Select Committee on Constitution Second Report


Appendix 5

Commissioned research papers

The Committee commissioned two research papers during the course of its inquiry. These papers are printed below.

1.  Barry Winetrobe:  Inter-Parliamentary Relations in a Devolved UK: an Initial Overview (p. 59)

2.  John Curtice: Devolution, the Union and Public Opinion (p. 70)

1.  Inter-Parliamentary Relations in a Devolved UK: an Initial Overview

Barry Winetrobe

Abstract

Inter-Parliamentary Relations, is, alongside intergovernmental relations, a necessary aspect of post-devolution inter-institutional relations in the UK. Though the various devolution schemes differ; some relations arise partly out of the Belfast Agreement, and future developments such as English regionalism may well have an impact, the story of IPR in the last 3-4 years has been one of solid if unspectacular success. Unlike intergovernmental relations, it is not, nor should it be (at this stage, at least), based on formal, overarching machinery coordinated at the Centre, but on the organic development of appropriate and widespread bi-lateral and multilateral networks between Members, offices and officials. It is essential that such relations be conducted by parliaments themselves, and not indirectly on their behalf by executives or political parties. Formal procedural change to devolution has been relatively slow at Westminster, but jurisdictional difficulties have been minimal, other than in Members' representational roles, and this is assisted by an acceptance by Westminster that stricter adherence to demarcation by it than by the devolved parliaments may be inevitable in the early days of devolution. The devolved parliaments have also pursued active external relations amongst themselves and beyond the UK, as well as directly with relevant UK bodies and offices, and the effectiveness of all this activity is enhanced by a general acceptance that the relationship between all the parliaments in the UK is based on equality, partnership and the mutual sharing of experience and resources, rather than on a dependency of the devolved parliaments on Westminster. Legislative business is an area which can cause difficulties between the devolved parliaments, though each has a distinct concern arising from its particular form of devolution (parity legislation in Northern Ireland; the Sewel Motion procedure in Scotland; and influencing applicable Westminster in Wales), and more formal parliamentary arrangements may be necessary to avoid any inter-parliamentary disputes in the future.

I.  Introduction

1.  The Committee requested a paper on inter-parliamentary relations as part of its inquiry into devolution inter-institutional relations in the UK; in particular to summarise the published work on the subject, and to address the extent, nature and utility of such relations as between the three devolved parliaments/assemblies, and between them and Westminster, including the use of Sewel Motions in the Scottish Parliament.

2.  This paper examines

what is meant by 'inter-parliamentary relations';

the nature of such relations in the devolution context; and

the various types of formal and informal relations, with particular reference to the jurisdictional and legislative aspects.

3.  It concludes with some conclusions and proposals for the future of inter-parliamentary relations (IPR). In order to keep it as concise as possible, this paper can only be an overview of this very broad subject; abbreviations are used extensively; citations and the like are kept to a minimum, and many terms or procedures (such as 'devolved matters'; 'non-devolved matters'; 'parliaments') are used in their colloquial rather than strict sense.

II.  Inter-Parliamentary Relations

A.  The context of Inter-Parliamentary Relations

4.  The pattern of relations between 'parliaments' (however termed)[179] is an under-researched subject, often regarded as some sort of minor sub-set of Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR).[180] One reason for this may be the conventional assumption in the UK that, as governments generally dominate parliaments (at least their elected houses), parliamentary relations can be subsumed in the wider idea of governmental relations. In this sense, the very fact of your Committee examining IPR as part of your current inquiry may itself contribute to any revival of parliamentarism in this country. By adopting as the overarching concept, the term 'inter-institutional relations' rather than 'inter-governmental relations', the Committee's inquiry can regard both IPR and IGR as two separate, if related, aspects, both equally worthy of examination in the governance of the UK.

B.  The devolution context of Inter-Parliamentary Relations

5.  In considering the relationships between the various UK parliaments, regard must be had to the distinctive nature of each, both as between the three devolved parliaments themselves, and between them and Westminster. The devolution schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are very different from each other (and from UK governance), in their provenance, powers and structure, and many of these differences will have an impact, positively or otherwise, on IPR activity. Obvious examples are the existence or absence of 'parliamentary privilege'; the extent of legislative power; the relationship between the 'parliament and its executive,[181] and the legal basis of the institutions themselves and their staff.[182]

6.  In addition the political context of constitutional governance in the UK as a whole, and in its constituent nations and regions, remains a live and often sensitive issue. The shapes of the three devolution schemes, and of their parliaments, reflect the territorial diversity of that issue. IPR is, therefore, not just a practical matter of relations:

between the 3 devolved parliaments,

between them collectively and Westminster, or

between them individually and Westminster.

7.  It also has to have regard to the various, often conflicting, sensibilities and sensitivities which do, or potentially, exist.[183] The level of IPR activity (especially between the devolved parliaments and Westminster) may be a factor, not just of practical necessity and convenience, but also a result of particular views of UK constitutional development. So, for example, 'unionists' may support close and extensive relations (especially of the formal kind, such as in legislative matters through the Sewel Convention or otherwise), whereas 'nationalists' may wish to keep such activity to a necessary minimum, except as an expression of equality between close neighbours, rather than of subordination or dependency.

C.  The wider context of Inter-Parliamentary Relations

8.  IPR does not exist solely in the devolution context.[184] The machinery arising from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement also covers non-UK institutions, and includes a parliamentary component through the expanded British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body (BIIPB).[185] The BIIPB seems to have accommodated the new devolved bodies (and the Crown Dependencies) within its framework without disrupting the original relationship between the two sovereign parliaments. The expanded BIIPB is itself a symbol of the fundamental change that devolution has produced in governance of the UK, and in the balance of governance within 'these islands'. Through its parliamentary-style proceedings, it provides a forum for

the discussion of matters of common concern, which may be wider than the specific focus of the Northern Ireland peace process, such as foot-and-mouth disease or BSE, or

the sharing of experience, such as a question by an MSP to the Irish Justice Minister on the Republic's use of drug courts, in view of the consideration of a similar policy by the Scottish Executive.[186]

Though the future of the BIIPB may be tied to the 1998 Agreement peace process mechanisms such as the British-Irish Council, it has the potential to develop as a free-standing forum for IPR in 'these islands'

9.  As with Westminster, the three devolution parliaments are developing bilateral and multilateral relations with the wider family of parliaments around the world, such as by membership of bodies such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA),[187] and participation (at various levels from membership to observer status) in a number of European associations, such as the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe (CLRAE).

10.  Where membership of a body is not open directly to the devolved parliaments - such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) or the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD) - any access to its wide and useful resources and facilities has to be through the UK Parliament, or by way of any special arrangements the body itself permits. Westminster facilitation may be regarded in some senses as an aspect of IPR in action, but the devolved parliaments may see it as symbolising a dependency relationship rather than a partnership of equal colleagues. It would be in the interests of such bodies themselves, and of the national Parliaments, if the devolved parliaments (and their sub-national counterparts elsewhere), were able to make full use of such comparative resources directly, even where they cannot be not afforded full membership. This would be more efficient, and less time-consuming for everyone, and would avoid any need for the devolved parliaments to duplicate such vital but expensive comparative resources, either by themselves or in conjunction with their overseas sub-national counterparts. Pending any such arrangements, the two Houses at Westminster should maintain a cooperative and facilitative approach to any requests from the devolved parliaments for access to the benefits of these bodies.[188]

11. It is noteworthy that the devolved parliaments, especially the SP, are developing a twin-track external relations approach, by establishing contacts both with the parliaments of sub-national territories (such as Catalonia and Flanders) and of sovereign states of comparable size (such as Ireland and the Baltic States). The latter limb of this strategy does not appear to have caused any disquiet thus far in London,[189] which, if maintained, is a welcome approach by the 'centre' to this devolved parliamentary activity.

12. The future scope and shape of IPR may also depend on the further development of UK sub-national governance in the UK, notwithstanding the apparent Governmental differentiation between devolution, English regionalism and Greater London government. The GLA has participated in some IPR activities (for example, on research and information services and on scrutiny processes), and it, and any English regional chambers, will probably look to the devolved parliaments and to Westminster for some 'start-up' advice and assistance, just as the new devolved parliaments looked to Westminster in the late 1990s. Whether these bodies will enter existing devolution IPR networks, or whether they form their own parallel networks, are matters beyond the specific scope of this paper.

D.  The levels of Inter-Parliamentary Relations

13. Parliaments relate with each other at many different, if often over-lapping, levels, and all of these must be included in any overview of post-devolution IPR in the UK:

Parliament-Parliament:    Relations at this level may, for example, be through membership of relevant organisations, such as the CPA and the BIIPB, where the parliaments may be represented by Members and/or officials. Procedural rules and practice will determine the extent to which one parliament's formal proceedings (plenary, committee or otherwise) can enter the 'jurisdiction' or area of competence of the others. In most other respects, relations are not undertaken by a parliament itself, or through its plenary, but through its component parts, such as particular committees or offices. These aspects are considered below.

Committee-Committee:    Relations between committees (or similar mechanisms) composed of Members can take a number of forms, from informal gatherings and sharing of experience and information, to joint activity in formal proceedings. These committees may be primarily 'external' (such as subject or legislative committees), or more 'internal' (such as 'domestic committees', 'business committees' or standards committees). In some cases, the committees may interact through their officials rather than their Members.

Member-Member:  Members may, for example:

represent their parliaments as delegates to representative bodies or meetings;

participate as holder of a particular parliamentary office, such as presiding officer, business manager or committee chair/convener

represent their political parties or parliamentary party groups,[190] even where the parliamentary aspect may be incidental,

participate through all-party/cross-party groups, or

participate as a Member of another parliament.[191]

Official-Official:    Officials may, for example:

accompany or represent a particular parliamentary body or office for which they work

participate in IPR activity related to their professional function, which may have a particular parliamentary focus (procedural issues; executive relations, official reporting and so on), or, at the other end of the spectrum, which may be common to any institution, albeit from a specific parliamentary perspective (corporate services, ICT, and so on).[192]

III.  Jurisdictional issues

14. It may be argued that issues of the formal or practical demarcation between the areas of activity of each parliament are not IPR matters at all, or at least, only in a very specific sense. In practice, they are of practical importance in a devolved, rather than federal, UK constitutional system. Areas of actual or potential overlap - whether to prevent, minimise or regulate such overlapping activity - may be dealt with as a matter of:[193]

'law' - such as in legislation, Standing Orders or parliamentary resolutions,

written, but not legally-binding, agreement or arrangement - such as by protocols, concordats, or internal guidance,[194]

informal practice - such as by the development of conventions, or by 'self-denying ordinances'.

