The United Kingdom has been put at risk by tactical misjudgments and constitutional tinkering for political advantage. The Conservatives, Labour and the Scottish nationalists have all been opposed to the creation of a Scottish Parliament in my lifetime. They have changed their positions for reasons of political expediency rather than principle and have sought to amend the constitutional position to suit themselves. Alex Salmond was opposed to devolution and the creation of a Scottish Parliament with limited powers but changed his mind when he decided that it could be a Trojan horse to destroy the United Kingdom. Sadly, my Labour opponent is not in his place. As a friend, I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. When I was Secretary of State, he was my shadow. He predicted that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead. Labour thought that it would enable the left to keep the Conservatives out of power in Scotland and that they could devise a complex voting system which would ensure that no one party could dominate the Scottish Parliament. They adopted the language of nationalism, branding the Conservatives as anti-Scottish, arguing that the Conservatives had no mandate to govern in Scotland and denouncing our policies as Anglicisation. Even today, Labour MSPs have not learnt the foolishness of their actions because I see them in the newspapers contemptuously referring to their Scottish colleagues as Westminster Labour.

In 2011 the nationalists won an “impossible” overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 69 seats on a manifesto that pledged an illegal referendum on independence. So much for devolution killing nationalism stone dead. Westminster had no choice but to grant it, but had delayed grasping the issue for too long. Gordon Brown as Prime Minister crushed a proposal to hold a referendum in 2008 from the Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander.

In the final few days of the referendum campaign, after many people, including me, had already voted by post, an opinion poll which had eliminated the “don’t knows”—who turned out to be the “no but won’t says”—put the separatists in the lead. The three unionist party leaders panicked and published a joint statement—not a vow—in an exclusive for a tabloid newspaper, pledging more undefined powers to the Scottish Parliament. This was done by three privy counsellors

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without consulting Parliament and, we now learn, without even consulting their party leadership in Scotland. Not since Henry VIII have we had laws enacted by proclamation, even by such distinguished figures as Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and the Prime Minister. There have been several references to a vow during this debate. The statement was turned into a vow by the newspaper’s headline writer. It proclaimed:

“We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably”—

as the noble Lord pointed out—

“across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen. And because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament”.

It is, of course, complete gobbledygook.

The Barnett allocation, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, pointed out, gives Scotland an extra £1 per person for roughly every £5 spent in the rest of the UK and is not based on need. A commitment, such as in this so-called vow, to share resources equitably would mean ending Barnett and would leave an enormous black hole in Scotland’s block grant. We have just won the argument in the referendum campaign that even if Scotland had all tax revenues she would be utterly dependent on the oil price or very much higher taxes just to maintain the status quo. Similarly, Barnett gives Scotland roughly 10% of any increases in expenditure decided at Westminster, and any allocation in respect of the NHS will be determined there, not in Scotland. When water was privatised in England, the block grant was reduced and the funds required to maintain it in public ownership came from the allocations to other services.

These promised new powers and the funding arrangements are not thought through; nor are the consequences for the rest of the United Kingdom which had no say in the referendum. The reason given for having no devo-max question was that it was a matter for the UK as a whole while independence was for Scotland to decide. With a general election due next May, the necessary legislation cannot be put through Parliament and there is no time to find an agreed solution which will bind the United Kingdom together and ensure fairness for each of its constituent four nations. Once again, political expediency is playing its part in handing the game over to the separatists.

The way forward must command support in every corner of the United Kingdom. The fact that 45% of the voters in Scotland on a turnout of 85% were prepared to abandon Britain cannot be ignored or fixed by more asymmetric devolution. Nor can the remedy be left in the hands of political parties. A constitutional convention drawn from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and involving central, devolved and local government as well as civic society could address the issue of funding, the role of the Westminster Parliament, regional issues and the central purpose and benefits of a United Kingdom. This is not just a matter for Scotland but one for the British people as a whole if the United Kingdom is to be secured on sound foundations for the next 300 years.

