Web links: Chapter 27

Understanding Devolution

Although there have been many changes to the way devolution works in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with several further changes to the powers and competencies of devolved government, it is still useful to see the text of the initial devolution bills and the debates on them:

Scotland Act 1998

Government of Wales Act 1998

Northern Ireland Act 1998

Note how the very first clause of the Scotland and Wales bills establishes a devolved parliament (‘there shall be an Assembly for Wales to be known as The National Assembly for Wales’ and ‘There shall be a Scottish Parliament’).

For more recent reforms have a look at the bill documents and debates on the Scotland Act 2016 and the Wales Act 2017.

It is also useful to look at the webpages of the devolved assemblies themselves. See for instance this list of powers of the Scottish Parliament which is helpfully divided into reserved and devolved matters and compare it with this list of powers of the Welsh Assembly. It may also be useful to look at the composition of the devolved assemblies (see here, here and here) and compare their size, party composition and the shape of the chambers with that of the House of Commons.

Representation of the nations in Parliament and business

The interior decoration of much of the UK Parliament reflects the nations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. See for instance this picture showing the patron saints of each of the four nations in the mosaics above the exits in Central Lobby or this Flickr gallery of symbols of Scotland in and around the palace. 

Parliament continues to have select committees for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, shadowing the respective government department. Take a look at their latest inquiries and publications:

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Scottish Affairs Committee

Welsh Affairs Committee

These departments are on the rota for oral questions. Read Northern Ireland questions in the Commons on 20 December 2017 or watch Conservative MP Laurence Robertson’s question on the devolution settlement from the same session.

Relationship between Westminster and the devolved parliaments

The Sewel Convention states that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate on matters which have been devolved. Read this House of Commons Library Briefing for more information on the convention.

Brexit has proved to be particularly challenging for this relationship.  See the Welsh Assembly’s committee on External Affairs and Additional Legislation set up to consider the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, or the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee inquiry into the EU referendum and its implications for Scotland.

This list of post EU referendum publications from the UK Parliament and the devolved assemblies is a useful guide to the key issues of concern (look at page 32 onwards).

English Votes for English Laws (EVEL)

The transfer of powers to the devolved institutions led to the reform of Parliament’s procedures for dealing with England only or England and Wales only legislation. See this diagram showing how EVEL procedures work in Parliament. MPs debated the reforms on 15 July 2015. You can read the full debate or watch SNP MP Pete Wishart’s speech where he outlines his party’s objections to the new procedures. For more information about how EVEL has worked in practice, read this report by Daniel Gover and Michael Kenny on the operation of EVEL procedures during the 2015-16 parliamentary session.