Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:59 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Iain Stewart Iain Stewart Conservative, Milton Keynes South 2:59 pm, 27th January 2011

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I sense a rising demand for my book. Next Christmas is a little way off, but I have a couple of boxes of back copies which I will happily distribute.

As I was saying, part of our research involved examining the way in which other countries-Australia, Germany and Canada-operated financial relationships between state Governments and federal Governments, or provincial Governments, or whatever the term was in those countries. What struck us was that each of those countries has a system that comes close to what the Scotland Bill is proposing to introduce. Certain taxes are levied at the federal level. The example in each country varies, but some taxes are levied at the provincial level-the state level-and sometimes the state level has the power to introduce specific taxes of its own. That is balanced by a form of fiscal transfers between the federal level and the state level. There are perpetual arguments in all those countries about what the right level of spending, taxes, transfers and so on is-we will never get away from those-but on the whole the arrangements are stable. We can draw some comfort from the fact that the lessons from abroad point to the sort of system that the Bill is trying to introduce.

Conversely, there are few examples of a federal or devolved system of government where the lower level has full fiscal autonomy. Our research encountered only one example that came quite close to such an arrangement, which was in the Basque part of Spain. Since we did our work Catalonia has also adopted such an arrangement, but it is still fraught with difficulties. I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence from abroad to warrant the type of policy that the Scottish nationalists wish to introduce.