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9.12 pm

Lord Elder (Lab): My Lords, moving as we are towards the end of a long debate, I start by wishing the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, well and his fellow committee members the best of luck. I say that as someone who spent eight years, I think, on the Scottish Constitutional Convention, most of them on its Executive, who was in the Scottish Office at the time of the White Paper and Bill and who, more recently, was on the Calman commission, so I kind of know the course.

I want to make a couple of general points. First, I suggest very strongly that we take care with the language we use in discussing further devolution. In the years running up to 1997, when we were talking about devolution we said that everything was reserved and then published a long—an increasingly long—list of things that were to be devolved. That was reversed in the 1998 Act, which says that everything is devolved except a much shorter list of central powers that are to be reserved. The issue is not just what powers we need to devolve—I am, of course, prepared to look at further powers to be devolved—but what powers we need to retain if the union, which was backed in the referendum by a substantial majority, is to be upheld. The SNP will always want more powers. We should be more careful, as was Scotland in the referendum vote.

Some of the more extreme suggestions—devolving all income tax, VAT, social security—look to be ending the union by the back door. If all that is left is defence and foreign affairs, and perhaps a residual and declining Barnett formula, then the Scottish people will feel that they have got rather less than they expected. The SNP of course wants to become a member of NATO, a nuclear-backed alliance, though it does not want to have anything to do with nuclear weapons. The fear is that, if we end up with this further great swathe of economic powers being devolved in some way, the majority in the referendum will feel hugely and rightly let down.

There has always been a school of thought in Scotland that you could stifle independence by granting more powers to the Scottish Parliament. That has always seemed to me to be flawed. If you argue for more powers in all circumstances, then you are actually arguing for independence, but with a slightly longer timetable—and that is not what Scotland voted for.

Secondly, I note the very tight timetable that is being followed by the new Commission. I wonder whether we might be in a better position if the same degree of urgency had been shown about the introduction of the Calman proposals, particularly those about tax. I declare an interest both as a member of the Calman commission and as someone who had a heavy hand in these tax proposals.

The commission reported in June 2009 and I believe that the tax changes are going to be introduced in 2016-17. These are substantial powers, and I should have liked to have seen how they might have changed the argument, had they been introduced rather more quickly. It is after all one of the ironies of devolution to Scotland that the income tax powers in the Scotland Act, backed by the people of Scotland in a separate referendum question, were allowed to lapse, not because they were not in the interests of the people of Scotland—

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who had voted for them explicitly—but because they did not fit well with the very narrow party aims of the SNP.

I hope the day will come when the debate in Scotland is not about more powers alone, but that we will move on to the vastly more important point of what is to be done with the powers that are there. For goodness’ sake, let us get back to the business of health and education policy, the power of local government, and all the rest. That is what is now needed.

9.17 pm

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, this has been a powerful debate, with some very powerful speeches made by some very powerful speakers. It would take me too long to go through every single one of them but particular mention must be made of the former Secretaries of State for Scotland, my noble friend Lady Liddell of Coatdyke and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, as well as of the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton.

I share the view of a number of noble Lords that the most dangerous time was not before the referendum. I believe that the most dangerous time is now. If we do not handle this collectively, if we do not handle it properly in a collegiate way, it will lead to an inevitable separation and a separate Scotland. The word “Westminster” has become an epithet—an insult. This has been contributed to by Mr Farage and by Mr Salmond. There is a disengagement between the so-called establishment parties and the public. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, mentioned this disengagement in the context of Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. The paradox is that, in Scotland, more people turn out for Westminster elections than they do for Scottish Parliament elections, so there is a quandary there.

More powers are guaranteed for Scotland within the agreement. Although a lot of people do not like this or that power promised in the vow, as it has come to be known, if we do not deliver on it, we are guaranteed trouble. More powers for Scotland are guaranteed, regardless of what the SNP says. We guaranteed these collectively during the referendum campaign and we must deliver on that. My party has always led on devolution and we will engage with the Smith commission in a spirit of openness and partnership with the other political parties. As has been mentioned, it is a good thing for the Scottish National Party to be involved in that.

