The House of Lords Constitution Committee has launched a new inquiry into relations between governments within the UK.
The inquiry follows the recent report of the Smith Commission on further devolution to Scotland and the plans for further devolution to Wales and Northern Ireland. The Smith Commission called for the inter-governmental machinery between the Scottish and UK Governments to be reformed "as a matter of urgency".
The Committee will consider how current inter-governmental relations can be improved, as well as focusing on how Parliament can best scrutinise these arrangements. While the inquiry's focus will be on Scotland, the Committee will also welcome evidence on the UK Government's relations with the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive.
Areas of interest
Some of the questions the Committee are inviting evidence on include:
- How can the arrangements for inter-governmental relations be improved, particularly in light of the further devolution of powers?
- Will greater financial autonomy, including tax-raising powers, require new inter-governmental mechanisms?
- Do the current arrangements promote proactive cooperation or are they simply a means of conflict resolution?
- What is the appropriate balance between formal mechanisms and informal relationships?
- Should any elements of inter-governmental relations be set out in legislation, or should they remain non-statutory? What are the advantages and risks of statutory mechanisms?
- How can the UK Parliament best scrutinise and hold to account both formal and informal inter-governmental relations between the UK and devolved administrations?
Commenting, Lord Lang of Monkton, Chairman of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, said:
"Since the 'no' vote in Scotland in September there has been general agreement that there should be a further devolution of powers to Scotland, and plans to devolve further powers to Wales and Northern Ireland are well advanced. In the light of those proposed changes, there needs to be a serious examination of the current relationship between the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
"The Smith Commission criticised the current arrangements and said the mechanisms for inter-governmental relations needed to be reviewed urgently: we want to get to the bottom of what is working, what is not, and what changes are needed to cope with further devolution.
"This will be a short inquiry and we intend publish our report before the general election. This is, however, an important issue and the Committee expects to consider issues around devolution in greater depth in the next Parliament."