Select Committee on Constitution Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum by the Department for Constitutional Affairs

DCA Responsibilities for Devolution

Introduction

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has a number of responsibilities relating to devolution. This note explains the roles of the units concerned: Devolution and Crown Dependencies Division, the Scotland Office, the Wales Office, and the Office of the Advocate General for Scotland.

Devolution and Crown Dependencies Division

Devolution and Crown Dependencies Division is part of the Constitution Directorate, supporting Lord Falconer as Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Devolution Policy (PD) in his responsibilities for the overall UK devolution settlement and relations between the nations of the UK. The Division's Devolution Policy Branch is responsible for:

    1.  Formal devolution machinery for liaison with the devolved administrations. This includes: the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Government and the devolved administrations (which sets out the broad principles on which relationships should be conducted); and the Joint Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by the heads of the devolved administrations, Lord Falconer and the territorial Secretaries of State.

    2.  Facilitating the operation of devolution by: advising departments on dealing with the devolution-related aspects of their work; trouble-shooting and resolving difficult issues (particularly where they involve the interests of several departments, have implications for more than one of the settlements, or raise significant constitutional questions); and promoting awareness of devolution, both within Whitehall and outside.

    3.  Providing the Secretariat to the British-Irish Council, in conjunction with the Irish Government. The Council was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement, and its membership comprises the UK and Irish Governments, the devolved administrations, and the Crown Dependencies.

    4.  Providing a central focal point within DCA for guidance and advice on devolution and the promotion of devolution and its implications for the Department.

The Division's Crown Dependencies Branch, previously part of the Constitutional Policy Division, is responsible for facilitating relations between the UK Government, the Crown and the Crown Dependencies (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man) on a range of interests and responsibilities including constitutional and legislative matters and Crown appointments.

Scotland Office

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Darling, represents the interests of Scotland in the Cabinet, particularly in those matters reserved to the UK Parliament. He is responsible for the smooth operation of Scotland's devolution settlement, and acts as guardian of the Scotland Act (including its various order making powers). He is supported by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Anne McGuire MP and the staff of the Scotland Office, who are a distinct entity within the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The Scotland Office is currently organised into three policy divisions (Parliamentary and Constitutional, Economy and Industry, and Home and Social); Ministerial Private Offices; a Finance and Administration Division; and an Information Division. The headquarters of the Scotland Office is at Dover House in Whitehall and it also occupies leased premises in Melville Crescent in Edinburgh. It shares accommodation with the Scottish Executive at Meridian Court in Glasgow.

Wales Office

The Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, represents the interests of Wales in the Cabinet. He is responsible for promoting the devolution settlement for Wales and for promoting primary legislation at Westminster making specific provision for Wales. He is guardian of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (including the making of Transfer of Functions Orders under it). He is supported by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Don Touhig MP and the staff of the Wales Office, who are a distinct entity within the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

As the Assembly does not have primary legislative powers, all legislation made in Westminster covers Wales and the Wales Office has developed considerable expertise in dealing with the implications of this for policy development leading to legislation and Bill handling.

Office of the Advocate General for Scotland

The Advocate General for Scotland is an UK Government Law Officer and has a number of statutory responsibilities under the Scotland Act. The Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General for Scotland provides legal advice and services relating to Scots law and the Scottish devolution settlement to UK Government departments. The Legal Secretariat to the Advocate General provides support to the Advocate General in her role as a Law Officer. The Advocate General and her staff are also part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs for administrative purposes.

Department for Constitutional Affairs: Organisation chart showing responsibilities for devolution


11 November 2003


 
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