The debate, initiated by Pete Wishart, is on the motion: That this House has considered 20 years of devolution.

Commons Library Briefing Papers 

Introduction to devolution in the UK

19 Jun 2019, CBP-8599

This briefing examines the background to devolution in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and provides an overview of powers devolved to legislative assemblies and powers reserved to the UK Parliament. The legislative frameworks for devolution are set out in the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, as amended. A section on devolution in England looks at the Greater London Authority, city mayors and combined authorities.

Devolution to local government in England

15 May 2019, SN07029

This note summarises the main developments regarding the process of devolution of powers to local government within England since 2014. It covers the devolution deals agreed between the Government and local areas up to May 2019, including the powers to be devolved, the procedures required for devolution to take place, and reactions to the policy from the local government and policy-making worlds.

Reserved matters in the United Kingdom

5 Apr 2019, CBP-8544

A briefing paper focusing on policy matters which remain “reserved” to Westminster concerning Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Devolution in Northern Ireland, 1998-2018

16 Nov 2018, CBP-8439

There has been neither an Executive nor a fully-functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland since January 2017. The Assembly elected on 2 March 2017 has not been formally suspended, as in the past, and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have continued to carry out a range of activities, most significantly constituency work.

This briefing paper sets out the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland as it stands (and when fully functioning), before revisiting the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and charting subsequent legislation and political events over the past two decades.

Intergovernmental relations in the United Kingdom

24 Jul 2918, CBP-8371

Although intergovernmental relations in the UK has a deeper provenance than is widely assumed, most of the present arrangements evolved following the Northern Ireland Act 1998, Scotland Act 1998 and Government of Wales Act 1998. These established three devolved legislatures and executives in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff respectively. What had previously been discussions within a single UK government became a new set of relationships between four different governments.

“The settled will”? Devolution in Scotland, 1998-2018

11 Jul 2018, CBP-8318

This briefing paper examines, first, the constitutional status quo in Scotland, then developments in its devolution settlement since the Scotland Act 1998 received Royal Assent on 19 November 1998.

It then looks at, in turn, the amending Scotland Act 2012 and the subsequent Scotland Act 2016, which followed the 2014 independence referendum and again made significant changes to the Scottish Parliament’s fiscal and welfare powers. It concludes by examining the impact of Brexit upon devolution in Scotland.

“A process, not an event”: Devolution in Wales, 1998-2018

11 Jul 2018, CBP-8318

This briefing paper summarises the main developments regarding devolution in Wales since 1998. It sets out the current constitutional position before examining five broad phases of devolution:

  • administrative devolution (1964-1999)
  • executive devolution with secondary law-making powers (1999-2007)
  • executive devolution with enhanced secondary powers (2007-2011)
  • legislative devolution under a “conferred powers” model (2011-2018)
  • legislative devolution under a “reserved powers” model (2018- )

This paper looks at the key pieces of legislation involved in each phase, beginning with the Government of Wales Act 1998 and continuing with the Government of Wales Act 2006 and Wales Acts of 2014 and 2017.

Lords Library Briefings

Devolution in the UK: 20th Anniversary

15 May 2019, LBP-2019-0058

This House of Lords Library briefing pack contains a selection of material relevant to the forthcoming debate on the 20th anniversary of devolution in the UK.

Leaving the European Union: Stability of the United Kingdom’s Union

21 Dec 2018, LLN-2018-0147

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place on 17 January 2019 in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Lord Lisvane (Crossbench), “that this House takes note of the possible effects of Brexit on the stability of the Union between the parts of the United Kingdom”.

Lords Constitution Select Committee

The Union and devolution inquiry

The Constitution Committee’s report on the Union and devolution warns that successive UK Governments have taken the Union between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for granted, without giving proper consideration to the cumulative impact of devolution on the UK as a whole. The Committee believes that the nations of the UK are stronger together than apart. Any future devolution must not be at the expense of the stability, coherence and viability of the Union.

Report published on 25 May 2016. Government Response published on 7 March 2017. Debated 9 October 2017.