15. Some influences, however, may tend to counter any prevailing spirit of 'non-interference'. For example, Members (not just those who call themselves 'nationalists') in favour of greater territorial self-government may wish to exploit any opportunities to maximise the scope and range of devolved parliamentary activity, especially in areas where parliaments have no legislative competence, such as:

non-devolved issues within their territories (such as defence-related industries, postal services; asylum, or energy);

non-devolved UK issues (such as the constitution; the monarchy; social security, or defence and foreign affairs), and

direct representational, external relations outwith the UK.

16. On the other hand, MPs from the devolved territories may wish to demonstrate that they still retain an important political and parliamentary role. The Scottish context is especially sensitive currently by the conjunction of the proposed reduction in the number of Scottish MPs; the Scotland Office review on the consequential reduction in the number of MSPs, and the various jurisdictional sensitivities subsumed in the overarching term 'the West Lothian Question' (or, latterly, 'the English Question').[195] Both Westminster and the UK Government have a similar interest in demonstrating the continuing centrality of the UK Parliament to the devolved nations. This may account, in part, for the relatively minimal formal changes to Westminster procedure and practice since 1999, including retention of the territorial select and grand committees.[196] In the early years of devolution at least, some MPs from the devolved areas may also find it difficult to 'let go' of issues they have pursued vigorously in and through Westminster prior to devolution.[197]

On a related point, the devolved executives may not always seem to welcome activity by the parliaments which they might regard as properly matters for them. This could be especially sensitive in external and EU relations,[198] and other areas where there may be a question as to who 'represents' the devolved territory. An example of the latter is the making of representations, or the giving of evidence to, various inquiries or committees examining issues of direct relevance to the devolved parliaments, and their role in devolution. Executives (if only through its 'Leader of the House' office-holder) may wish to speak for parliaments as well as for themselves, especially if they believe that a common public view on the matter under investigation is necessary or desirable. Parliaments can speak for themselves through their presiding officer or their clerk/chief executive, as appropriate, or by a formal expression by the plenary, committee, corporate body or other appropriate mechanism, and should not rely on 'their' views and interested being represented on their behalf by either executive ministers or by parliamentary parties.[199]

A.  Committees

17. The remits of the committees (especially 'subject committees') of the devolved parliaments are generally defined or limited in terms of the responsibilities or accountabilities of their relevant executives/ministers.[200] However, this can be interpreted broadly, as appropriate. For example, all SP committees have power, in relation to competent matters within their particular remits, to "consider the policy and administration of the Scottish Administration upon any competent matter... [and] any proposals for legislation which relate to or affect any competent matter, including proposals for primary or secondary legislation, whether before the Scottish Parliament or the United Kingdom Parliament."[201] As Westminster retains unlimited competence in relation to the three devolved territories, any limitations will be self imposed, as was enunciated in the 1999 HC Procedure Committee report on the procedural consequences of devolution,[202] and the principles set out in the HL Committee Office Guide.[203]

18. The power of committees (or, as appropriate, the parliament itself) to require the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents is set out in the relevant devolution legislation, which limits this power generally to 'devolved matters' and persons (including ministers and officials) dealing with such matters.[204] However, ministers, departments and Members from one devolved area have, on invitation,[205] given evidence to other parliaments' committees, though it may be that those from the devolved areas are more willing to attend Westminster committees (especially 'their' territorial Commons committee), than UK ministers are to attending devolved parliaments' committees.[206] The form of Welsh devolution[207] means that such interactions may be more frequent than those between Scotland or Northern Ireland and Westminster/Whitehall, or between the 3 devolved areas.

B.  Motions for debate etc.

19. While the NAW is expressly empowered by the devolution legislation to "consider, and make appropriate representations about, any matter affecting Wales",[208] the power of the NIA and SP to consider any matter arises impliedly out their respective devolution schemes, and so will only be restricted by any internal rules or practice on 'admissibility'. The HC's restrictions on admissibility of questions dealing with 'devolved' matters, agreed in October 1999, also applies to that House's daily adjournment debates.

C.  Other parliamentary proceedings

20. Similar limitations on 'admissibility' may apply to techniques such as questions,[209] statements,[210] and petitions.[211] Legislation is considered below.

D.  Other parliamentary activity  

21. The representational activities of Members have, perhaps inevitably in view of the political and electoral context, caused some difficulties between the various parliaments. Elected members will always wish to be seen to be conscientiously and effectively representing the interests of their locality and constituents, and this has led to claims that Members have, inadvertently or otherwise, intruded on other Members' 'patch'. In generally, the principles and conventions which have evolved at Westminster, such as those to prevent such 'poaching', have been applied to the post-devolution situation. This has not always been straightforward, not only because of the expansion in the overall number of elected representatives, but also because of the electoral system adopted for the SP and the NAW producing the new category of the regional (or 'list') Member.[212] Well-publicised difficulties in Scotland led to the establishment by the Presiding Officer of an ad hoc group of SP and HC Members to review the situation as between constituency and regional MSPs, and as between MSPs and MPs. After much inter-party negotiation, the SP finally agreed detailed guidance, based on 5 principles. However, this guidance only related to the relationship between MSPs, and the second half of the initial remit - that between MSPs and MPs - has not, to date, been pursued.[213] The UK Government has produced guidance on how its departments should deal with correspondence on devolved matters or from Members of devolved parliaments.[214]

IV.   IPR aspects of legislation and legislative process

22. The issue of legislation is substantially one of jurisdiction, in the sense discussed above. However it is of such importance to the operation of the various devolution schemes, and to post-devolution IPR, that it deserves separate consideration. Primary legislative power is a defining characteristic of the Scottish and Northern Ireland schemes, and its absence is a key determinant of the Welsh scheme. While there is a large degree of commonality in what may be regarded as the boundary between 'devolved' and 'non-devolved' matters (whether in the legislative or executive context), the actual classifications of legislative competence in the SP and NIA are very different; 'executive devolution' may be wider than legislative competence, and the boundary in the Welsh context depends largely on specific transfers of functions and the granting of subordinate legislative power in UK statutes.

23. This means that, in terms of IPR, the legislative context is different in each of the three devolved schemes:

Scotland: Other than in terms of any political or legal disputes as to the boundaries of competence, which (contrary to many pre-devolution expectations) have been minimal to date,[215] the main legislative IPR aspect which has emerged since 1999 has been the operation and extent of the 'Sewel Convention'. Briefly, this non-statutory arrangement provides that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate on matters devolved to the SP, without the SP's consent.[216] It was initially set out by a junior minister, Lord Sewel, during consideration of the Scotland Bill on 28 July 1998,[217] and reaffirmed in intergovernmental guidance, such as the relevant concordats and devolution guidance notes, and by the HC. The SP has not explicitly examined or endorsed the principles of the convention, nor has it been asked to; the then First Minister informed the Parliament of its existence and intended use in a statement on 9 June 1999.

The main issues surrounding the operation of the Convention can be summarised briefly:[218]

Resort to 'Sewel Motions' lodged by the Executive for SP approval, has been much more frequent than was generally expected, or (it is claimed in some quarters) as originally indicated by UK and Executive ministers, amounting to a significant de facto transfer of legislative power from the SP to Westminster.

The terms and handling of Sewel Motions means that the SP's 'consent' is often not only to Westminster legislating in a devolved area, but also to the specific policy of the proposed legislation (or even to wider policy principles within that particular devolved area) without prior resort to any of the legislative (including pre-legislative) processes integral to the SP's general legislative business.

The broad and general nature of the arrangements as they have been operated mean that neither Parliament has any formal or clear guidance as to how to act if and when any problems arise, such as a wish by the SP to amend or even revoke its consent, thereby raising the very risks of legislative stalemate or 'ping-pong' that the Convention was originally designed to prevent.

Justifications by Executive ministers that use of the Sewel Convention enable the relevant legislation to benefit from Westminster's legislative 'immunity' from legal challenge[219] may undermine public faith in the status and integrity of devolved legislation enacted by the Parliament.

It would appear that the time is ripe, before any significant difficulties emerge, for the two Parliaments to review the nature and operation of the Sewel Convention, and for each to examine how to establish or improve their procedures in handling such business. In particular, the SP (whether, as is often suggested, through a Procedures Committee inquiry, or otherwise) should examine how proposed legislation intended to be subject to a Sewel Motion can receive as effective and participative scrutiny within Scotland as does the generality of its legislation.

Northern Ireland: Although the Sewel Convention operates in principle,[220] it has not been an issue of practical importance thus far. This may be due to factors,[221] such as the interrupted nature of devolution since 1998, and the distinctive classification of legislative competence (including the existence of a category of 'reserved matters', matters with the NIA's legislative competence, but where the power to legislate requires the consent of the Secretary of State[222]). In addition the devolution legislation and the NIA's rules together aim to ensure that any potentially ultra vires legislative proposals would not be introduced in the Assembly.[223]

The major legislative concern, from an IPR perspective, is the handling of 'parity' legislation, which may be regarded in some senses as 'Sewel in reverse', in that it often concerns legislation which the NIA may feel 'obliged' to enact to maintain conformity with all or part of the rest of the UK. Concerns have been expressed about the procedures applicable to such legislation, and the opportunity for any NIA pre-legislative input into any UK Bill which gives rise to parity issues.[224]

Wales: As the NAW does not have any primary legislative power, its relationship with Westminster is necessarily of continuous importance in determining the scope and nature of the Assembly's powers and responsibilities. The devolution legislation did not provide the Assembly with any formal role in the UK Parliament's legislative process,[225] and so any such relationship has had to be devised through more informal means.[226] That this legislative relationship between the NAW and Westminster (such as through, for example, the Secretary of State, the Welsh Affairs Committee, the Welsh Grand Committee or otherwise) is not regarded, at least from the Welsh perspective, as either adequate or effective can be seen from the academic or political commentary on the 3 years of Welsh devolution,[227] and from the almost continuous review within the Assembly of these arrangements.[228] The new Commission on the Assembly's Powers, which is due to report by the end of 2003, will no doubt examine these matter further, in terms of devising the most effective arrangements under the current devolution scheme, or even by considering the case for amendments to the devolution legislation, such as granting primary legislative powers to the NAW.

