With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement to the House about the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
As hon. Members will know, on 18 September the people of Scotland voted in a referendum on independence. I am pleased to report to the House that, by a margin of 10.6%, or by 55.3% to 44.7%, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The referendum was underpinned by the Edinburgh agreement, signed between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government in October 2012. That agreement ensured that the referendum would have a clear legal base, that it would be conducted in a way that commanded the confidence of both Parliaments, Governments and people, and, most importantly, that it would deliver a fair, legal and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland—a result that everyone would respect.
More than 2 million people made a positive choice for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. The franchise for the referendum included, for the first time ever in this country, 16 and 17-year-olds. At a time when our elections have suffered from declining participation, the turnout across Scotland was nearly 85%—something that I am sure all across the House would welcome. Politics works best when people take an active interest in supporting the things that matter to them most. It also adds emphasis to the democratic result.
The decision of the people of Scotland was clear: they voted to continue to be part of this family of nations; they voted to continue to work alongside people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and they voted for all of us to remain together as a United Kingdom. It is important that everyone now accepts that result. We should all move on from being part of the 55% or the 45% to working for 100% of the people of Scotland.
That is what we are doing. The vow made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition during the referendum campaign is already being put into practice. The Smith commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was up and running on 19 September. He will convene cross-party talks to reach agreement on the proposals for further devolution to Scotland. His terms of reference make it clear that the recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom. But that process is not just about the parties; the referendum opened up civic engagement in Scotland across sectors, communities and organisations, and Lord Smith has made it clear that he wants to hear from all those groups to ensure that the recommendations he produces are informed by views from right across Scottish society.
By St Andrew’s day, Lord Smith will publish “Heads of Agreement”. The Government are committed to turning those recommendations into draft clauses by Burns night 2015. The timetable is demanding, but that is because the demand is there in Scotland to see change delivered, and it is a demand we shall meet. On Friday 10 October, all five main Scottish parties submitted their proposals to the commission. In the case of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, the proposals reflect the positions published by the parties prior to the referendum campaign. The Scottish National party and the Green party agreed to join the cross-party talks after the referendum, and they too submitted proposals on Friday—a development that we welcome.
Today I can confirm that the Government are meeting the first step in the further devolution process by publishing a Command Paper. The Command Paper we are presenting today provides a clear, factual summary of the proposals for further devolution in Scotland published by each of the three pro-UK parties, as we committed to do during the referendum campaign. Those plans encompass a broad, complex and often interlinked range of topics, from taxation to borrowing and from welfare to regulation. To inform and assist consideration of each of those proposals, the Command Paper also sets out factual information about the current situation in the key policy areas, as well as presenting some background information about devolution in Scotland to date. The publication is wholly without prejudice to the work of the Smith commission, which will look at proposals from all the parties and others and seek to establish the ground for consensus. This will be the first time in the development of Scotland’s constitutional future that all its main parties are participating in a process to consider further devolution. It is a truly historic moment, and one that I very much welcome.
With all five main Scottish parties working together in collaboration, I am confident that we will reach an agreement that will provide the enhanced powers to the people of Scotland and accountability for the Scottish Parliament while retaining the strength and benefits of being part of the United Kingdom. That was the message heard loud and clear during the referendum campaign, and it is one that this Government, and all Scotland’s political parties, are committed to supporting.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement.
Only three weeks ago, in unprecedented numbers, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. It was a historic decision, and the result was emphatically clear: the Scottish people voted for pooling and sharing resources across the United Kingdom; they voted to continue with devolution; and they voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament. I wish today to pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), who put the case with so much passion throughout the campaign.
Following the referendum, we can say with confidence that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people and that we shall have a stronger Scottish Parliament. A vital part of the campaign was the commitment made by the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to have a strengthened and empowered Scottish Parliament. Led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, we guaranteed a clear and definitive timetable for further powers, and I am pleased that the Secretary of State has published the Command Paper ahead of time today. Can the Secretary of State confirm that a motion now appears on the Order Paper detailing that timetable?
