Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore The Secretary of State for Scotland 12:32 pm, 27th January 2011

I understand that the hon. Gentleman will seek to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that he has studied the Command Paper along with the Bill in great detail, in which case he would have seen what we said about the aggregates levy and aviation duty. We made it clear that there is a difficulty with the aggregates levy because of issues before the courts, so it would be inappropriate to bring forward proposals at this stage. However, we make clear in the Command Paper our intention to devolve that area. Likewise on aviation duty, the Government are reviewing the position, and we still intend aspects of it to be devolved. It is the same with welfare. The Command Paper talks about the major reforms we are introducing and the fact that they will fully take account of devolution and reflect the spirit of what was in the Calman report. I hope that that goes some way towards reassuring the hon. Gentleman, although I suspect it will not.

Beyond the power to borrow up to £500 million for current spending, a Scottish cash reserve will be created so that the Government will be able bank and save money where tax receipts exceed those expected. These provisions will allow for effective financial management to deal with fluctuations in the new revenue stream of tax receipts.

We also set out in the Bill a brand new capital borrowing power of up to £2.2 billion. This will provide the Scottish Government with new means to invest in major infrastructure and other projects. It will be for Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament to decide whether to borrow and, if so, for what purpose-a new Forth crossing, new hospitals, new schools or perhaps even a railway-and it will be for them to account to the Scottish people for those choices.

As a consequence of increasing the financial freedom and accountability of the Scottish Parliament to raise its own revenues, there will be a reduction to the existing block grant. The grant will continue to make up the remainder of the Scottish budget, however. That will ensure financial stability; it will ensure continuity of public service provision; and it will maintain the economic union that is so central to our United Kingdom. I know that views differ-both in this House, and further afield-on the broad issue of the block grant and, specifically, on the Barnett formula that underpins it. I do not expect those differences to be resolved today; indeed, the funding formula is not part of the Bill.

The Government have set out their position on the Barnett formula in their programme for government. While recognising the need to review the arrangements in time, our overriding priority is to tackle the deficit, and we will not consider a review until the public finances are returned to good health.