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House of Lords

Wednesday, 29 October 2014.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Introduction: Lord Goddard of Stockport

3.09 pm

David Goddard, Esquire, having been created Baron Goddard of Stockport, of Stockport in the County of Greater Manchester, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord McNally and Lord Lee of Trafford, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Police and Crime Commissioners


3.13 pm

Asked by Lord Hoyle

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what standards and guidelines are given to Police and Crime Commissioners upon taking office.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 provides the broad structure within which police and crime commissioners must operate. The legislation is necessarily permissive to allow PCCs to innovate and deliver policing more effectively than the unelected police authorities that they replaced.

Lord Hoyle (Lab): I thank the Minister for that considered but short reply. Already between 2012 and 2014, these police and crime commissioners have cost us £9,636,264. That is just in salary and expenses and does not take into account the people who are directly employed by them. The public do not understand why police and crime commissioners were appointed, what they are supposed to do and what they have achieved, but they do know that they cannot be sacked. Does the Minister agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that this is a failed experiment and that they should be scrapped?

Lord Bates: I hear what the noble Lord says, but of course 5.49 million people voted to put those people in place. I would argue that they are much more accountable than the police authorities and the local government systems that existed before. As for the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister, of course this was a coalition agreement that was supported through this House, but the Liberal Democrats are entirely entitled to change their mind whenever they choose.

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): My Lords, it is said that Churchill described democracy as the worst system of government except for everything else that had been tried. Does the Minister agree that the coalition has achieved the converse by the introduction of police

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and crime commissioners, which is the best system of police governance in England and Wales that could have been invented, except for anything else that you could have thought of?

Lord Bates: I respect the noble Lord’s great experience in this area, but we need to remember what the system was before. The previous Government commissioned an HMIC report—entitled, appropriately for the time, Police Governance in Austerity—which found that only four of the 22 police authorities inspected were judged to have performed well in two of their primary functions: setting a strategic direction and ensuring value for money. There has been a change there, and that is to be welcomed.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, one of the two objectives that the Government set for police and crime commissioners was to save money. In addition to the vast expense of many of these police and crime commissioners appointing deputies, we have also had to have two by-elections—once, tragically, because of a death and once because of resignation—which have cost between £1 million and £3 million. How much money has the change actually saved?

Lord Bates: Police budgets overall are reducing, which is not something that we chose to do but was the situation that we were faced with when this Government came into office. It should be said that the police are also overseeing one of the largest falls in crime that we have ever had in recent years. That is to be welcomed. The average salary of a police and crime commissioner is about half that of a chief constable. In many areas, people will regard them as delivering value for money. If people feel that they are failing in their responsibilities, they can vote them out, which they could not do before.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the number of people who voted for police and crime commissioners when the elections were originally held. Will he remind the House what percentage that represents of the people who could have voted?

Lord Bates: Yes, it was 15% of those who could have voted. This was a new role introduced to increase accountability, and 15% is a sight more than were present in the smoke-filled rooms to elect the chairmen of the police authorities which existed before.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, what advice is given to PCCs on the value of high-quality youth services and well supported mentoring and peer mentoring services? What evidence can the Minister cite of consistent investment by PCCs in that vital area to prevent children and young people entering crime?

Lord Bates: The noble Earl is right to raise the concern. PCCs can be responsive in local areas in a way that did not exist before. For example, in Northamptonshire, Adam Simmonds has introduced a new victim witness service. In Cumbria, Richard Rhodes has introduced an office of victim services. Those are exactly the type of changes which are responsive to local needs that the commissioners are now delivering.

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Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware that I was unable to name any member of a police authority who was not a Member of your Lordships’ House?

Lord Bates: My noble friend makes a fine point. Police and crime commissioners, through the press, through discussion and through the elections, are much more widely known and recognised. Therefore, people will increasingly come to them with their issues, to which they can respond.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, is it not the case that a fifth—it may be more, but it is seven or eight at least; no doubt the Minister can tell us—of the elected police and crime commissioners are under current or recent investigation by the IPCC for fraud or other misdemeanours? Are the Government, or at least the Conservative part of the coalition, still intent on giving PCCs more powers and more responsibilities and doing nothing about the accountability mechanisms?

Lord Bates: I thought that when the noble Lord began by speaking about seven or so police and crime commissioners, he was referring to the number of former Labour MPs and Ministers who are now holding those important positions in this country. The reality is that of course they are accountable to the police and crime panels, but ultimately they are accountable to the people who elected them.

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Committee on Standards in Public Life recently announced an inquiry on local policing accountability, leadership and ethics, which is reviewing how ethical standards are being addressed within the current structures for police accountability, including police and crime commissioners? I declare an interest as chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Lord Bates: I was aware that that process is under way and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Bew, as chairman of that committee. In the context of this, I encourage all Members of your Lordships’ House, particularly those with policing experience, to feed in their views to the Committee on Standards in Public Life so that it can look thoroughly at this issue.

Lord Patel of Bradford (Lab): Can the Minister give us an ethnic breakdown of the police and crime commissioners?

Lord Bates: I cannot give that at the moment, but I will write to the noble Lord.

Child Abuse: Police Investigations


3.21 pm

Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent research by the NSPCC into police investigations of child abuse.

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con): My Lords, we will always ensure that police and other crime-fighting agencies have access to the powers and resources that they need to tackle child abuse in all its forms. The

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National Crime Agency is currently leading an unprecedented operation against online child abusers in the UK. In the past 12 months it has safeguarded or protected more than 1,000 children, and 706 arrests have been made by forces.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, in July 2012, the Canadian police passed to CEOP—now part of the National Crime Agency—hundreds of names of people involved in downloading abusive images of children here in the UK. It was not until September 2014, over two years later, that Essex police interviewed deputy head teacher Martin Goldberg. He was found dead the following day, with thousands of images of children on his computer, some taken with a secret camera.

Reliable evidence shows that more than 50,000 people may pose a risk to children in the UK—and yet, by the noble Baroness’s own figures, only some 700 have been arrested. The Government say that those who pose the greatest risk are prioritised. How are they prioritised? How many of the 50,000 on the NCA list have been identified as posing the greatest risk, and how many have now been interviewed?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: It is fair to say that Project Spade—as it was called—was a very regrettable incident, to the extent that the NCA has actually referred itself to the IPCC. There was no excusing what went on there. In terms of who is prioritised, they are the people who proved the most harmful to children. That is how the priority is worked out.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): Will the Minister work across government to ensure that the whole children’s workforce in all sectors are trained to recognise the early signs of child abuse so as to help the police by reducing the need for cases to come before them at all? That will protect children.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, it is a general duty of those working with children to safeguard them. Certainly every single officer who works in the NCA has a legal duty to safeguard and protect children.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, can we draw a distinction between “most harmful” and “harmful”?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: In terms of harm, I would say that “most harmful” applies to children in immediate danger of being harmed.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, what training are the police being given in relation to child abuse, whether it is porn images or the appalling stories of Rotherham and others right across the country? It is perfectly obvious that the police are not being trained at the moment. What is being done about it?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: There are highly trained officers within the NCA. The CEOP officers, of which there are 141 at the moment, are highly trained in terms of safeguarding and in terms of

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image viewing on the internet. I can provide the noble and learned Baroness with more information on that subsequently.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, would the Minister care to comment on my noble friend’s question: do the authorities take physical harm towards children outside the country as seriously as they do harm towards those within it? Is her definition of “most harm” inclusive of children who are abused anywhere else in the world?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, British national children, whether they are in this country or outside it, are of the highest priority for the Government. That is why some of the work being done on the internet has global reach. In fact, we are global leaders in this area.

Lord Laming (CB): My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that progress has been made in training front-line staff and others to listen to children and take their concerns seriously—not necessarily without a critical view—and make sure that the full range of services is brought into play at the right time?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, the development of multiagency teams in this area has been very helpful over the years. Obviously, some organisations do it better than others but I am happy to write to the noble Lord in terms of where we have got to on this.

Lord Swinfen (Con): My Lords, there appears to be far more abuse of children today than there was 30 or 40 years ago. Is it known why?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I think that there appears to be more abuse of children these days; I do not necessarily think that there is more abuse. We are just far more aware of it and willing to deal with it.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, there are reports that the Home Office is reviewing the position of Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf as chairman of the inquiry. Is this correct?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, Fiona Woolf stated to the Home Affairs Select Committee that she had no close association with the Brittans. I think that noble Lords would agree that it is time that we got on with this inquiry.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what support is given to children who have been abused?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, there is a wide range of support available to children who have been abused, but in the time that I have here I will not go through it all. I will write to the noble Baroness to outline some of the detail.

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The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware of the important report produced by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner on children who are abused when taken from residential care in children’s homes and on how gangs sexually abuse children?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Yes, those are some of the most vulnerable children in our society and it is right that we should deal with this and bring the perpetrators to book.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister aware that the General Medical Council did some work a couple of years ago, with which I was involved, on the involvement of general practitioners and other doctors in spotting child abuse? Is she also aware that one issue that was most clearly a problem was the multiagency relationships that she talked of in one of her earlier answers? Although there are good intentions in relation to multiagency work, is she confident that it is being carried out in a coherent way?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: The noble Baroness raises a very valid point. That is why I mentioned earlier the different pictures across various multiagency teams. This is an area for improvement.

Gaza: Reconstruction


3.28 pm

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contribution they are making to the reconstruction of infrastructure in Gaza.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, at the Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo, the United Kingdom committed £20 million to assist those affected by the recent conflict in Gaza, including the hundreds of thousands left homeless or without access to water. This funding will include support for the disposal of unexploded ordnance, rubble clearance programmes and reconstructive surgery for those injured in the conflict.

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): I thank my noble friend for her Answer but how does she intend to reassure taxpayers in this country, who are increasingly worried about expenditure on international aid, that the money for reconstruction in Gaza will not be squandered when Israel launches another attack in a couple of years’ time? Can she also say why so many of the contracts for building materials and the reconstruction of Gaza are going to Israeli companies, thus ensuring that Israel profits from the destruction that it caused?

Baroness Northover: No one benefits from destruction in Gaza. In terms of the rebuilding, we are looking very carefully at the implications of any damage to internationally funded structures. Meanwhile, our partners assure us that relief items are largely sourced in Gaza, the West Bank or internationally.

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Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, it is clear that we need to get much building material into Gaza to help rebuild all those destroyed homes, but is the noble Baroness aware of the statement made by the Hamas spokesman last week? He said that the avowed intention of Hamas is to start rebuilding the tunnels into Israel immediately. Is there any way of preventing this?

Baroness Northover: We urge restraint, as we always do, on both sides. Peace is in the interest of both sides—of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, last month Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the UN agreed to a tripartite mechanism to enable vital reconstruction materials to reach Gaza, while also ensuring they do not end up in the hands of the terror group Hamas. Does the Minister agree that this is welcome news and that we must encourage further such co-operation, which recognises the concerns of both parties?

Baroness Northover: I would agree with my noble friend.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, it is surely quite right that vast sums should be pledged by the international community for reconstruction. But what assurances were given by Hamas and its successor that the sums they receive are conditional on good conduct—in particular, on not provocatively raining ever more rockets on Israel?

Baroness Northover: It is worth bearing in mind that, as I said, we urge restraint on both sides. In that conflict, 71 Israelis lost their lives and 2,131 Palestinians were killed. It is extremely important that we move forward into a proper peace process.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, am I correct in understanding that Turkey has offered a ship with sufficient generating capacity to supply electricity to the whole of the Gaza Strip for six months? If that is correct, will the Government ensure that the offer is accepted and the thing is made use of?

Baroness Northover: I do not know the details of that but I will write to the noble Lord. I know that we are gravely concerned about Gaza’s fuel and energy situation.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that the Egyptian Government are starting to clear eastern Sinai to create a buffer zone to close the Rafah crossing, which will further limit supplies going into Gaza. Given that very limited construction materials are already agreed, how does she see Gaza being rebuilt in these very constrained circumstances?

Baroness Northover: We were very clear at the Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo that movement, including access restrictions, needed to be improved to have the kind of meaningful reconstruction that my noble friend is talking about. We have welcomed the agreement on the UN mechanism for importing construction materials as an important first step. Egypt’s

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actions in this regard are less than helpful, but Israel has primary responsibility as the occupying power and we continue to urge it to ease restrictions and reach a durable ceasefire agreement.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, at the Cairo conference, the DfID Minister declared on his return that a key ingredient for stability is a long-term strategy for Palestinian economic growth. What action is the department taking to ensure that that comes into place?