There are a couple of things that I have been confused about all night. There have been constant attacks on the Barnett formula, and it has been stated by some very knowledgeable people that it is not based on need. Since I came into politics, although I have not studied the Barnett formula—I would not want to be up all night—I have always been told that it is based on need, and in Scotland's case that it is based partly on the geographical nature and the large physical area of Scotland. There is a new gospel out, but I certainly believed that that was part of the calculation, along with the lower incomes in Scotland and social factors. The Barnett formula has been a great boon to Scotland, because it shares the resources of the United Kingdom

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with a poorer part of the country. However, I accept that there is concern about the democratic deficit, and I think that there is merit in that. I am not a mathematician but, surely, if the Scottish Parliament collects more of its own spending, there is a hope that the Barnett formula—but before I can finish, the gloom and doom merchant from Drumlean is shaking his head at me. He is starting to intimidate me. In the fullness of time, I hope that the Barnett formula can be a less important consideration in the overall look, especially in financial matters.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: The Barnett formula quite simply, as far as Wales is concerned, is a multiplication of departmental spending from the departments devolved to Wales by the population, which is 5.3% of the United Kingdom. That is where the money comes from; it has nothing at all to do with need.

Lord McAvoy: As I said, if you started to debate the ins and outs of the Barnett formula, we would be here a long time. I am being honest in telling your Lordships' House that my understanding of the formula since I came into politics was always that it was based on need.

I want to address the serious question of EVEL. If we get to the stage that there are two classes of Members of Parliament, it will come across as trying to take party advantage of a situation. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, mentioned the Northern Ireland situation. I do not recall the Labour Party in my time in the House of Commons making too much of the fact that there were Ulster Unionist MPs who more or less voted with the Conservatives, because my party and I took the view that that anomaly was worth carrying for the sake of the United Kingdom. I do not recall the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean or Lord Blencathra, or other Conservative Peers, mentioning the injustice of that situation all those years ago. So they seem to be a bit picky about it. There is a danger that that sort of seemingly political calculation by the Conservative Party could ruin its approach to the Smith commission.

My party supports a royal commission and a constitutional convention, because it is clear that we have to establish a mode of operation through the entire United Kingdom that will be settled, will last and endure and will be of value to all the people of the United Kingdom.

9.23 pm

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, the House has heard a very important and comprehensive range of contributions on complex and interlinked constitutional issues. I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to hear such a range of views and perspectives from all parts of our United Kingdom; it has been very important to hear views not just from Scotland but from England, north and south, as well as from Wales and Northern Ireland.

I was delighted to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, in his maiden speech. I understand that he is not only a Newcastle United fan but a participant in the Great North Run. No doubt

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that will allow him the stamina to take part in debates that go on for the best part of six hours. He summed up a recurring theme of our debate when he talked about the disconnect between politicians and voters that needed to be reduced. He entertained us and he informed us, and I know that the House looks forward very much to his contributions to your Lordships’ House in the future.

As noble Lords will have heard, the issues considered in this debate fall into three broad categories. The first relates to Scotland and the fulfilment of the joint commitment by the three party leaders to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament in light of the referendum no vote. The second category of issues relates to how to ensure that power is properly devolved and decentralised to all the nations, communities and individuals who comprise all parts of our United Kingdom. The third, separately but rightly—not as an alternative to devolution within England—considers how we might address the so-called West Lothian question, which has come about as a consequence of devolving power to specific parts of the United Kingdom.

I will address first the issue of the referendum in Scotland. It was legal and fair in its conduct and decisive in its outcome. It is important that we reflect on the points made by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, who highlighted the appalling treatment of Nick Robinson in a country which ought to take pride in the freedom of the press and of the media. My noble friends Lord Stephen and Lord Forsyth also highlighted some of the many real problems that were encountered during the referendum. We should not lose sight of these when we think of what kind of Scotland we want to see in the future.