The process now ongoing under the leadership of Lord Smith of Kelvin will guarantee that more powers will come to the Scottish Parliament. The Labour party will enter the talks this week in a spirit of partnership and co-operation with the other parties. We will apply a simple test to reaching a conclusion: what outcome respects the result of the referendum and will make the people of Scotland better off? The people of Scotland have voted for pooling, sharing of resources and greater prosperity, and that should guide the commission’s discussions.
The referendum attracted the highest level of participation of any national poll ever held in Scotland. It is important that, as we develop this next stage of devolution, we reflect that. The Secretary of State has mentioned how voluntary organisations can participate. Will he lay out how individual members of the public can contribute to that process too and tell the House how Lord Smith intends to engage with people across every area of Scotland?
We debated the agreement for the referendum two years ago, as the Secretary of State said. At that time, I said that we would spend the campaign vigorously defending devolution from those who would seek to bring it to an end. Over these last two years, that is exactly what the Labour party has done. Not only does this campaign conclude with the devolution settlement secured; that settlement will be strengthened. We will continue to argue that the best future for Scottish people comes from pooling and sharing resources inside the United Kingdom and from a powerhouse Parliament that can again change the lives of people across Scotland. That is what the people of Scotland want, and it is what the Labour party will fight for.
I thank the hon. Lady for the very constructive tone of her response. Working with people across parties has been an interesting experience, as it always is in Scotland, and it is clear that the process of cross-party working will have to continue if the will of the Scottish people expressed on 18 September is to be honoured. That will become all the more challenging, although I still believe it will be more effective as a result, for having members of the Scottish National party and Scottish Green party on board. A high price will be paid by any political party that does not enter the Smith commission and the process that follows in good faith.
I echo the hon. Lady’s comments about her right hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) and for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). All Members from Scotland, and a number from beyond it, played their role in giving leadership across the referendum campaign, but her two right hon. Friends indeed played a particularly important and significant role.
The motion on the Order Paper honouring the timetable has indeed been tabled. On the approach of the Labour party and the Government, I should remind the House that under the Scotland Act 2012 any proposal should have cross-party support, should be based on evidence and should not be to the detriment of other parts of the UK. It is the Government’s view, as expressed in the Command Paper today, that that should also be the guiding principle in relation to the current process.
Does the Secretary of State accept that throughout the House many believe that further devolution to Scotland can occur only if there is a rebalancing of the entire constitutional settlement, with English votes on English issues? Does he agree that those who say that that would create two classes of MP are being disingenuous? The House has had an imbalance since devolution; many Members have been able to vote on issues such as health and education in England without having to answer to a single voter for those decisions.
I have said many times that the completion of the job of devolution in Scotland and the process we are now undertaking would unlock the door to further constitutional change across the whole of the United Kingdom, and I believe that to be the case. Let me be clear, however, that the timetable we have set out here will be honoured. If other parts of the United Kingdom are able to take advantage and to move along in our slipstream, so to speak, that will be to their advantage, but we will not delay the implementation of the proposals in Scotland for other parts of the UK.
Scotland has decided and spoken, and it is now the accepted sovereign will of the Scottish people to work in partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom and support it through devolution. One of the lessons from the referendum campaign, though, is that although our country may not be broken, people believe that our political, social and economic model is broken and does not work for ordinary people. That is why I urge the Secretary of State and, indeed, the entire Government not to fall into the trap of thinking that we can just talk about which politician has what power in what building; more important is what politicians choose to do with the powers they have to make a genuine difference to people’s lives. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the process being talked about is separate from the process being mentioned by others—that of English votes for English laws?
On the hon. Gentleman’s latter point, I think I have already made that clear. I very much hope that once we have done this piece of work, we will in Scotland at last be able to move on to using the powers of the Parliament rather than just talking about them.
Does my right hon. Friend understand the general welcome there has been in Scotland for the fact that change in Scotland should not be held up to enable England to catch up? Having agreed that position, is it not right for the Government, and indeed for him today, to say that, although not in lockstep, there will undoubtedly be progress on constitutional change for the other nations that form the United Kingdom? Particularly with regard to any possible change in the role of Scottish MPs, does he agree that however superficially attractive it might appear, changes to the Standing Orders would be inappropriate, and that such a change to the role of Scottish MPs should undoubtedly be enshrined in primary legislation?