Baroness Northover: This leads back to the previous question. What is extremely important here is lifting many of the Israeli restrictions. Lifting restrictions in Area C alone, as he probably knows, could increase Palestinian GDP by $3.4 billion.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, earlier the Minister quoted the relative numbers of people killed on both sides. Taking these into account as well as the extent of the destruction, including two declared UN safe-haven facilities, do Her Majesty’s Government share the White House’s view that Israel’s actions in this matter were disproportionate and indiscriminate?

Baroness Northover: We certainly condemn the actions of Hamas in terms of the rocket fire but we have also urged that Israel, which has a right to defend itself, should do so in a way that is indeed proportionate.

Viscount Slim (CB): My Lords, it is a known fact that the Palestinians inside Gaza are not in control of their own destiny. Hamas dictates in Gaza. Unless Her Majesty’s Government, and DfID in particular, are very careful, they will discover that most of this reconstruction money goes towards the rebuilding of Hamas’s destroyed houses and, as one noble Lord said, the tunnels and hides for its armaments and munitions. There is a great danger that if this money and equipment get into the wrong hands, our country will be liable for supporting one of the nastiest and most vicious terrorist organisations in the world at present—one that is primed and supported by Iran. This will mean that we are supporting a terrorist organisation.

Baroness Northover: I assure the noble Viscount that no UK aid money goes to Hamas, but of course Hamas needs to be part of the ceasefire negotiations and it is extremely important that the peace process moves on. The region is a tinderbox, and the sooner that it moves on, the better for all concerned.

European Arrest Warrant


3.36 pm

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the United Kingdom is able to opt back into the European Arrest Warrant.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, the Government are close to agreeing a package of 35 measures with the European Commission and other member states that the UK will seek to join in the national interest. That package includes the reformed arrest warrant, with increased domestic powers to block arrest warrants where the offence is disproportionately minor or where the relevant conduct that occurred in the UK is not a crime. The discussions continue in Brussels.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): Given that nearly 100 foreign criminals are removed from this country under the European arrest warrant every month, can the Minister give us a guarantee that we will have opted back in by 1 December? When will this be put to the House of Commons? When it is, because of the level of opposition to the European arrest warrant by the Taliban majority of the Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party, will the Government be relying on Labour votes for us to opt in, in the national interest?

Lord Bates: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to point to the importance of this; 5,000 foreign criminals have been deported since it came into effect in 2009. Of course the desire is to opt back in by 1 December, but this needs to be negotiated and there need to be agreements. Those negotiations are continuing. Her Majesty’s Government’s position is that we want to be there by 1 December. In terms of when the House will have the opportunity to discuss this, discussions are ongoing between the business managers to make time for that to happen before 20 November.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the only people who gain from our non-membership of the European arrest warrant arrangements are fraudsters, child molesters and gangs? Should we not say that this is another example of the excellent reasons why we should be full and really committed members of the European Union?

Lord Bates: My noble friend is absolutely right in respect of these measures. To keep a balance, though, let us remember that being part of the European Union is not just about signing up to everything that comes down the track. With regard to justice and home affairs, there were 135 measures in the package, 100 of which we did not feel passed the test regarding our national interest. However, 35 did and those are what we want to rejoin.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, does the Minister accept that committees of this House have heard overwhelming evidence from law enforcement agencies from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland, of the wholly invaluable role that the European arrest warrant plays in the war against serious crime? Does he also accept that, although there are minor infractions that can so easily be put right, it would be a severe blow to the administration of justice if, for any reason—particularly in relation to any tactical or political consideration—the European arrest warrant were to be prejudiced in any way?

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Lord Bates: The noble Lord is absolutely right. That is why the Government are bringing this forward and seeking urgent agreement on it.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the comments in the letter from the Irish Government expressing their concern that if there is any gap between the Government opting out of the international arrest warrant and opting back in again, that will have serious implications for arresting those involved in terrorism. What response have the Government made to this, and what discussions have they had with other countries which may be expressing similar concerns?

Lord Bates: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. That is why we want to ensure that there will be no gap in respect of this, and I am confident that there will not be. Only one country out of the 22 with which we are currently in bilateral negotiations has a concern about this. We believe that that concern can be overcome within a matter of days.

Lord Blackwell (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend accept that there are serious concerns about the principle of British citizens being arrested on British soil and sent into the custody of foreign judicial systems, where there is no democratic control by other British citizens, without a chance for British courts and British justice systems to take a view on it? Will my noble friend assure us that this House will have a full opportunity to debate and vote on this proposal before it is taken forward?

Lord Bates: We will certainly have that debate and vote. That was one of the important safeguards we negotiated that have been introduced: to say that a crime must be a crime in this country as well as in the country to which the extradition has been sought for a warrant to be agreed to.

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware that European arrest warrants are a two-way process, and that should the Government fail to renegotiate an entry back into the European arrest warrant system for Britain, then the criminals of Europe would know that and what used to be called the “costa del crime” would arrive on the shores of Britain?

Lord Bates: My Lords, I am sure that the representatives of the Spanish Government, with whom we are negotiating bilaterally, will of course have noted the noble Lord’s comments carefully.

Baroness Suttie (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree with Sir Hugh Orde, the president of ACPO, when he said that the European arrest warrant,

“gives us a stronger, more effective means of arresting dangerous criminals across borders and thus keeping our communities safe at home—it is not an instrument which we can afford to lose”?

Lord Bates: My noble friend is absolutely right. I agree with ACPO in respect of this and of course the European affairs committee, the security services and the law enforcement services, whose views the Government have listened to and acted upon.

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Lord Low of Dalston (CB): My Lords, will the Minister say if the Government are willing to reconsider their opt-out from the measure on xenophobia and racism? I think that to opt out of this measure portrays the United Kingdom in a very bad light and sends a very bad signal.

Lord Bates: I will write to the noble Lord on that. He is right to raise concerns about it and I will make sure that he gets an absolutely accurate and speedy reply.

Arrangement of Business


3.44 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons recently announced a February Lenten Recess for that House. It may be for the convenience of the House that I now do the same. I hope that we will be able to rise for a short recess at the end of business on Thursday 12 February and return on Monday 23 February 2015. I must emphasise that these dates are provisional and subject to the progress of business. That is of course the usual caveat for all our recess dates, but I must underline it on this occasion, for this will be the final recess in this last Session of the Parliament.

I hope that the House will also find it useful if I take the opportunity to highlight that this morning’s edition of Forthcoming Business advertises three more sitting Fridays before we rise for Christmas: 21 November, 5 December and 12 December.

Scotland: Devolution

Motion to Take Note

3.45 pm

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That this House takes note of devolution following the Scotland referendum.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, I am delighted to open this debate on devolution following the clear decision of the Scottish people to remain part of this great United Kingdom.

As delighted as I am, I will allow a little time for noble Lords leaving the Chamber to do so before I continue to open this debate, because I would be very disappointed if noble Lords remaining for the debate did not get to hear just how delighted I am.

The clear decision of the Scottish people to remain part of this great United Kingdom was a once-in-a-generation decision that confirmed once again what we all know to be true: that we are a family of nations bound by a rich history and the strength of our democracy. The referendum campaign electrified politics in Scotland. Door by door, street by street, the Scottish people showed just how much people are truly interested in the big decisions that affect them. I know that many noble Lords from across the Chamber were involved in that campaign. I pay particular tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of

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Tankerness, who will respond to today’s debate and who, let us not forget, is a former Deputy First Minister of Scotland.

Eighty-five per cent of people in Scotland voted in the referendum: a truly remarkable figure. More than 2 million people voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. They voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament backed by the strength and security that comes from being part of the United Kingdom. With their support, we can now firmly say that the debate has been settled for a generation—or, as Alex Salmond himself said, perhaps for a lifetime.

Before the referendum, the three pro-union parties made clear commitments with a clear timetable to devolve further powers to Scotland. We have since published our Command Paper on Scotland ahead of schedule, setting out the proposals from each party. This is not just talk. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, and his commission have already begun work to take those commitments forward, working with one aim: to produce a unifying set of proposals by 30 November. For the first time, I am pleased to say that all major parties are involved in shaping that result. Based on that work, the Government will publish draft clauses by the end of January—by Burns Night, to be precise—so that the legislation is ready to be implemented after the next general election. Let me be clear: we have delivered, we are delivering and we will deliver on our devolution commitments, just as the United Kingdom Government have always done.

Let me turn now to Wales, where we have also been making good on our promise of further devolution. We have delivered a referendum on lawmaking powers, we have set up the Silk commission and we have introduced the Wales Bill, where I am particularly proud of the role that this House is playing. That Bill implements nearly all the Silk 1 recommendations, which alone devolve significant tax and borrowing powers to the Assembly and Welsh Ministers—but we went further. By removing the lock-step, we will provide the Welsh Assembly with the power to vary income tax rates. Not only will those new powers help the Welsh economy to become more dynamic, they will make the Welsh Government more accountable. Those are big steps forward, but we must make sure to keep Wales at the heart of the broader debate before us today.

As Noble Lords will know, the Silk commission recommended a move to a reserved powers model in part 2 of its report. It will fall to the next Parliament to make that change, but the Secretary of State for Wales has made it clear that in considering the best way forward he wants to hear views from across the political spectrum in Wales.

It is also vital that we consider the future of devolution in Northern Ireland. I need not remind the House that the settlement there is the result of the hard-fought and hard-won Belfast agreement. Providing additional powers would involve changes to that agreement, so any changes would need to command the support of all parties in the Assembly. It is right that the focus there is on making the existing settlement work well and in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

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This does not mean that the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland is fixed. The ability to vary long-haul air passenger duty has already been devolved, and the Northern Ireland Executive are committed to devolving corporation tax. The Prime Minister has made it clear that there will be a decision on this no later than the Autumn Statement.

As I have already set out, the Government respect and support the calls for greater autonomy and devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—but we cannot ignore England in this equation. England is the most decentralised nation in the United Kingdom. The Localism Act 2011 marked a historic shift in power to the local level. In doing so, we did not create new layers or structures or more politicians; we moved money to local areas in order to make things happen. Thirty-nine local enterprise partnerships bring together civic and private sector leaders to promote growth. We have devolved the money—£2 billion a year from next year—for them to do their work. We have delivered on city and local growth deals. Eight so-called core deals have been signed, creating around 175,000 jobs and 37,000 apprenticeships over 20 years. With the second wave now in place, there are 18 more on the way.

Those steps are part of the answer, though I am sure that more can and will be done. However, they do not answer the fundamental, so-called West Lothian question—how to deal fairly with legislation affecting England. For the people of England this is a matter of fairness. Who decides their laws? With further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we must ensure that the voice of England is heard as well. This means establishing a clear principle. When decisions affect only the people of England, they should be made by—or with the consent of—the MPs whom those people have elected to represent them.

There has been much talk that a constitutional convention must discuss all these issues before we can make progress on the matter of English votes for English laws. I reject that suggestion. A convention may well be desirable, but it should not delay progress on the West Lothian question. At a time when we are looking again at devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it cannot be right that England should be left out once again. To those who argue that we are moving too quickly, I remind the House that we have been discussing the question for at least the last 17 years and that, in that time, we have had plenty of material to inform us. From within my own party, for example, my noble friend Lord Norton’s Commission to Strengthen Parliament made considered recommendations in 2000. More recently, noble Lords will recall the work of the McKay Commission in 2013. A commitment to address the problem has been in the last three Conservative manifestos.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all the major parties have come together across party boundaries to work towards new settlements. It is only at Westminster, on the issue of fairness in England, that the Opposition have not accepted our invitation to move the issue forward. It is a shame. As a member of the Devolution Committee, I was looking forward to working with Members on the Benches opposite.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): I am most grateful to my noble friend. None of these arguments is new. They were gone through in great detail in the 19thcentury at the time of Irish home rule. The conclusion then was that the way to deal with this fairness was to reduce the number of MPs coming from Ireland. Why can the same not be applied in the case of devolution to Scotland?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Certainly—and I speak for the leadership of my party—we are clear that the best way in which to deal with this is through English votes for English laws within the House of Commons. That is something that we can tackle and deal with quickly.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): So much of the legislation affects England and Wales. When the noble Baroness says England, does that include Wales?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Certainly in the context of legislation that affects England and Wales only, of course that includes Wales.

