Devolution could cut size of Commons

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The Independent Online
The devolution of power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions could lead to a smaller House of Commons.

Speaking as the Scottish Nationalists decided to throw their weight behind the "Yes, yes" campaign for a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers, Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, floated the idea of a smaller Commons - but with the same heavyweight powers of sovereignty over the United Kingdom.

Mr Davies told Sunday with Adam Boulton on Sky News that he did not think such a shrinkage was inevitable, but it was possible. "When we have the assembly working in Wales, when we have the assembly in Northern Ireland established - and let's all hope and pray that things turn out well in Northern Ireland - when the parliament is established in Scotland, if regional government develops apace in England, then it may well be sensible to review the arrangements we have.

"But the important point to remember is that the Westminster Parliament is sovereign, that the Westminster Parliament can do whatever it wants to do, and even though there are existing legislative provisions relating to the total number of Members of Parliament, if the Westminster Parliament next year decided to change those, it could do so and I think that is a very important message."

Under the terms of the Scottish White Paper, the Government has already announced that it expects a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs, now standing at 72. But the idea of a smaller Commons has not so far been mooted by ministers.

Yesterday's decision by the Scottish Nationalists to back the referendum "Yes, yes" campaign will please ministers following yesterday's Scotland on Sunday poll, showing increasing opposition to the "tartan tax".

Support for the Scottish Parliament's right to vary income tax by up to 3p in the pound is reported to have fallen by six percentage points, to 55 per cent, since last month.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of those interviewed in the ICM poll still agreed that there should be a Scottish parliament, though even that score was down four points on June.

But Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said in Edinburgh yesterday: "Opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of SNP voters - who numbered over 620,000 at the last election - wish to support constitutional change."

William Hague reiterated the Conservative Party view that a future Tory government would respect the decision of the voters in their September referendums - if they voted for a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly.