a. Devolution - England

A Commission is to be established by November 2010 to consider the 'West Lothian Question' - whether or not Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should continue to vote on matters relating to England when English MPs have no equivalent vote on the same matters arising in the other parts of the United Kingdom.

b. Devolution - Scotland, Wales

The Coalition plans to oversee a referendum on further Welsh Devolution by the end of March 2011. Subject to its outcome, the Coalition plans establish a process for the Welsh Assembly based on the Calman Commission. In relation to Scotland, the Coalition plans to introduce a Scotland Bill to start the process of implementing the proposals of the Calman Commission on Scottish devolution.

c. Devolution - Northern Ireland

The Coalition plans to examine the changing of the corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland with a view to bringing Northern Ireland 'back into the mainstream of UK politics'. A Government paper on this is due to be published in October 2010.

d. Sovereignty Bill

While the Coalition Programme included an intention to examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, the government subsequently appears not to have made any public statements on the matter.

Nevertheless, a private member's United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill has been introduced by Christopher Chope (MP for Christchurch). This Bill has had its first reading in the House of Commons, but the Second Reading is not scheduled until March 2011.

Our comment:

It is perhaps unsurprising that devolution and sovereignty are not at the forefront of the Coalition agenda.

Nonetheless, the Coalition has announced clear plans for sensible adjustments to the devolved settlements, and set seemingly realistic deadlines for carrying them out.

It has to be hoped that the Commission on the West Lothian Question is not merely an exercise in kicking the matter into the long grass, but will deliver sensible proposals that are implemented quickly. It is now more than 30 years since Tam Dalyell first posed the famous question, and more than a decade since it has been a live issue in UK politics. Even at the usually glacial pace of constitutional reform, an answer is long overdue. The current position is unsustainable.

In relation to sovereignty, the Coalition Programme says no more than that the Coalition will "examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament". It could be suggested that such a Bill would be more for political display than legal effect. The Bill would surely create a paradox. If Parliament really is sovereign, why does it need to pass a law saying so?