V.  IPR activity by parliamentary officials

24. In the past four years there have been many examples of staff from one body assisting each other. Westminster staff were made available to the new devolved bodies prior to their establishment (whether on secondment or otherwise) especially in areas - such as parliamentary research, clerking and official reporting - where the UK departmental implementation teams recognised that they had little appropriate in-house expertise. This clearly helped to create a 'parliamentary ethos' within these new bodies, which complemented the parliamentary experience of some elected Members and their own staff. Before and after their establishment, staff from Westminster and the three devolved bodies have assisted each other in numerous ways, such as participation in recruitment exercises; exchanges and secondments, and advising on the setting-up of various systems and procedures.[229] It is common for one body to collect and consider comparative information from the other UK bodies (and often from further afield) when dealing with uniquely parliamentary matters.[230] In some cases, more formal liaison machinery has been established to bring together staff in the various bodies (including Westminster, and, sometimes, the Irish Parliament and the GLA) doing similar work. Examples of this include the:

Common Interest Group (or Contact Group) of finance and administration staff, initiated by Commons staff

Interparliamentary Information Services Forum (IISF) of research, information, reporting and IT staff, which has a Steering Group composed of an official from each participating body.

Interparl, an on-line discussion forum for parliamentary staff

Inter-Parliamentary Research Network (IPRN), initiated by SP staff, as a forum for research services for Members

Standards seminars, initiated and sometimes facilitated by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (Neil, now Wicks, Committee), a regular forum for clerks and research staff involved in parliamentary standards regulation

Meetings of counterparts, such as of the heads of the professional service (Clerks and/or Chief Executives), and of secretaries/clerks to 'corporate bodies'/'domestic committees' and equivalents

25. These forums provide a useful way for the various bodies to approach common issues, such as the implementation of new statutory duties (notwithstanding any legal differences, such as Westminster's privilege).[231] In addition there is the sharing of resources, such as Westminster's POLIS system (in which the NIA and NAW participate), and this may well develop, especially in IT-based systems, where there are ascertainable resource advantages in sharing.

26. Legal, resources or timetabling reasons may limit the potential for developing relations between staff. Perhaps the most relevant are the civil servant status of NAW staff, and the small size of each body's staff complement. While the former may be more theoretical than real in hindering the full involvement of NAW Presiding Office staff in IPR, the latter (especially where, as at Westminster, there is a substantially 'federal' rather than unified service in practice) can restrict the scope for activities such as exchanges, secondments, attachments, advisory visits, meetings and the like, not linked to formal or informal parliamentary proceedings (such as committee visits). This may tempt each body to ally itself to other 'local' public services, for personnel management and career development purposes, such as arrangements between the SP and the Scottish Executive, or the desire of some for the development of a de facto 'Welsh Public Service'. Such developments may serve to dilute the unique 'parliamentary' elements of each body's service, and consideration could be given instead to building upon the existing informal staff links to create something like a unified 'Parliamentary Service', covering all parliamentary staff in the UK, including the Presiding Office staff in the NAW. Creation of such a service may require Westminster legislation (at least for the NAW situation), and the details of any such scheme, including the nature of the 'common employer' and aligning terms and conditions, would require careful consideration. However, it could provide the same benefits, in parliamentary terms, as a unified civil service does for executive administration.

VI.  Conclusion, issues and prospects

27. Inter-parliamentary relations is both an inevitable and necessary factor of the post-devolution constitutional system in the UK, and it should be accepted as a positive development, distinct from the IGR activity of the devolved and UK executives, and encouraged wherever possible.

28. There are clear benefits in the various parliaments sharing experience and acting as comparators for each other, and this has been a notable component of overall IPR activity thus far. This is especially useful when one parliament adopts what may be regarded as an innovative approach to a particular issue or problem, and, in this respect, the devolved parliaments may be a source of inspiration for Westminster when reforming or modernising its procedures.[232] However care has to be taken when evaluating the appropriateness of a procedure or practice in one parliament being adopted or adapted for another. While the devolved parliaments in particular have much in common, where they can learn from each other, such sharing of experience should not dilute the positive aspects of diversity and distinctiveness between them, by seeking to impose some form of uniformity. The tendency for the devolved bodies to look initially to Westminster for precedents when faced with novel situations may well diminish over time, as their own practice grows, and as they develop IPR contacts with other parliaments.

29. Any perceived imbalance in the way Westminster and the devolved parliaments deal with jurisdictional issues - in the sense that the rules and practice in the latter may be less restrictive when dealing with non-devolved matters than is applied at Westminster in relation to devolved matters - probably can be regarded as acceptable and even inevitable especially in the early days of devolution. A mature and relaxed attitude by Westminster, as the sovereign parliament which retains a formal and practical primary position vis-à-vis the devolved parliaments, to any such perceived asymmetry would be to the broader benefit of constructive IPR.

30. The few years of devolution suggest that, with the significant exception of Wales in a legislative context, the devolved parliaments do not regard the territorial Secretaries of State or the territorial or grand committees in the Commons as necessary or regular 'facilitiators' between themselves and UK institutions. Similarly, the apparent lack of enthusiasm, especially in Scotland, to the idea of a reformed Westminster Second Chamber containing either Members of the devolved parliaments, or members selected in some way by the devolved parliaments,[233] suggests that the HL, as reformed, albeit with some representation from the nations and regions, is not seen universally as a 'guardian of devolution' or as a means of binding the Union. This apparent preference for direct contact with relevant UK bodies as much as possible, and resort to the pre-devolution territorial ministers or parliamentary committees only as necessary or desirable, and on a basis of equality, does not appear to have any significant negative effects on the operation of the devolution schemes, whatever it may mean for the long-term viability of these pre-devolution offices or committees. Indeed, it suggests that it would be any unilateral attempts by these ministers or committees to enforce any such facilitating role that would be unwanted, and so potentially be detrimental to the development of the evolving constitutional arrangements.

31. The organic and pragmatic development of the various layers of IPR described in this paper appears to be generally successful and productive. This suggests that this process should be allowed to develop naturally, without any apparent need for there to be some formal, overarching network of agreements or liaison machinery, as a parliamentary parallel of the elaborate IGR machinery coordinated by the UK Cabinet Office. It may be that the devolved parliaments, and perhaps Westminster, may themselves decide, at some point, that a coordinating office or some 'UK Parliamentary Association' should be established. Pending such a development, the use of the existing informal links, and the more formal mechanisms such as the BIIPB, appear to satisfy present IPR needs. It should be recognised that the nature of IPR activity will not, and need not, be uniform as between the bodies involved[234] or the function or policy area concerned.[235] What is important is that such activity is undertaken by parliamentarians and parliamentary officials, and not by executive ministers (even though they will generally also be elected Members) or officials on the parliaments' behalf.

32. Notwithstanding the approach of the previous paragraph against unnecessary imposition of elaborate IPR machinery, the processes of:

removing any remaining barriers that may exist which hinder the desired forms and extent of IPR,[236] and

establishing shared information resources, both on substantive policy matters and on procedures and practices[237]

should be continued. There may also be the case for some written agreements between the parliaments, to deal with issues such as the handling of legislative business; joint working by committees, and representational activity by Members covering the same locality in the devolved and UK parliaments.

2.  Devolution, the Union and Public Opinion

John Curtice, Strathclyde University/ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends/National Centre for Social Research

Introduction

  The recent implementation of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was both a response to and an attempt to influence public opinion. It was a response to a feeling amongst many people in those three parts of the United Kingdom that rule from Westminster did not satisfy their political aspirations. By demonstrating that the United Kingdom could provide a framework that met those aspirations it was hoped that support for the Union could be maintained and perhaps even strengthened. Devolution's critics of course doubted whether devolution would strengthen the Union; they feared that it would prove to be the slippery slope towards the break-up of the Union. But they shared with devolution's advocates the assumption that the impact much of the success or failure of devolution would depend on public reaction.

  This report summarises some of the key evidence on how the publics of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reacted to devolution. Given the remit of the Select Committee's inquiry it focuses in particular on those aspects of public opinion that are pertinent to an assessment of the impact of devolution on the relationship between the four component territories of the United Kingdom. Thus it considers how many people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland say they want to remain part of the United Kingdom, and equally how much support there is in England for the continuation of the Union. It also examines whether, irrespective of their constitutional preferences, people feel that the Union has been strengthened or weakened. Meanwhile, because much of the concern that has been expressed about the possible impact of devolution focused on its potential for generating territorial conflicts and jealousies between the component parts of the UK (not least because of its asymmetric nature), we also consider whether there are any clear conflicts of public opinion on certain features of the current devolution settlement. And of course as ultimately support for the Union rests not just on cognitive preferences but on emotional loyalties, we also consider the pattern of national identity in each part of the UK.

  The report is based on the evidence of opinion polls and social surveys. However, it should be appreciated that thanks to a combination of a decline in the novelty value of devolution and the difficult financial circumstances currently faced by many media organisations, relatively little commercial polling about attitudes towards devolution has been taken place over the last twelve months. Moreover little of what has been conducted is of relevance to an evaluation of inter-institutional relations across the UK. However, we do have available to us the results of four academic surveys conducted during 2001 in each of the four component parts of the United Kingdom as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Devolution and Constitutional Change initiative. While they were conducted some months ago these surveys have three key advantages for our purposes. First, one of their aims was to assess the impact of devolution on public support for the Union; they thus asked many questions of relevance to this enquiry. Second, because the survey design of the four surveys was co-ordinated, often the same or a functionally equivalent question was asked in all four territories about a particular subject; we can thus compare public opinion systematically across the UK. And third, the surveys also included many questions that have been asked on previous similar academic surveys conducted in recent years, thereby making it possible to examine how public opinion has changed in the immediate wake of devolution. Further details about these four surveys (which are the source for the figures given here unless otherwise stated) are provided in an appendix.

