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Smith Commission

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 26 November 2014

4. When he expects the Smith commission to publish its report; and what steps are planned to implement its findings. (906206)

6. When he expects the Smith commission to publish its report; and what steps are planned to implement its findings. (906208)

Lord Smith is expected to publish his heads of agreement soon. In accordance with the timetable, this Government will produce draft clauses by 25 January. I shall, of course, with your assistance, Mr Speaker, endeavour to keep the House informed of all developments.

I was delighted that the people of Scotland voted to keep Carlisle at the centre of the United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that we fulfil the commitments made to Scotland and ensure that there is a tight but sensible timetable to bring these commitments to law?

I could not agree more. The commitment was made in all good faith and solemnity by the party leaders during the referendum campaign. It will be kept according to the timetable previously outlined.

Is the Secretary of State confident that the Scottish Government will support the proposals, or will they begrudge what is offered to them?

The Scottish Government—or at least the Scottish National party—are taking part in the Smith process. I believe that John Swinney, their nomination as one of their commissioners, is an honourable man who would not do that in anything other than good faith. I very much hope he and his party will not prove me wrong on that.

10. Is the Secretary of State aware that devolution, like Union, is a principle and not an expedient, so it should apply to all the nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland included? Is he also aware of a letter signed by Mayor Boris Johnson, Councillor Sir Richard Leese and all the senior local government officers and leaders asking for the same package to be applied—or for consideration to be given to its application—to England as Lord Smith wishes to apply to Scotland? (906212)

I share the hon. Gentleman’s analysis of what devolution is actually about. I say to him, however, that in Scotland we have debated our constitutional future over decades. Change can be achieved only by building the broadest possible consensus from the lowest possible level up, taking in parties outside the political process. The people of England will need to do that if they are to have a better constitutional future.

13. Does the Secretary of State accept that the issue of fracking and exploring for minerals in Scotland is one legitimately looked at by the Smith commission? If it recommends that that goes to Scotland, it will stop the clock on using reserve powers and will let Scotland decide about fracking. (906215)

Like everybody else, the hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see what recommendations come from the Smith commission. The Government were responsible for setting it up and we will deliver on the heads of agreement when they are published, but it would not be appropriate for me, standing at this Dispatch Box now, to second-guess what Lord Smith is going to say.