My right hon. and learned Friend is entirely correct about that. This should be something that does more than just affect just the Standing Orders of this House. Indeed, even if it were to be done in that very narrow way, he would, I suspect, be one of the first to remind me that the House guards very jealously, through your office, Mr Speaker, its right to determine its Standing Orders for itself. It has never normally been the practice for Government to lead on these matters.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the Smith commission process will require compromise and good faith from all political parties in Scotland? Does he also agree that in the agreement that comes we must see the sharing of resources across the United Kingdom? Is not that in keeping with the spirit of the way in which the Scottish people voted on 18 September?
I think Lord Smith has already made it clear that he is not going to deliver independence by the back door. Whatever proposals he comes up with on St Andrew’s night in relation to further devolution, they will be in the context of there continuing to be a United Kingdom, and the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will be respected.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we ought to learn some lessons from this near-death experience of the United Kingdom and the fact that we did not intend the winning margin to be as narrow as 10%? Does he also agree that if we are to avoid another referendum, Westminster politics and Westminster politicians must raise the tone of debate with our Scottish counterparts in order to ensure that we develop more of a relationship of mutual respect, with less opportunity for the nationalists to make mischief?
There are indeed many lessons to be learned from this, and their full extent will probably not be apparent for some time to come. This statement is an important part of the process, because it is very important that the Government, with the official Opposition as well, are able to demonstrate to the people of Scotland that we are making good the commitment that we made in the course of the referendum campaign. Politicians doing what they say they will do in that way is probably the most important thing we can do to restore faith in politics.
The Secretary of State is, of course, right: the referendum was an incredible, transformational event that gripped and energised our whole nation. I am sure he will want to join me in congratulating the Scottish people on the way in which they went about that business. He is also right to say that Scotland is moving on. According to one opinion poll, two thirds of the Scottish people want devolution maximum—everything devolved, other than foreign affairs and defence. Three quarters have said that they want all taxation devolved to Scotland. This is the thing, isn’t it? There might be a Command Paper, but the people in charge of this process are the Scottish people themselves and we will be judged by their good judgment on what they want for their future.
May I say again that I welcome the participation of the hon. Gentleman’s party in the Smith process? I very much hope—in fact, I believe—that that is being done in good faith. However, perhaps the hon. Gentleman should take heed of the 60.19% of the people in his own area who voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. If he tries to subvert the Smith process by getting independence through the back door, as others have said, he will pay a heavy price.
Should we not all be grateful to the Scottish National party for having called the referendum? Has it not in fact provided an opportunity for the Scottish people in the 21st century to show that they have come to the same conclusion as their ancestors in 1707 that the best interests of all the peoples of this island are to have a British citizenship in a United Kingdom?
There are, indeed, occasions when we should be grateful to the Scottish National party; they are few and far between, but this may, in the way the right hon. and learned Gentleman describes it, be one of them. It was not, of course, the Scottish National party that called the referendum; it was an agreement between Her Majesty’s Government here and the Scottish Government in Edinburgh—the Edinburgh agreement—that gave the basis for it to happen. It would be helpful for the SNP leadership to now make it clear that we have met the terms of the Edinburgh agreement, that the decision was fair, legal and decisive, and that, accordingly, we will not revisit the process.
As a Labour nominee to the Smith commission, may I welcome the Secretary of State’s constructive comments? In that spirit of constructive dialogue, as we approach the debate about further devolution will he consider bringing forward the public information campaign on the raft of tax powers that are to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament by 2016?
I wish the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues well on the Smith commission; he has a job of work to do, but he is very well qualified to do it. I will give consideration to his question about our public information campaign on the powers already coming from the 2012 Act.
The Secretary of State is to be commended for introducing the Command Paper in such a timely fashion. Has any thought been given to the lessons learned from this campaign, particularly whether a simple majority of 50% plus one is sufficient for a matter of such far-reaching constitutional implications?
I have thought of little else in the past few weeks. I know that when referendum processes are undertaken in other parts of the world a debate often takes places on the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. My view continues to be that 50% plus one should be the threshold for any referendum in a democracy.