  However, while our focus is on inter-institutional relations across the UK, we need to begin with a brief examination of how devolution has been greeted within each of the devolved territories. There is of course no necessary logical link between devolution being regarded as a success or failure and a strengthening or a weakening of the Union. If the devolved institutions are, for example, regarded as a success then this might either mean that people become convinced that their aspirations can be met within the United Kingdom or are persuaded that their part of the UK would be capable of governing itself outside the UK. But whether the institutions are regarded as a success or a failure is important to understanding how devolution might have affected public support for the Union, and so this is where we will begin.

Devolution at Home: Success or Failure?

  Devolution was greeted with high expectations in Scotland. But many Scots feel that those expectations have not been met, and as a result their hopes for the future are now distinctly more modest. True, few people believe that the advent of the Scottish Parliament has done much harm to their country; rather they simply question whether devolution has made much of a difference.

TABLE 1. EXPECTATIONS OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

As a result of having a Scottish Parliament will

            1997ge    1997ref    1999  2000  2001

Scotland's economy become better  54    64    43  36  43

    No difference      23    24    37  45  43

    Worse        13    12    12  12  10

NHS in Scotland will become      

    Better        59    65    49  na  45

    No difference      25    28    41  na  42

    Worse         6     6     4  na   9

1997ge.   1997 general election

1997ref.   1997 referendum

na     not asked

  Table 1 charts the decline in expectations. By the time that Scotland voted for devolution in September 1997, nearly two-thirds thought that both Scotland's economy would become better as a result of having a Scottish Parliament, while the same was true of the NHS in Scotland. But now well under half take either view, and they are matched by an almost equal number of people who feel that having a Scottish Parliament will not make any difference.

TABLE 2. HOW THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT IS NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS

1997, 1999: As a result of having a Scottish Parliament will

2000: Is having a Scottish Parliament going to give

2001: Do you think having a Scottish parliament is giving

              1997ref    1999  2000  2001

Scotland have a stronger voice in the UK    70    70  52  52

Ordinary people more say in how

Scotland is governed          79    64  44  38

Increase standard of education in Scotland    71    56  43  27

  Table 2 meanwhile shows the gap that has opened up between expectations people in Scotland had of their new parliament and their perception of the reality to date. For example, at the time of the 1997 referendum around a half believed that as a result of devolution ordinary people would have more say in how Scotland is governed. Four years later and around half that number think that is happening. The gap between expectations and reality is even greater so far as perceptions of education standards are concerned, doubtless fuelled in part by the difficulties experienced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority in the 2000 round of examinations. The one area where a majority believe that the parliament is securing some success is in strengthening Scotland's voice in the UK, but even here the proportion who believe this is happening is nearly 20 points down on the proportion who in 1997 expected to happen.

  Expectations of devolution were never so high in Wales as they were in Scotland. Given the much lower level of support expressed for devolution in the 1997 Welsh referendum than in its Scottish counterpart, this should perhaps comes as little surprise. Even so, a trend of declining expectations and failure of perceived reality to meet earlier expectations such as we have observed in Scotland is present in Wales too. As a result expectations of devolution are still lower now in Wales than they are in Scotland although the performance of the Assembly to date is viewed only marginally less favourably than that of the Scottish Parliament.

TABLE 3. EXPECTATIONS OF THE WELSH ASSEMBLY

As a result of having a Welsh Assembly will

          1997ref      2001

Wales's economy become better  46      33

    No difference    43      54

    Worse       9       8

NHS in Wales will become

    Better      41      30

    No difference    41      61

    Worse       16       5

  Table 3 illustrates these points so far as expectations in Wales are concerned. Whereas in 1997 around two-thirds of Scots thought that devolution would have a favourable impact on the economy and the NHS, rather less than half of people in Wales took a similar view. But now that latter proportion has fallen to no more than a third, leaving it ten to fifteen points behind the comparable figures for Scotland.

TABLE 4. HOW THE WELSH ASSEMBLY IS NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS

1997, 1999: As a result of having a National Assembly will

2001: Do you think having a National Assembly is giving

                1997ref    1999    2001

Wales have a stronger voice in the UK      50    62    49

Ordinary people more say in how Wales is governed  54    56    34

Increase standard of education        50    42    22

  Table 4 meanwhile shows that while in 1997 a little over a half of people in Wales felt that devolution would increase the say that people had in how they were governed, now only a third believe that is happening. The equivalent gap in respect of education standards is even wider. As in Scotland the one area where devolution is however accorded some success is in enhancing Wales's voice in the UK. Indeed here reality is in line with expectations at the time of the September referendum though not with the enhanced expectations with which the Assembly was greeted (in contrast to Scotland) by the time of the first Assembly election in May 1999.

  In Northern Ireland too, so far only a minority believe that devolution has brought much benefit. This is clearly true amongst Protestants who consistently evaluate the performance of the Assembly less favourably than do Catholics. But even amongst the latter group the heady expectations at the time of the 1998 Referendum that the Belfast Agreement would bring peace to the much troubled province now look distinctly fragile.

TABLE 5. EVALUATIONS OF THE ASSEMBLY IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Under NI Assembly

        In 2000    In 2001

            All    All  Protestants  Catholics

Education  Better    16    24  15    37

      Worse     8    12  20     5

      Same    59    43  46    39

Health    Better     9    11  8    15

      Worse    28    40  50    28

      Same    52    35  30    42

Economy  Better    22    24  18    32

      Worse     8    14  17     9

      Same    54    42  45    41

2001: Do you think having a NI Assembly is giving

            Protestants  Catholics  All

NI a stronger Voice in UK    33    55    42

Ordinary people more say in

How NI is governed        31    51    40

  Table 5 shows how people in Northern Ireland evaluate the impact of the Northern Ireland Assembly to date. Only around a quarter believe it has improved education and the economy in the province, while only one in ten say the same of health. The latter is indeed the one instance we can find where a plurality believes that devolution has made matters worse, though this may well reflect recent dissatisfaction with the performance of the NHS across the UK as a whole rather than dissatisfaction directed specifically at the Assembly. In any event, in each case Catholics are twice as likely to say that things have got better than are Protestants. Meanwhile on the two items in the lower half in the table which are directly comparable to questions that have been asked in Scotland and Wales, we can see that amongst the Northern Ireland public in general the Assembly is rated no more favourably than are the devolved institutions elsewhere.

TABLE 6. EXPECTATIONS OF PEACE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

% very/fairly confident will be long and lasting peace in Northern Ireland

            1998  2000  May2001  Oct 2001

  Protestants        35  25  19    20    

  Catholics        82  59  52    42

  All          55  40  33    31

Source: UMS/Belfast Telegraph

  At the time of the 1998 Referendum, no less than four in five Catholics were 'very' or 'fairly' confident that there would be long and lasting peace in Northern Ireland. But despite being taken just after the first act of IRA decommissioning was announced in October last year (though prior to the re-establishment of the Executive), the most recent poll to ask this question found that less than half of Catholics take this view. Of course, the months prior to the poll had also seen the well-publicised violence surrounding the Holy Cross school in North Belfast, and this example of continuing inter-communal tension may well have had more impact on public confidence than the high politics of decommissioning. Meanwhile, even at the time of the referendum little more than a third of Protestants were confident about the prospects for peace, and that figure has now fallen to no more than a fifth.

  There is then a consistent message from all three devolved parts of the United Kingdom. For the most part, the public does not believe that devolution has made much difference to their lives, certainly not as much as they had originally anticipated, and expectations of devolution are now distinctly more modest than they once were. It would probably to wrong to suggest that this means that devolution is regarded as a failure - after all for the most part it is not thought to have done much harm - but it certainly is not considered to be a resounding success. But interestingly, however, the one criterion on which devolution comes closest to being judged a success in each of the three devolved territories is in strengthening its voice vis-à-vis the rest of the UK. So even if their success at home is judged to be no more than modest, perhaps the devolved institutions have still been able to enhance the reputation of the Union.

Cognitive Support

  Our first step in looking at the implications of devolution for public support for the Union is the most obvious one, that is to examine people's constitutional preferences. How many people in Scotland and Wales prefer independence, and how many people in Northern Ireland favour the reunification of the 32 counties? And do people in England still wish to share the United Kingdom with their neighbours?

  So far as Scotland and Wales are concerned, devolution has had no discernible long-term impact on public support for independence. In Table 7 we show the proportion of people in these two countries that said they preferred independence (either inside or outside the European Union) when presented with a list of options that also included a strong and a weak version of devolution, together with not having any kind of separate parliament or assembly at all. As can be seen just over one in four people in Scotland said immediately after the 1997 UK general election that they favoured independence and that proportion is currently almost exactly the same. An apparent brief rise in support for independence at the time of the 1997 referendum proved to be ephemeral. Meanwhile in Wales just one in eight back independence, little changed from the time of the referendum.

TABLE 7. SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENCE IN SCOTLAND AND WALES

        1997ge    1997ref    1999  2000  2001

Scotland    26    37    28  30  27

Wales      na    13     9  na  12

  Devolution may not then have put the nationalist genie back in the bottle in Scotland and Wales, but on the evidence of Table 7 neither has it proved to be the slippery slope towards independence. But in Northern Ireland it appears that support for the Union has weakened in the wake of devolution, though the decline is probably a result of the peace process as whole rather than devolution per se. However, while public support for the Union may have declined, this does not necessarily mean that there has been an increase in support for Irish reunification. Rather, it appears as though the issue of sovereignty in the province is becoming less likely to be seen in terms of the two traditional starkly opposed alternatives.

  The first half of Table 8 shows the long-term trends in support for Northern Ireland's continued membership of the Union. At the beginning of the 1990s seven in ten people in the province supported the Union. Now on the latest reading barely half back the constitutional status quo. Moreover, the decline has occurred within both communities. At the beginning of the decade Protestants were close to unanimous in their support for the Union; now only four in five are in favour. Meanwhile whereas ten years ago as many as a third of Catholics were inclined to favour their province's membership of the UK, now less than one in six do so.

  Two processes appear to be at work here. So far as Catholics are concerned, the more that aspirations to something other than membership of the UK are recognised by the British state, the more they appear to be prepared to consider something other than membership of the Union. Thus the first sign that support for the Union may be declining amongst Catholics came in the first survey reading to be taken after the December 1993 Downing Street declaration. The drop has certainly been persistent since the conclusion of the Belfast Agreement, which apart from providing for a devolved assembly, also created a North-South ministerial council that gave the Irish government some role in how Northern Ireland is governed.

