Sir Leslie Arnold Turnberg, Knight, having been created Baron Turnberg, of Cheadle in the County of Cheshire, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Walton of Detchant and the Lord Winston.
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, the simple answer, which might not meet the complexity of the noble Lord's concerns, is that it is for this House to decide what it wishes to discuss, but Ministers can answer only on those matters for which they are responsible. This will include matters where responsibility is shared with one or other of the devolved administrations, but not where responsibility is wholly devolved.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal for that Answer. It helps us forward to some degree. The arrangements under which the devolved bodies were established are such that the finance for them comes almost exclusively from this Parliament. Does the noble Baroness agree that in those circumstances and where matters of relative performance are under examination, it is necessary that her colleagues as Ministers give clear answers to questions about where decisions are taken on such issues?
If we do not know for certain that a particular situation arises as a result of a decision taken by a devolved body, given that the availability of funding controls everything, people of a suspicious nature such
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, perhaps I may draw the attention of the noble Lord and the House to a helpful note recently produced by the Cabinet Office, Devolution Guidance Note 13, on the handling of parliamentary business in the House of Lords. It is publicly available and published on the Internet. The document is succinct and clear, but it is more than eight pages long so I shall not attempt to precis it in response to the Question.
It contains a number of hypothetical examples, one of which precisely addresses the point raised by the noble Lord. Example 1 in paragraph 3.6 is a question asked about the comparative performance in school examination results throughout the United Kingdom. A clear response is given. It is that although the matter is fully devolved as regards, for example, Scotland, and although the DfEE may have access to the information, the question is one for the national Parliament in Scotland.
Lord Elton: My Lords, is it not a matter of surprise that guidance as to what Parliament may inquire into originates from outside Parliament and the Cabinet Office and not from the resources of Parliament itself?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I believe that the Cabinet Office is trying to give expression to the legislation on devolution and, indeed, to the guidance which has been agreed and discussed in the Houses of Parliament along the lines that I have described. As I said, it is intended purely as an extremely helpful and practical guide to the ways in which legislation passed by this House and another place should be put into practice.
Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to revise her initial Answer? Surely our constitutional arrangements do not exist for the convenience of government Ministers. If neither House of this United Kingdom Parliament can debate issues which affect the United Kingdom in the round and its constituent parts, does that not create a democratic deficit?
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, perhaps I may draw the attention of the noble Baroness to a statement contained in the Memorandum of Understanding issued last year by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It states that:
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not believe that anything that I said in response to the previous questions could possibly be described as an attempt to brush matters under the carpet. Again, perhaps I may refer to the very useful document which I mentioned previously. As I said in answer to the previous supplementary, the Cabinet Office guidance tries to give practical expression to the legislation. I believe that if the noble Lord looks, for example, at example 7 in that document, he will see that it is indeed legitimate for this House to have a Wednesday debate on a subject which would be regarded as being devolved. That is perfectly legitimate and obviously within the rules of procedure of this House. The question is: what degree of responsibility would be had by the Minister who responded to the debate for the specific policy areas which arose?
Lord Avebury: My Lords, perhaps I may make what I believe is a helpful suggestion. The example given by the noble Baroness related to comparative figures between England and Scotland. Those figures were available in tabulated form prior to 1998 but had to be obtained separately from then onwards because it became the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Would it not be possible for those who design the web pages of the Scottish Parliament and, say, the DfEE to put hot links between the two so that if people wanted to compare the figures between England and Scotland or, for that matter, between England and Wales, they could do so very easily on the web?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, my common sense reaction to the noble Lord's question is that, indeed, he makes a sensible point. However, at least part of such a decision would have to be made by the Scottish Executive.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is it possible for Select Committees of the House of Commons or this House to summon Ministers from the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Irish Assembly?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, we have discussed the West Lothian question in this House on many occasions, and I am sure that we could continue to do so. As I understand it, the West Lothian question relates to the concerns of Members of Parliament for English constituencies about their continuing involvement in Scottish affairs. I believe that the simple answer is that, where 80 per cent of Members of another place represent English constituencies, it is unlikely that their views and their opinions will be steamrollered.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, although we have no plans at present for a formal commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the 1801 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, we recognise the historic significance of that Act to the United Kingdom and, indeed, to the Republic of Ireland. Undoubtedly, we shall want to make reference to it during the course of next year. If there are proposals to mark the anniversary, we shall be interested to hear about them and shall consider whether it is appropriate to support them in any way.
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