I assure the House that my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons and chairman of the Devolution Committee, to which I have already referred, will do everything that he can to resolve the West Lothian question before the election, and I applaud his efforts and commend them to this House. It cannot be clearer that now is the time for a better and fairer settlement for the whole United Kingdom. We are absolutely committed to the timetable set out for further devolution to Scotland. We are committed to providing further powers to Wales and to meeting the special needs of Northern Ireland. We on the Conservative Benches are committed to bringing forward a solution to the West Lothian question before the end of this Parliament. There will be a time and a place for a constitutional convention but that should not be a device to prevent the other issues before us being addressed now. We are all responsible for ensuring that decisions are made fairly and in the interests of all people in the United Kingdom. Now, more than ever, we must uphold that responsibility. I beg to move.

3.56 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for agreeing to table this significant and necessary debate in government time. I have long recognised the importance of constitutional change, and I am proud of what my Labour Government achieved. But in recent years, with the country facing so many challenges, many as a consequence of coalition policies, I felt that such changes should not be a priority for legislation. However, the experience of the Scotland referendum has made me think again, and I am now firmly of the view that we must urgently consider profound changes in our governance.

Thomas Paine said:

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one”.

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Government, Parliament and our politics have for too many of our citizens become intolerable. There is much that we can learn from Scotland’s referendum: the tremendous participation was a shot in the arm for democracy. People thought that the result really mattered. There was great passion in the yes campaign and the no message, and in many ways they both reached the same conclusion, that the status quo is simply not acceptable. What it clearly illustrated, despite the resounding outcome in favour of the union, is that people feel powerless that they have no influence over distant decisions taken for them rather than with them. As with their fellow citizens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, people in Scotland want power closer to where they live, rather than what they see as a cosy circle in Westminster and Whitehall. They want this because they are fed up with inequality and being left behind while those at the top continue to thrive. They are disappointed by what they see as the “yah, boo” of party politics, which either bores them rigid or reinforces alienation, and they are angry about being let down by elite decision-makers—not just in politics, but in the banks, media, police and church. In a nutshell, people’s faith in some of the major institutions of our country has crumbled.

Granting votes at 16 was a real lesson for the UK as a whole. I have long supported this policy, which has now been adopted by both my party and the Liberal Democrats. My view was reinforced this morning by a meeting with a hundred National Citizen Service leaders, and I was delighted to hear my noble friend Lady Liddell of Coatdyke say recently in the Chamber:

“I was one of the people who thought that it was wrong for the franchise to reduce the voting age to 16. I was comprehensively proved wrong. I heard some of the best debates I have ever heard in a lifetime in politics from 16 and 17 year-olds”.—[Official Report, 16/10/14; col. 295.]

Like her, I urge the Government and the Hansard Society to consider the specific lessons to be learnt from empowering young people at the ballot box, then act on their findings.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those Conservatives who during the referendum campaign were committed to the union. The party’s leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, and the Prime Minister both pulled out all of the stops to secure a no vote.

However, soon after the counting ended and the results began to emerge, Mr Cameron, I am afraid to say, reverted to type. He parroted the response of his general election strategists and political advantage took centre stage, by making the link between the promises made to the people of Scotland and English votes for English laws. Once again, Mr Cameron was caught looking over his shoulder at the threats from within his own party, along with UKIP’s bluster, rather than responding to the needs of our country.

The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition made a commitment—indeed, a vow—to further strengthen and empower the Scottish Parliament. My party is participating in the process under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, in a spirit of partnership and co-operation with others. I would be grateful for an assurance from the Leader that the commission will at

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all times be led by the outcome of the referendum. The result indicated that people wanted a strong Scotland inside a strong UK with the continuation of sharing both our resources and achievements.

The necessary further devolution to Scotland, together with the clear discontent of the British people, means that it is imperative that we consider and address the English constitutional anomaly. England has been tolerant for a long time and I understand some of the frustrations expressed. However, English votes for English laws is not the answer.

The Cabinet committee, referred to by the noble Baroness, chaired by William Hague, hastily convened and meeting behind closed doors, simply will not do. People will no longer tolerate a Westminster stitch-up, when what our country needs is an open, transparent discussion. A piecemeal approach to constitutional change for political advantage is unacceptable. Embittered nationalism is always wrong. The fact that some in the party opposite want to put what the Telegraph calls “English home rule” at the very heart of their election campaign is not a sound basis for action. In fact, it is morally wrong and further erodes trust in our politics. The future governance of our country is much bigger than one party’s demands or vision. As Vernon Bogdanor pointed out in an excellent article last month:

“the British constitution is not the private property of the Conservative party or”,

any other party. He continued:

“A constitutional settlement, if it is to be lasting, needs the support of all parties, and endorsement by the people as a whole after measured debate”.

English votes for English laws, of which, contrary to expectation there are few, is a purely separatist proposal and one that would produce a two-tier system that would enshrine existing inequalities; drive a wedge between the Scottish and English systems of government; and risk the future of the Union, when what is needed is a constitutional reform that strengthens its integrity.

Earlier this year, colleagues in the Lords Labour group published an excellent report entitled A Programme for Progress. Among its recommendations was the setting up of a constitutional convention. The group was, indeed, prescient. My party leader, Ed Miliband, has announced proposals for a constitutional convention rooted in the UK’s nations and regions. It would address the need for further devolution, not just in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in England too, and reform of Westminster, including this very House. It is the best means of arriving at a consensus on the governance of our country and it would give our citizens a stronger voice in politics.

I recognise that this is also the policy of the Liberal Democrats, so I strongly urge the noble Baroness to commit the Conservatives to something that has broad support, including among civil society and our citizens. Now is not the time for partisanship. Consensus has to be the way forward and we should learn from the experiences of Ireland’s post-2008 constitutional convention and Scotland’s own pre-1997 convention.

The process must be time limited and involve not just the political class. A convention driven by the people, for the people, with views and voices from communities across the country would mean that change

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could be part of addressing feelings of powerlessness in the face of globalisation and its impacts. It would encourage participation in the decision-making process, both within our new constitutional arrangements and the democratic system that it delivers.

Greater devolution is at the heart of my party’s policies, with radical plans to disperse power and responsibility downwards. My right honourable friend, Hilary Benn, has announced a new English deal, in which the equivalent of £30 billion pounds of spending would transfer away from Whitehall. This is crucial because, notwithstanding what the noble Baroness says, right now our country is too centralised. Only a quarter of public spending is at a local or regional level compared with an OECD average of a third, and our subnational taxation is 1.7% of GDP compared with 16% in Sweden.

A report released last week by the City Growth Commission, chaired by Jim O’Neill, focuses on how to push power down to our top 15 metropolitan areas. Starting from the position that “This is the age of the city”, it makes an eye-catching observation that these 15 areas, performing to their potential up to 2030, could net an additional £79 billion for our economy. However, it is not just about cities; our more rural and coastal areas are just as important, as recognised by the excellent review of my noble friend Lord Adonis entitled Mending the Fractured Economy. They, too—the counties within county regions—need greater powers to chart their own course on infrastructure, skills and employment.

City regions and county regions are of course already taking shape across England. Councils of all political persuasions understand that working together, whether to deliver better local services, be more efficient in the use of public money or market their economic and cultural potential on a wider international stage, makes sense. As a consequence, they are building up local university, IT and service sectors with the jobs and prosperity that all that promises. The cohort of authorities around big cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham has been doing this for years, as, too, are less urban areas such as Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Therefore, it is no wonder that some are now saying that if it is good enough for one part of the UK, why not the rest? Many who voted yes in Scotland’s referendum did so not out of a new-found belief in Scottish nationalism or support for gesture politics; they voted yes because they believed that nobody else was listening to their concerns that politics was not working for them and their families. Nobody was offering them hope of better times, if not economically then at least an opportunity to flourish and grow. The conversations that our great parties wanted to have with them often started from a different premise and, as such, failed to reflect what people were actually worried about.

It would seem to make perfect sense, therefore, that Scotland should be looking to devolve internally in the same way as England—not just to city regions around Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen but perhaps to county regions, too, with more powers closer to home for local authorities to work together, influence change and offer the promise of a better future not just to those youngsters who voted yes but to their younger siblings who were not yet old enough to vote

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but might hold similar views. Such an approach could also help to deal with the false promises of the SNP and its political bedfellows, for whom a centralised—a more centralised—Scotland is everything.

It is only two short years since that wonderful summer of 2012, when we all came together to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Games may have lasted just one month but they were the culmination of a decade’s hard work from the initial bid to the event itself. This was not the achievement of any one party: we all played our part in making it a success, and that work goes on through the benefits of the Olympic legacy.

In many ways, the glorious summer of 2012 already seems a long time ago: our huge feeling of optimism and togetherness—dare I say “one nation”?—as people in communities across Britain took an interest in sports to which we usually pay little or no attention just to see how well the Team GB competitor had done; our excitement in looking at the medals table evening after evening to see how far we could climb, competing with the likes of China and the US; our pride in the modern, diverse, outward-looking, optimistic Britain that was on display during that extraordinary opening ceremony; those wonderful volunteers, the Games makers; and of course that “Super Saturday”, when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all won gold in what must have been the greatest 46 minutes of British sporting history. We felt like a nation at ease with itself and we felt like a country that could achieve anything we set our sights on if only we put our differences aside and worked together.

Two years on, that feeling has gone. We have seen a sometimes bitter referendum campaign in Scotland, the debate about Europe and immigration gets more intolerant and feeds people’s fears, and distrust in politicians and government goes from bad to worse. We are not, however, going to find solutions with partisan politics and playing people in different parts of the UK off against each another. A constitutional convention will not resolve all of our problems but it would certainly make a start.

4.10 pm

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, today I am celebrating: the concept of a federal approach to our previously grossly overcentralised system of government seems to have come of age. After a political lifetime promoting this concept, I am delighted that this f-word is no longer considered unutterable. Perhaps we should also allow two c-words to be used in polite political society: the Commonwealth of Australia has something to teach us, as does the Confederation of Canada. We are so insular in this country that we have failed to examine the good examples in other mature democracies, even when we Brits had a hand in devising their constitutions. I will make three broad points.

First, I hope and trust—and this has been evident from the contributions so far—that there is complete unanimity across the House and the three main parties that the delivery of the vow to the people of Scotland will not be delayed by any proper considerations of the implications for other parts of the United Kingdom. That is important for all sorts of reasons.

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Nothing could stoke up further resentment, increase disenchantment with our whole representative democracy and, indeed, play into the hands of separatists, more dangerously than delay and dithering over this.

Secondly, there is also a widespread recognition that there are consequences of greater devolution for the way in which we legislate and apportion tax responsibilities and expenditure here in Westminster and Whitehall. Thirdly, there must be recognition that the most oversimplified, knee-jerk, hasty reaction of calling for English votes for English laws is simply inadequate: EVEL is not enough. It is far from simple; decisions taken on English matters in the United Kingdom Parliament have financial implications for the whole union. It is hard enough to define what an English Bill is. As my noble friend Lord Thomas has already said, very often it is an English and Welsh Bill and falls outside that definition during its progress through both Houses.

Of course, the United Kingdom Parliament is not unicameral. There are two Houses and we here do not represent any one territory: we are United Kingdom Peers. Only an elected House—so far elusive—could resolve that anomaly. However, in the mean time, the McKay commission completely ignored our evidence on this point. What would this House do if its recommendations were accepted by the other House?

Although we must be conscious that obsessing about England per se does no service at all to the already increasing pressures for true subsidiarity and a bottom-up approach to devolution, we must recognise that within England there are pressures for devolution. Simply creating an English institution does not deal with the underlying problem of overcentralisation. People are already rightly asking, if Scotland and Wales, with five and three million people respectively, can take significant legislative and fiscal power, why not London or Yorkshire? Indeed, might it not again be time to ask the people of the north-east—or parts of it—whether they want the top-down, minimal devolution-lite they were offered in 2004, or whether they would prefer something serious, along the lines already experienced in Wales and which we hope will be increased there. In Cornwall, of course, there is substantial demand for an assembly to take on similar responsibilities.