It is clear that Scotland will now get what Scotland wants, and so England must get what England wants. The Secretary of State has outlined a process through which the debate about Scotland’s future reached every corner of Scottish society. Does he agree that, in determining our future, England must have that same opportunity and that to push changes through a narrow Cabinet Committee on an artificially short time scale would be absolutely unacceptable?
In relation to the work of the Cabinet Committee, there is not of course a time scale, except that we are looking towards the next general election in May 2015. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are perhaps more familiar with the process in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom. We have been round this course at least twice: first with the constitutional convention, and then with the Calman commission in 2008. On each occasion, we brought together political parties and the voices of business, trade unions, churches, local authorities and others to build consensus, and then we implemented it. That is the way that people are best guaranteed to get the constitutional change they want.
The Secretary of State knows that, with the advent of devolution under the previous Labour Government, the number of seats for Scotland in this House was reduced from 72 to 59. With further devolution, will he support a reduction in the number of seats for Scotland in this House?
Further to that question, I note that the Secretary of State has made it clear that implications for other parts of the United Kingdom will follow from this process, and some of those points are set out in the Command Paper. Will he clarify that? On page 43 of the Command Paper, it states that the Liberal Democrat commission’s view is that
“the present level of Scottish representation at Westminster should be retained until a federal structure for the UK has been delivered”.
Does that remain his position and that of his Front-Bench colleagues?
May I first welcome my right hon. Friend’s Command Paper? As somebody who led our party in the constitutional convention, I welcome the fact that the Scottish Parliament will now get proper tax-raising powers. Does he agree that anything more than 50% looks a lot like home rule and a shared partnership? To those who want devolution within England, may I say, “You have our support, but it is quite difficult to support something that is unclear”? We need a constitutional convention. I suggest that devolution has in every case been accompanied by electoral reform and proportionality, and that should also be a condition in England.
It is an important point that devolution has in every case been accompanied by electoral reform, and that institutions to which power is devolved are always elected proportionately. I cannot add a great deal to my answer to the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr Denham) on the need to build consensus in whichever way people in England choose. In Scotland, we have done it in a way that has worked for us twice, and will I believe now work for us a third time. It could work for people in England, but it is for them to make up their own minds about that.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. I welcome more the resounding result of our Scottish kith and kin choosing to stay within the Union, and I welcome the way in which the debate was fought and won. The implications go well beyond the Scottish highlands and islands or the borders: where Scotland goes with devolution, Northern Ireland invariably follows. What engagement will the Smith commission and Lord Smith have with parties in Northern Ireland to ensure that the outcome reflects the needs of all the United Kingdom in all its diversity, especially the needs of Northern Ireland?
Lord Smith has been charged with building a consensus in relation to further powers for the Scottish Parliament. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman has a view informed by his experience of devolution in Northern Ireland, Lord Smith will certainly be interested to hear it. Given the remit that we have given Lord Smith, however, I do not expect him to say anything in relation to changes for Northern Ireland.
Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the business community on both sides of the border will be fully consulted on the further devolution of powers over personal taxation, because they shoulder much of the administrative burden? Much as further devolution might be desirable, it must not increase the regulatory burden on wealth and job creators on both sides of the border.
Indeed, the voice of business is very important in this process, as it was throughout the referendum campaign. I know from my discussions with the CBI, the chambers of commerce and others that they are working on their proposals. I urge all collective organisations, individual businesses and individual citizens who have something to say to come forward and say it—this is their time.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the decisive no vote was not a vote for the status quo, but a vote for continued change, and that we in this House must deliver and be seen to deliver on our commitments to further Scottish devolution quickly, inclusively and decisively, without tying them to any decentralisation plans for south of the border?
I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman that assurance, which I have already given on two or three occasions this afternoon. There are few things that would be worse for the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom than our not delivering on the promises that we made or not meeting the timetable. It is because I care so much about keeping the United Kingdom together that I am determined that we will meet the timetable that we have laid out.
Today’s Command Paper does not contain a section dedicated to the supervening question of the position of European law in relation to Scotland. That is a reserved matter under the Scotland Act 1998. Will the Secretary of State give an absolute and categorical assurance that, having saved the Union of the United Kingdom, under no circumstances will we surrender the Scottish functions to the European Union?
