The Union and devolution Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations


1.The four nations of the United Kingdom are stronger united than apart. The Union has brought stability, peace and prosperity to the United Kingdom. (Paragraph 3)

What is the Union?

2.The Union has the support of a majority of people in each of its constituent nations. (Paragraph 28)

3.Decision-makers in all four nations have a duty to recognise popular support for the continuance of the Union and to work constructively to ensure that the Union operates as effectively as possible for the benefit of everyone in the United Kingdom. (Paragraph 29)

Key elements of the Union

4.The Union reflects the unity and diversity that makes up the United Kingdom. It is made up of nations, regions and people with a strong shared history and culture, and yet with distinctive local or national identities. The five key elements we have identified—the economic union, the social union, the political union, the cultural union and the security and defence union—collectively provide advantages to the constituent nations of the UK that go beyond what each could achieve on its own and unite the people from all four nations as citizens of one country. (Paragraph 71)

5.Core values are shared across the United Kingdom. These include democracy, equality, personal liberty and the rule of law. These values are not unique to the UK, but they are intrinsic to the Union, rooted in history, and are widely shared by the people and institutions of all four nations. They contribute to what could be said to be a sixth union—one of attitudes and beliefs, of emotional loyalty and a sense of belonging, especially in troubled times. (Paragraph 85)

6.The core features of the economic union are the single market with a single currency and single fiscal and macroeconomic framework. It provides all citizens of the UK with a large and diverse market and international influence; and it protects individual nations and regions of the UK against economic shocks. (Paragraph 46)

7.The fundamental principle of the social union is the pooling of common funds at a UK level which are then expended on the basis of need, on a UK-wide basis. The social union is a manifestation of the solidarity that sees the people of the Union collectively support each other, no matter where in the UK they reside. (Paragraph 56)

8.The political union is embodied in the sovereign UK Parliament and the UK Government, which represent and act on behalf of the whole United Kingdom. The UK Government provides a single voice for the UK internationally, with more influence than any individual nation in the Union would have. The political union also recognises the importance of accommodating distinctive national identities, manifested by the devolved institutions that represent the citizens of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Paragraph 60)

9.The cultural union is found in the connections between people across the UK. It includes the bonds of family and kin that ignore national boundaries and that have developed over generations. It is perpetuated by our common language and common institutions—such as the NHS, the BBC and the monarchy—and in the shared heritage and history of the country. (Paragraph 66)

10.The security and defence union is represented by the British Armed Forces—the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force—and the UK security services. The UK also has a single borders and immigration policy. (Paragraph 69)

11.The five elements that we have identified combine to allow the nations of the Union to work together as a single state. They allow for the expression of discrete national identities within the Union, while providing a structure within which all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom can support each other and work towards common objectives and ideals. (Paragraph 77)

12.Whilst the way these elements are expressed has changed, and will undoubtedly continue to change, over time, we consider that ending or substantially weakening the Union in any of these respects would cause grave damage to the Union as a whole. (Paragraph 78)

Risks to the Union

The cumulative impact of devolution on the Union

13.While the UK constitution has proved flexible and resilient over the centuries, it recently faced a serious existential threat in the form of a referendum on Scottish independence. We regret that Oliver Letwin MP, the responsible Government minister, does not recognise the concerns expressed by this Committee and many others at the pressures being placed on the UK constitution by the manner in which the devolution of powers has taken place, and continues to take place, with little consideration of the status and needs of the Union. (Paragraph 98)

14.There is no evidence of strategic thinking in the past about the development of devolution. There has been no guiding strategy or framework of principles to ensure that devolution develops in a coherent or consistent manner and in ways which do not harm the Union. Instead, successive Governments have responded individually to demands from each nation. Devolution has thus developed in an ad hoc fashion, with different constitutional conversations taking place separately in different parts of the country. (Paragraph 99)