Dealing with this demand for real legislative devolution—not just administrative decentralisation—is a construct that people in England already recognise, and we must require a bottom-up process, not a top-down imposition, as a vital first step in sorting out the English question. I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that the Localism Act did not instil in the British people a recognition that we have adequate local accountability in England. It simply is not there. That is not enough. It was never thought to be enough.

Clearly this would leave much less for the Westminster Parliament to do. There would be far fewer English issues. There would be less for Whitehall to do, offering an opportunity for substantial bureaucratic slimming. However, I and my colleagues acknowledge that there would still be some distinctly English issues. For those, it may be that an English Grand Committee might be an appropriate mechanism—but that is a consequential

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change. That is not the initial change that is so critical. In setting that up, we would have to be clear what the options for such a committee would be.

First, it could be an impotent talking shop—there is plenty of precedent for this. If, as with the McKay proposals, the full House of Commons, the United Kingdom House of Commons, and your Lordships’ House were simply to overrule everything that was said in the English Grand Committee, how would that play with our fellow citizens? That would just make the problem worse, not better.

A second option would clearly be a full legislative decision-making parliamentary vehicle. If so, we must face up to the fact that there would be a need for an Executive to deliver those legislative decisions. Do we want an English Executive with an English First Minister? I do not think that the public are ready and willing to go in that direction.

Thirdly, the committee could have the power of veto to prevent MPs from Scotland or Wales, or wherever that legislation was likely not to have any effect, pushing it through at the risk of constant cost and tax implications exclusively for England—or England and Wales. That veto option seems the most likely to prevail. It underlines why so much legislative power needs to be transferred out of Westminster before it happens, because it is only half the answer—or no answer at all—to the English question.

We must also consider that each devolution settlement so far has built in a firm commitment to fair representation. That is why my right honourable friend David Laws, on behalf of our Party, has set out this essential element for a new parliamentary vehicle, if there is to be one, to be truly and fairly representative of English voices, in a submission to the Cabinet committee.

In his Guardian article on 2 October, David Laws set out an unanswerable case when he stated:

“Every time Westminster has devolved powers in the past—to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even London—it has insisted that the devolved authority that wields those powers be put together on the basis of proportional representation … What was right for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London is also right for England”.

That approach was endorsed by the Economist on 21 September this year.

From these Benches, we will continue to argue that further devolution to Scotland must proceed immediately. We should go even further than the present Wales Bill does for Wales. We should introduce a devolution-enabling Bill to bring about transfers of more power from this Parliament to other institutions in England, and those institutions should be elected on the basis of fair representation. Residual English powers operated in Westminster by a Grand Committee should be similarly subject to fair proportionality so that English votes and English voices represent the will of English voters.

Next year, 2015, is the 800th anniversary—

Noble Lords: Order.

Lord Tyler: I am coming to a conclusion. Next year is the 800th anniversary of this Parliament, as set out in the Magna Carta. Barons led the route to greater

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democracy 800 years ago. I hope that Barons and Baronesses will make a very positive contribution to the next move forward on devolution.

4.18 pm

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, this debate is on devolution following the Scottish referendum. Unlike many colleagues in this Chamber who, after the Scottish referendum, expressed the view that it was a great victory, I do not think that is the case. It was a damned close-run thing. Not only that, having succeeded in winning, the ink was barely dry on the ballot papers when we were busy snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I am no constitutional expert but there are two things that I know. First, you cannot sensibly reform a constitution such as ours on the hoof.

The second thing I know is that we are perfectly capable of destroying a similar constitution on the hoof. These things need to be thought through, and we have had years to think them through, but little or nothing has emerged. All of a sudden we get a shock. I have to say to noble Lords that it does not matter what we do with the vow that was made by our leaders. Of course it must be implemented, but whatever is put forward will not be enough because the people who will reject it have no gain to make by accepting it.

That is my biggest concern. I have always been in favour of devolution, and I accept that there will inevitably be an asymmetric situation in the United Kingdom. I also accept the frustration of the people in England. Let us face it: we have a Cabinet Minister outside this building telling the people of Scunthorpe how many times a month their bins are going to be emptied. That does not strike me as being somewhere where power should be, so we have a long way to go and we know it.

As the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, asked a moment ago, what will become of your Lordships’ House? Are we to go around with badges on us, or with flags on our foreheads, to say when we can go into a Lobby and when we cannot? What are we going to do? These things are fundamental and can be dealt with in a coherent manner only when everybody sees the working out of the constitutional changes that are inevitable now. We have set our shoulder to the wheel. Did we intend the machine to run down the hill out of control? Probably not, but that is where we are.

The nationalists in Scotland will never accept anything that we do here unless they get their own way. People like me know how nationalists think. It does not matter what we do in Stormont either—the same thing will apply.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is in his place, and I want to say something about the convention in his name, which has been mentioned. That roughly said that this Parliament would not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the devolved Assemblies. I understand that. However, as a result of that, we have turned the devolved Assemblies into giant ATMs. The politicians in them spread out the largesse—and I was one of them. We were spending billions of pounds, and if we did not have enough to spend, this place was to blame. It was a shot to nothing, as snooker players would say. We cannot possibly win in Westminster. There has to

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be some link so that the people understand where the money comes from and what the consequences are of overspending.

At Stormont today they are in crisis because they cannot control their own budget, something that has never happened before, despite being in charge of this for years. It is a mess. My fear is that, unless there is a clear link between what is spent and clear accountability by the devolved regions for what they spend, there is no way that we will have any United Kingdom identity or brand. It will simply be Holyrood or Cardiff or London or Belfast or wherever.

We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are to have a coherent constitution that meets the needs of our citizens. I feel very strongly that in Northern Ireland after 1920, Whitehall and Westminster thought the problem was solved. Northern Ireland was dealt with by a junior officer at the back of an office in the Home Office. I believe that, if this Parliament had had a meaningful role, oversight of and a say in what was happening in Stormont, we would never have got into the mess we got ourselves into in the 1960s and 1970s. We are going to repeat the same mistake, because it was clear when the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was brought forward earlier this year that the same thinking and mentality are still there.

I can say only that I am a great believer in our union—a great believer in the United Kingdom. The chairman of our Constitution Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, who will speak shortly, spelt out a vision for the union for the years ahead. We need that vision first, and then we have to decide what the function is, and the form will follow. I think we are doing it back to front.

4.24 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, bishops need to tread warily when discussing matters Scottish. Although I am thoroughly English by birth and background, I can, I think, claim rather closer connections with Scotland than some whom I observe wearing the kilt at the Chester Caledonian Association dinners which I regularly attend.

Let me explain. I have a Scottish wife—my one and only wife, I hasten to add—and two Scottish degrees, all three from Edinburgh. I trained for ordination in Scotland as somebody sponsored by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I have owned a house in Scotland for 25 years and will happily retire there in a few years’ time. I am Anglican co-chair of the current Church of England-Church of Scotland ecumenical conversations. So tread I shall, if nevertheless warily. If I have learnt one thing in my discussions with the Church of Scotland, it is that were the Kirk ever to contemplate having bishops, which remains, I think, doubtful, they would need to be very different from English bishops to be acceptable.

My learning curve about Scotland began soon after I had enrolled at Edinburgh University in 1974. I was in the student common room watching a football match between England and Russia. Russia scored first, and the whole room exploded with joy and everyone cheered. Had it been in an equivalent English university and Scotland had been playing Russia, the

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English students, I think, would have been enthusiastically supporting Scotland. But in Scotland things were clearly different. I suddenly awoke to the fact that I was in a foreign land.

What I was beginning to learn 40 years ago was that Scotland is self-consciously a different nation from England. In all my subsequent contact with Scotland, not least during the recent referendum campaign, which I observed closely, I have been on a progressive learning curve about the separate dignity of Scotland as a nation. I think that the English often find that hard really to take in. Even some aspects of the recent campaign rather undergirded that to me.

Let us never forget that, for most of human history, Scotland has been a fully independent country, with its own culture, and Hadrian’s Wall stands as testament to that. The question on the ballot paper, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, ought to have been, “Should Scotland revert to being an independent country?”, which is how it has been for most of the time. I say all this as a supporter of the union.

Baroness Quin (Lab): I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for giving way. May I point out that Hadrian’s Wall never has been the border between England and Scotland? It is not near the border today and, in fact, runs through the middle of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: I do know where Hadrian’s Wall runs, but the fact that the Romans did not get to the rest of this island is significant, even though I fully accept that the border, which has moved over time, is not coterminous. But the very fact that the Romans did not conquer Scotland reinforces the underlying point I am seeking to make.

I chose not vote in the recent referendum, although I was entitled to do so, because I felt it was a question which the Scots should decide. If I had voted, I would have voted no. However, I found the recent no campaign disturbing to the point of embarrassment. It was conducted largely on negative, almost threatening terms—“worse apart” rather than “better together”. When this did not seem to be working, after the second televised debate in particular, the strategy changed towards promises and inducements, with the Prime Minister suddenly to the fore. How much better it would have been had he headed up the principled case for the union from the start and made that case on a positive basis, as indeed did former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

I would draw two conclusions from what I have said so far in relation to today’s debate. First, the English in particular need to be very careful not to be seen to take the union with Scotland for granted—a lot of this is about perceptions—or to take the union as a foregone historical conclusion, which it clearly is not. The English and the Scots may share a great deal but fundamentally they are different cultures and nations which, for the past 300 or so years, have formed a richly creative political union. That union now needs to be nurtured on a new basis, especially given the dismantling of the British Empire. The English tendency to view Scotland

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in a slightly paternalist, patronising way needs to be consigned firmly to the past as the new devolution arrangements are negotiated. I hope that is the key in which all that is now going to be discussed is conducted.

Finally, I would be cautious before drawing any lessons from the recent referendum for wider questions of devolution in the UK. What will now happen in Scotland reflects the particular historical dynamic of English-Scottish relations. Perhaps elements will be replicated in relation to Wales and Northern Ireland, and even some regions of England, but not necessarily so. The resounding outcome of the referendum in the north-east on a regional assembly a few years ago illustrates the specific nature of the Scottish question. To regard the English-Scottish relationship as simply the primary and maximal example of broader devolved relationships in the UK would be to invite a repetition of recent errors of judgment.

4.31 pm

Lord Lang of Monkton (Con): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate and to reassure him that the Romans did indeed get well into Scotland—but it did them no good. I am sure the whole House looks forward to the maiden speech in today’s debate of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie.

I welcome this further debate on devolution, although it takes place in greatly changed circumstances. What should be happening now? I think the ideal answer is calm reflection, consultation and consideration of a way forward, not just for Scotland but for the whole United Kingdom. Unionism won the referendum but for a secure future it is clear that the union now has to change. I believe now that a wide consultation process should take place and that it should involve the interests of all the component parts of the United Kingdom.

Few can now dispute the causal link between the establishment of a Scot-centric, lopsided, asymmetrical, tax-free, unstable form of devolution in the Scotland Act 1998 and the slow but accelerating landslide towards separation that has ensued. That approach has not brought stability or fairness. Successive changes have fed the flames and come close to destroying the United Kingdom. Under that approach, devolution has become a separatist policy. It has been the gift that keeps on taking. The slogan that Labour coined in the 1990s, “We didn’t get the Government we voted for”—that self-deluding piece of constitutional chicanery—is the same slogan that the separatists have picked up and run with ever since. That is why we have to pause, step back and bring the whole nation into the debate. That is why I am uneasy about the rush to action to which we all find ourselves firmly committed, although of course we do have to honour the commitments that have been given.

I would like to try to be constructive, in particular to seek information from the Government to head off any threats that the latest devolutionary proposals create, because I think I see a potential impending problem. The core of what is contemplated now is the raising of a higher proportion of what the Scottish Parliament spends from direct taxation by it, instead of from a grant from the Treasury. There will of course be a read-across in due course to Wales and

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Northern Ireland. Of the variations on offer, I support the Strathclyde commission’s proposal to transfer the whole of income tax as it forces the issue directly towards the pockets of those who will have to pay. It will be a democratic stimulus. But my concern is this: I do not understand how it can possibly work. The funding system for public expenditure in Scotland is much misunderstood, in particular the Barnett formula. A formal submission from the Scottish Labour Party to the Smith commission referred to the “Barnett grant”. But there is no such thing as a Barnett grant. It does not exist. Barnett is a mathematical formula—no more, no less. It has no funds to grant. The funds come from the Treasury’s Scottish block grant, annually disbursed. The block grant is the key to the whole thing. The baseline of that block grant is not recalculated every year except to take account of relative population changes. Rather, it is the accumulated mass of past settlements and favours won for Scotland by past administrations, to which is added a new sum each year. It takes no account of relative need. The disbursement of that annual sum is where the Barnett formula comes into play.

I will spare your Lordships the details of how the mathematics of the formula works. It is intended to, and it does, erode gradually—very gradually—the excesses contained in that grant. In due course, it will become increasingly irrelevant as the block grant itself is cut into. It is the block grant that enables Scotland still to spend much more per head than England on many public services, and England and Wales are right to feel short-changed. It is the block grant that is now about to be hacked into by the 10% income tax provision in the Scotland Act 2012, not yet implemented, and by whatever further devolution of taxation the Smith commission decides on.

I wonder how the product of that 10% income tax and future tax transfers will be calculated and the block grant therefore cut. The impact of that and the further tax transfers proposed could be substantial, reducing the block grant by a large amount. Out of date though it is, and largely irrelevant as a true measure of relative need, the block grant is a pot of gold compared to the uncertainties that lie ahead with its replacement by Scottish income tax. The tax base in Scotland is weaker than in England. There is a larger public sector and correspondingly smaller private sector. With the machinations of the nationalists stirring up uncertainty and loss of confidence, that is likely to get worse. Investment decisions and productivity look endangered just when they will need to be enhanced. But the cushion embodied in the block of some £4 billion, which Barnett does not touch, could now evaporate along with much of the block. The consequences for current spending levels and future taxation could be extremely serious.

I have long argued that the surplus that has built up in the Scottish block grant should be addressed to bring fairness to the rest of the United Kingdom, but in the context of tax changes now facing us, we urgently need clarity on that potentially very difficult issue. What plans has the Treasury to erode or retrieve part of that £4 billion? Does it plan in some way to identify and hypothecate spending within the reducing

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block, thus second-guessing how the Scottish Parliament might spend it? Then the block grant would no longer be a block grant.

I ask my noble and learned friend to tell the House how that transition will be managed. What will happen to that £4 billion cushion that I referred to? It is an excessive figure, but some of it is deserved and, at the least, a transitional period is needed if it is to disappear. Will there be what is urgently needed across the whole United Kingdom: a new, needs-based study of relative need and new arrangements introduced to meet what will be fair and just forms of support, once the facts have been accurately established? The matter is now becoming a burning issue.

That brings me back to my central theme. It is only by establishing fair and balanced systems and powers of government across the whole United Kingdom, varying in detail but harmonised in their underlying principles, that we can hope to achieve the stability that will secure the long-term future of the United Kingdom.

4.37 pm

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab): My Lords, more than 2 million people in Scotland voted no; almost two to one. That is where the mandate lies. The people of Scotland wish the United Kingdom to remain united. We must be very cautious in our deliberations that we do not jeopardise that. Some of the issues raised since the devolution referendum put that in peril.

Let us start with English votes for English laws, following what the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said. It is very difficult to have English votes for English laws because of something called the Barnett consequentials. I will not go into the detail of the Barnett formula—I have only six minutes and it has taken me about six years to understand it—but the key issue is that we must not have two levels of Members of Parliament. That is absolutely essential. We begin to destroy the United Kingdom if we go down that route.

The other issue, again taking up a point from the noble Lord, Lord Lang, is about proposals for the devolution of taxation. One of the key issues in the referendum was the pound; it was central to the campaign. I should be very grateful if the noble and learned Lord, when he is summing up, could explain to me how a currency union, which is what sterling is, can operate without a fiscal union as well, leading to proper monetary union. We must be very careful that we do not scupper that.

If you read the Scottish press and look at the atmosphere in Scotland, you would think that no had lost. We have a responsibility to every one of those 2 million to recognise the mandate that they have given us. They were the silent majority. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House referred to how wonderful the devolution referendum had been with the high turnout. Frankly, it was the worst election I have ever seen. It was divisive, it was aggressive, it was thoroughly unpleasant and it did not represent the good people of Scotland, whom we saw weeks beforehand at the Commonwealth Games welcoming the world. And, yes, in some places there was an anti-English feeling, and Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon were the joint architects of that.

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The division is having an impact even yet on Scottish businesses. Some of your Lordships will have seen the analysis of Standard Life the other day recounting their strengths, their opportunities and their weaknesses, and the risk still being independence. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, was absolutely right to say that we are going at this the wrong way round. This is piecemeal, reacting in the space of weeks to a situation that has taken generations to build up. The start of this long progress towards devolution may have been 300 years ago, but in my lifetime it was when two royal commissions were published—Kilbrandon and Wheatley. They were done separately; if they had been done together, the outcome would have been very different indeed.

As we move into this next phase of looking at the consequences of devolution, I would like us to concentrate on how we bring our society together. Some of that is bringing the business community together. Some of that is recognising that women very clearly voted for no. I had never gone to someone’s door and had someone say to me, “I’m voting yes”, and then shake her head and say, “I’m actually voting no, but I’m scared to say that I’m voting no”. There was a silent majority that was frightened to say how it was voting. I know of one lady who put yes stickers on her car because she was frightened of getting a stone through the windscreen, despite the fact that she was voting no. We must bring society together. We had the appalling situation of Louise Richardson, the principal of St Andrews University, being bullied by the First Minister’s office to support devolution. That is against everything that devolution is about.

I realise that these are difficult issues for all the United Kingdom. There is a democratic deficit in this country, and it applies to England. The way to resolve it is not with a sticking plaster; it is by looking in depth at the issues that we have to confront and by being confident enough about the strength of the union. We were all far too apologetic about the union. It was a great support to all of us who were involved in the campaign to receive messages from down south. I am in front of my noble friend Lady Quin, who was on the doorsteps more than I was, and my noble friend Lord Soley, who was very active in getting the English vote together. Let us not squander the benefits of the union. It has brought us together and served us well for many years. Do not let those who are doing a lap of victory in defeat undermine the union by the back door. We have a responsibility to stand up and defend it.

This House has a role to play. A constitutional convention sounds like a very good idea, but, frankly, what I would like to see is a royal commission on the constitution that looks in detail at the devolution settlement and at the role that your Lordships’ House can play in that as a House that represents and has the potential to represent—hopefully, directly elected—every part of the United Kingdom, with the background, experience and knowledge that this House brings together.

I keep hoping to escape Scottish politics—I went to the other end of the world to escape it—but thank goodness the people of Scotland made their voice known clearly and without question. We must not prevaricate. They have the mandate, which is for the union of this country. We must not squander it.

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4.44 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow two former Secretaries of State for Scotland in this debate, given the important speeches that they made.

I begin by echoing something that was said by the Moderator in the sermon during the reconciliation service at St Giles’ Cathedral. He pointed out that despite the flaws, which the noble Baroness was quite right to mention, the fact is that the turnout produced an enthusiasm for political discussion and debate in Scotland that we have not seen before. It was 84%; we have not seen a turnout like that since my by-election in 1965. That gives me the chance to say how proud I was that the Scottish Borders was the area that produced the strongest positive no vote in the referendum—apart, of course, from the Orkney Islands, before my noble and learned friend intervenes. However, I discount Orkney because I think that if there had been a yes vote, they would have followed that by voting to go back to Denmark. On the mainland of Scotland, the borders had the highest turnout.

The immediate consequence of the referendum is the appointment of the Smith commission. I am perhaps a little more optimistic about it than many others are. I know that it has been given a tight timetable but my former constituent, the noble Lord, Lord Smith, is an extremely able and patient man. More importantly, I notice that each of the four political parties has appointed to that commission people of good common sense. I include in that the SNP because while it could have produced some wild cards, both John Swinney and Linda Fabiani, who I know from my time in the Scottish Parliament, are sensible people who will work with the others in that commission to try to produce a consensus agreement. It is perfectly obvious that no political party will emerge from that commission with everything that it wants. That cannot be done but if there is good will in that commission, which has certainly got off to a good start, there is no reason why it cannot come up, in a very few weeks’ time, with a package of further measures amounting to the maximum of home rule consistent with common sense.

Going beyond that, we have to look at what happened on the morning after the referendum. The Prime Minister made a great mistake by coming out into Downing Street at seven o’clock in the morning. Nobody, not even the Prime Minister, should be out at seven in the morning making pronouncements on anything, in my view. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Ashdown is not his place because I used to stop him phoning me at 6 am. In fact, I gave a general instruction that nobody was to phone me before 10 am, which is a much more sensible approach. However, it was a disastrous statement that the Prime Minister made at 7 am. Trying to link the immediate issue of further powers to Scotland with the English question was a serious error.

However, we have the report of the McKay commission, which was published some years ago and has been around a long time. It proposed simply that there should be an English, or an English and Welsh, Grand Committee. I see nothing wrong with that. My noble friend Lord Tyler was right to say that it might

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just be a talking shop but I was a member of the Scottish Grand Committee in my early days, which was a talking shop but quite a good one. We had debates on our own issues and dealt with the early stages of legislation, although at the end of the day the whole House of Commons had a vote. There is no reason why an English Grand Committee could not be composed on the same basis.

Admittedly, in the early days of the Scottish Grand Committee we had conscripted English members to make up the party balance. That was madness; they were usually appointed by the Whips on the basis of their being guilty of misconduct. They would say, “Two days on the Scottish Grand Committee for you if you don’t turn up for the three-line whip tonight”. Eventually, they were abolished. My noble friend Lord Hamilton, who is not in his place, claims not to remember an episode which brought the conscripted members to an end but I remember it. We were having a debate on tourism in Scotland and, to our horror, Mr Archie Hamilton MP got to his feet. This was unheard of, as the conscripted members were not supposed to speak. He began his speech by saying, “I recognise that by intervening in this debate, I run the risk of not being appointed to this committee again”. That was what led to the end of the conscripted members. In its latter years the Scottish Grand Committee, as my noble friend Lord Forsyth will well remember, operated without a government majority. That did not do it any harm. It was a perfectly workable instrument, as I believe an English Grand Committee could be, too, without upsetting the basic nature of our constitution.

In the end, we will have to take a long-term look at our systems of government. I am one of those who strongly support either a constitutional convention or, as the noble Baroness suggested, a royal commission. I do not know which would be the better instrument but it would need to take time. If you count the pre-period of the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly, then the Scottish Constitutional Convention, of which I had the honour to be the joint chairman, took nearly 10 years to come up with the devolution proposals. We cannot even pretend that we got those 100% right. It is not a quick-fix issue. I believe that we have to move in a more federal direction. That is where a replacement for this House—a senate elected by the component parts of the United Kingdom—makes good sense. It needs all parties, including my own, to rethink their policies on this so that we come up with a proposal for a proper United Kingdom Parliament, where the upper House really represents the component parts of the United Kingdom.

Out of the Scottish referendum can come good, and I am more optimistic than perhaps some others in this debate. I wish it well.

4.50 pm

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, it is a very real privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, who has done so much to inform the debates in this House. I am sure that many noble Lords will be grateful for the note of optimism which he has sounded.

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When I spoke near the end of the debate at the end of the summer, when we were still wondering what the result of the referendum would be, I spent a little time trying to inject a note of caution. It seemed to me that there was a real danger that, if the vote had gone the other way, things would have moved extremely fast, to the timetable that Mr Salmond was going to set for us, and we would not be in a position to resist whatever demands he was going to make. Of course, the vote has gone in the other way—to preserve the United Kingdom—but I still feel a sense of unease about the commitment that was made in the closing days of the campaign. In a way, that is playing into the same trap where we find ourselves with a commitment to achieve a great deal within a very limited period of time.

I am sure that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House was right to underline the commitment that was given, because it would be quite unthinkable, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said, to withdraw from that now. We have some reasons for comfort, some of which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Steel—in particular, the commission which the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, is chairing. We can have absolute confidence in the ability of the noble Lord, Lord Smith, to chair that commission. He has made it clear that we should leave the commission to get on with it. He is assuring everybody that the essential is that each of the participants around the table should have the authority to agree what can be agreed.

There is a reason for unease about that, however. Not everything that everybody is asking for can be agreed, and there will certainly be things left lying around which the Scottish National Party will be asking for. I urge caution again that we do not move too fast in giving way to whatever it is suggesting. The whole point of the commission is to assume, as indeed the voters told us, that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. That is one of the essential principles. We can draw comfort from that. But there we are; we have to hold firm to whatever the noble Lord recommends at the end of his discussions.