Demands for a further referendum would have an exceptionally damaging effect on Scottish businesses, Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy. We know that because we can see what happened in Quebec in Canada when the separatists did not accept the outcome and came back a second time. We know what happened to the financial services sector in Montreal. I do not want that to happen in Scotland. Unfortunately, I cannot dictate what the Scottish National party will do, but I say to it that if it does not make it clear that it accepts this result and if it does not engage in the Smith commission in good faith, it will suffer.
As my right hon. Friend congratulates the people of Scotland on the 85% turnout in the referendum, I hope that he will reflect on the 85% of people in the United Kingdom who did not get a vote on the Union: namely, the people of England. He has no mandate from me or my constituents to devolve further powers to Scotland, while expecting my constituents to bankroll it and failing to address the issue of English votes for English laws.
I fear that my hon. Friend does not quite reflect the intricacies of the settlement in the United Kingdom. I invite him to reflect on that at some leisure. I understand completely the concerns that he expresses about the position of England within the United Kingdom. Of course that discussion needs to take place. We have had such a discussion for decades in Scotland and I wish the people of England well in having it, but I cannot emphasise too strongly that that discussion cannot and will not hold up the delivery of the powers to the Scottish Parliament.
A key principle during the referendum debate was the delivery of fairness in Scotland. I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State confirm that the principle of pooling and sharing resources across the United Kingdom will be fundamental. Will he say more about whether Lord Smith will have access to various resources within the Treasury and the Government so that he can produce further analysis of the various proposals that have been put forward by the different political parties, with the principle of the pooling and sharing of resources in mind?
The secretariat for Lord Smith’s commission is already supported by civil servants from the Scotland Office, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. I met Lord Smith on the Monday following the referendum and I told him then—I am happy to repeat this commitment publicly—that any resources that he felt he needed would be given, such is the importance that we attach to the work with which he has been tasked.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the holes in the current devolution settlement, as some of us pointed out at the time, is that effectively the Scottish people have representation without taxation? We must ensure that the Scottish Government have not only the power but the obligation to raise some of their taxes, thus increasing their accountability and enhancing democracy.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The completion of the job of devolution requires the Scottish Parliament to be given control of at least half its budget—preferably more in my view, although we will see what Lord Smith comes forward with on that in the fullness of time. It is important for the rebalancing of the political debate in Scotland that we have a Parliament that debates not only how to spend money, but how to raise it.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the high level of participation among ordinary members of the public in the referendum debate was incredibly important, and a stark contrast to the debate leading up to the Scotland Act 2012, which of course delivered substantial further powers to the Scottish Parliament on the taxation and indeed borrowing that come to it? Does he agree that we must listen to the message of that debate, which was that whether people voted yes or no, they wanted change and we have failed to deliver on social justice? Will he hold a public education campaign and ensure that the Government talk not only about the powers that need to be delivered, but about how those powers can be used by the Scottish Parliament to deliver social justice?
Having a short process such as the one we have outlined allows early delivery of those powers, and that will allow us to get on to talking about how we use those powers, not just where they are. I share the hon. Lady’s commitment to progress and social justice, and one thing that is clear from 18 September is that people in Scotland, and elsewhere, understand that these are often complex and subtle problems that we cannot solve just by drawing a line on the map.
Does the Secretary of State agree that part of this settlement needs to be a public spending agreement that is fair to all four nations of the UK? On that basis, will he be reviewing the Barnett formula to ensure that it continues to reflect relative need and will do so in the future?
With the Wales Bill about to proceed to the other place, what improvements will the UK Government bring to the Bill to reflect the changing constitutional landscape following events in Scotland?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and may I echo his call for all of Scotland, whether part of the 45%, 55%, or indeed 65% of my constituents in Edinburgh West who voted no, to now set aside our differences and party affiliations and ensure that the will of the Scottish people is delivered?
I echo that sentiment, and having campaigned on a number of occasions with my hon. Friend in his constituency during the referendum campaign, I was not in any way surprised that his constituents voted by such a handsome margin; it was almost as good as the decision in Orkney—[Interruption.] Shetland also voted no very heavily. The best way to capitalise on that magnificent result is for us in this House to demonstrate good faith in relation to the vow.