Some noble Lords questioned the fact that the Scottish Parliament devised the referendum. It was important that the referendum was, as it were, made in Scotland. In its immediate aftermath, we heard today of the conspiracy theories that counters at polling stations were filling in blank ballot papers. If the referendum had been devised at Westminster, the view that it was all a trick and a conspiracy would still be echoing loud and clear. The referendum was devised by the Scottish Government—they had everything going for them, and they lost. That is what makes the result decisive.

The people of Scotland expect that the interests of 100% of Scotland within the United Kingdom are taken forward. No one is under any illusion that a no vote was a vote for the status quo or that, somehow or other, we are out of the woods. As the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, said—I think he spoke for many of us, myself included—our relief has been suffused with anxiety. As the noble Lord said, we are all seeking to achieve a strong and lasting settlement across the United Kingdom.

That is what we intend to do. The vow made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition has already been put into practice. My noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas sought the reassurance that that would be adhered to. Even those who contributed to your Lordships’ debate, who were sceptical about the commitments made,

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nevertheless all agreed that it was essential that that promise is honoured. It has been honoured. The Command Paper setting out the parties’ positions was due by the end of October. In fact, it was published two weeks ago. It is continuing to be honoured with the work of the Smith commission. It will be honoured because we have undertaken that the heads of agreement, which we look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, announcing, will be taken forward with clauses by Burns Night.

Equally, the Scottish National Party should remember the statements it made ahead of the referendum that it expected it to be a once-in-a generation or once-in-a lifetime event. Nicola Sturgeon, whom I congratulate on becoming, as she will become, the First Minister of Scotland, said one year ahead of the referendum—on 18 September 2013—that this was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for Scotland. If our parties are expected to honour commitments, the least we can expect is that the Scottish National Party will honour its commitment to the people of Scotland that this is for once in a generation.

The commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, was up and running on 19 September. His terms of reference make it clear that the recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom. Last week, he convened the first meeting of cross-party talks to reach agreement on proposals for further devolution. All 10 nominees from each of the represented political parties attended. The noble Lord has said that they have,

“committed to work together to achieve a positive outcome to this process”.

The noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Foulkes, emphasised the importance of this being, as it were, a principles-based approach rather than a horse-trading approach. I believe that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Smith, indicated after that first meeting. The parties have agreed a set of principles which include, but are by no means limited to, forming a substantial and cohesive package of powers, enabling the delivery of outcomes that are meaningful to the people of Scotland, and strengthening the Scottish devolution settlement and the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom, including the Parliament’s levels of financial accountability. The noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and my noble friend Lord Glasgow, sought an express assurance that that would be within the context of the United Kingdom honouring the outcome of the referendum. There is also a principle that it will not cause detriment to the United Kingdom as a whole nor to any of its constituent parts.

However, this process is not just about the parties. The referendum saw an opening up of civic engagement, and the noble Lord, Lord Smith, has made it clear that he wants to hear from all the various groups to ensure that the recommendations that he produces are informed by views from right across Scottish society. By St Andrew’s Day, he intends to publish heads of agreement. As I have indicated, the Government are committed to turning these recommendations into draft clauses by Burns Night 2015. It is a demanding

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timetable but that is because the demand is there, in Scotland, to see change delivered, and it is a demand that we intend to meet.

Scotland will have further powers but we believe that that must be within the context of Scotland being a part of the United Kingdom. It must not start to unravel the fabric that binds us together, because that would be a denial of the outcome of the referendum. However, I very much share the view expressed by the noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Elder, that the exercise of these powers is vital to the whole range of devolved responsibilities. It would be very refreshing to get the political debate back on to how we improve education, health, transport, agriculture, sport and local government in Scotland.

