Clause 46 — Gaelic Media Service

Bills Presented — Bat Habitats Regulation Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:37 pm on 6 July 2015.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 47 and 48 stand part.

Amendment 157, in clause 49, page 49, line 6, after “operator” insert—

“or not for profit operator”.

Amendment 158, in clause 49, page 49, line 8, leave out “does not” and insert “may”.

Clause 49 stand part.

Amendment 149, in clause 50, page 49, leave out from beginning of line 32 to line 50 on page 50 and insert—

‘(4) The Scottish Ministers may not make regulations under section 9 unless they have consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed regulations.

(5) Subsection (1) does not prevent the Secretary of State making a support scheme in relation to Scotland under section 9, or varying or revoking regulations made by the Scottish

Ministers under that section with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers”

This amendment would remove the requirement in Clause 50 for the agreement of the Secretary of State as a pre-requisite to the exercise of certain powers by the Scottish Minister. It includes a requirement for the agreement of Scottish Ministers before the Secretary of State may vary or revoke instruments made by the Scottish Ministers.

Clause 50 stand part.

Amendment 150, in clause 51, page 52, leave out from beginning of line 10 to end of line 3 on page 53 and insert—

‘(5) The Scottish Ministers may not make an order under section 33BC unless they have consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed order.

(6) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under section 33BC is exercisable so as to make any provision that may be made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, or vary or revoke an order made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, but only with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment would remove the requirement in Clause 51 for the agreement of the Secretary of State as a pre-requisite to the exercise of certain powers by the Scottish Minister. It includes a requirement for the agreement of Scottish Ministers before the Secretary of State may vary or revoke instruments made by the Scottish Ministers.

Amendment 151, page 53, leave out from beginning of line 45 to end of line 37 on page 54 and insert—

‘(5) The Scottish Ministers may not make an order under section 33BD unless they have consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed order

(6) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under section 33BD is exercisable so as to make any provision that may be made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, or vary or revoke an order made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, but only with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment would remove the requirement in Clause 51 for the agreement of the Secretary of State as a pre-requisite to the exercise of certain powers by the Scottish Minister. It includes a requirement for the agreement of Scottish Ministers before the Secretary of State may vary or revoke instruments made by the Scottish Ministers.

Amendment 152, in clause 51, page 55, leave out from beginning of line 28 to end of line 21 on page 56 and insert—

‘(5) The Scottish Ministers may not make an order under section 41A unless they have consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed order.

(6) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under section 41A is exercisable so as to make any provision that may be made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, or vary or revoke an order made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, but only with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment would remove the requirement in Clause 51 for the agreement of the Secretary of State as a pre-requisite to the exercise of certain powers by the Scottish Minister. It includes a requirement for the agreement of Scottish Ministers before the Secretary of State may vary or revoke instruments made by the Scottish Ministers.

Amendment 153, in clause 51, page 57, leave out from beginning of line 15 to end of line 7 on page 58 and insert—

‘(5) The Scottish Ministers may not make an order under section 41B unless they have consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed order.

(6) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under section 41B is exercisable so as to make any provision that may be made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, or vary or revoke an order made by the Scottish Ministers under that section, but only with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment would remove the requirement in Clause 51 for the agreement of the Secretary of State as a pre-requisite to the exercise of certain powers by the Scottish Minister. It includes a requirement for the agreement of Scottish Ministers before the Secretary of State may vary or revoke instruments made by the Scottish Ministers.

Clauses 51 and 52 stand part.

Amendment 154, in clause 53, page 60, leave out lines 9 to 17.

This amendment removes restrictions on the consultation process with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in relation to renewables incentive schemes.

Clauses 53 and 54 stand part.

Amendment 155, in clause 55, page 63, line 18, at end insert—

“() the Scottish Ministers,”

Clause 55 as currently drafted would allow Scottish Ministers to make a reference to the Competition and Markets Authority only in the most exceptional circumstances. This amendment would enable Scottish Ministers to make a reference without the involvement of the Secretary of State.

Clauses 55 to 64 stand part.

New clause 50—Commission on social and economic rights

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a commission on social and economic rights.