  Meanwhile, so far as Protestants are concerned we have already seen that they are less enamoured than Catholics of the performance of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Indeed survey evidence suggests this is true of most aspects of the Belfast Agreement. As a result the confidence of the Protestant community in UK governments and UK institutions appears to have been undermined. Remarkably, for example, the 2001 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey shows that fewer Protestants (24%) than Catholics (37%) trust the UK government to work in Northern Ireland's best long-term interests 'just about always' or 'most of the time'. As a result their support for the Union has apparently begun to erode as well.

TABLE 8. TRENDS IN CONSTITUTIONAL PREFERENCES IN NORTHERN IRELAND

% saying the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to remain part of the United Kingdom
1989
1990
1991
1993
1994
1995
1996
1998
1999
2000
2001
Protestant

Catholic

94

32
93

33
92

35
91

36
90

24
88

34
85

35
84

19
87

16
84

20
79

15
All
69
68
71
70
63
64
62
57
56
60
50

% saying the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to reunify with the rest of Ireland
1989
1990
1991
1993
1994
1995
1996
1998
1999
2000
2001
Protestant

Catholic

3

56
5

55
4

53
5

49
6

60
6

56
8

47
4

49
3

48
4

42
5

59
All
24
25
22
20
27
27
24
22
21
17
27

  However, as the second part of Table 8 shows, none of this necessarily means that support for reunification with the rest of Ireland has increased. Indeed, until the most recent reading at least support for this proposition amongst Catholics also appeared to be in long-term decline as increasing numbers said they did not know which of the two options was better for Northern Ireland. However, in the most recent survey support for reunification did bounce back to close to its all-time high amongst Catholics, but even so at present at least one cannot argue that devolution has helped bring about a long-term increase in support for reunification.

  Continued support for the Union within each of the devolved territories may be a necessary condition for the maintenance of the United Kingdom. But it is not a sufficient condition. After all the largest part of the United Kingdom by far is England, and we could hardly argue that devolution has helped maintain or strengthen the Union if we were to discover that support for independence for one or more parts of the United Kingdom had increased in England.

TABLE 9. WHAT ENGLAND THINKS

% favour      1997  1999  2000  2001

Scottish Independence    14  22  20  19

Welsh Independence      13  20  17  18

Irish Unification      51  55  57  56

  There is a little evidence that this has happened. After the 1997 UK general election no more than one in seven backed the idea of independence for Scotland and Wales.[238] Since the devolved institutions have been up and running, that figure has been closer to one in five. By far the majority of people in England still support Scotland and Wales' membership of the United Kingdom, but evidently a few more are questioning the status quo in the wake of devolution than was previously the case.

  In contrast, it appears that the idea of Irish unification enjoys majority support in England, making it far more popular than it is in Northern Ireland itself. In truth, this should come as little surprise. The British Social Attitudes survey has consistently found around 55% or so of people in Great Britain in favour of unification ever since it first asked the question in 1983. The lack of English support for maintaining the Union with Northern Ireland long predates the Belfast Agreement. Equally, though as can be seen from Table 9 that agreement has done nothing to persuade people in England to change their minds.

  Devolution has then so far had so far little apparent success in helping strengthen public support for the Union. Rather, that support appears to have weakened somewhat in England and in Northern Ireland. But at the same time, with the exception of the idea of Irish reunification, the idea of breaking up the United Kingdom is still only supported by a distinct minority. If the slope is a little slippery it is as yet at least far from steep.

Perceptions of the Union

  There are, however perhaps more subtle ways in which support for the Union might have been eroded. Although independence may still not be desired, it may have increasingly come to be seen as a realistic possibility. And though independence may not be desired, the new constitutional settlement may not have convinced people that the way the UK is run has been changed for the better. It is to these possibilities that we now turn.

  There seems to be no evidence that devolution has brought the prospect of independence closer to people in Scotland and Wales. Indeed, for people in Scotland at least independence appears to have become a more remote prospect in recent years. However, in Northern Ireland, an increasing proportion of people in both communities have come to believe that reunification with the rest of Ireland is likely.

  Table 10 shows that both at the time of the 1997 referendum and the first Scottish elections in 1999, people in Scotland were more likely to say that devolution would eventually result in Scottish independence than they were to believe that devolution would help cement Scotland's place in the Union. But since the Scottish Parliament has actually been in operation, that mood has changed. Now as many think that the Scottish parliament is helping to ensure that Scotland remains part of the UK as believe that it is hastening her departure. However, the most common and growing perception, similar to what we found in Table 1 above, is that devolution is simply not making much difference either way to Scotland's position in the Union.

  This picture is confirmed by Table 11 which shows that whereas at the time of the 1997 referendum nearly 60 per cent of people in Scotland thought it 'very' or 'quite' likely that Scotland would become independent within the next 20 years, now only 37 per cent take that view. In Wales, in contrast, the perception that devolution would not make much difference to the position of the principality within the UK has always been the dominant impression, with the remainder evenly balanced between those thinking that devolution made Welsh independence more likely and those who thought devolution lessened the prospects of a breakaway. That position has simply little changed since devolution has been in place.

But in Northern Ireland the picture is very different. The percentage of people who believe that a united Ireland is 'very' or 'fairly' likely within the next twenty years has approximately doubled over the last ten years from just over one in five to a little over two in five. Moreover much of the increase (especially so far as Catholics are concerned) appears to have occurred in the immediate wake of the implementation of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. But of course as we remarked earlier, it is the creation of the North-South institutions rather than devolution per se that is more likely to have made reunification appear a closer prospect.

TABLE 10. PERCEPTIONS OF DEVOLUTION AND INDEPENDENCE IN SCOTLAND AND WALES

Scotland  1997ref    1999  2000  2001

Leave      42    37  27  28

Stay      32    30  25  27

No Difference    19    27  43  41

Wales      1997ref    1999  2000  2001  

Leave      21    18  na  21

Stay      28    31  na  25

No Difference    44    47  na  50

1997, 1999: A Scottish parliament / Welsh National Assembly) will. . .

   make it more likely that (Scotland / Wales) eventually leaves the United Kingdom,

  make it more likely that (Scotland / Wales) stays in the United Kingdom,

  or, will it make no difference?

2000, 2001: From what you have seen and heard so far, do you think that having a Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly is going to...

make it more likely that Scotland/Wales eventually leaves the UK

make it more likely Scotland/Wales stays in the UK

or, will or make no difference

TABLE 11 PERCEPTIONS OF THE LIKELIHOOD OF SCOTTISH AND WELSH INDEPENDENCE IN NEXT 20 YEARS

Scotland        1997ref    1999    2001

Very likely        18    12     8

Quite likely         41    39    29

Quite unlikely        24    33    36

Very unlikely        15    14    24

Wales

Very likely        6    na     5

Quite likely        23    na    19

Quite unlikely        35    na    36

Very unlikely        35    na    38

TABLE 12. PERCEPTIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND OF THE LIKELIHOOD OF A UNITED IRELAND

% saying that a united Ireland in the next 20 years is 'very' or 'fairly' likely.
19891991 199319941995 199619981999 20002001

Protestant

Catholic


23

23


21

23


24

21


34

24


46

35


31

24


42

45


38

44


34

34


44

44

All23 21223141 274240 3443

  The introduction of devolution appears to have had a varied impact on the perceived likelihood of a break-up of the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland it has been followed by an increase in the number of people thinking a break-up is likely, in Scotland by a diminution while in Wales little has changed either way. But what has happened to perceptions of the way in which the United Kingdom is run, and thus its attractiveness as a political system in which to live?

  We have already seen that in a number of respects the reality of devolution has largely failed to match the early expectations that many people in Scotland and Wales had of it. Unsurprisingly this is also true of perceptions of the impact of devolution on who has most influence over the way that Scotland and Wales are run. At the time of the first devolved elections in 1999, slightly more people thought that the Scottish Parliament would have most influence over what happened in Scotland in future than thought the UK government at Westminster would. But after two years of devolution no less than two-thirds say that the UK government has most influence while only 15 per cent nominate the Scottish Parliament. And while in Wales only a minority ever thought that the National Assembly would be the most influential body, that proportion has subsequently nearly halved to just one in six. Indeed, despite having been suspended twice during its short life, approaching twice as many people in Northern Ireland think that the Assembly there has pre-eminence than take the equivalent view of the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

TABLE 13. PERCEPTIONS OF POWER

1999: Which do you think will have most influence over the way Scotland etc. is run?

2001: Which do you think has most influence?

Scotland

          1999    2001

Scottish Parliament      41    15

UK government      39    66

Local councils       8     9

European Union       4     7

Wales

          1999    2001

Welsh Assembly      30    16

UK government      44    61

Local Councils      12    15

European Union       7     3

Northern Ireland

          1999    2001

NI Assembly      na    28

UK government      na    51

Local Councils      na     7

European Union      na     4

  Moreover these perceptions of where power does lie in the devolved territories are sharply at odds with people's perceptions of where power should lie. No less than 74 percent of people in Scotland, 65 per cent in Northern Ireland (including even 61 per cent of Protestants), and 54 per cent in Wales believe that their parliament/assembly ought to have most influence over the way their part of the UK is run. Little wonder then that, as shown in Table 14, for the most part people in the devolved territories feel that devolution has not made much difference to the way that Britain as a whole is governed. In short, it appears that devolution has simply failed to fulfil the political aspirations with which many people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland invested it. Even amongst Northern Irish Catholics, well under half (42%) believe that the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly has improved the government of Britain. And if those living in the devolved territories themselves do not believe that devolution has made much difference to the way they are governed, we should not be surprised that those living in England are unaware of there having been much improvement either.