Not surprisingly, the question of funding was raised. I certainly take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, who referred to the “ATM approach”—a point reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard—where there has been spending by the Scottish Parliament without responsibility for raising the funding. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed highlighted that fiscal responsibility gap. One of the objects of those who served on the Calman commission—as I did, along with my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas, and the noble Lord, Lord Elder—was to address that and to ensure that there was greater accountability for spending. Therefore, with the additional tax powers come additional responsibility and accountability.

We have been clear as a Government that the act of devolution in and of itself should not result in a change in the budget, but it is important to note that this is also one of the key principles highlighted by the Smith commission. However, we have been equally clear—this addresses a point raised by my noble friend Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market—that if decisions are taken by the Scottish Government which result in a lower tax yield than the current arrangements, the Scottish Government will have to take spending decisions in line with that reduced tax yield. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, will put me right on this but I think that the Azores judgment means that where tax is fully devolved and there is a shortfall, it cannot be topped up.

The noble Lords, Lord Blencathra and Lord McAvoy, made the point that, as more tax-raising powers are devolved, the amount of money transferred to Scotland under the Barnett formula will decline.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Can my noble friend just deal with the point in the so-called vow where it says that our resources will be shared,

“equitably across all four nations”?

How is that consistent with keeping Barnett? Can he also deal with the notion that, by giving the Scottish Parliament more tax-raising powers, Barnett can be phased out? If the tax base in Scotland is lower than the uplift in the Barnett formula, compared to the average for the United Kingdom, how will that gap be filled?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, an important issue which was always there but was articulated well, not least by the former Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, in the latter stages, was the notion of the social

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union; the equitable arrangement within our United Kingdom where, if one part of the kingdom is thriving, there is a transfer of resources to a part that is not doing so well. That is one of the important things that binds our United Kingdom together and I see that as an equitable distribution of resources within it.

Lord Turnbull: I query why a country which claims to be more prosperous than the United Kingdom as a whole is the recipient of the highest transfer compared with Wales, which is the poorest part but receives a much lower transfer. That cannot be equitable.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, quoted very accurately the words used in the statement in the Daily Record. As I indicated to my noble friend Lord Forsyth, with all his success in getting more money, it is the base line that is applied. With regard to Wales, it is understood and recognised—

Lord Purvis of Tweed: If the Minister will give way I will, for the information of the House, quote from the public expenditure statistical analysis by the Treasury in 2013 which shows that in 2008-09 the DEL resource grant, which may well be considered the transfer, was 7.7% of all of the grants for that year. The plans for 2015-16 are 7.96%, which is below the population share for Scotland. The point has been made about how you would balance that grant with the further tax powers. This is the work of the fiscal federalism principles of looking over a 10-year profile over economic cycles to make sure it is a balanced and fair proposal. The Strathclyde commission did it; the Liberal Democrat commission did it. There is work being done to inform this quite considerably.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, with respect to my noble friend who I know has studied it in great detail, I hesitate before going down the line of a 10-year fiscal federalism profile. I was about to answer the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, with regard to the Supreme Court. The Scottish National Party has made a specific proposal. It would be wrong to second guess the Smith commission, but on the noble and learned Lord’s point about the role of the Supreme Court, if you have got a single market you should have a common set of principles and legal interpretation. This is very important and, as he will be well aware, both my own department and the Scottish Government established working groups during the passage of the Scotland Act 2012 to look at the role of the Supreme Court with regard to devolution issues. These are now compatibility issues and I hope that the Smith commission will have regard to that work, as both working groups reached very similar conclusions. I hope that gives some reassurance to the noble Lord.

The commitment to deliver further powers for Scotland is of course in keeping with this Government’s record in decentralising power. As my noble friend the Leader of the House has indicated, this Government have made huge progress in devolving both responsibility and funding for schemes to a local level. Local enterprise partnerships and the ambitious city deals programme,

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which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, are clear examples of our commitment to empowering local leaders to take decisions which best fit local circumstances and needs.

