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Devolution of Powers (Referendum)

Volume 525: debated on Wednesday 16 March 2011

2. What assessment she has made of the outcome of the referendum on devolving primary law-making powers to the National Assembly for Wales. (45732)

4. What assessment she has made of the outcome of the referendum on devolving primary law-making powers to the National Assembly for Wales. (45734)

I welcome the clear yes result announced on 4 March. The vote in favour of primary law-making powers for the Assembly will enable the Welsh Assembly Government to get on with the job of delivering better public services in Wales.

I thank the Secretary of State. I note that there are now 20 devolved areas of policy for the Welsh Assembly and that Scotland has had similar powers for many years. Has she had conversations with other Ministers about the commission that we have been promised, or preferably legislation, so that only English MPs can vote on English laws that affect English residents, and thereby maintain the parity—

I think my hon. Friend is referring to what is known as the West Lothian question, or as we sometimes call it in Wales, the West Clwydian question. I have had words with the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), and as he informed the House on 15 December, the Government will make an announcement this year on plans to establish a commission to consider the West Lothian question.

Can the Secretary of State provide a timetable for the introduction of a Calman-style inquiry, as per the coalition agreement, and will she undertake a full consultation on the matter?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. When we established the coalition Government, we committed in the coalition agreement to establishing a Calman-like process for the Assembly. I will announce further details on that in the coming months.

The Secretary of State has just said that there will be a commission on the so-called West Lothian question. Does she personally believe that Welsh Members of Parliament should have fewer voting rights in this place, particularly bearing in mind that her Government have cut the number of Welsh MPs by 25%?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is important that every vote is of an equal weight in this country. I am sure he would not want me to revisit arguments that have been well made and exhausted in the House.

When the commission is established, it will need to take into account the Government’s proposals for House of Lords reform, the changes to the way in which this House does business and the changes to the devolution settlement in considering potential solutions to the West Lothian question.

Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the resounding yes vote in the referendum on 3 March? As she knows, I legislated on behalf of a Labour Government for primary powers for the Assembly in 2006, and we are delighted at this historic day for Wales. I hope she is too.

The shadow Secretary of State must have been asleep when I answered the question in the first place and said that I welcomed the yes vote. I said that specifically during the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006, when I sat in his position. I am also delighted that, despite prevarication, it was a Conservative-led coalition Government who delivered that referendum for the people of Wales.

Does the Secretary of State accept that given the nature of the yes campaign, it is clear that the vast majority of people in Wales wish to remain part of the Union? As a proud Welshman and a proud Unionist, I believe as strongly as other Members that something must be done about the West Lothian question, to stop Welsh MPs voting on matters for which they have no responsibility.

I, too, am a devoted Unionist, but I recognise that the yes vote does not mean that the Welsh devolution settlement will stand still. It is a living object, which is why we are establishing a Calman-like process to examine the future of the Welsh Assembly and how we are governed across the UK, specifically in Wales.