There is another reason for comfort, and that is that we have in existence a framework within which the result of the commitment can be delivered—that is, the Scotland Act 1998. It is a well tried system, which at least has the advantage of a system within which things can be adapted, according to some adjustments of the Schedules that set out the reserve powers and so on.

That is under the overall supervision of the Supreme Court, and perhaps I might just say a word about that. An essential part of keeping the devolved systems within the United Kingdom was that, ultimately, should there be an issue about the compatibility of legislative measures, it would be decided by the United Kingdom Supreme Court. I notice that one of the points being made by the Scottish National Party is that it wants to abolish all appeals to the Supreme Court—all appeals, not only civil appeals but also appeals under the devolved system. There is a great danger in that. I hope the Minister will assure us that the position of the Supreme Court as the ultimate court for deciding these issues will remain, as it is part of the United Kingdom structure.

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This morning the Deputy First Minister was quoted as saying that the United Kingdom is just,

“a family of nations, not a unitary state”.

There is something in what she said, but it is certainly not the whole truth. The whole truth is that the UK is to a very large degree a unitary state because of the structures that hold it together: Parliament—these Houses—the Supreme Court and the other institutions that exist. No doubt the Scottish National Party wishes to separate them, which is why the proposals about the Supreme Court are there, but we must hang on to the idea that the UK is united in various essentials; it is not just a family of nations, as we are being led to believe.

As for the future, I feel, as others have been saying, that we have to move forward with some kind of commission to decide how the structures throughout the entire United Kingdom have to be designed. Again, I see the Supreme Court as having a vital position at the end of whatever package may be designed, but we have a framework that could be borrowed and used for England as well as the other parts of the UK. The devolved systems give some kind of sign as to the kind of framework that might be used. Mention was made by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, of other countries that have systems of this kind. The South African constitution is another where you see a schedule with various powers that are devolved to the provinces, of which I think there are nine. So these structures can be used. It is not my position as a non-politician to say whether or not that is the right way forward, but we have some advantages on which we can build.

We may find as a result of the 2016 elections in Scotland that the SNP once again moves back with an overwhelming majority, and that will almost certainly result in a demand for another referendum. I hope that we do not go down the line of the Edinburgh agreement and the Section 63 order that followed it. If there is to be any discussion of a further referendum, surely that must be done in both Houses by means of primary legislation so that it can be fully debated in the interests of everyone—above all, people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who have a very clear interest in what goes on in Scotland.

4.56 pm

Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market (Con): My Lords, I am hugely relieved by the clear decision of the Scottish voters against independence. The consequences if the vote had gone the other way would have been severe indeed for the Scottish economy, but also for the rest of the UK in terms of the economic implications, currency, the division of assets and liabilities, debt, defence, the EU and international bodies and the need to tackle all these issues when we have so many other issues to deal with, not least the continuation of the economic recovery. It would have been severely disruptive and difficult.

We must all confine ourselves to a small number of issues, and I wish to concentrate on two: English votes for English laws, and issues around tax and expenditure, including the Barnett formula. As the Prime Minister, the Government and my noble friend on the Front

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Bench today have made clear, this is fundamentally a question of fairness. It has nothing to do with “morally wrong”. What is morally wrong about fairness? Frankly, we all know that it is not about morals; it is purely about politics. I believe that that is a very important point.

I shall speak first about English votes for English laws. I have just looked up the Hansard of one of the earlier debates that we had in the House of Commons on devolution shortly after I entered Parliament in 1974, a Scot representing an English constituency. It was in January 1976 on the then Labour Government’s proposals for devolution in Scotland and Wales. A number of colleagues who are now in your Lordships’ House spoke then, and it is interesting to see how many of the points made then are still fresh today. I shall give just one quote from my own speech. I said then:

“Although I accept the list of subjects which”,

the Government,

“have put forward for devolution to the Scottish Assembly … it seems that there will be a growing demand, which is right in logic and fairness, for the same devolution to be given to England. That is a demand that must grow. We have already seen much evidence of that during this debate … There is the feeling that the Scottish people will have a power over the subjects that are devolved to them that is almost total and complete … whereas Scottish Members will be totally involved at Westminster in the discussion of issues that affect England”.

I went on to suggest two possible solutions, and concluded:

“Let us remember that the English also have their rights”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/1/76; cols. 676-77.]

Tam Dalyell was listening intently throughout that debate and henceforward argued constantly about what became known as the West Lothian question. It must be solved now. We surely cannot continue with a situation in which a Scottish Parliament can have total control over health, education and so many other crucial issues in Scotland—transport, et cetera—while in England, Scottish MPs can continue to vote, sometimes conceivably having the crucial deciding votes, on these same issues in England. It is relevant in this context to note that the Scottish population is 5.2 million while the English population is 53.1 million. In a vote where the Scottish MPs voting on a purely English matter could be crucial, what is fair in that for the 53 million?

I believe that the solution to this lies in the proposal for the Speaker to be able to denote a bill in the UK Parliament as an English Bill and that only English MPs would be able finally to vote on that matter.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): The noble Lord is discussing a very interesting point. Would it be fair to characterise it as a UDI for England approach, although he might not like that phrase? Would that make UDI for Scotland less likely or more likely?

Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market: It is really quite simple. If the Scottish people have Scottish issues, as delineated now, voted upon entirely in the Scottish Parliament, then the same ought to apply to purely English issues in the English Parliament, and it should be English Members of Parliament who should vote on them.

I entirely agree with the Leader of the House in the other place when he said:

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“We must establish the principle that when this House makes decisions affecting only the people of England, or only the people of England and Wales, those decisions should be made only by, or with the consent of, the MPs elected to represent them”.— [Official Report, Commons, 14/10/14; col. 176.]

It is high time that we did this.

I turn now to tax and spending, both complex and crucial issues. I have just a few quick points. I hope that we can soon have a full debate on all this. First, there are good arguments in favour of more devolution of various tax measures, provided that tax and spending are taken together. In principle, having the possibility to raise or lower taxes, while at the same time recognising that there are spending consequences, is attractive. Borrowing limitations must also be taken into account, as should the consequences for UK tax revenues.

Secondly, what cannot be accepted is the freedom to lower taxes and decrease revenue, with the expectation of consequential upward adjustments in the block grant from the UK Exchequer at the same time.

Thirdly, this raises the whole question of the block grant and the Barnett formula. I well remember the discussions on the Barnett formula in 1976, when the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, was under great pressure to reach conclusions on the expenditure settlement. He has said that, because of that pressure, he had to find a solution to one particular part of the expenditure arrangements and that it was a temporary expedient, never expected to last; he is strongly opposed to its continuation. There is a strong feeling in the country—I have long felt this in East Anglia—that the formula is unduly favourable to Scotland. Current figures show that public expenditure per head in East Anglia, where I come from, is £7,865, in England £8,529 and in Scotland £10,152. I believe that this issue must be addressed.

Fourthly, many have argued that the formula should be adjusted to a needs basis. I have long argued that myself. A committee of this House reporting in 2009 argued that,

“the Barnett Formula should no longer be used to determine annual increases in the block grant for the United Kingdom’s devolved administrations … A new system which allocates resources to the devolved administrations based on an explicit assessment of their relative needs should be introduced”.

I actively believe that this should be introduced and that there should be a transitional arrangement.

In conclusion, I believe that this must all be tackled in the negotiations and that the Barnett formula should go at last. This will be a critical part of the negotiations; I hope that this House will have another opportunity to debate it before they are completed.

5.05 pm

Lord Prescott (Lab): My Lords, in the 45 years that I have been a Member of this Parliament, I have been involved in the argument for decentralisation and devolution and strongly believe in them. I have taken part in every referendum campaign in Scotland and Wales and, indeed, in the north-east, where I introduced and failed to get my Assembly. All of them, after a first refusal, were voted for a short time later in a referendum. The point to draw from that is that the public did not believe there were sufficient resources

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or powers in what was being offered to them in either the Scottish Parliament or the Assemblies. That is the first lesson.

We are always behind public opinion on devolution and decentralisation. The evidence from all Governments is clear. It is clear to me. When I argued in the Labour Cabinet for more resources and powers to be given to the North East Assembly, I could not get them. They were fixed in a central system, and very few of my colleagues were prepared to give the north-east the powers it was entitled to, and which they were quite prepared to give to Scotland and Wales. The people saw that I was offering a consultative body with quango powers—that was all it really was—and they rejected it. It was another form of local authority. The lesson to learn from that is clearly that we should understand the problems involved and find a proper solution.

Some of the discussions, and the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Lang, about tax are fundamental. The Barnett formula always comes into it. I remember arguments in the Cabinet about whether the Barnett formula is fair. In this referendum, the argument was that Scotland gets far more per head than England. That is an argument about having a fair system, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said. That means that we really have to look at that taxation proposal.

Looking at the regions, the population of the north alone is 9 million and 83% of our population falls under central government. You want to throw up your hands. In the north, we are not very happy about Tory Governments, just as the Scots were not. This business of English laws and English votes is just a political fix. It is nothing to do with redistributing power, which is what devolution and decentralisation are about. Indeed, the McKay commission suggested that it was told that it could not deal with finance. The White Paper before us does so in a fundamental and radical way, with changes in our tax. When people see how money is distributed between nations and regions, we will begin to get the problem of people seeing that more is being given in a very unfair way. That was part of the argument that came out of the Barnett formula. The commission left that alone. The McKay commission was concerned only with governance and how you identify an English or Welsh person voting in the Commons Chamber. God knows what we would do in this Chamber, but let us leave that aside.

The commission deliberately said that it was not going to deal with English regionalism because it was firmly rejected in the north-east. In all those referendums in Scotland and Wales there was consultation. That was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who said that that discussion lasted 10 years. We have not had two days on English votes, with the Prime Minister then coming out and making that point. He promised a vigorous discussion on decentralisation and alternatives for the English regions. What discussion took place on that? I know it was in the manifesto, but you need to consult the people. If there is a lesson that comes from Scotland, it is that the people took a very strong view and participated in a way that we have not seen anywhere else in this country, with the type of discussion that took place. The English regions are surely entitled to have the same discussion, to find the alternatives and how they fit in.

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I hear another argument coming up. I know Tam Dalyell well. He was on one of the delegations and we worked together on the West Lothian question. Why do we not approach it the other way? Why not distribute the powers and resources mentioned in the White Paper and the Government’s proposals to the English regions? They can all be fitted in. Whether in health or education, adjustments can be made. It may be a challenge within our constitutional framework, but there would not then be a West Lothian problem.

Certain parts of the UK are being given far greater resources and powers. That will be resented in the English regions. I am from the northern region, where are 9 million people living in an area stretching from Liverpool to Hull, and on to Newcastle. That is a far greater number than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. What would be fair and have the greatest consensus would be a settlement with fairness built in. We talk about it, but we do not deliver it. Great damage is being done to decentralisation and devolution when the Prime Minister connects the English problem, as he would see it, to the Scottish promise, the Scottish vow. That will undermine the consensus. A system must be found to achieve that fairness.

A year or so ago, the Prime Minister promised a vigorous debate. Has the debate in the Cabinet committee now simply been what has been announced in Parliament or outside No. 10 Downing Street? Or are Members of Parliament and people in constituencies going to be given a say in deciding what is going to happen, as they had in Scotland and Wales? That is the least that can be done for the English regions. If not, there will be resentment; there will be a revolt—a call for the same treatment as there was for Scotland.

Concentrating on the northern region, 9 million is an awful lot of people. The Government announced that the Northern Way that I introduced in 2004 was becoming the Northern Powerhouse. They cancelled it when they came in and have now rebranded it. The north is not just about economics, it is also about accountability. These are essential issues but, above all, it is about consensus. This cannot be achieved two days after a Number 10 statement; it can only be done by consulting the people. We demand that right. We want a proposal in the White Paper that the Government will consider a reform of the English regions in some way. This must be on the agenda, as it was with the Scottish referendum. We support devolution for Scotland and in Wales, but we are not going to allow it to advance to our disadvantage and with the contempt of this Government.

