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Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Scotland Bill is completing its passage through Parliament, implementing most of the recommendations of the Calman commission and resulting in the most significant transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament since its establishment. We have also established the Silk commission on devolution in Wales and initiated the McKay commission on the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons. We have also devolved powers directly from Whitehall to local communities through the Localism Act 2011, providing for referendums on directly elected mayors in 10 cities on 3 May and for local referendums on a range of issues, and giving local authorities a general power of competence.

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for that answer. Does he recognise that devolution is an ongoing process, whereas separation is a once-and-for-all decision? Does he agree that we need a single question on independence in the proposed referendum if we are to have a clear and decisive result from it?

I strongly agree, as I suspect do many Members on both sides of the House. It would be wrong to play cat and mouse with the Scottish people by confusing two entirely different issues: one is whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom; the other is on the process by which we might provide greater devolved powers to Scotland. We cannot really address the second without first knowing whether the United Kingdom is going to remain intact, and that is why it is important to give a simple, clear question to the Scottish people to decide—through one question in the referendum.

The Deputy Prime Minister will note that the Scottish National party Bench is bare this afternoon. Will he confirm that the West Lothian commission will include not only Scotland, but Wales, Northern Ireland and London?

It will consider in the round all the issues about how we manage business in this House in a more devolved United Kingdom. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the McKay commission will report in the next parliamentary Session.

My right hon. Friend and I are already, in a sense, married politically—and very happily, at that—but as we have so much to do together on devolution, House of Lords reform and the Health and Social Care Bill, can we just leave it at that: as a partnership?

My hon. Friend is right that our in-tray is full, but, as I said before, I think it is a good thing that this partnership and this coalition is being as ambitious as we are.