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Smith Commission

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 25th February 2015.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 11:30 am, 25th February 2015

What public consultation his Department is carrying out in Scotland on the draft clauses published following the recommendations of the Smith Commission.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

The Scotland Office is holding a series of events across Scotland to enable stakeholders to provide feedback on the draft clauses and how the new powers might be used. I can announce to the House today that the Government will now begin a public information campaign to enable people in Scotland to learn more about the devolution settlement and how it is changing. [Interruption.] This campaign will use social media, local media and an information booklet for every house in Scotland. [Interruption.]

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The nation would be interested to know that draft clause 1 has been widely condemned as legally vacuous. What is the Secretary of State going to do to ensure that the people of Scotland realise that it is legally vacuous and that if they support it, they will be supporting a meaningless constitutional proposal?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely refute that suggestion and the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of that analysis as being widespread.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Has the Secretary of State specifically discussed the question of varying tax bands under the Smith agreement, which seems a marvellous opportunity for Scotland to decide how it treats people with differing levels of income? It might be different from the way they are treated in the rest of the UK.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman is right and he takes the debate in a direction in which it has to go. Surely the time has come when we should no longer be discussing where powers lie, but discussing what can be done with the substantial powers that the third most powerful devolved legislature anywhere in the world will have as a result of these proposals.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Liberal Democrat, Argyll and Bute

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The out-of-touch House of Lords Constitution Committee has said that not enough thought has been given to the impact of giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote. I hope the Government will reject this recommendation and give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to have their say on who represents them in the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

I confess that I always hold their lordships’ views in very high regard, but they would not normally be the first port of call that I would make when I was looking for advice either on democratic elections or on young people. The order will be before their lordships’ House tomorrow night. I am confident that it will be passed, as it was passed in this House, without Division.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Given the powers that the Scottish Government already have, has the Secretary of State ever received an apology from them for their failure to spend £34 million on disabled children and their families and instead using it for the gimmick of keeping council tax static?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael The Secretary of State for Scotland

There are many, many things for which the Scottish Government should apologise and I suspect that in the event that these apologies ever start coming, the right hon. Gentleman and I will not be at the top of the list to receive them. He is right, though, to point out that the freeze on council tax has caused real difficulties for many local authorities in Scotland, which will be outraged to see the size of the Scottish Government’s underspend this year.