Party leaders won’t attend UK devolution Q&A

Committee chair Graham Allen was "disappointed" the party leaders wouldn't be there. Picture: PA
Committee chair Graham Allen was "disappointed" the party leaders wouldn't be there. Picture: PA
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A COMMITTEE of MPs will question politicians and academics about how devolution could be developed across the UK in the wake of Scotland’s decision to reject independence.

Members of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee are visiting Edinburgh today, where they will question Scottish Labour’s chief whip Lewis Macdonald and experts from the Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change. However, the leaders of the UK’s three main political parties will not be there after turning down their invitation.

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Committee chair Graham Allen said they were travelling to the Scottish capital “to take evidence on the future of the UK devolution settlement after the referendum”.

He added: “On this visit, and in subsequent evidence, we want to hear from the political parties in all parts of the UK about how they see UK-wide devolution developing and what sort of settlement is best for our constitutional future.”

But the Labour MP hit out at David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg for the decision not to appear before his committee to set out their vision for further devolution in the wake of the referendum.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders all vowed Holyrood would get significant new powers in the run-up to last month’s ballot.

Mr Allen, the Nottingham North MP, said he was “frankly disappointed” none of the three men had accepted an invitation to discuss the issue with the committee.

He recalled: “In the weeks and days before the Scottish referendum, the Westminster party leaders engaged directly with the people of Scotland and made significant promises to them about the future of devolution in the UK.”

For that reason he said he had felt it “important to invite each of the party leaders to explain to us, as soon as the House returned, their visions for the future of devolution in the UK and the implications and opportunities for devolution to England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

He added: “While I understand that devolution proposals for Scotland are now under consideration in the all-party Smith Commission, I am frankly disappointed that none of the party leaders at Westminster have been able to accept the invitation to discuss with my committee the implications of the public commitments they have made.”

Mr Allen said he would make a fresh invitation to the three leaders after the Smith Commission publishes its proposals.

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