15.We do not share the confidence expressed by Mr Letwin that all the pieces for a stable constitutional settlement are in place. Once the forthcoming Wales Bill has completed its passage through Parliament, we recommend that the UK Government commission a thorough evaluation of the impact on the Union and its constituent nations of the cumulative effect of the devolution settlements and its plans for decentralisation within England. (Paragraph 100)

16.The UK Government needs fundamentally to reassess how it approaches issues relating to devolution. What affects one constituent part of the UK affects both the Union and the other nations within the UK. Devolution needs to be viewed through the lens of the Union, with appropriate consideration given to the needs of, and consequences for, the Union as a whole. We recommend how this might be achieved in Chapter 5. (Paragraph 101)

The allocation of resources within the United Kingdom

17.We support the principle of fiscal responsibility. However, increasing the fiscal powers of the devolved institutions will present risks to the redistributive role of the Union. The greater the amount of revenue raised and spent locally, the less scope for the allocation of resources on the basis of need by central government. This allocation is vitally important to ensure that the social union is supported by a pooling and sharing of resources across the whole UK. In our view, to perpetuate the use of the Barnett Formula, which takes no account of relative need, makes a mockery of the Government’s duty to ensure a fair distribution of resources across the UK. (Paragraph 116)

18.We recommend that the UK Government reconsider its use of the inadequate Barnett formula and establish a mechanism that takes into account the relative needs of different nations and regions in allocating funds. (Paragraph 117)

19.Devolving responsibility for welfare risks damaging the common, UK-wide welfare system that is a key element of the social union. (Paragraph 120)

20.Where powers relating to the welfare system are to be devolved, the UK Government should retain the ability to ensure a minimum level of provision. The shared-responsibility model established in the Scotland Act 2016 may provide a useful template, whereby a devolved government may supplement from its own resources (but not reduce) a UK-wide level of welfare support. (Paragraph 126)

21.Political barriers make it impracticable for the UK Government to attempt to impose minimum provision for public services in policy areas which have already been devolved. Should any currently reserved powers be devolved in the future, the UK Government should address the case for introducing UK-wide minimum provision in policy areas that affect an individual’s rights and entitlements. (Paragraph 130)

Diverging policy and service delivery choices

22.Policy difference is an inherent consequence of devolution: indeed it is part of the point of devolving power. However, it creates a risk of real or perceived unfairness in respect of differing levels of service provision or government support which can be damaging to social solidarity. The public should be clear why policy differences exist and who is responsible, so that the appropriate politicians can be held to account for their decisions at the ballot box. (Paragraph 141)

The cultural union and emotional affinity

23.We consider that the BBC and other public service broadcasters play an important role in maintaining a common British identity. By providing a shared source of culture and information, they act as a unifying force within the Union. It is vitally important that independent public sector broadcasters continue to provide a common UK-wide service in addition to regional and local coverage, particularly in relation to topics such as news and current affairs. (Paragraph 153)

Principles underlying the Union and devolution

24.We disagree with the view that setting out general principles to underpin consideration of the Union and devolution would be unproductive. There is a strong case for creating a flexible framework, based on appropriate principles, as a guide to future action within which any further demands for devolution can be considered in a coherent manner. This would help to ensure that such considerations take into account the interests of the Union and of all four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, rather than proceeding in the reactive, ad hoc manner in which devolution has been managed to date. A guiding set of principles, while not prescriptive and still less absolute, would provide a yardstick against which the current devolution settlements, and any proposals for further devolution, could be measured and appraised. (Paragraph 160)


25.The solidarity that binds together the citizens of the UK as one people is essential to the Union. This is most clearly evident in the social union that provides for a pooling and sharing of resources across the UK. It should, however, guide the activities of decision-makers throughout the UK in a broader fashion: through comity and fair dealing. There is no way to legislate for, or enforce, solidarity but it is nonetheless vital to ensuring that the Union does not fall prey to division and an “us vs them” mentality. All those working in public service, at whatever level, must bear this principle in mind. This is particularly true in dealings over shared or concurrent powers, or in policy areas where decisions taken by one administration will have an impact on others. In these situations, solidarity means that the policies of one administration should not inflict avoidable harm on another nation or region. (Paragraph 170)


26.The benefits of recognising the diversity of the UK’s different nations outweigh the potential confusion and public perceptions of unfairness that may result. However, the wider impact of asymmetry on the Union and on other nations in the UK must be properly considered as part of any assessment of devolution proposals. (Paragraph 180)

27.The differences in the devolution settlements reflect the perceived needs and circumstances of each nation. They also reflect governmental decisions taken about devolution to Scotland and Wales in 1997. Any future proposal to devolve power should be assessed in light of the merits of devolving a particular power to a particular nation, as well as against its impact on the Union as a whole. (Paragraph 181)


28.The principle of consent has become fundamental to the development of devolution in the UK, and should continue to be a guiding principle in the future. The circumstances in which changes to the devolution settlements require the consent of the people via a referendum are unclear. They should be clearly set out in any statement of these principles. (Paragraph 186)


29.Devolution settlements have been ‘demand led’, with successive UK Governments responding to demands for greater powers and responsibility. While it is right that the UK Government listens and responds to the desires of the constituent nations of the UK, successive Governments have neglected their duty to do so in a manner that takes into account the wider needs and wishes of the Union and of all its constituent nations. (Paragraph 194)


30.Subsidiarity is a principle that provides a useful benchmark against which to test any proposals for devolution. Where powers can be exercised more effectively at a lower level of government, then it should be open for those powers to be devolved. That is contingent upon the needs of the Union and the ability of the devolved body to exercise those powers effectively. Powers should not, however, be devolved solely because they can be—power should be devolved to a particular nation only when doing so would benefit the people of that nation or region and without detriment to the Union as whole. (Paragraph 198)


31.A certain amount of complexity in the devolution settlements is inevitable, given the combination of devolved, reserved and shared powers in each nation. Yet it is important that the public understand where power lies if the democratic process is to work effectively. While voters can assess the outcome of public policies, they cannot accurately express a judgement on their elected representatives at the ballot box if they are ill-informed about the division of responsibilities between different levels of government. All those involved in developing devolution settlements should ensure that the division of powers is made as clear as possible, to aid public understanding of what responsibilities lie at each level of government. (Paragraph 205)

Strengthening the Union

Taking into account the needs of the Union

32.Earlier in the report we concluded that ending or fundamentally weakening any of the five key elements of the Union—the economic, social, political, cultural and security and defence unions—could threaten the Union as a whole. The question that needs to be resolved is to what extent devolution can take place in policy areas relating to the key elements of the Union, in particular the economic and social unions, without undermining those elements and thus the Union itself. (Paragraph 215)

33.We recommend that the UK Government identifies which public responsibilities are essential to the effective functioning of the Union, and therefore need to remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament and Government. This should help to ensure that the coherence and stability of the Union can be properly protected in any further discussions regarding the devolution settlements. (Paragraph 218)

34.This work should reflect a wide range of views. There should be engagement with the public and civil society which must reach beyond those interested in constitutional matters and make explicit the connection between devolution and the decisions and service provision that affect people’s lives. The process will also require discussion with the devolved institutions and consultation with the UK Parliament. (Paragraph 219)

35.Powers should not be devolved simply because theoretically they can be exercised at a lower level of government. We therefore do not advocate a “draw down” model of devolution in which all powers outside the core functions of the Union are ‘devolvable’ upon a request by a nation or region. There are core powers that should only be exercised by the UK Government and Parliament. They are not necessarily, however, the only powers that can be managed most effectively at the level of Union. (Paragraph 222)

36.There is no single list of the powers that could or should be devolved across the board. In the event that there are further demands for powers to be devolved, these should only be considered as part of an appropriate process that takes into account the needs of the Union and all the nations within it. (Paragraph 223)