TABLE 14. HAS DEVOLUTION IMPROVED GOVERNMENT?
The way Britain as a whole is governed has been … ...improved,no difference, made worse
England
by creating Scottish Parliament %
18
54
13
by creating Welsh Assembly %
11
65
7
by creating NI Assembly %
16
52
12
Scotland
by creating Scottish Parliament %
35
54
8
Wales
by creating Welsh Assembly %
22
59
11
Northern Ireland
by creating NI Assembly %
33
46
7

Devolution appears then to have done little to make the way in which the United Kingdom is governed appear more attractive in the eyes of the public. In the devolved territories it is perceived as having largely failed to take power away from London in the way it was originally anticipated and for the most part is still desired. And in so far as people in England are aware of devolution at all, they do not seem to think it has made much difference either to the way the UK is governed. Any fear that devolution would divide the United Kingdom into four separate territories that increasingly had little politically in common is evidently unfounded. What remains in doubt is whether it has shown itself sufficiently capable of accommodating the diversity of political aspirations that appears to exist.

Sources of Conflict

  One of the persistent concerns expressed by the critics of devolution was that it would make political conflict between the various parts of the UK more likely and that this could eventually undermine the health of the Union. This was particularly true of the asymmetric pattern of devolution that was implemented as this appeared to give some parts of the UK rights and privileges that were denied to other parts, leaving the latter at a resentful disadvantage.

  In this section we therefore look at the apparent potential for conflict over the current devolution settlement so far as public opinion. We focus in particular on the most crucial and most widely discussed territorial relationship in the devolution debate, that is the relationship between England and Scotland. How far do people in these two parts of the UK disagree about how key aspects of the current settlement? And is there any evidence that, as the allegedly disadvantaged partner in that settlement, England now wants to be granted the benefits of devolution too?

  There is little evidence that the current devolution settlement is a potential source of tension between England and Scotland so far as public opinion is concerned. Despite the growth of discussion about the future of the 'Barnett formula' in the wake of devolution, people in England still do not as yet at least believe that Scotland is over funded. Meanwhile, people in Scotland appear to accept the logic of the 'West Lothian question' and accept that Scots MPs should not now be voting on English legislation in the UK parliament. Above all, people in England appear to support the principle of devolution for Scotland and Wales.

  Attitudes in both England and Scotland in 2001 towards a number of the key aspects of the relationship between them are shown in Table 14. A majority of people in England (57%) evidently agree that now that Scotland has her own parliament, Scots MPs should no longer be voting on English legislation. This however is not a potential source of conflict between the two publics because a little over half (51%) of people in Scotland take the same view.

TABLE 15 PERCEPTIONS OF ENGLISH/SCOTTISH RELATIONS
EnglandScotland
Scottish MPs should no longer be allowed to vote on English legislation
%

%
Strongly agree
19
15
Agree
38
36
Neither agree nor disagree
18
21
Disagree
12
16
Disagree strongly
2
8
Compared with other parts of the UK, Scotland's share of government spending is…
%

%
Much more than fair
9
2
Little more than fair
15
8
Pretty much fair
44
36
Little less than fair
8
32
Much less than fair
1
15
Whose economy benefits more from Scotland being part of the UK?
%

%
England's
7
38
Scotland's
42
18
About equal
38
39


Now that Scotland has its own parliament, it should pay for its services out of taxes collected in Scotland.  

                England    Scotland

Agree strongly            20     7

Agree              53    45

Neither              12    18

Disagree            11    25

Disagree strongly             1     3

Opinion in the two countries does diverge somewhat when it comes to the financial relationship between them, but still not to a degree likely to cause conflict. Nearly half of people living in Scotland think that their country gets less than its fair share of public spending despite having a higher spending per head of population than in England. Less than one in ten people in England take the same view. But at the same time only one in four people in England accept the argument that Scotland has more than its fair share. Indeed, despite the increased attention given to this subject in political debate recently, what is most notable about this subject is the low salience that it evidently still has south of the border where nearly one in four people say they do not know whether Scotland's share is fair or not.

  People in England do however appear to believe that overall Scotland does relatively well economically out of the Union, a perception that is less commonly shared by those living north of the border. Over two in five people in England think that Scotland's economy benefits most from the Union whereas less than in five people in Scotland take that view. But even so, as Table 16 below shows, the belief that Scotland is disadvantaged by the Union is rather less widespread north of the border now than it was before devolution. So, if anything, the advent of devolution appears to have helped quell this potential source of resentment about the workings of the Union.

  So while on the one hand few people in England do not think that Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending, on the other hand many do believe that Scotland benefits from the Union. It should thus perhaps be no surprise that nearly three out of four people in England believe that public spending in Scotland could be funded out of the revenues raised in Scotland. But this does not prove to be a potential source of conflict either, for just over half of people in Scotland take the same view.

TABLE 16 TRENDS IN ECONOMIC PERCEPTIONS IN SCOTLAND

Whose economy benefits more from Scotland being part of the UK?

          1992  1997ge 1997ref    1999  2000  2001

England's      49  50  48    36  43  38

Scotland's      14  11  14    22  16  18

About equal      32  31  32    36  36  39

  So although people in England question certain aspects of the current devolution arrangements, most notably in respect of the voting rights of MPs and how public spending in Scotland is funded, these are aspects that many people in Scotland would query too. Above all, there is no evidence that people in England would wish to deny Scotland the devolution that it now enjoys. Faced with a range of constitutional options, no less than 53 per cent of people in England now agree that Scotland should have its own parliament that has some taxation powers while just 11 per cent say that there should not be any kind of separate parliament in Scotland at all. Indeed this latter figure has fallen from 23 per cent at the time of the 1997 UK general election, while the former has risen from 38 per cent, indicating growing English acceptance of the existence of the Scottish Parliament. Equally only 14 per cent of people in England would wish to deny Wales at least some form of Assembly, down from 25 per cent four years ago.

TABLE 17 PERCEPTIONS OF RELATIVE ADVANTAGE IN ENGLAND

Thinking of the strength of voice of your region has in Parliament, and the amount of Government funding it receives, do you consider that it is better off, worse off, or about the same as…

        Scotland  Wales    London

Better      29    39    20    

About same    28    28    16

Worse      25    13    53

Source: ORB/BBC/Mar 2002. Based on respondents living in England outside London

  Indeed one clue as to why devolution to Scotland and Wales is not a significant source of resentment in England comes from an Opinion Research Business poll conducted on behalf of the BBC earlier this year. This asked people living in provincial England to compare the financial and political clout of their region with that of each of Scotland, Wales and London. And, as Table 17 shows, for every person who thinks that their region is worse off than Scotland there is at least another one who thinks they are better off. Meanwhile when asked to compare their region with Wales, no less than three times as many people think their region is better off than think it is worse off. In contrast over half of people in provincial England think their region is worse off than London. Evidently resentment of the nation's capital is still a more widespread feeling than is concern about the privileges granted to Scotland and Wales.

TABLE 18 ATTITUDES IN ENGLAND TOWARDS CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM FOR ENGLAND
1999
2000
2001
England
%
%
%
England should be governed as it is now, with laws made by the UK parliament
62

54

59
Each region of England to have its own assembly that runs services like health
15

18

21
England as whole to have its own new parliament with law- making powers
18

19

13

  Indeed while people in England are happy for Scotland and Wales to be granted a measure of devolution, there is evidently still little demand for England itself to be granted some form of devolution. In Table 18 we can see how people in England have reacted over the last three years when asked to choose between the constitutional status quo, regional assemblies on the Welsh model, and an English Parliament similar to that enjoyed by Scotland. On each occasion a clear majority of people in England have backed the constitutional status quo. At most what appears to have happened since 1999 is that the relative popularity of regional assemblies and an English Parliament appears to have moved in favour of the former.

  The possibility that there might be a 'me too' reaction in England in respect of devolution was further tested by the 2001 British Social Attitudes survey when it asked people whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposition, 'Now that Scotland has its own Parliament and Wales its own Assembly, every English region should have its own elected assembly too.' Only 29 per cent indicated that they agreed while 32 per cent disagreed. No less than 39 per cent either said they neither agreed nor disagreed or that they could not say whether they agreed or disagreed. Evidently devolution has so far produced more of an English yawn than a backlash.

  True, the Opinion Research Business/BBC poll undertaken earlier this year did apparently identify rather greater support for the idea of English regional devolution. No less than 63 per cent of its respondents said that they were in favour of an elected assembly for their region. On closer examination, however, the results of this poll can be questioned. Respondents were not offered the opportunity to say that they were neither in favour nor against a regional assembly. Meanwhile, the 63 per cent who said they were in favour comprised just 19 per cent who said they were 'strongly' in favour and no less than 44 per cent who were only 'somewhat' in favour. The latter answer is of course precisely that one would expect the relatively large proportion of people in England who appear to be indifferent about devolution to give in the absence of a clear opportunity to express their indifference.

  The asymmetric nature of the devolution settlement does not then appear to be a potential source of conflict so far as public opinion is concerned. Either the settlement reflects differences between the aspirations of people in England and those in Scotland, or the two sets of public opinion largely agree on how the settlement should be changed in order to remove an existing difficulty. Here at least there seems little reason to believe that devolution has given rise to any additional strain on the Union.

National Identity

  Public support for the maintenance of a state rests not just on cognitive preferences but also on emotional loyalties. In particular most modern states rely on the existence of a common sense of national identity amongst its citizens as a means of maintaining public support and loyalties. The United Kingdom, however, is relatively unusual in being a multi-national state. This does not mean that there is not any common sense of identity across the UK, but it does mean that that identity, viz. 'Britishness', co-exists with and perhaps even competes with alternative national identities associated with the individual components of the UK. One obvious potential danger for the Union is that adherence to Britishness may be eroded by the creation of political institutions that appear to acknowledge the legitimacy of those alternative national identities.

  It appears that adherence to Britishness does appear to have weakened somewhat in both England and Scotland in the wake of devolution. It is not however evident that the same can be said of either Wales or Northern Ireland. Moreover, a majority of people in Great Britain at least still acknowledge at least some sense of Britishness, even if it is not their primary loyalty. Only amongst Northern Irish Catholics is adherence to Britishness notable by its almost complete absence.

  Table 19 shows the responses that people in each of England, Scotland and Wales have given in recent years when they have been asked to choose a single national identity. (The choice offered included a range of other identities such as 'European', 'Irish' etc., but only the percentages choosing British and the 'local' national identity are shown here.) Faced with such a stark choice, the proportion of people in England and Scotland who say they are British has been lower in all of the readings taken since the 1997 referendums than it had been in any survey conducted before that time. Thus, for example, in England the proportion saying they are British fell from 63% to 44% between 1992 and 2001, while in Scotland it fell from 25% to 16%.

