APPENDIX 3: CALL FOR EVIDENCE |
The House of Lords Constitution Committee, chaired
by Lord Lang of Monkton, is conducting an inquiry on inter-governmental
relations between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved
The Committee invites interested organisations and
individuals to submit written evidence to the inquiry.
The deadline for written evidence submissions is
5pm on Thursday 15 January 2015. Public hearings will be held
in January and early February 2015. The Committee will report
to the House in spring 2015, prior to the dissolution of Parliament.
Following the Scottish electorate's vote to remain
part of the United Kingdom, the UK Government established the
Smith Commission to produce cross-party agreement on further devolution
of powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Smith Commission's proposals
were published on 27 November 2014 and are expected to be reflected
in a new Scotland Bill after the 2015 general election. Draft
clauses for that bill are due to be published by the Government
by the end of January 2015.
The proposals of the Smith Commission raise a number
of important constitutional issues. Given the limited time available
before Parliament is dissolved on 30 March 2015 in preparation
for the general election, the Committee has decided to focus in
this inquiry on inter-governmental relations between the UK Government
and the devolved administrations. The Committee hopes to consider
and comment upon the draft clauses due to be published by the
Government implementing the recommendations of the Smith Commission
when these are available, and expects to return to the subject
of devolution in greater depth in the next Parliament.
The relationship between the UK Government and the
devolved administrations is currently maintained through a mixture
of formal mechanisms (set out in a Memorandum of Understanding)
and informal contact. Some of these mechanisms are quadrilateral
with representatives from the UK Government and the devolved administrations
in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; others are bilateral
and governed by a series of concordats between UK Government departments
and each devolved administration.
Inquiries by parliamentary select committees (including
our own) and independent
commissions have highlighted deficiencies in current inter-governmental
arrangements. The Smith Commission stated that "the current
inter-governmental machinery between the Scottish and UK Governments,
must be reformed as a matter of urgency". It recommended
a new Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Government and
the devolved administrations, new sub-committees for the quadrilateral
Joint Ministerial Committee, and improvements to dispute-resolution
arrangements. The Smith Commission also echoed earlier calls for
greater transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of these arrangements.
The Committee invites evidence on how inter-governmental
relations in the UK can be improved. While our primary focus will
be on Scotland, in light of the proposed new powers for the Scottish
Parliament, we also welcome evidence on UK-wide quadrilateral
arrangements and the UK Government's relations with the Welsh
Government and Northern Ireland Executive. The Committee is also
interested in whether and how the UK Parliament can best scrutinise
and hold ministers to account over these inter-governmental relationships.
The focus of the Committee's inquiry is inter-governmental
relations between the UK Government and the devolved administrations:
the Committee is not seeking to address the issue of which powers
should or should not be devolved.
The committee welcomes written submissions on any
aspect of this topic, and particularly on the following questions:
1. How can existing arrangements for inter-governmental
relations be improved, particularly in light of the further devolution
of powers (under the Scotland Act 2012, the Wales Bill and the
further commitments made by the Government during its passage,
and the recommendations of the Smith Commission)? Are new inter-governmental
mechanisms required, particularly in the light of further fiscal
devolution, including tax-raising powers?
2. To what extent do the current inter-governmental
structures promote proactive co-operation, rather than simply
acting as a means of dispute resolution? How could they be improved
in this regard? To what extent is the scope for cooperation limited
by policy and party differences between the devolved administrations,
and between those administrations and the United Kingdom Government?
3. What is the appropriate balance between formal
mechanisms and informal relationships?
4. To what extent should inter-governmental mechanisms
comprise bilateral arrangements, as opposed to those including
all four administrations?
5. How should inter-governmental mechanisms cope
with the asymmetrical development of devolution within the UK?
6. Should any elements of inter-governmental
relations be set out in legislation, or should they remain non-statutory?
What are the advantages and risks of statutory mechanisms?
7. How can the UK Parliament best scrutinise
and hold to account both formal and informal inter-governmental
relations between the UK Government and devolved administrations?
Are there lessons to be learned from the devolved legislatures?
8. Should the role of the territorial Secretaries
of State and their departments be altered in light of the further
devolution of powers? If so, how?
You need not address all the questions. The Committee
would welcome other relevant views of which you think the Committee
should be aware, and in particular examples of good and bad practice
in this area.
290 Constitution Committee, Devolution: Inter-institutional relations in the United Kingdom
(2nd Report; Session 2002-03, HL Paper 28) Back