A GROUP of MPs are set to investigate how devolution is functioning in Britain against a backdrop of near-constant constitutional battles between Governments.
The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has launched a wide-ranging inquiry into the functionality of devolution within the UK.
MPs will examine a range of issues but will focus on the extent to which devolution is understood by the Government and the civil service.
They will also examine whether the Government has adequately implemented the recommendations of the Dunlop Review, published in 2021.
The paper was met with gushing praise from then-chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, who praised the “brilliant work” of the report’s author Lord Dunlop.
Gove continues to serve as the Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, an office established after the Dunlop Review, and is nominally responsible for mediating disputes between the four governments of the UK.
The committee’s inquiry comes amid a storm of constitutional fighting between Britain’s governments.
Northern Ireland is still currently without a parliament and the UK and Scottish Government are locked in increasingly bitter legal battles about the division of powers between administrations.
Wales could be on course for its own devolution battle over its planned deposit return scheme, part of which UK ministers vetoed against the wishes of the Scottish administration.
The inquiry has published its terms of reference as follows:
To what extent has the Dunlop Review of Union Capability been implemented and what remains to be addressed?
What steps is the UK Government taking at ministerial and official level to build knowledge and embed consideration of devolution in Whitehall? Where does responsibility for devolution capability formally sit within the machinery of the UK Government?
How does the relationship between the Cabinet Office as the lead for civil service capability and other Government departments with relevant policy responsibilities operate?
How do the Territorial Offices [Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] work with the Cabinet Office and other Government departments at both ministerial and official level?
What training and guidance is available for ministers and officials on devolution and is it effective?
How do the devolved institutions view devolution capability in Whitehall and what approach do they take to building the equivalent knowledge and capability on the part of ministers and officials in their own administrations?
How does “One Civil Service” for the UK, Scottish, and Welsh governments work in practice with the separate Northern Ireland Civil Service? Does this have any impact on knowledge sharing and cooperation between different administrations?
Are there any examples of international best practice from which lessons can be learned?
William Wragg, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, said: “It has been 25 years since the devolution settlements fundamentally changed the governance of the United Kingdom, with the establishment of devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
“In that time, we have also seen the repatriation of powers to the UK after leaving the EU and further changes to the powers of the devolved institutions.
“It is crucial that ministers and civil servants in Whitehall fully understand the implications of the devolution settlements on the policymaking process and maintain the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver for every part of the UK.
“The Government committed to improving devolution capability in response to the Dunlop Review in 2021, but has it done so satisfactorily? We want to find out what progress has been made and hear from those who have worked with and within Whitehall and the devolved administrations.”