The Secretary of State is absolutely right that the vow must be made good on, but the devolution of considerable additional powers to Scotland has a particular impact on the north of England and we need a long-term solution to our constitution. One thing that could very quickly enhance the voice of the north is to deliver English votes for English laws. Can the Secretary of State confirm that there is absolutely nothing to prevent that happening in tandem with the new powers for Scotland?
Given the enthusiasm of the Scottish electorate during the referendum campaign, how will the Secretary of State maintain the enthusiasm, engagement and transparency of the process, so that on 30 November it does not look as though we have delivered a fix, instead of something that has support among the Scottish people?
I will be more than happy to play my role in the process that the right hon. Lady outlines. There is a duty and an opportunity for all of us, across all the parties, to play a role. The electorate has rebooted politics in Scotland. It is for us now to respond to the initiative that has been taken by the people.
I am told that on all sorts of measures Kettering is the most average borough in England. I would contend that Kettering people are the most fair-minded people in England. I am sure that my constituents would be very happy for Scotland to have lots more powers so that it can decide things for itself. However, what the fair-minded people of Kettering cannot accept—I would like the Secretary of State to try to explain it to them—is the Scottish people receiving premiums for public services, over and above what the average English taxpayer gets in England, unrelated to relative deprivation.
The flow of money between the different parts of the United Kingdom comes and goes at different times over the years. What we have—Scotland has just said that it wishes to continue to be part of this—is a situation in which we all share and pool risks and resources. That is what the people of Scotland have voted for. I hope the hon. Gentleman will sign up to that too.
In relation to greater devolution, one proposal that my party made was for the devolution of housing benefit. I appreciate that to some extent that cuts across one of the current Government’s pet projects, universal credit, but will the Secretary of State assure me that his colleagues on the Government Front Bench will be as flexible as possible and willing to see changes that will really help people in Scotland. Incidentally, this proposal might get his Government off one of their uncomfortable hooks—a policy that is not even going to work.
Time will tell exactly what the change to universal credit achieves. On the devolution of housing benefit and other matters, we will wait and see what Lord Smith comes forward with. It is not appropriate at this stage for me, as a Minister, to second-guess what he might come up with, but the Government will respond in good faith when we see his heads of agreement.
The Secretary of State will be aware that very late in the campaign all three party leaders promised significant extra powers to the people of Scotland. What calculations were done on the costs of implementing any additional powers? I heard the Secretary of State say that all resources would be given in terms of making up the deal, but when will the House see any figures associated with what will happen in the name of giving extra powers to Scotland?
May I gently correct my hon. Friend on one point? The proposals of the three parties that support the continuation of the United Kingdom were published, in some cases, 18 months ahead of the independence referendum, and all certainly were published well before the summer. What was made clear in the latter stages of the referendum campaign was the timetable that would be followed. That was the essence of the new commitment that was made. On the figures that will be available, I am afraid that my hon. Friend will, like the rest of us, have to wait until Lord Smith comes forward with his heads of agreement on 30 November, because we cannot put figures on something that we do not yet know the details of.
These powers are, of course, extremely important, but may I join colleagues on the Opposition Benches in emphasising the need for further devolution to deliver on social justice and equality? That is what the Scottish people voted for, and it is what they want to hear. We are very proud of our young people and the way they conducted themselves and engaged with the campaign, but does the Secretary of State agree that it is illogical to give them a vote for just one election?
I certainly join the hon. Lady in congratulating 16 and 17-year-olds on the enthusiasm and vigour that they brought to the campaign, which was one of the most heartening aspects of the whole process. Although this goes beyond the next general election, I think it would be difficult for any future Government to resist such a change across the whole of the United Kingdom, and, having seen its effect in Scotland, I do not see why anybody would want to.
I commend the Secretary of State for being able to take the heat out of a situation better than almost anyone else in politics. He has taken some heat himself during the campaign. Will he assure me that the people who do not shout the loudest—people who do not gang up on others—will be heard by the Smith commission? I am talking about the quiet people—the 10,000 contacts I had from constituents who said they wanted this to be solved, whether they voted yes or no, and who wanted their group, whether it was a non-governmental organisation or a charity, to be heard by whoever designs the future of Scotland within the Union.