37.Proposals for further devolution, whether brought forward by the UK Government in response to suggestions by devolved administrations or by independent Commissions, should present any case for devolution alongside a Devolution Impact Assessment. (Paragraph 226)

38.This assessment should include a thorough analysis of the proposals, addressing (but not restricted to) the following elements, and based on the principles described in Chapter 4:

Public information, engagement, consultation and consent

39.We illustrate in this Chapter a range of ways in which the public could be informed and engaged in conversations about the territorial constitution of the UK. While we do not advocate a particular method, the implementation of our recommendations would benefit from public engagement and consultation. If the public are to remain convinced of the benefits of the Union, and the Union is to reflect their needs and preferences, they should be involved in the steps we recommend to strengthen it. (Paragraph 238)

Other recent proposals

A new Charter or Act of Union

40.We acknowledge and are grateful for the work done by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law on their proposed Charter of the Union and by the Constitution Reform Group on their new Act of Union. Their work in establishing the principles and common values underlying the Union and devolution will prove valuable for future discussions on these issues. (Paragraph 257)

41.Rather than being the result of a top-down process, the devolution settlements have, to date, been driven by the demands of the devolved nations without any proper consideration of the overall needs of the Union and its constituent nations. While we understand the intention behind the Constitution Reform Group’s proposal for a new Act of Union, we are concerned that taking the wishes of the devolved nations as a starting point, rather than the needs of the Union, risks perpetuating the existing approach of focusing on diversity at the expense of UK-wide solidarity. (Paragraph 252)

42.We recognise that variations in the law across the UK can cause difficulties. We are unconvinced, however, that a statutory statement of common values will provide sufficient certainty to ensure that issues involving fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or marriage will be protected in the same way across the UK. (Paragraph 248)

43.We have not considered in any detail the case for harmonising law across the UK where it affects fundamental rights. We note, however, that any attempts to tackle this issue would require primary legislation in the UK Parliament. (Paragraph 249)

Full fiscal autonomy

44.We are strongly opposed to the concept of full fiscal autonomy for any nation or region of the United Kingdom. It would end the pooling and sharing of risks and resources that is key to the social union and that brings security to all parts of the Union. Full fiscal autonomy would, in our view, break the Union apart. (Paragraph 267)


45.Some believe that federal constitutions provide useful lessons regarding the effective management of shared competencies which may prove of use as these become more common with the implementation of the Scotland Act 2016. We concur with the conclusion of the Kilbrandon Commission in 1973 that there is no federal structure currently proposed that could accommodate England as a discrete entity. Nor is there public or political support at present for the creation of regional assemblies within England which might otherwise provide a viable basis for a federal system. Federalism does not, therefore, provide a solution to the tensions in the UK’s territorial constitution. (Paragraph 275)

Adapting to devolution

Promoting the Union

46.The stability of the Union requires careful management of the balance between unity and diversity. The development of devolution in recent decades, and the emerging ‘devolution deals’ in England, have accentuated diversity in the Union. A counter-balancing effort to support and promote unity is now required. The Government should set out a strategy for taking this work forward. (Paragraph 283)

Inter-governmental relation: A new mindset

47.We have yet to receive a Government response to our 2015 report on inter-governmental relations. Many of its recommendations relate to a review of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) currently being undertaken by the four administrations, and there have been no plenary meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) since March 2015 at which changes to the MoU could have been agreed. The fact that the JMC has not met for well over a year encapsulates our concerns about the inadequate nature of the formal structures currently in place for managing relations between the UK Government and the devolved administrations. (Paragraph 290)

48.We reiterate the conclusions from our 2015 report on inter-governmental relations. The formal structures of inter-governmental relations—in particular, the JMC—must not be allowed to degenerate into a forum for grandstanding and gesture politics which emphasise differences, conflict and division. Instead, the JMC should be reformed to promote and manage co-operation and coordination between the UK Government and the devolved administrations. (Paragraph 291)