5.12 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart (LD): My Lords, the referendum in Scotland was ultimately satisfactory in that it gave us time to consider how to reform our constitution in a fairer way. The anxiety that I felt was in part due to the possibility that Britain would be broken up and we would cease to have influence on international events affecting our future. It seems that less consideration has been given to the part we play in global government, and to the susceptibility of this country to decisions taken against us, than to

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looking at the navel. We need to contemplate that as well as the fairness of the arrangements between theusb different nations and regions of the United Kingdom. Consequently, I am concerned that the decision to appoint the Smith commission to consider taxation and care has been taken with such a tight schedule. It seems, however, that it is at least possible that the implementation of the Smith commission recommendations will have more time, since the publication of the Bill to implement these matters will not be the date on which conclusions are reached.

The Government have said that the Bill will not necessarily come into effect before the next general election, and that will give a certain amount of time for scrutiny—the proper scrutiny that we need to give. I take the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, made from the Front Bench opposite: we need to rethink our constitution. The scrutiny should not be done by individual political parties; we need a constitutional convention, which should be a high priority. I do not see any reason why the three main British political parties cannot now set up such a convention. I do not think that it should go on for ever, but it should certainly have enough time not only to take into account the outcome of the next general election and to reflect on the Smith of Kelvin recommendations but to consider subsidiarity. What issues can be decided in national or regional Governments and Parliaments that do not adversely affect the other parts of the United Kingdom? If we grant huge tax-raising powers to Scotland, it may also give the power to England, which is considerably wealthier than Scotland, to distort the distribution between the member nations and regions of the country.

I recommend that the three main political parties get together now and agree on how to involve the general public in such a convention and how to ensure that it is not just a political sword fight, and that information is given by those who are expert in all the areas that this needs to involve. We have heard the suggestion from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that we should look again at the judicial consequences. I totally agree with him in criticising what was said by Lord Salmond—by Mr Alex Salmond, I mean—about appeals to the Supreme Court. If we are to have a national constitution, it should certainly be subject to review by such a judicial process.

I cannot urge more strongly the need to make the decision about the constitutional convention now, well before the election, when people can jockey for position. It should be made now, and the people participating in this should be drawn from a wide cross-section of the community and nation at large.

5.18 pm

Lord Turnbull (CB): My Lords, in my 35 years in Whitehall, I spent more time on public spending than on anything else, so the Barnett formula was never far from my thoughts. It was therefore with some alarm that I heard that “The Vow” by the three party leaders referred to continuing the Barnett formula. If that means continuing it as it operates now, that is an outcome that I would strongly oppose.

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However, the actual text of the vow may offer some reassurance and a hint of a way forward. The front page of the Daily Record of 16 September says:

“And because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament”.

Thus, if Scotland has a significant control over its revenue, it will ultimately control what the level of spending is on any devolved service. That condition can be satisfied by a wide range of Barnett formulae. It does not commit us to precise figures or method of calculation.

Note also a reference earlier in the vow to,

“sharing our resources equitably across all four nations”.

There is no way that the Barnett formula, as currently operated, can be regarded as “sharing our resources equitably”. Its main flaws are, first, that it adjusts the population proportion with a long lag. If, as is the case in Scotland, the growth of population is slower than in the rest of the United Kingdom, Scotland is always over-rewarded. Secondly, this flaw is compounded by the fact that, when eventually there is an adjustment to the population ratio, it applies only to the increment of spending in England at the next spending review; no attempt is made to correct past overpayment.

The best analogy I can produce is from income tax. Someone sends in a tax return and the inspector finds that the coding has been too generous. But instead of recouping the error in the next year, the inspector applies a new, less favourable coding, but only to the change in income from this year to the next. In this way, all the previous errors, which in the case of Scotland are all in the same favourable direction, are allowed to accumulate. They have now reached grotesque proportions.

Scottish public spending is now £1,600 per head greater than in England and £500 per head greater than in Wales. These are huge sums in relation to income per head, of the order of £20,000 a year. This disparity funds policies in Scotland, such as care for the elderly, university fees and prescription charges, which are simply unaffordable elsewhere in the UK. To put it another way, a Scottish family of four receives the same social security benefits as an English family, but on top receives an extra £6,000 per year in what we used to call the social wage.

What is the explanation for this? The answer, in a word, is appeasement. Over 30 years, neither Conservative nor Labour Governments wanted to confront voters in Scotland. When the House last considered this in the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in 2009, it was suggested that the way forward was to relate the transfers to needs. But, as Mr Salmond—not Lord Salmond—frequently boasted, Scotland is a prosperous nation. Scottish Government figures claim that Scotland has a GDP per head 11% higher than that of the United Kingdom as a whole. Wales, on the other hand, has a GDP per head of about 25% lower than the UK average.

Had I served on that committee in 2009, I might well have signed up to the recommendation to move to a needs basis. In my time at the Treasury in 1993, we investigated that, although it came to nothing. However, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the analogy of the

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rate support grant, which is a needs-based thing, which turned out to be a statistical nightmare. I no longer think that this needs basis is necessarily the right answer when the freedom for Scotland to raise taxes is being expanded. Instead, we could move to a much simpler system under which all nations get a block grant of the same per capita amount and the devolved Assemblies are given the freedom to top that up, or not, as they please. In the process, as the noble Lord, Lord Empey, mentioned, they would assume a proper accountability.

The other change is that the population ratios—

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I agree with everything that he has said. Is not the problem with his recommendation that there would be a huge gap in the Scottish budget, which would mean that Scotland would end up as the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom and worse off in terms of public services?

Lord Turnbull: Not necessarily. Scotland would have to bring its spending into line with England and it would be getting the same grant from the centre as England. My recommendation corrects a favourable anomaly; it is not impoverishing Scotland compared with England.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I do not intend to take up too much of his time. When he refers to England, is he including a calculation for London, and is he also including what is currently statistically considered as non-identifiable expenditure for defence and how that is distributed across the different nations?

Lord Turnbull: I was referring to identifiable expenditure, not defence expenditure. The latter, of course, runs at a very high level in Scotland, with our major bases there. I have not addressed the issue that the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, raised, which is how you deal with separate regions within England. That is a further thing that we have to address.

The other change is that the population ratios must be kept much more up to date than they have been at present. My plea, therefore, is that we start a new relationship which gives proper weight to the principle in the vow of “sharing our resources equitably” across the whole of the United Kingdom.

5.25 pm

Lord Selkirk of Douglas (Con): My Lords, I enjoyed the noble Lord’s lucid speech and I have no doubt that it will be noted by the commission of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin. First, I should mention that I had a past interest as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. I remember the night of that election very well because those counting the votes said that they had had enough at 3.30 in the morning. As a result, those of us in the Lothian region and Edinburgh had to await our fate being determined for a great many more hours. I was one of the last three in Scotland to be elected. The other two were my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood and Britain’s first Green parliamentarian, Mr Robin Harper.

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I should also mention a second interest. I served as a member of the Government’s Calman commission, which recommended additional powers for the Scottish Parliament. The resulting Scotland Act 2012 included the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax from April 2016, as well as the powers to introduce taxes on land transactions and on waste disposal from landfill, replacing the existing UK-wide taxes of stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax from April 2015.

With that background in mind, I rise to highlight one particular issue—the supreme importance of the guaranteed timetable set out for transferring further powers to the Scottish Parliament. That was endorsed by the three party leaders as part of the vow, published on the front page of the Daily Record. The details of the timetable for action had already been put forward by Mr Gordon Brown in his extremely powerful intervention in the referendum campaign. However, no sooner had the people of Scotland expressed their desire to remain within the United Kingdom clearly and decisively than the leader of the SNP, Mr Alex Salmond, began to construct a narrative of betrayal. He accused the Prime Minister of backtracking on the pledges made, and he was at it again on television last week on “Newsnight”, claiming:

“Yes of course he is trying to renege on the promises he has given. He is a Tory Prime Minister. That is what they do”.

These unfounded allegations go beyond even wishful thinking. They are pure fantasy because not one of the three leaders has actually reneged on anything. I hold in my hands the Prime Minister’s speech on 19 September. These are his words:

“To those in Scotland sceptical of the constitutional promises made, let me say this. We have delivered on devolution under this government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament.

The 3 pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments, on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that they are honoured in full”.

A Command Paper has been published on time and, although the timetable is tight, I fully expect that the heads of agreement to be drawn up by the government commission of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, will be made public by St Andrew’s Day, as promised. It has suited the First Minister of the Scottish Government to claim that the Scottish process could be knocked off course as a result of the Government’s plan to come up with proposals for constitutional change in other parts of the United Kingdom.

However, this attempt at obfuscation flies in the face of the facts. Mr William Hague, the leader of the House of Commons, who is chairing the committee looking at possible constitutional change in the other House, has stressed on television that every commitment made with regard to Scotland,

“has so far been kept and will be”.

Even more importantly, he has said that the two matters are not tied in the sense that one is dependent on the other. In addition, all five party leaders who met last week around the table at the commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin, tried to agree on a way forward for Scotland. They made it clear that enhanced devolution for Holyrood

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should not be conditional on any other plans for the rest of the UK. In view of Mr Salmond’s determined attempt to cast doubts on the execution of the promises made by the three party leaders, I would be very grateful if the Minister would confirm once more, in the clearest possible terms, that the pledges made to the Scots people will be kept and that there will be adherence to the agreed timetable. It is my strong conviction that those serving on the Smith commission are persons of sincerity and ability. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, described them as persons of “good common sense”.

To misquote the late John Mackintosh, it should not be beyond the wit of humankind to produce a package on measures for further devolution in line with the referendum results. I would be very grateful if the Minister, who has also served on the Calman commission, will make it clear, beyond doubt, that promises made will be kept and delivered on time.

5.31 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I am sure the whole House regrets that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, cannot be here today to reply to all the comments about his formula. We all hope he is keeping well. I remind the House of my current interests in English local government. I wish to associate myself fully with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Tyler. I found myself cheering on the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, for his advocacy for devolution in the north of England.

To the surprise of many, certainly in this part of the kingdom, the Scottish referendum showed the intense feelings that people had about the dominance—I will try to use not very emotional words—of London and south-east England in the economy of this country, in investment, the financial sector, political power, government, media and culture. Watching all this on television, it came across to me that the degree of dominance is even greater if you just take England, because Scotland already has a substantial amount of political and financial power based in Edinburgh. This dominance is clearly linked to the distribution of wealth, incomes and influence; it is what people used to call the class system. Nowadays we are supposed to talk about social inequalities and not use the word class. However, it is not just social inequalities; the linked and closely related geographical inequalities are part and parcel of it. People are beginning to understand this much better now.

In the later stages of the referendum, the Deputy Prime Minister led calls for devolution, decentralisation, even a degree of federalism, in England as well as in other parts of the kingdom. To our surprise and horror, at the same time, we suddenly had calls at 7 am. I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Steel about the nonsense of making announcements at this time but it is all to do with 24-hour rolling news. Top politicians nowadays think they have to dominate the day’s news agenda and hope to get through to the next day when something else will have taken over as the latest media fad. However, we had the attempt to resolve the West Lothian question by the introduction of English votes for English laws or, to use its appropriate acronym, EVEL.

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Therefore, we are presented with a choice: that is, devolution to England and EVEL, however it may be carried out, or devolution within England to the regions—the towns, cities and localities of England. To pick up a point made by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, when the Prime Minister and similar people talk about England, it is not entirely clear whether they are talking about England or England and Wales. In terms of legislation, it is nonsense just to talk about England. Perhaps, instead of EVEL, we should talk about “EWVEWL” or something like that.

You only have to look at a typical Bill, especially a longer one, that comes to your Lordships’ House to see that towards the end there is a clause entitled “Extent”. Most noble Lords probably do not notice it. It states which clauses will apply to the different areas when the Bill passes into legislation. It is always extraordinarily complicated. When we were in opposition and I was responsible for overseeing the Marine and Coastal Access Bill from the Liberal Democrat Benches, I had the help of my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness to deal with the Scottish clauses. That was all built into the Bill and extremely complex. A lot of a typical Bill applies to England and Wales. Sometimes it applies to the Welsh Office directly and sometimes it applies to permissive powers to the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Ministers. Some of it applies to England, Scotland and Wales; to England, Northern Ireland and Wales; or to the whole of the UK. It is always complicated. If there is a serious attempt to deal with English votes for English laws, the whole way in which legislation is dealt with will have to be reorganised substantially. I suspect that often we could end up with three or four Bills instead of one.

