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Commission on Devolution in Wales

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

The Government are grateful to the commission for its hard work and for engaging widely across Wales. We have been carefully considering its recommendations on the financial powers of the Assembly, and we intend to respond shortly. The commission is now undertaking a thorough review of the broader devolution settlement for Wales, and I look forward to seeing its report next year.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said that funding improvements to the M4 are largely connected with the recommendations of the Silk commission. Given that Welsh businesses have already suffered two delays, will the Deputy Prime Minister ensure that they do not suffer a third as a result of delayed negotiations?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Chancellor recently confirmed that we would respond to part 1 of the Silk commission’s report shortly. It is a complex area of work. There are 33 recommendations that touch on various complex areas of fiscal and taxation policy. We are endeavouring to respond as soon as possible, including on the issue of infrastructure investment that he raises.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister give me a guarantee that, as a Member of Parliament representing a constituency in Wales, I will still be able to vote and speak in this House on matters that affect my constituents who use health services, transport and employment in England?

Yes, I think that is an assurance that I can give the right hon. Gentleman; I am not quite sure what he is driving at. The process of devolution across the United Kingdom is not incompatible with making sure that the House acts as one where we need to do so, but also, as the McKay commission examined, that we explore the possibility of ensuring that where matters apply only to England that is somehow reflected in the procedures of this House.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister update me on what discussions have taken place with the Northern Ireland Executive on the further devolution of powers to the Executive?

There are of course ongoing discussions. I was in Northern Ireland myself just a few weeks ago. As my hon. Friend may know, one of the main topics of discussion has been the proposal for the devolution of corporation tax to Northern Ireland because of Northern Ireland’s rather atypical economic position given its significant land border with the Republic of Ireland. We are giving very serious consideration to this. We will not make a final decision until after the referendum on Scottish independence next year.

Last night we were legislating on some of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, 13 days after it published its final report. It is eight months since Silk finished the first phase of his report. Why are the UK Government treating the people of Wales with such contempt, when all the polls indicate strong support for official powers for Wales?

Of course I acknowledge the fact that the success of the Silk commission is that it has mobilised such cross-party consensus and support in Wales. That is why, far from treating the recommendations with contempt, we are treating them with a great deal of seriousness. I accept that that is taking a little longer than the hon. Gentleman might want, but when we announce our response to the 33 recommendations I hope he will be pleasantly surprised at our forthcoming and forward-leaning approach.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that it would be utterly wrong to allow yet further powers to be given to the Welsh Assembly before we have resolved the problem of what we do about English devolution?

I do not think one should seek to be too neat about these things. Of course I accept that there is an issue with how English votes on issues that affect only English constituencies are dealt with in this House. The McKay commission examined that, and we are now reflecting on its recommendations, but that does not mean that we should somehow freeze in time an ongoing process of devolution to other parts of the United Kingdom.