Secretary of State (Responsibilities)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1999.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 12:00 am, 27th April 1999

If he will make a statement on the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Scotland after the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. [80998]

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar Secretary of State, Scottish Office

The role of the Secretary of State for Scotland after devolution was described in our White Paper, "Scotland's Parliament". The Secretary of State will be expected to promote good communication between the two Governments and Parliaments in Edinburgh and London, to represent Scottish interests in reserved matters within the United Kingdom Government, and to exercise certain specific responsibilities under the Scotland Act 1998.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that courteous reply. Does he accept that devolution will bring about a massive transfer of power from his Department to the Scottish Parliament, not least in such major policy areas as agriculture, health and education? Bearing in mind the fact that this House will still make a major contribution through revenue support, can he tell us how Scottish Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, and this House, will clearly monitor such matters?

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar Secretary of State, Scottish Office

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on going to the nub of the matter with uncharacteristic speed. He is absolutely right—devolution represents a massive transfer of power. That is the point of the exercise, and on this side of the House we are rather proud of it.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that there is a logical and strong division of responsibility between Westminster and the devolved Parliament in Edinburgh. Each will have areas in which its writ runs. To those on our side of the argument, including me, that seems a sensible arrangement. Of course, there are important matters, fiscal matters among them, that will remain at Westminster. Scottish Members of Parliament who represent Scottish interests in the House will not lose their tongues, or their interest in what is happening, and I suspect that they will closely and properly scrutinise such matters.