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Rectify the ‘devolve and forget’ attitude to devolved institutions

Last updated: 07:38pm 11 December 2019

The United Kingdom Government has in the past tended to ‘devolve and forget’. This Conservative government will put that right. We want the UK Government to be a force for good across the whole country.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.31

Our verdict

In 2016, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution looked into the state of the union and concluded that the UK government had a ‘devolve and forget’ attitude to devolution. It found that the UK government was failing to assist and cooperate with the devolved governments. The committee argued that a new mindset was required. This policy is a pledge to put right the tendency to ‘devolve and forget’.

Since the publication of the report, little appears to have changed. The most recent legislation in the area seems to confirm the ‘devolve and forget’ pattern. The Scotland Act 2016 and the Wales Act 2017  hand over new powers to the respective regional governments and fail to advocate for increased UK government co-operation. Both those acts were introduced prior to the tenure of this government.

Under this administration the topic of governance in devolved administrations appears to have been mentioned only once, in a speech Theresa May gave prior to her departure as Prime Minister. She announced the appointment of ex-Northern Ireland Minister Lord Dunlop to produce an independent report on the issue, whilst advocating for an increased role for the Wales Office in the governance of Wales. Dunlop was expected to report back in Autumn 2019, but his report is yet to be published. Movement on the Wales issue has largely been accredited to Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, who has continually argued that the UK government should directly interact with the Welsh government, businesses and communities on non-devolved issues.

The government has announced a review of its “union capability” and argued for an increased role for the Wales Office in Welsh governance.  In many ways the UK government does already work closely with devolved institutions, but overall efforts to put right the ‘devolve and forget’ attitude are still at a very early stage. We think the evidence presented above shows a desire to move forwards in this area, so we’re marking this as ‘in progress’.

Don’t forget the details!

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