49.A number of the recommendations in our Inter-governmental relations report were about the role and duties of the Civil Service and are relevant to addressing the concerns expressed above. These included the following, which we continue to commend to the UK Government:

50.Part of the challenge facing the UK Government in adapting to devolution is to embed awareness and knowledge of the devolved administrations across Whitehall. We welcome the changes that the UK Government has made in the last year, including the creation of new guidance and training for civil servants, and the establishment of the UK Governance Group. We look forward to hearing about these changes and any other improvements in more detail in their response to our 2015 report on inter-governmental relations. (Paragraph 301)

51.These changes must be seen as merely the start of a larger process. Civil servants in Whitehall departments must consider how they can engage with their counterparts in the devolved administrations across the breadth of government policy. The UK Government must work towards a situation where policy is developed in consultation and collaboration with the devolved administrations. Where different policy choices are made, it is important that the different administrations work together to consider the potential cross-border impacts or UK-wide effects of those choices. (Paragraph 302)

52.Adapting to devolution will require fundamental changes in how the UK Government operates. Devolved competencies range across so many areas of public responsibility that the delivery of government policies often requires collaboration and the sharing of information between the UK and devolved governments. The UK Government should undertake a thorough review, covering the whole Civil Service, to consider how the devolved administrations can be more effectively, and more consistently, involved in policy development and implementation. (Paragraph 303)

53.One suggestion the UK Government should consider taking forward is establishing branches of core government departments such as the Treasury and the Cabinet Office in Scotland. This would ensure that there are staff based in Scotland to facilitate collaboration and co-operation and to manage the increased complexities of the overlapping and shared competencies that will result from the Scotland Act 2016. (Paragraph 304)

54.This must be the start of a new mindset throughout the UK Government and Civil Service with regard to relations with the devolved nations. The mechanisms by which the UK Government manages relations with the devolved administrations must strengthen, rather than weaken, the Union. The UK Government must recognise that it retains an overarching responsibility for ensuring that the governance of the UK operates effectively. Instead of a ‘devolve and forget’ attitude they should be engaging with the devolved administrations across the whole breadth of government policy: not interfering, but co-operating and collaborating where possible and managing cross-border or UK-wide impacts that may result from differing policy and service delivery choices. The UK Government should work to reach an agreement with the devolved administrations to ensure a constructive approach to this engagement is introduced and maintained for the long-term on all sides. (Paragraph 305)

55.The Smith Commission recognised the need for greater transparency of inter-governmental relations and made several recommendations to that end. Given the rigorous and uncompromising way in which the UK Government has sought to implement the Smith Commission’s recommendations, we trust that the UK Government’s response to our recommendations about the transparency of inter-governmental relations will be as constructive as the Scottish Government’s recent commitments to the Scottish Parliament on that issue. (Paragraph 312)

56.A change of mindset throughout the UK Government with regard to inter-governmental relations should be reflected by a change in how Parliament scrutinises the UK Government’s activities in this area. Both Houses should consider how they might appropriately hold the UK Government to account for its progress towards more constructive and stable relationships with the devolved institutions. The recommendations in our 2015 report Inter-governmental relations in the UK provide a foundation on which we hope both Houses will build. These include a recommendation that the Prime Minister should make an annual statement to the Commons after each plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, and support for an independent annual audit of inter-governmental relations. (Paragraph 313)

Providing clarity over the role of the UK Government

57.The division of responsibilities between local government, devolved government and the UK Government can be hard for members of the public to disentangle. One consequence is that it can be unclear to the public which services are provided by the UK Government, potentially weakening their perception of the value of the Union. (Paragraph 319)

58.We recommend that the UK Government consider the ways in which all UK Government services and departments could be branded, to make clear to citizens the distinction between services provided by devolved and local government and those provided by the UK Government. This should be part of a long-term strategy to develop better public understanding of the respective roles of the UK and devolved governments and legislatures. (Paragraph 320)

59.The Annual Tax Summary sent to each taxpayer in the devolved nations should set out how they are contributing through their taxes to the revenue of their devolved government and the UK Government, and on what services the revenues raised by different governments are spent. (Paragraph 322)

60.We are surprised that the Civil Service, unified or not, should have failed to provide clear and definitive guidance in advance for the circumstances surrounding the Scottish independence referendum. They were clearly signalled. Although guidance was issued to civil servants ahead of the 28-day purdah period, in reality the referendum campaign lasted considerably longer as almost two years elapsed between the Edinburgh Agreement and the date of the referendum. (Paragraph 340)

61.Referendums that affect the integrity of the UK should be handled by the Civil Service as though they were elections: civil servants may support ministers to the extent of gathering information for them but may not become actively involved in the campaign or the drafting of manifesto-like material. We endorse the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee’s recommendation that “the Civil Service Code should be revised to specifically refer to referendums and provide civil servants across the UK with clear and definitive guidance on their role in respect of referendum campaigns … so that the provisions which apply in respect of parties in elections in the Code also apply in respect of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns in referendums, and so that any future referendum does not give rise to the same uncertainty and controversy”. This guidance should make clear how Civil Service impartiality will be protected in these difficult circumstances, and in particular during the ‘long campaign’ leading up to the shorter official ‘purdah’ period. (Paragraph 341)

62.In addition, we recommend that the Civil Service Code be amended to reflect the reality of devolution, and in particular the pressures that may be placed on civil servants faced with conflicting political priorities. As the Commons Public Administration Select Committee concluded, “There is now an opportunity to strengthen and clarify the Civil Service Code based on the culture and practice of government since the advent of devolution”. (Paragraph 342)

The UK Government’s approach to the process of constitutional change

63.We are concerned that the consideration of constitutional issues as simply one part of the work of the much broader-ranging Home Affairs Cabinet Committee risks the loss of any explicit focus on the constitutional implications of the UK Government’s policies. (Paragraph 344)

64.If the remit and membership of the Constitutional Reform Cabinet Committee as constituted at the start of this Parliament were not appropriate to its role overseeing changes to the constitution, then they should have been improved, rather than a decision being taken simply to abandon the Committee. The fact that another committee brings together a similar but broader range of ministers does not mean that it will scrutinise proposals in the same way, and with an appropriate focus on the impact of proposals on the constitution as a whole. We would welcome an explanation from the UK Government as to how the focus on the constitutional elements of policy that should have been the remit of the Constitution Reform Cabinet Committee has been integrated into the work of the Home Affairs Cabinet Committee. (Paragraph 345)

Secession referendums

65.The constitution being a reserved matter, provision for any future referendum on an issue as fundamental to the Union as the secession of one of its four nations should be set out in primary legislation by the UK Parliament. This will enable proper scrutiny by representatives of all four nations. (Paragraph 351)


English votes for English laws

66.We have committed to undertake a review of the impact of the English votes for English laws (‘EVEL’) procedures and their constitutional implications for the Union. We will therefore publish our conclusions about EVEL as part of that inquiry, which will feed into the UK Government’s planned review of the EVEL procedures later this year. (Paragraph 370)

An English Parliament

67.Given the relative size of England within the UK, the creation of an English Parliament would introduce a destabilising asymmetry of power to the Union. Meanwhile, creating a new legislature and administration covering 84% of the population that the UK institutions currently serve would not bring decision-making significantly closer to the people and communities of England. An English Parliament is not a viable option for the future of the governance of England. (Paragraph 376)

English Regional Assemblies

68.Elected regional assemblies are not currently an option being considered for devolution within England and are unlikely to gain any traction in the near future. Regional assemblies will not provide a realistic solution to the governance of England unless a coherent strategy were to be brought forward implementing regional assemblies across England and making appropriate changes to the UK’s constitution and existing governance structures. (Paragraph 383)

Local Government and ‘devolution deals’

69.We generally support the principle of decentralising power within England, and consequently we cautiously welcome the ‘devolution deals’. (Paragraph 405)