TABLE 19 FORCED CHOICE NATIONAL IDENTITY IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES

England
1992
1997
1999
2000
2001
%
%
%
%
%
English
31
34
44
41
43
British
63
59
44
47
44

Scotland
1979
1992
1997ge
1997ref
1999
2000
2001
Scottish
57
72
72
83
77
80
77
British
39
25
20
13
17
13
16

Wales
1979
1997ref
1999
2000
2001
Welsh
59
63
57
57
British
34
26
31
31

  The more limited time series available for Wales however does not suggest that there has been an equivalent change there. The proportion saying they are British is in fact little different now from what it was shortly after the first devolution referendum in 1979. Meanwhile as Table 20 shows, although there have been some short-term changes in the proportion saying they are British or Irish, the position in 2001 is almost exactly the same as it was twelve years earlier - a stark divide in which seven out of ten Protestants describe themselves as British, but less than one in ten Catholics do so.

TABLE 20 TRENDS IN NATIONAL IDENTITY IN NORTHERN IRELAND

% of respondents describing themselves as 'Irish'
1989
1991
1993
1994
1995
1996
1998
1999
2000
2001
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Protestant

Catholic

3

60
2

61
1

61
3

62
5

63
7

57
3

65
2

68
3

59
2

62
All
25
24
22
25
28
28
27
29
22
27

% of respondents describing themselves as 'British'
1989
1991
1993
1994
1995
1996
1998
1999
2000
2001
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Protestant

Catholic

68

10
65

10
69

12
70

9
67

11
59

10
67

8
72

9
74

9
71

8
All
44
43
48
46
43
39
41
45
49
42

  So there is some suggestion that in parts of the UK at least the relative importance of Britishness compared with that of the 'local' national identity may have declined somewhat. So it might be suggested that devolution may have weakened the Union a little in this respect. Even so, we should bear in mind the evidence from Table 19 that adherence to Britishness also eroded rapidly in Scotland between 1979 and 1992, during which time the country was denied devolution. And we should certainly bear in mind that in Great Britain at least (though not in Northern Ireland), people may well feel both 'British'; and 'English', 'British and Scottish' etc. Thus more people feel at least some sense of Britishness than implied in Table 19. Overall, no less than 67% of England and 60% in Wales say that British is at least one of the identities that describes themselves, while even in Scotland the figure is as high as 50%. Moreover these figures for Britishness have not dropped as much since before devolution as have those in Table 19. Thus the proportion of people claiming some sense of Britishness is just six points lower now in England than it was after the 1997 UK general election, while in Scotland it is just two points lower.

  Devolution has certainly failed so far to produce any strengthening of adherence to Britishness. Rather in England and Scotland at least it may have helped to erode it a little (further). But as yet at least, there still seems to be sufficient adherence to Britishness in most parts of the UK that the Union could still be maintained.

Conclusion

  There appear to be a few respects in which the foundations of public support for the maintenance of the United Kingdom in its current form appear to have been weakened in the wake of the implementation of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There has been a marked decline within the province in support for the Northern Ireland's membership of the UK. Moreover, although there has not been a concomitant rise in support for reunification with the rest of Ireland, the prospect of a united Ireland now appears to be more likely in the minds of those living in the province. Meanwhile, people in England seem a little more willing to contemplate the prospect of Scottish and Welsh independence. And there seems to have been a little weakening of the bonds of Britishness amongst those living in England and Scotland.

  But what perhaps is more remarkable is the damage that has not been done. Fears that a system of asymmetric devolution would generate jealousy and conflict between the various publics of the United Kingdom appear so far at least to have been highly exaggerated. England appears to be happy for Scotland and Wales to have devolution while eschewing it for itself. Scots seem to accept that both the voting rights of MPs and the way that the Scottish Parliament is funded might need to be changed in future. And so far the only part of the UK for which there is real reason to have much doubt about public support for its status within the UK is Northern Ireland, and that is something that long predates the recent devolution settlement.

  Equally, however, it is also far from evident that devolution has done much to strengthen the Union. The failure of devolution to meet the expectations that many held out for it in Scotland and Wales has been accompanied by a perception that power in the devolved territories still lies at Westminster, contrary to the wishes of a majority of those that live there. Devolution has simply not made much of a difference for many members of the public. It is thus perhaps a mistake to expect it to have had much impact one way or the other on relations between the component territories of the UK.

Appendix: ESRC Devolution and Constitutional Change Surveys

England

A random sample of 2,847 adults aged 18 plus and resident in England was interviewed face to face in the summer and autumn of 2001 as part of the British Social Attitudes survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research. The directors of the research project are Anthony Heath (Oxford University and the ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends (CREST)), John Curtice (Strathclyde University, National Centre and CREST) and Lindsay Jarvis (National Centre for Social Research and CREST). Readings for earlier years come from previous surveys in the British Social Attitudes and British Election Study series that were also conducted by the National Centre and CREST.

Scotland

A random sample of 1,605 adults aged 18 plus and resident in Scotland was interviewed face to face in the summer and autumn of 2001 as part of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research Scotland. The directors of the research project are Alison Park (National Centre/CREST), Kerstin Hinds (National Centre), David McCrone (Edinburgh Univ.), Lindsay Paterson (Edinburgh Univ.) and John Curtice (Strathclyde Univ., National Centre and CREST). Readings for earlier years come from previous surveys in the Scottish Social Attitudes and Scottish Election Study series that were also conducted by the National Centre and CREST in collaboration with Edinburgh and Strathclyde Universities.

Wales

A random sample of 1.085 adults aged 18 plus and resident in Wales was interviewed face to face in the summer of 2001. The survey was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research. The directors of the research project are Richard Wyn Jones (Univ. of Aberystwyth) and Katarina Thomson (National Centre and CRESY). Readings for earlier years are taken from the 1999 Welsh Assembly Election Study and the 1997 Welsh Referendum Study also conducted by the National Centre and CREST in collaboration with Aberystwyth University.

Northern Ireland

A random sample of 1,800 adults aged 18 plus and resident in Northern Ireland was interviewed face to face between mid-October and the end of December 2001 as part of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. Fieldwork was undertaken by Research and Evaluation Services. The directors of the research project are Roger MacGinty (Univ. of York), Lizanne Dowds (Queen's Univ., Belfast), Geoffrey Evans (Univ. of Oxford and CREST) and Gillian Robinson (Univ. of Ulster). Readings for earlier years come from previous surveys in the Northern Ireland Life and Times and Northern Ireland Social Attitudes series.



179   For convenience, this paper uses the term 'parliament' to denote Westminster (or, as appropriate, either or both the House of Commons (HC) and House of Lords (HL)), the Scottish Parliament (SP), the National Assembly for Wales (NAW, or, as appropriate, that part designated as the Presiding Office) and the Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA). Unless otherwise noted, this paper does not cover the bilateral relationships between the HC and HL. Back

180   For example, the substantial devolution research programmes funded by the ESRC and Leverhulme include some IGR projects, but none appears to be solely focussed on inter-parliamentary relations. Back

181   For example, the membership of Ministers in NAW committees distinguishes them from committees in the other UK parliaments. The extent of executive control of parliamentary business, and its influence in their parliament's IPR activity - whether through informal means such as 'usual channels', or more formally through business committees or 'Leader of the House'-type posts - can vary in practice across the parliaments. Back

182   A useful introductory comparative overview is provided by N Burrows, Devolution, 2000. Back

183   As in the 'hands-off' relationship between Westminster and Stormont during the half-century of devolved government in Northern Ireland, which was a product of the particular Irish constitutional situation. Back

184   The scope and extent of visits to and from the parliaments - especially as between those in the UK, and between them and overseas parliaments - can be seen from the information on such activity published by the parliaments themselves. See for example the SP's External Liaison Unit's programme of visits (http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/po/elu-visits.htm), which shows forthcoming visits by the HC Clerk, and the NAW Clerk in September, and a one-day visit by the HC Modernisation Committee in October ("Direct request from the HofC to visit the Scottish Parliament with particular reference to how the Parliamentary Bureau operates and how we ensure business in Chamber is topical."). Back

185   F Cranmer, "The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body: a postscript", (2001) Table 12-14. Back

186   Patricia Ferguson MSP to John O'Donoghue TD, 22nd Plenary Session, 26.2.01: http://www.biipb.org/biipb/summary/sum/doc/1022601/1022607.htm  Back

187   The NIA provides much detail on its website of its CPA activity: ­http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/commonwealth/commonwealth.htm Back

188   As parliaments, as defined for the purposes of this paper, the 3 devolved bodies have just as much interest as national parliaments in the aims of such bodies. See for example, the clear objective of the ECPRD "to facilitate contacts and exchanges between the officials of member parliaments to the mutual benefit of all. The ever increasing international aspects of parliamentary activities and concerns render it necessary to strengthen exchanges between European parliamentary assemblies in an organised and effective way. A sufficiently strong base of impartial information and analysis can enhance the role of parliaments in the overall policy process by enabling the legislature to act more independently by offering additional options for consideration in the policy debate. The ECPRD provides the structure for this kind of cooperation" (http://www.ecprd.org/Public/EN/about.htm).  Back

189   The parliaments' external relations offices presumably maintain contact with the Foreign Office. That UK department has a Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department, and has sought to develop close and amicable relations with the devolved parliaments and executives, not just in order to cover obvious substantive issues such as EU business. Back

190   The common interest in the latter may be in terms of the relevant office or body, such as whip or backbench subject committee. Back

191   This has become less common since the ending of most 'dual mandates' at the 2001 Westminster election, though membership of the House of Lords (especially of the three present devolved Speakers/Presiding Officers) is often seen as beneficial. However, dual membership can cause difficulties if such Members, (especially those holding sensitive devolved offices, such as a presiding officer or Minister) participate in what may be regarded by some as inappropriate business. Back

192   There appear to be many examples in the available material from or about all the parliaments in the UK of such official-official contacts, both formal and informal, some of which are noted elsewhere in this Paper. Back