That is a demonstration of open-mindedness about how more powers might be devolved. We certainly do not believe that power should be hoarded at the centre but that it should be devolved to the nations, communities and individuals that will benefit from it. I was struck, in the course of our debate, by the very important contributions from those with a rich experience in local government: the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Leigh and Lord Beecham, and my noble friends Lord Shipley and Lord Tope. They shared very constructive ideas with your Lordships’ House as to how we might improve existing arrangements, what new ones might be made and how powers might be used more imaginatively in our communities, our cities and those parts of the country which are not immediately connected with a major city. That is clearly an agenda which must be pursued as we go forward examining a whole range of constitutional issues.

With regard to other devolution of power within England, my noble friend Lord Dobbs referred to Walter Scott and the path to the Highlands and the danger for an Englishman. Treading into devolution for England by a Scotsman is almost as dangerous. I always tread very carefully indeed. From what was said this evening, it is very clear that this is something which should be addressed. As I indicated earlier, this is not an alternative to the so-called EVEL; it is a both/and rather than an either/or.

As my noble friend Lord Greaves, the northern home-ruler, said, there is no consensus in England as to where we might go. There must be an opportunity for further debate. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, made a very clear case for greater devolution within England. He said that the regions of England had to be consulted as to where they might go. There are proponents of regional government throughout England. There are difficult issues over the possibility of the creation of extra layers of government. There have been advocates of a separate English Parliament, although that raises questions over location and composition, and whether it would be any more decentralised than the present arrangements. While in Scotland there was a settled role of the Scottish Parliament, the picture in England is less clear. My noble friend Lord Tyler indicated that my own party advocates provisions of flexible and responsive devolution on demand. There is a wider debate to be had. My noble friend Lord Shipley set out a strong, healthy agenda for such a debate.

Lord Blencathra: The latest polls show that 78% of people in England favour English votes for English laws. That seems fairly like consensus to me.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I was coming on to the question of English votes for English laws. I do not believe that English votes for English laws is an answer to the whole question of devolution within England; I think that that point is accepted. As my noble friend

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Lord Tope said, it is not a question of if—it must be a question of how. Moving on to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and numerous contributors to the debate with regard to English votes for English laws, I was going to say, “Over the last few weeks,” but my noble friend Lord Macgregor reminded us that the issue was live when he entered the House of Commons in 1974 and my noble friend Lord Lexden reminded us that it was live when Mr Gladstone and Joseph Chamberlain were in the House of Commons. This matter has generated debate and questions for well over a century. The welcome transfer of powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the London Assembly, and the prospect of further devolution have created not just an anomaly but a complex one. The asymmetric devolution of powers to these bodies makes the issue of which MPs’ constituents are affected by which laws a highly varied one. It is not a simple question with an easy answer, but we nevertheless should seek an answer, as my noble friend Lord Macgregor said. It is a question of fairness.

Each of the three main UK parties in the United Kingdom Parliament has expressed its views on the West Lothian question. This House has considered the issue. We have had the views of the McKay commission and reports such that of the democracy taskforce. My right honourable friend David Laws has noted that a grand committee should be appointed proportionately to vet laws that will apply only in England, joined by Welsh MPs when matters affecting Wales are debated.

The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, mentioned that Bills have a territorial extent. I know that my own Office of the Advocate General looks at all Bills with regard to whether legislative consent Motions will be required in Scotland. It can be complex. The Marine and Coastal Access Bill in which I took part is an example that was referred to by my noble friend Lord Greaves. Although my noble friend Lord Blencathra said that it could be relatively easy, I remember when the legislation was going through the House of Commons with regard to the increase of tuition fees under the Labour Government. When that passed, I was the Minister with responsibility for higher education in Scotland and I knew full well that that had far-reaching consequences for Scotland, which led to the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005. It is not always easy. This matter deserves careful consideration.


Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The noble and learned Lord is absolutely right. Will he deal with the point that I raised that, for more than 300 years, until 1999, all Scottish legislation—on education, on health and on the legal system—was dealt with by this Parliament by a majority of English, Welsh and Northern Irish Members?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The noble Lord is right. That was one of the reasons we established the Scottish Parliament. It is a matter which I think ought to be addressed—and far better that it be addressed where there is cross-party working and consensus-forming. That was the basis on which we established the devolved Administrations, and I do hope we can work on a cross-party basis to address this important issue as well.

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: On the EVEL issue, is the noble and learned Lord content—I do not wish to try to put fissures in the coalition—that the committee that has been set up by Mr William Hague, of which the noble Baroness is a member, is a committee of people from Westminster behind closed doors looking for a quick-fix solution? Is the noble and learned Lord himself content with that as a way forward?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, my experience is that Cabinet committees tend to be that. They are Cabinet committees. However, as we have experienced in this debate, the debate is not confined to those members of the committee. It would be very helpful if there were contributions from not just the two coalition parties, which, as the noble Baroness points out, are not entirely at one in this, as the article by my right honourable friend David Laws has shown. It would be very healthy if we had views, not only from the other political parties but others as well.

Lord Cormack: I am extremely grateful to my noble and learned friend. A variety of views on English laws have been expressed in the debate. But surely one message has come through very clearly: people do not want to rush this. Many people who have made this point have also said that this is an appropriate subject for a commission or a convention.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, we are not just going to park it. I was coming on to the very point that my noble friend makes about the convention. I have a whole list here—I am not going to read it out—of noble Lords who have talked about a convention—that constitutional change should be achieved through a convention. I make it clear that the Government will consider proposals for the establishment of such a convention because, while debate is needed in both Houses, it is important that we engage with the public as well. We should not simply be continuing our constitution behind closed doors, if that is what the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition was suggesting. We must listen to other people’s views and opinions on this. The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, and my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford said it should not be a top-down approach. Many of us would accept that view.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I know that the noble and learned Lord wishes to finish, but, that being the case, that the Government are open to having a constitutional convention, which is extremely welcome, why is it that they are bent on taking a decision on EVEL before the general election and before a constitutional convention has been set up?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: A view has to be taken on some issues. My noble friend Lord Maclennan has been an advocate of a constitutional convention probably longer than anyone else I can recall. He was perhaps suggesting that the proposals that might emanate from the Smith commission should go to a constitutional convention. I believe there are some things which cannot wait and to try to do that would give rise to

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allegations of bad faith. We have heard in our debate a whole range of issues which a constitutional convention should raise. My noble friend Lord Steel talked about the role of the second Chamber. Should it be a second Chamber that reflects the different regions and nations of the United Kingdom? The noble Baroness herself mentioned votes at 16, which would be an important constitutional change, one which, again, I think is ripe for debate. It is important that we respond to the suggestions and concerns raised. Our structures need to be responsive to that.

In conclusion, the United Kingdom is the strongest family of nations the world has ever seen. My noble friend Lord Thomas reminded us of what Mr. Gladstone said—that home rule must be in the heart as well as in the law. Many of us feel that it is something that is in our DNA and in our hearts. Together we have made remarkable discoveries and inventions, delivered changes that have improved the lives of citizens not just in the United Kingdom but globally. Together we have one of the most stable currencies in the world. Through

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our strong internal trade links, we create jobs across the United Kingdom. Together, we make our savings and our pensions more secure. These are valuable things. They should perhaps have been said better and more often during the campaign, but I think that they did actually get through. We must remember that the people of Scotland at the end of the day voted to remain together in the United Kingdom. It is important that we engage not only the people of Scotland as we go forward but that we recognise that the referendum campaign threw up some important issues, not least the disconnect that so often exists between the people and those in power. That is an important issue that has to be addressed.

I am sure that we agree that we should try to do this with the maximum degree of consensus. Perhaps the watchword for us all is to deliver a strong and lasting solution for all the United Kingdom.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 9.50 pm.