70.We have concerns, however, about the apparent lack of consideration given to how these deals will affect the overall governance of England in the longer-term, and the wider territorial constitution of the UK. It is unclear whether the UK Government has a clear set of objectives in mind to guide the development of the ‘devolution deals’. Clarity on these matters would not only help guide local government when they seek to reach agreement with the UK Government, but would also give Parliament a yardstick against which to measure the success of the UK Government’s devolution agenda in the future. As with any development of devolution across the UK more generally, the UK Government should set out a vision of what it seeks to achieve with these reforms and where it envisages the process of ‘devolution deals’ will eventually lead. (Paragraph 406)

71.Notwithstanding the Minister’s narrow definition of the meaning of “impose”, it is clear that in the majority of cases the UK Government is imposing elected mayors on authorities which wish to take advantage of the UK Government’s ‘devolution deals’. In some cases, this will result in mayors being installed in areas that have previously rejected elected mayors in referendums. The UK Government should explain why they have seen fit to override the publicly expressed wishes of the electorate in this way. (Paragraph 412)

72.Earlier in this report we concluded that the benefits of tailoring devolution settlements to local circumstances outweighed the potential problems caused by asymmetry. Consequently, it would be more appropriate for a wider range of governance structures for combined authorities to be available for negotiation, rather than for the UK Government rigidly to apply a single model regardless of local circumstances and wishes. (Paragraph 413)

73.The speed with which the UK Government expects the ‘devolution deals’ process to proceed may impair the ability of some areas to put forward proposals, or to achieve the optimal deal for their area. (Paragraph 416)

74.Our apprehension about the speed with which the ‘devolution deals’ are being agreed is compounded by our concern that they will receive little parliamentary scrutiny, given that they will be enacted by secondary legislation under extremely broad powers delegated to the Secretary of State in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. The breadth of delegated powers is something we have previously expressed concern about, both in this context and more generally. (Paragraph 417)

75.The lack of public and community engagement around the ‘devolution deals’ is a weakness in the current policy for the governance of England. There should be a requirement for informing and engaging local citizens and civil society in areas bidding for and negotiating ‘devolution deals’. Local politicians seeking ‘devolution deals’ should lead this engagement. (Paragraph 423)

76.If public concerns about the governance of England are properly to be addressed, the UK Government, and individuals engaged in political activity at all levels, need to engage with the public on these issues and to understand their concerns. There needs to be a greater effort to understand what people and communities want from devolution or decentralisation. This requires far greater public engagement, both in general across England and in those areas seeking or agreeing greater powers, with real discussions about what those powers should be and by whom they should be exercised. (Paragraph 424)

Devolution assessment process

77.As with any proposals for further devolution to the devolved nations, when bringing forward proposals for devolution or decentralisation of power in England, the UK Government should produce a Devolution Impact Assessment. This would include a thorough analysis of the proposals, addressing (but not restricted to) the following elements:

An answer to the English Question?

78.The English Question encompasses both concerns about the representation of England within the Union, and about the devolution or decentralisation of power within England. Part of the reason that the English Question remains unanswered is that nobody has yet put forward a solution, or set of solutions, that provide a coherent answer to both facets of the Question, and that are likely to command political and public support. (Paragraph 428)

79.The approach the UK Government has taken to addressing public concerns over the representation of England within the Union, English votes for English laws, is (when asked) the English public’s preferred approach. It was, however, viewed unfavourably by a number of our witnesses, including many of those representing the devolved nations. Likewise, the UK Government’s ‘devolution deals’ may address some of the concerns about the centralisation of power within England—but without a clear vision of where the process might lead it is hard to tell to what extent. (Paragraph 429)

80.It is too soon to know whether EVEL and the ‘devolution deals’, separately or in combination, will provide an answer to the English Question. What is clear is that the English Question remains one of the central unresolved issues facing decision-makers grappling with the UK’s territorial constitution. (Paragraph 430)

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