193   The House of Commons and the NIA (both of which existed prior to the establishment of Scottish and Welsh devolution) conducted initial committee inquiries into the procedural consequence of devolution for their respective bodies: Commons Procedure Committee, 4th report, HC 185, 1998-99, May 1999, and NIA Ad Hoc Committee, interim report, NNIA3, October 1998 and final report, NNIA 5, November 1998. Back

194   For example, in the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and devolved administrations (in the drafting of which no parliament had a role, although invited to endorse them once they were published), all the administrations undertake to "encourage" their respective parliaments "to bear in mind" the division of responsibilities when transacting business their business (Cm 5240, December 2001, paras 14-15). Back

195   The November 1998 NIA Ad Hoc Committee report took the view that "this, ultimately, is a matter which only Westminster can resolve" (para 34), and the 'English Question' has been described as "the outstanding, and recurrent, challenge to the established Westminster order post-devolution" (R. Masterman & R. Hazell, "Devolution and Westminster", chapter 9 of A. Trench (ed.) The state of the nations 2001, 2001, p. 215). Back

196   The topics chosen for inquiry by the Scottish Affairs Committee are examined with interest by Scottish politicians and media, and the choice in October 2001 of post-devolution broadcasting in Scotland was initially interpreted by some as an investigation into why the Scottish media had allegedly turned their political focus from Westminster to Holyrood, ignoring Scottish MPs and Westminster business. Back

197   A visible example has been Tam Dalyell's pursuit in the House of Commons of his interest in the various domestic legal and judicial aspects of the Lockerbie disaster. Back

198   The issue of distinct parliamentary offices, or other similar presence, in Brussels may be an example of this. Back

199   The NAW debated House of Lords reform on 22 June 1999, and apparently sent the Wakeham Royal Commission the official record of that debate as evidence. The parliaments, in various guises, give evidence to UK parliamentary committees, and to public bodies such as the (Wicks) Committee on Standards in Public Life. Back

200   For example, Government of Wales Act 1998 (GOWA), s57. Back

201   SP Rule 6.2.2(a)-(b). Back

202   4th report, HC 185, 1998-99, para 5 ("…the House should respect the fact of devolution and try not to interfere with matters that are the responsibilities of the devolved legislatures.") Back

203   para 57 ("Westminster Committees should respect the spirit of devolution, and should not seek to hold a devolved institution to account"). Back

204   GOWA s74 and sch 5; Northern Ireland Act 1998 (NIAct) s44; Scotland Act 1998 (SAct) s23. Generally, in practice, committees will seek to secure the information they require through invitation. Back

205   For the position of the UK Government, see Devolution Guidance Note 12, Attendance of UK ministers and officials at committees of the devolved legislatures.  Back

206   Though the Minister for Communities, Wendy Alexander, became the first Scottish Executive minister to appear before a Commons select committee, the Scottish Affairs Committee, on 22 March 2000, it was not until 5 November 2001 that a UK minister appeared before an SP Committee, when Peter Hain, the Foreign Office Minister for Europe gave evidence to the European Committee. In a different context, the International Development Secretary, Clare Short, recently became the first UK Cabinet Minister to address an SP cross-party group, when she spoke at a meeting of the International Development Group on 7 May. Back

207   Especially in terms of legislative power, and also the statutory right of the Secretary of State to participate in Assembly proceedings: GOWA s76. Back

208   GOWA s33. Back

209   NIA SO 19(1)(a); SP Rule 13.3.3(b) (as explained in para 2.2.1 of the Detailed guidance on parliamentary questions, Feb 2001); NAW SOs 6.26 and 6.33; HC resolution 25.10.99; HL Companion to Standing Orders, para 4.88(d). Back

210   NIA SO 18(1). Back

211   NIA SO 22(3); SP Rule 15.5. Back

212   This produces different representational issues from the multi-member constituency electoral system used in Northern Ireland, or for the European Parliament. Back

213   This is considered more fully in B Winetrobe. Realising the vision: a parliament with a purpose, Constitution Unit, UCL, 2001, pp. 27-38. The Scotland Office review on the number of MSPs explicitly raised these representational issues as between MSPs and MPs if future SP and HC constituency boundaries are not coterminous. Back

214   Guidance on handling correspondence under devolution, Devolution Guidance Note 2, 1999.  Back

215   There have been no pre-Assent interventions by the Law Officers or the Secretary of State under ss33-35 of the SAct, and the only legal challenge to the validity of an SP Act which has been decided thus far was unsuccessful (A v Scottish Ministers 2001 SLT 1331, a challenge to the Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 1999, reviewed in I. Jamieson, "Challenging the validity of an Act of the Scottish Parliament" 2002 Scots Law Times (News) 71 and B Winetrobe, "Scottish devolved legislation and the courts" [2002] Public Law 31). There is currently a challenge before the Court of Session to the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.  Back

216   Post devolution primary legislation affecting Scotland, Devolution Guidance Note 10, 1999. Back

217   HL Deb vol 592, c 791, 21.7.98. Back

218   B Winetrobe, "Counter-devolution? The Sewel Convention on devolved legislation at Westminster", (2001) 6 Scottish Law and Practice Quarterly 286-92. Back

219   As in the Sewel Motion debates on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill on 6 April 2000, and on the International Criminal Court Bill on 18 January 2001. See A Page & A Batey, "Scotland's other Parliament: Westminster legislation about devolved matters in Scotland since devolution", Public Law, forthcoming. Back

220   Post-devolution primary legislation affecting Northern Ireland, Devolution Guidance Note 8, 2001. The Belfast Agreement recognised that the operation of the NIA's legislative power may be subject to the "option of the Assembly seeking to include Northern Ireland provisions in United Kingdom-wide legislation in the Westminster Parliament, especially on devolved issues where parity is normally maintained (e.g. social security, company law)" (Strand One, para 26). Back

221   R Wilson & R Wilford, "Northern Ireland: endgame", in A Trench (ed.), The state of the nations 2001, 2001, pp. 96-100. Back

222   NIAct s8(b) and sch 3. Back

223   NIAct ss 9-10 and SO 28. In particular, no Bill can be introduced if the Speaker decides that any provision of it is not within the Assembly's legislative competence (SO 28(3)). No such restriction applies in the SP. Back

224   Review of the legislative process of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Committee on Procedure, 1st report, 2001/2002, January 2002, para 4.11, and the Assembly debate on the report on 26 February 2002. Back

225   Though the Secretary of State is required to consult with the Assembly after the beginning of each Westminster session on the Government's legislative programme, and on any other Bills subsequently introduced: GOWA, s31. According to UK guidance, "this clearly means consultation with Assembly Members and will be carried out in a formal and public way. However if there has been adequate consultation with the Assembly Cabinet, the consultation with the Assembly as a whole is less likely to raise issues which have to be addressed during the passage of legislation": The role of the Secretary of State for Wales, Devolution Guidance Note 4, 1999, para 8. Back

226   Post-devolution primary legislation affecting Wales, Devolution Guidance Note 9, 2001. Back

227   K Patchett, "The central relationship: the Assembly's engagement with Westminster and Whitehall", Chap 2 of B Jones & J Osmond, Building a civic culture, 2002. Back

228   The most recent being the Assembly review of procedure, 2002, chaps 4 and 6, and the plenary debate on the report on 14 February, examined in J Williams, "The legislative process" in the Welsh Devolution Quarterly Monitoring Report January to March 2002, pp. 32-37. The Assembly review report noted that "the work of the Modernisation Committee and of the House of Lords Constitution Committee offers a useful opportunity for parliamentary procedures and co-operation with devolved bodies to be reviewed and improved. We commend the proposals in this Chapter to them": para 4.15. Back

229   A good example was the review of the NIA's procurement processes by the Head of SP Procurement, as noted in the Assembly Commission minutes of its meetings on 4.10.00, 23.10.00 and 12.2.01. The HC Director of Finance Policy is an 'external member' of the NAW's Corporate Governance Committee, and the HC Director of Catering was special adviser on the NIA's contract catering arrangements.  Back

230   Examples are Members' allowances arrangements, and guidance for operation prior to and during election periods. Back

231   CIG and IISF have been used to consider Freedom of Information issues. Back

232   For example, whereas the SP has recently received its 500th public petition, the NIA only received its first petition on 15 January 2002. The (Newton) Hansard Society Commission report on the Scrutiny Role of Parliament recommended the re-establishment of a Petitions Committee in the HC, along the lines of the SP scheme (The challenge for Parliament, 2001, paras 7.45-48), and the Leader of the House, Robin Cook, has expressed interest in the SP public petitions system as a model for the HC: "We should be willing to examine the operation of the process in Scotland and assess whether it could work at Westminster" (speech to Hansard Society Conference, Church House, London, 12.7.01). Back

233   This was an idea examined, but rejected by the Wakeham Commission, but which seemed to have resurfaced at the time of the White Paper last year. There may remain a suspicion that some in the UK Government and Parliament favour the HL acting, in some sense, as a revising chamber for SP Bills, a proposition rather surprisingly floated at one point by the then First Minister, Donald Dewar, though recently rejected again by the Leader of the House, when answering question following his statement on Lords reform on 13 May. Back

234   For example, any relations between some or all of the devolved parliaments, but not Westminster, should not be regarded as some sort of 'snub' to the UK Parliament. Back

235   Some areas, such as EU issues, will clearly generate more intensive IPR activity because of their particular nature. Back

236   A recent example of this was the adoption of a new HC Standing Order provision enabling the sharing of papers between its committees and the committees of the devolved parliaments (SO no. 137A, 14.5.02). Access by Members (or their staff) to the precincts and facilities of the other parliaments is a matter not apparently subject to any overarching, uniform arrangements. Back

237   It is clear from even a brief trawl through the proceedings of the devolved assemblies that there is a demand from committees and other parliamentary offices or groupings for what may be regarded as relatively basic relevant 'current awareness' information on the other parliaments. Examples of this include the progress of legislation and of other relevant business; amendments to parliamentary procedures and practice, and changes in personnel on committees and other parliamentary bodies. Back

238   The 1997 figures do not appear to be an aberration, at least so far as Scotland is concerned. Albeit somewhat differently worded, questions about Scotland's constitutional options that were asked of English respondents between 1992 and 1996 consistently recorded no more than 15% favouring Scottish independence. Back


 
previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003