Wales and Whitehall - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents


7  Conclusion

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.

INTER-GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS

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.

CIVIL SERVICE

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 this.

LEGISLATIVE ARRANGEMENTS

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 transparent.

FINANCE

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 of Wales.

EFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS

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.


 
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Prepared 26 March 2010