11. What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on establishing a commission on the West Lothian question. (70971)
I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on a range of issues, and last week the Government announced the steps that we are taking to establish a commission on the West Lothian question.
The details of the commission’s remit and the time scale will be announced by the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper)—the Minister responsible for constitutional reform—at the appropriate moment, as he indicated last week. As for all the issues to be considered by the commission, I am sure that its members have heard the hon. Gentleman’s opening bid.
The commission will not give specific consideration to the Barnett formula, or to funding arrangements around the United Kingdom. We have made a separate commitment within the coalition agreement to look at all those matters when we have achieved our primary objective of sorting out the public finances.
We now have an opportunity to consider carefully the issues that were first so famously posed back in 1977. As devolution has developed over recent years, the need to address these issues has become more urgent. We are keen for that to be done, which is why we are the first Government to set up a commission to look at the issues, and we look forward to its getting on with its work.
May I invite the Secretary of State to ignore the little Englanders behind him and the little Scotlanders behind me, and tell us that we are going to allow Scottish MPs to discuss Scotland in a Scottish Grand Committee? Will he reconvene that Committee as soon as possible?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is embarrassed by the four grouped questions, which were obviously planted by his Front-Bench colleagues. When he is looking into all the matters under discussion, will he remember London, and perhaps treat Scotland in the same way as London has been treated?
I have no idea what the hon. Gentleman is saying about these questions, but perhaps he would like to look to the way in which the previous Government behaved; indeed, perhaps he is trying to give us an insight into that. All I will say to him is that, unlike the previous Government, we are determined to recognise that there is an issue that needs to be discussed and considered. It is complex, as there are lots of issues that we will have to consider, but then the House can get on with doing all the work it needs to do.
Does the Minister agree with me as a West Lothian Member of Parliament that it is deeply unsatisfactory that a commission on a constitutional issue affecting Scotland has been set up with no opportunity for any consultation on its terms of reference or any involvement by Parliament until the commission presents its findings?
I am sorry that that is the hon. Gentleman’s attitude. I thought he would welcome the fact that we are setting up the commission. I am sure that when it is set up, he will want to contribute to it. He raised some issues, including on the terms of reference, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Cabinet Office has made it absolutely clear that we will listen to all the points that are made to us. [Interruption.]