When we were writing the constitution for the new party on the merger of the Liberals and the Social Democrats, my noble friend Lord Steel once accused me of being a north of England nationalist. I am not a nationalist; I am a north of England home ruler. I want as much local decision-making in the north of England as we can get. The problem is that throughout England, including the north of England, there is absolutely no consensus about the direction in which we want to go. My noble friend Lord Steel reminded us that it took nearly 10 years for the Scottish convention to get to the point where the Scottish Parliament was set up. At the beginning, the parties taking part all had a general consensus of the general direction in which they wanted to go; namely, home rule of some sort for Scotland.

There is no consensus in the north of England. We talk about city regions, which are a blind alley in many places because huge areas of the north of England are not in city regions. Some people talk about local authorities having more powers, which is a good thing in the short term, and some talk about regional bodies for the north-west, the north-east or for Yorkshire. I would like to see one for the whole of the north of England. Bodies such as One North, which was set up by some of the big cities to look at the transport links, lead us in that direction. However, there is no consensus. Before we can start talking about what we want, we must have debate and discussion in the north of England and, I suspect, in other regions of England to get some consensus of where we are going and what we want

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before we can stand up and say, “Home rule for the north of England”, which is what I should like to campaign on.

5.38 pm

Lord Lennie (Lab) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I speak for the first time in your Lordships’ House and do so with a degree of humility, nervousness and some trepidation. My particular fear is that this piece of prompt technology will fail part the way through what I have to say. If it does, I have no doubt that someone will rush from somewhere to my aid, which has been my experience thus far in this House at every turn, or every wrong turn, that I have taken. I pay tribute to all the staff, officers and Members of this House on all sides who have been generous and kind, and have welcomed me here. I also thank my two supporters, my noble friend Lady Armstrong and my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, who is unable to be here today—I will come to that in a minute—for doing me the great honour of introducing me to the House on Monday. Both have been my friends and political allies for many years and I hope will be for many more years to come.

With regard to my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, I have an important leak to reveal to the House. A confidential source has revealed to me that he has been approached by a leading publisher to write a book. The working title is “The Ten Apples and Ten Cokes a Day Diet”.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): I could do with that.

Lord Lennie: Noble Lords may have seen some pre-publicity about this in the Sunday Times this week. It was not just a puff piece—it was a strategically placed article. The plan is to publish this as a pre-Christmas stocking filler. The problem with the plan is, of course, that my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, subject to his successful diet, can no longer fill a stocking, so the plans are somewhat in disarray as far as publication is concerned.

I start my comments about devolution. I am somewhat unusual in this House in that I have experience of an English region rejecting devolution of power. A decade ago, as my noble friend Lord Prescott has said, the north-east chose by a large margin not to accept my party’s kind offer of a regional assembly. At that time I was the Labour Party director in the north of England. It is often said that we are shaped by our experiences. Having to explain the north-east rejection to my noble friend Lord Prescott certainly helped shape me.

Despite that defeat, I believed then, and I believe now, that there is an appetite for devolution of government in order that we improve lives, or seek to improve lives, and increase opportunities across England. For devolution to succeed, however, we must understand the reasons for its past failure in terms of what happened in the north-east. There was a disconnect between politics and people. That fundamentally explained the rejection of the regional assembly. The opponents simply asked voters whether they wanted more politicians at more cost, meddling more in their lives. The answer was a resounding no, thank you very much.

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I suspect that the climate for politics is less favourable today than it was then. I may be wrong, but that is my suspicion. For devolution to succeed, the distance and disconnect between politicians and voters has to be narrowed, not just here at Westminster but in councils too. After all, an out-of-touch political elite is equally offputting, whether clad in ermine or mayoral robes.

Devolution must not be something that politicians want to do to voters, but a change delivered with, by and for the people. Proposals bringing this devolution to English regions and cities must be judged not by how they solve the problems for political parties but by how they will make things better for citizens in every region of the country. There needs to be a convincing argument that devolution means government done at lower cost, with clear, tangible benefits to the electorate at large. That is a huge challenge.

How do we go about this? First, devolution in England needs to be considered purely on its own merits. Otherwise, voters will see English devolution proposals as the unforeseen or unintended consequence of the Scottish referendum. They will see politicians trying to apply a fix to a problem they themselves created.

Further, we need to be clear that English devolution and English votes for English laws—EVEL—are not the same issue. Today we have a hugely centralised English government; changing who votes on which legislation may be a good thing or a bad thing in reflecting an English will, but it devolves little power. It cuts no costs. It makes the delivery of government policy no more streamlined than before. If we want devolution, we surely have to look beyond the question of who votes in Westminster. That means that we must devolve the process of devolution. It is easy to say that you are in favour of devolution, but if your deeds undermine your words, you will fail to impress voters who you want to support your proposals.

We must reach beyond politics and ensure that whatever we put before the English voters commands public support from a broad consensus of civic society, who can then seek to reassure those who are suspicious of politics—and I believe that they are currently the many, not the few.

Finally, I would like to say that I chose the title of Longsands Tynemouth. It was featured in a photograph in the Times last Friday; your Lordships may have seen it. It is where I live; it is worth a visit; and if you go there, go to the wonderful beach bar, Crusoe’s. It is where I spend much of my family time.

My home region, the north-east, is engaged and energetic and sceptical of easy promises. Those are qualities that I shall endeavour to replicate to the best of my ability. It is an honour beyond measure to be one of those of all parties and none who will speak up for my region in your Lordships’ House.

5.45 pm

Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield (CB): My Lords, it is an honour to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, on his fine and witty maiden speech. There will be many more occasions when your Lordships’ House will relish his wit and wisdom, his

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intimate knowledge of the north-east, and his great experience both of what makes a political party tick and of the trade union movement. I already sense a special sense of solidarity with him: he is a devoted supporter of Newcastle United, with the emotional rollercoaster that that brings—I see the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, nodding madly. I am a West Ham boy; I know how he feels.

I declare my membership of the All-Party Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution.

Relief that we are intact as a United Kingdom is still surging through every one of my capillaries, nearly six weeks after we knew the result of the referendum on Scottish independence. However, it is a relief suffused with anxiety, for the referendum campaign showed just how brittle the union had become and how brittle it remains. Now, not only do we have great repair work to do in terms of the emotional geography of the United Kingdom but we find ourselves on a vast construction site for the remaking of multiple aspects of our constitution beyond the sculpting of a new constitutional settlement for Scotland. It is largely without plan, substantial forethought or consensus.

There is a critical, pivotal sentence in chapter 3 of the Government’s Command Paper of earlier this month, The Parties’ Published Proposals on Further Devolution for Scotland. It is this:

“Proposals to strengthen the Scottish Parliament provide an opportunity to reach a strong and lasting constitutional settlement across the UK”.

Perhaps I may offer just a few thoughts on what it takes to frame “a strong and lasting constitutional settlement”.

The coming extra surge of powers for the Scottish Parliament will require constitutional legislation of a fundamental and first-order kind, as will any serious moves towards greater devolution and decentralisation within the wider United Kingdom. Can we reach for the Gladstonian solution of “home rule all round”, with the predominance that that would give to an English Parliament serving more than 80% of our people? Can we somehow carve a surrogate English Parliament out of the existing House of Commons along the lines suggested in the McKay commission report of 2013? Should we follow the developing economic geography of several parts of the kingdom and foster the growth of city statelets? The possibilities are multiple and every one of them stretching.

First-order constitutional legislation, in my view, needs to meet certain tests. It requires durability and predictability in its operation once it has received Royal Assent. For that to be achieved, it needs to live and breathe in a stable yet sensitive relationship with the other adjacent moving parts of the constitution. There is a prior requirement if these tests are to be met: a high level of parliamentary and, by extension, public consensus. To achieve this takes thought, consultation, care and time.

I appreciate the need to move with some deliberate speed towards fulfilling the promises made to the people of Scotland by the three party leaders on the front page of the Daily Record two days before the referendum poll. Great responsibilities rest on the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin,

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and the five political parties engaged on the task of converting those proposals into workable practice. However, I fear the consequences of excessive rush, not just for Scotland but for those other parts of the kingdom that will feel the percussive effects of the vote to stay together. Every fibre of me sympathises with the party leaders’ desire to save the kingdom in the last days of the campaign, but placing a series of staccato pledges on the front page of a newspaper is not the most desirable way of refashioning a constitutional settlement that had been 300 years in the making.

We are in the rain shadow of a general election. The metabolic rate of the party competition is rising and will continue to rise. I regret that very soon after the referendum votes were counted, as the English question shifted from a rumble to a roar, political partisanship inserted itself over the matter of English votes for English laws, with the Conservative leadership making it plain they would make EVEL an election issue if Labour did not go along with the idea. That Friday was when the party leaderships should have risen to the level of events and met as fellow Privy Counsellors to agree that, alongside the Scottish timetable, a broadly based constitutional convention or royal commission should be created to range wide and deep over the constitutional questions facing our country.

In the debate on Scotland that we had in your Lordships’ House last January, the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, whom I am delighted to see in his place, said that we needed to learn once more how to do things together as a union. Here was a shining opportunity to do just that. We need a set of constitutional arrangements that will allow the constituent nations and regions of our United Kingdom to live in a condition of “mutual flourishing”—to borrow a phrase used by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in a different context. For this we need a broader-gauge approach: to think high, to go wide, to fashion a settlement that will endure.

Has the moment passed for this? I think not. I do not know whether the will can be generated within our political leaderships to stand back, rise to the level of events, meet as Privy Counsellors and make a joint proposal for a constitutional convention or a royal commission, but there really is a glittering prize of a better governed United Kingdom to be grasped up there on the higher ground.

5.52 pm

Lord Lyell (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Leader for being here for this debate. I have attended many debates on Scotland and we have not had all the assistance and help that we shall get from my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace and have already had from my noble friend the Leader. This is one of the most important debates that I have attended in 50 years—I shall say that again: 50 years—in your Lordships’ House. Fifty years ago I was an apprentice accountant in that great city of Glasgow and I never imagined that I would have the chance to discuss what we are discussing today—the onward march of devolution and political developments in Scotland—but we have it and here I am.

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I declare an interest as I live in the boondocks of Scotland. To the real happiness of the government Whips who have tried to find me, I live about one station before Vladivostok, but I manage to get here in 12 hours on the train each week. I spent the whole of our Summer Recess in rural Scotland. Day after day, the electronic media, both visual and aural, told us that this was a major decision. It was, but feelings ran very high and I certainly listened with great care and appreciation to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell. In my little town of Kirrie—known to the rest of the world as Kirriemuir—never in my 74 years have I seen not one or two but four policemen at the town hall where the vote was taking place. It may have been an 80% turnout but, as the noble Baroness pointed out, passion and feelings of varying degrees were whipped up to, I might say, “Bash the English”. That was behind it all. Certainly, I felt that in my neck of the woods in Scotland and it really rather worried me.

Happily, things turned out very well on 19 September and since. What happened and what have we had since then? I am pleased that the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes and Lord McAvoy, are here, because the three of us frequently hear, when the men in dark blue have not done terribly well, “We were not defeated; it was the referee”. That has been the great cry of the yes voters, and we are still hearing it today. It has been gradually calming down, but it will be an ongoing battle, probably for the rest of my career in your Lordships’ House or elsewhere.

I was in the boondocks of Scotland. I was very lucky; fortunately, in Kirrie, they regard me as something of an intellectual—they are quite wrong—because I obtain and pay for a copy of the Financial Times. One of the most hard-hitting articles that I read was by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. I warned him that I would mention him although I knew that he would not be not here today. He wrote the most devastating article for the centre pages of the Financial Times. He was speaking to a taxi driver in Glasgow who said, “I want to be part of the United Kingdom, but I am going to vote yes to give those so-and-sos south of the border something to think about. Anyhow, all the negotiations will be done by the likes of you”—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, Mr Darling and the rest. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, that is sheer brass neck.

I fear that that was what was appearing in the electronic media but, happily, not in the printed media. Two days later, I read another article, again in the Financial Times, which I have no hesitation in praising because it is read throughout the world. My friends in America and New Zealand know precisely what is going on, even without the BBC World Service. Martin Wolf wrote a searing article for the centre page, saying, “You had better take care in Scotland; I have a shock for the Scots if they were to vote yes”. He looked at the economic and political aspects throughout Europe if there were to be a yes vote.