty to be alert to the impact of policy
and legislation which they propose on the devolved jurisdictions.
187. The Civil Service needs to remind itself of
the significance of devolution, and ensure that it has equipped
itself to address devolution aspects of all parts of its work.
It needs more consistent training, it needs a clear department-by-department
focus on developing and retaining a knowledge and understanding
of devolution, and it needs to invest in making the settlement
work. The devolved administrations are not just another set of
Whitehall departments and the Civil Service needs to recognise
188. Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales
also need to play their parts in maintaining the effectiveness
of the settlement, through scrutiny and co-operation. The settlement
could be strengthened by clearer statements of the discretion
afforded to Ministers and by proper channels of formal communication
being established. The role of the Secretary of State in promoting
legislation relating to the devolution settlement should be more
189. The financial settlement constituted by the
Barnett formula does not seem to us to be guaranteed to be sustainable.
It needs to be built on an agreed and enduring basis which is
demonstrably fair and takes into account the particular circumstances
190. We have recommended a number of structural changes,
but it must not be forgotten that the effective operation of the
settlement will be best ensured by mutual knowledge and understanding.
Elected politicians, Ministers, civil servants and officials of
the two legislatures should all be encouraged and expected to
contribute to the building of an effective relationship.
191. The devolution settlement has worked, but it
could work better. Over the coming decade it may come under strain.
We hope that the recommendations we have made in this report will
contribute to the effective maintenance of the UK's new constitution.