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Silk and Calman to give evidence on the Union

The House of Lords Constitution Committee will this week take evidence from Sir Paul Silk and Sir Kenneth Calman who chaired Commissions on devolution to Wales and Scotland.

The evidence session - which will start at 10:30am on Wednesday 21 October in Committee Room 1 of the House of Lords - forms part of the Committee's inquiry into devolution and the Union.

Areas the session will cover include:

  • How did their Commissions establish what principles should underpin the devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales? How far did the legislation that followed the Commissions' reports reflect those principles?
  • What might be the benefits of better public understanding of the Union and the existing devolution settlements? How can this be achieved?
  • Do the benefits of the Union differ for the different countries of the UK? Is there any point to a ‘political' union in the absence of an ‘economic' or ‘social' union?
  • Is a devolution settlement that does not include legislative devolution to or within England sustainable?
  • What is the effect on the Union of the asymmetrical nature of devolution to date?
  • Would a new commission be able to tackle issues of the governance of the whole UK? Could a convention or citizen's assembly fulfil that role?

The Committee will also hear evidence from the Institute for Government with Director Peter Riddell and fellow Akash Paun giving evidence. This second session will start at 11:30am. It will cover a range of issues including:

  • To what extent can policy and public services differ in different parts of the UK without compromising the social and economic union?
  • Is shared rule a desirable consequence of devolution, or an outcome to be minimised as far as possible?
  • Can a parliamentary mechanism such as English Votes for English Laws answer the ‘English Question'? Could devolution to cities or regions provide a long term solution?
  • Is there a case for a ‘Charter of the Union' or similar UK wide statute that sets out the structure and principles of the Union?

This session follows up on the evidence given at the Committee's last meeting on Wednesday 14 October when it heard evidence from Professor Adam Tomkins of the University of Glasgow, Sir Jeffrey Jowell, Director of the Bingham Centre, and Robert Hazell of the Constitution Unit.

Professor Tomkins and Robert Hazell both cast doubt on the possibility of full fiscal responsibility for Scotland while it remained a part of the United Kingdom. Professor Tomkins stated that full fiscal autonomy was "not a version of devolution but a version of independence", while Robert Hazell pointed out that full fiscal autonomy within a wider nation state was without precedent and in effect a complete opt-out from the Union.

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