The hon. Gentleman commends me for taking the heat out of the situation. I wonder if that is perhaps an oblique way of saying I am boring if that is what is necessary. I have certainly been accused of an awful lot worse than that during my 13 years as a Member of this House.
In terms of engaging the quiet majority who spoke, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: it should not just be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Anybody who has a view on how Scotland can be better governed should be able to express that view and expect it to be given the respect it will undoubtedly deserve.
The people of Scotland have made a positive choice to stay in the UK. There is clearly support for the further devolution proposed by the three parties, and that must now happen and that process must move forward. I understand that there need to be discussions about devolution to other parts of the UK, but will the Secretary of State urge calm among his colleagues? It will be ludicrous if the result of this vote is that we start to rip apart this Parliament because of their ill-thought-out and rushed proposals.
I cannot restate too often the importance of building the broadest possible consensus. It has taken us decades to do that in Scotland, and the Smith commission is just the latest iteration. I believe that parties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now have to enter that process with the same good faith we are showing in Scotland. There is no alternative to building that sort of consensus. Reflecting on some of the efforts of this Government, I see no other way of achieving constitutional reform than by building that consensus.
I wish the Secretary of State well in completing the process of devolution to Scotland, but it cannot be denied that that will leave unfinished business in the form of devolution in England to our great cities outside London such as Birmingham. In his capacity as a Cabinet member of the United Kingdom Government, is he talking to his colleagues—particularly the Minister responsible for cities—about how the greater devolution of power to cities in England can take place in tandem with the work that he is doing in Scotland?
I reiterate that I hesitate to use terms such as “in tandem” because they might suggest a link that could cause delay for one process or the other. It is apparent to me that there is an increased appetite for discussing constitutional change, especially in England. I see that among my own family living in England. I think that it is entirely healthy, and I will encourage it in any way I can. The hon. Lady mentioned devolution to cities. I believe that this Government’s record on city deals and on giving opportunities and resources to cities represents one of our biggest successes. It has probably brought more significant change to the way in which England is governed than many people realise.
I strongly support more powers for the Scottish Parliament, but as the Secretary of State has said, there is a growing appetite for more devolution throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, perhaps in different forms. Will he therefore support the sensible suggestion that the way forward might well be to have a constitutional convention?
I have already made it clear that I am something of an enthusiast for that process, having been through it north of the border. I have always thought that there were applicable lessons for the rest of the United Kingdom, but I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I do not see us resolving that issue this side of the general election.
I do not think that it is lost on the Secretary of State, or on any of the hon. Members in this House who took part in the referendum campaign, that there are now deep divisions among the Scottish people. Does he agree that, if those divisions are to be healed to allow people to come together, a good starting point would be for the leadership of the Scottish National party to acknowledge that the question of Scottish independence is now dead for decades?
I have already made it clear that I expect the leadership of the Scottish National party—in whatever shape or form it eventually emerges—to give that commitment to the Scottish people. That was what the party signed up to in the Edinburgh agreement and that was what it was saying in the week before the referendum. I see no reason why it should not stick to that position.
I am absolutely certain that the events in Scotland will lead to further devolution in Wales and in England, but what analysis has the Secretary of State made of the proposals on English votes for English laws? Would it not be bizarre if Scottish MPs were barred from voting but Scottish peers were allowed to vote on exactly the same legislation? Such peers could include the ninth Earl of Arran, the 14th Earl of Stair, the 16th Earl of Lindsay and, for that matter, Lord Smith.
Lord Smith is not an hereditary peer. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws) has already said, where we have devolved, we have devolved to a legislature, be it a Parliament or an Assembly, that is elected proportionally. That has been an important part of the way in which we have gone about the process of devolution, and I think that the people of England should be entitled to that as well. The essential difficulty that the hon. Gentleman touches on is that it is—[Interruption.] He knows my views on an unelected House of Lords. It is very difficult to devolve within Parliament but not the Executive, and that is something that those who want changes of this sort will have to address and explain.