I am not a London MP, and I hesitate to trespass on these extremely delicate issues. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, if any London MPs were present, they would strongly contest what he says. It is inevitable, with definitions of need, that individual areas will tend to put their priorities highest. Local authorities are always complaining about how unfairly they are treated, whichever part of the country they are in, because their definition of their needs and the priorities given to them are always different. That is true across local authorities and regions, and between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. It is inevitable that there will be such differences and arguments. There probably will never be a settled conclusion on precise definitions of need. That is democratic debate and we could discuss it for ever. Need should always be borne in mind, and I am very glad that it was brought into the debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will remember that when he discusses these figures in future.
We have had an interesting debate, which has shown that devolution will continue to be a matter for discussion, but we believe that it has secured the future of the Union. It is easy to forget what the situation was like in the 1990s when feelings were running extremely high in Scotland. I remind the hon. Member for Epping Forest that the people of Scotland felt that it was being used unfairly as a laboratory for the divisive social and economic policies of the Conservative Government of the time. The people of Scotland still have not forgotten that they were used to test the implementation of the poll tax. Such issues raised tensions to an extremely high level.
Whatever one thinks of the current Administration in Scotland, most people would accept that we have a vibrant devolution settlement. The recent mayoral elections in London, although they did not turn out as I wished, were nevertheless a good advertisement for our vibrant devolved democracy, and will continue to be so. Our measures on devolution have enhanced the constitutional arrangements of this country and have preserved the Union. They deliver essential flexibility and allow the devolved administrations and legislatures the ability to deliver distinctive policies, and it is right and proper that they should do so. The fact that there is also a single Government taking a UK-wide view has enabled us to have the stable macro-economic policy that has delivered growth year on year for the past 10 years and has kept us in good shape to face the turbulent global economic challenges that lie ahead.
Our constitutional arrangements have delivered a common social security system that assists those who are most in need across the UK, building the common sense of identity that is so important. We have been able to adopt a common approach, which, I hope hon. Members agree, is important for dealing with the challenges of terrorism and formulating common policies on defence and foreign affairs. It is our profound belief that the Union benefits all the people of the United Kingdom. It reflects our shared history and heritage, and supports the successful participation of all the peoples of these islands in a global economy. It promotes our international standing, and I hope that none of us will do anything to damage it. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey; agrees with me on that, but I am afraid that his proposals would risk—inadvertently, I am sure—damaging the Union that is so precious to us all. I hope that he will reconsider his proposal, but I welcome his continued contribution to this debate.