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West Lothian Question

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 14th September 2011.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 11:30 am, 14th September 2011

What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on establishing a commission on the West Lothian question.

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Conservative, Aberconwy

What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on establishing a commission on the West Lothian question.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on establishing a commission on the West Lothian question.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on establishing a commission on the West Lothian question.

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on a range of issues, and last week the Government announced the steps that we are taking to establish a commission on the West Lothian question.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what is the time scale for the commission, and will he reassure every one of us that the present unfair voting system will be resolved by the end of this Parliament?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

The details of the commission’s remit and the time scale will be announced by the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Mr Harper—the Minister responsible for constitutional reform—at the appropriate moment, as he indicated last week. As for all the issues to be considered by the commission, I am sure that its members have heard the hon. Gentleman’s opening bid.

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Conservative, Aberconwy

Will the Secretary of State make representations to the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that the issue of Barnett consequentials is taken into consideration as part of the commission’s terms of reference?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

The commission will not give specific consideration to the Barnett formula, or to funding arrangements around the United Kingdom. We have made a separate commitment within the coalition agreement to look at all those matters when we have achieved our primary objective of sorting out the public finances.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

Will the Minister confirm that the commission will consider the issue with regard not just to Scotland, but to the other devolved Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland? [Interruption.]

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

May I ask my hon. Friend to repeat the first part of his question?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

That rather reinforces my point that there is far too much noise in the Chamber, which is very discourteous. The hon. Gentleman should repeat his question.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

Will the Minister confirm that the commission will consider the issue with regard not just to Scotland, but to the other devolved Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I am happy to confirm that although it is called the West Lothian commission, it will look at all the relevant issues regarding all parts of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

Does the Secretary of State share my view that resolving the West Lothian question would not, in fact, damage the Union?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

We now have an opportunity to consider carefully the issues that were first so famously posed back in 1977. As devolution has developed over recent years, the need to address these issues has become more urgent. We are keen for that to be done, which is why we are the first Government to set up a commission to look at the issues, and we look forward to its getting on with its work.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

Does the Secretary of State accept that there is an elegant solution to the West Lothian question: Scotland having the normal powers of a normal nation, which is called independence?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

Nobody could ever doubt the hon. Gentleman’s confidence in, and commitment to, this issue, but what he says only serves to raise the question of why the Scottish Government are delaying holding the referendum on independence.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

May I invite the Secretary of State to ignore the little Englanders behind him and the little Scotlanders behind me, and tell us that we are going to allow Scottish MPs to discuss Scotland in a Scottish Grand Committee? Will he reconvene that Committee as soon as possible?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman frequently made that plea to the previous Government. We are, of course, keen to ensure that all Scottish matters continue to be debated in the appropriate way in this House, and we will ensure that.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is embarrassed by the four grouped questions, which were obviously planted by his Front-Bench colleagues. When he is looking into all the matters under discussion, will he remember London, and perhaps treat Scotland in the same way as London has been treated?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I have no idea what the hon. Gentleman is saying about these questions, but perhaps he would like to look to the way in which the previous Government behaved; indeed, perhaps he is trying to give us an insight into that. All I will say to him is that, unlike the previous Government, we are determined to recognise that there is an issue that needs to be discussed and considered. It is complex, as there are lots of issues that we will have to consider, but then the House can get on with doing all the work it needs to do.

Photo of Graeme Morrice Graeme Morrice Labour, Livingston

Does the Minister agree with me as a West Lothian Member of Parliament that it is deeply unsatisfactory that a commission on a constitutional issue affecting Scotland has been set up with no opportunity for any consultation on its terms of reference or any involvement by Parliament until the commission presents its findings?

Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland

I am sorry that that is the hon. Gentleman’s attitude. I thought he would have welcomed the fact that we are setting up the commission. I am sure that when it is set up, he will want to contribute to it. He raised some issues, including on the terms of reference, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Cabinet Office has made it absolutely clear that we will listen to all the points that are made to us.

[Interruption.]