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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK


UK Politics

MPs meet devolution with evolution

Devolution is forcing Westminster to change its ways

Westminster is feeling the after shocks of devolution as MPs begin to set out recommendations for how Parliament should alter its procedures in the wake of the new Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

A committee of MPs have rejected suggestions that Scottish and Welsh members should be banned from considering purely English matters at Westminster.

But the Commons Procedure Committee has recommended that new committees be set up to consider the details of legislation which relate exclusively to English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland affairs.

Such a move would attempt to answer the West Lothian Question on Scots having a say over English affairs while English MPs no longer have a say over matters in Scotland.

MPs are also being encouraged not to debate at length issues in the Commons that have been devolved and the committee strongly recommends that no questions are tabled in the House on devolved issues.

In its general principles the document states that it is legitimate for all MPs to "have an interest in matters which remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament: however, members from an area to which powers have been devolved will have a particular interest in business affecting that area".

Welsh question time in the Commons is to be retained in full, but Scottish questions will be shortened from 45 minutes to 30.

The Labour dominated committee is backing the government's calls for an "evolutionary" response to devolution as Westminster adjusts itself to the massive constitutional changes devolution entails.

And members recommend that a "full review of the procedural consequences of devolution is taken in due course".

The committee also wants to see the proposed Scottish and Welsh select committees liasing with Edinburgh and Cardiff.

But it also believes that in the long run it may be necessary to establish a constitutional affairs committee to examine relationships between the different nations of the UK.



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