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Call for Evidence

Call for evidence

The House of Lords Constitution Committee, chaired by Baroness Taylor of Bolton, is conducting an inquiry into the governance of the United Kingdom. The inquiry will focus on how power can best be shared within the UK to establish stable and effective governance arrangements throughout the UK for the 21st century.

The Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence to the inquiry.

The deadline for written evidence submissions is 5pm on Wednesday 12 May. Public hearings will be held from May 2021. The Committee will report to the House later in 2021.

Background

The United Kingdom as currently constituted will mark its centenary in 2022.[1] It is also under strain. Brexit has created a ‘sea border’ for certain purposes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and there are renewed calls for reunification of the island of Ireland. Support for independence in Scotland is consistently strong; is growing in Wales, but from a low level of historical support. In England, ad hoc devolution, including to city regions, has created overlapping and inconsistent accountabilities. Across the UK, meanwhile, differences in the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic between the UK Government, the devolved administrations and English local government have highlighted long-standing tensions in inter-governmental relations. The UK Internal Market Act 2020 and other Brexit-related legislation also placed the constitutional convention relating to legislative consent under renewed pressure.

In response, the Prime Minister has added ‘Minister for the Union’ to his portfolio and established a Cabinet Committee on Union Strategy. Further announcements on strengthening the UK Government’s Union capability, improving inter-governmental relations and English devolution are expected.

Previous Committee reports have raised concerns about the effectiveness of inter-governmental mechanisms,[2] the impact of “ad hoc” devolution legislation on the integrity of the UK, which successive Governments had taken for granted,[3] and the impact of the UK Internal Market Bill on the devolution arrangements.[4]

Questions

The Committee welcomes written submissions on any aspect of this topic, and particularly on the following questions:

1. Is the current balance of powers within the UK optimal or does power need to be shared differently?

Do any changes to the current constitutional arrangements enjoy widespread public support across the UK? What would be the impact of different constitutional arrangements?

2. What are the current challenges for multi-level governance in the UK and how can these be addressed?

To what extent are any challenges historical, structural, operational, political, economic or identity-driven? Are there issues about attitude, tone, and civil service capability in Whitehall and in the devolved administrations? Is a cultural shift required among all concerned to adjust properly to and engage with the new constitutional landscape? Can the UK learn anything from other countries with multi-level governance structures, or from existing structures like the British-Irish Council? Should any changes be accompanied by greater inter-parliamentary scrutiny?

3. Should there be a greater degree of devolution within England and, if so, how should these arrangements relate to the UK as a whole?

Does local government in England, including the introduction of combined authorities/mayors, need to be rationalised? Should local areas enjoy greater autonomy in raising and allocating expenditure? Should there be a greater distinction between UK and ‘English’ government in Whitehall, and what would be the impact on the UK? What has been the impact of English Votes for English Laws in the parliamentary context and how might the current arrangements be improved?

4. How well understood in its constituent parts is the UK’s common purpose and the collective provision it makes? And what impact does this have on democratic accountability?

Areas of common purpose may include economic, social, trade, international relations, security, including counter-terrorism capacity and security networks, defence, and responding to international crises.

5. How can the existing constitutional arrangements regarding the governance of the UK be made more coherent and accessible, or should the overall structure be revisited?

Should the constitutional arrangements continue to be bespoke or become more formalised? Should principles and parameters for a new constitutional framework be articulated? How can any new arrangements be embedded in the constitution such as suggestions for a new Act of Union or Charter of Union? How is the public currently informed about the arrangements? Does there need to be greater public awareness of, and education about, the arrangements and if so, how can this be achieved?

6. How effective are the current funding arrangements for the UK and to what constitutional implications do they give rise?

How well have the fiscal frameworks introduced five years ago worked? Is the current approach to the distribution and deployment of funding and resources across the UK fair and efficient, and if not, how can this be improved? What impact will the UK Shared Prosperity, Levelling Up, UK Community Renewal, Towns and Community Ownership Funds have on the overall arrangements?

ANNEX: GUIDANCE FOR SUBMISSIONS 

Written evidence must be submitted online via the committee’s inquiry page https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1127/future-governance-of-the-uk/. Please do not submit PDFs (if you do not have access to Microsoft Word you may submit in another editable electronic form). If you cannot submit evidence online, please contact the committee staff. 

The deadline for written evidence is 12 May 2021.

Concise submissions are preferred. A submission longer than six pages should include a one-page summary. Paragraphs should be numbered. Submissions should be dated, with a note of the author’s name, and of whether the author is making the submission on an individual or a corporate basis. All submissions submitted online will be acknowledged automatically. 

Personal contact details supplied to the committee will be removed from submissions before publication but will be retained by the committee staff for specific purposes relating to the committee’s work, such as seeking additional information. 

Submissions become the property of the committee which will decide whether to accept them as evidence. Evidence may be published by the committee at any stage. It will appear on the committee’s website and be deposited in the Parliamentary Archives. Once you have received acknowledgement that your submission has been accepted as evidence you may publicise or publish it yourself, but in doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the committee. If you publish your evidence separately you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content. 

You should not comment on individual cases currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the clerk of the committee how this might affect your submission. 

Certain individuals and organisations may be invited to appear in person before the committee to give oral evidence. Oral evidence is usually given in public at Westminster and broadcast in audio and online. Persons invited to give oral evidence will be notified separately of the procedure to be followed and the topics likely to be discussed. 

Substantive communications to the committee about the inquiry should be addressed through the clerk or the chairman of the committee, whether or not they are intended to constitute formal evidence to the committee. 

This is a public call for evidence. Please bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy directly.

Diversity comes in many forms and hearing a range of different perspectives means that committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. Committees can undertake their role most effectively when they hear from a wide range of individuals, sectors or groups in society affected by a particular policy or piece of legislation. We encourage anyone with experience or expertise of an issue under investigation by a select committee to share their views with the committee, with the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.

You may follow the progress of the inquiry at https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1127/future-governance-of-the-uk/

To contact the staff of the committee, please email constitution@parliament.uk.

 

[1] As a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 the Irish Free State was established in December 1922, which later became known as the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom.

[2] See Constitution Committee, Inter-governmental relations in the United Kingdom (11th Report, Session 2014–15, HL Paper 146).

[3] See Constitution Committee, The Union and Devolution (10th Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 149).

[4] See Constitution Committee, United Kingdom Internal Market Bill (17th Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 151).

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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