(2) The Secretary of State shall invite the Presiding Officers or Speakers of the House of Commons, House of Lords, National Assembly of Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament each to nominate no more than three persons to the commission on social and economic rights.

(3) The commission on social and economic rights must report on—

(a) the practicality of making the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government subject to the rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and

(b) the consequences of Scottish devolution for the attainment of economic and social rights throughout the United Kingdom.

(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations determine the role, composition, organisation and powers of the commission on social and economic rights.’

The purpose of this New Clause is to create a commission to consider whether economic and social rights could be made justiciable in Scotland, and the prospects for achieving fuller attainment of economic and social rights throughout the United Kingdom.

New clause 52—Office of Wellbeing

‘(1) Scottish Ministers shall appoint an independent Office of Wellbeing to monitor and report on the wellbeing impacts of fiscal and macro-economic policy in Scotland, with a particular focus on inequalities of wellbeing.

(2) The First Minster must publish at least once a year a wellbeing statement setting out the relevant social, economic and environmental policies of Scottish Ministers and their intended effects on the wellbeing of the people of Scotland.

(3) The Office of Wellbeing may commission independent research.

(4) The Office of Wellbeing must report at least once a year on progress being made against the wellbeing statement made by the First Minister and may report from time to time on any other relevant matter.

(5) The costs of the Office of Wellbeing shall be borne by the Scottish Parliament.’

This Clause establishes an independent Office of Wellbeing, akin to the Office for Budget Responsibility, to ensure that expert consideration is given to the interplay between the economic, fiscal and macro-economic policies of the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments and their environmental, economic and social effects.

New clause 65—Rail Services

‘In Part 2 of Schedule 5 to the Act, in section E2, after “Exceptions” there is inserted—

“The provision of rail passenger services that are Scotland-only services (and so far as they include other services, include only cross-border services designated by the Scottish Ministers), including the power to decide who will run such services, the provisions of the Railways Act 1993 notwithstanding.”’

This amendment would devolve rail services in Scotland giving Scottish Ministers full powers and flexibility to decide who would run such services.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Thank you, Sir David. It is a great pleasure to be introducing these clauses. Clauses 46 and 47 deliver the Smith commission agreement and provide Scottish Ministers with greater influence over the strategic direction—[Interruption.]

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. Members owe the Minister the courtesy of leaving the Chamber quietly.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Thank you, Sir David.

Clauses 46 and 47 deliver the Smith commission agreement and provide Scottish Ministers with greater influence over the strategic direction of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses and of MG Alba. They achieve that by enabling Scottish Ministers to appoint a member of the Northern Lighthouse Board and by giving Scottish Ministers the power to approve Ofcom appointments to MG Alba.

Clause 48 provides that the Secretary of State will be required to consult Scottish Ministers when setting the strategic priorities in relation to the exercise of functions in Scotland regarding the activities of Her Majesty’s Coastguard and the safety standards of ships. These functions are exercisable by the Secretary of State for Transport, but are in practice carried out in the UK by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport.

The Smith commission agreement was explicit in the devolution of the power to allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises funded and specified by Scottish Ministers, and clause 49 achieves that.

Clauses 50, 51 and 52 implement the Smith commission agreement and devolve design and implementation powers relating to energy efficiency and fuel poverty to Scottish Ministers, while reserving responsibility for the overarching aspects that affect all consumers in Great Britain, such as scale, costs and apportionment of obligations, as well as the obligated parties. The clauses contain safeguards to give effect to the Smith commission agreement that the devolution of these powers

“be implemented in a way that is not to the detriment of the rest of the UK or to the UK’s international obligations and commitments on energy efficiency and climate change.”

It is the Government’s position that such provisions are necessary. Specifically, we believe that it would be in the interests of UK and Scottish Ministers that the benefits provided to consumers in one part of Great Britain should be proportionate to the costs on consumers in that part of Great Britain.

Scottish Ministers should be able to design supplier obligations for Scotland, but costs should be proportionate across regions, removing the possibility of competitive distortions and cross-subsidy by consumers across Great Britain. We will look at ways of making the costs of obligations clear and equitable between Scotland and the rest of Great Britain.

Clause 53 creates a formal consultative role for Scottish Ministers in the design of renewable electricity incentive schemes that will apply in Scotland. