Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Conservative, Epping Forest 1:40 pm, 27th January 2011

We are going back over old arguments now. I merely make the point that we always said that the devolution settlement would have to be improved and I strongly welcome the Bill, which does improve it.

The Calman commission is to be praised for the many years of work that were undertaken and for the careful and studied way in which its proposals were brought forward. This has not been a rushed job; I pay tribute to the previous Labour Government for setting the commission up and to the current Government for taking its recommendations forward. It has produced the right answers. By giving greater power to the Scottish Parliament, the Bill also gives a greater say to the Scottish people about how our democracy works. That is the most important point. It is right that greater power should require greater accountability and responsibility, as the Secretary of State has eloquently explained. If democracy is to work properly and if the people who vote and choose a Government are to be treated responsibly and have their opinions properly translated into action, it is very important that a Parliament such as the Scottish Parliament should not only be responsible for spending taxpayers' money, but be held responsible, at least to some extent, for raising it.

I welcome the better clarification of the balance between devolved and reserved policy matters-those which ought to be taken at Holyrood and those which ought to be taken in this House. If we do not have that clarity, the whole constitutional settlement will lack the gravity I would like it to acquire, so the new clarity that comes from the Bill is very welcome.

I promise that when we scrutinise the Bill in Committee, it will, contrary to the assertions of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, be properly scrutinised, and I look forward to our scrutinising it in great detail. The best thing about the Bill and the changes it will make to the constitutional settlement is that it strengthens and entrenches Scotland's position within the United Kingdom, which most people in the House and, I fervently believe, in Scotland want to see entrenched, protected and encouraged. Although this is 27 January and not 25 January, I hope I will be forgiven for invoking the bard, as this is the week that we celebrate our national poet, Rabbie Burns. I shall not quote his best-known works, which are often so badly misquoted south of the border.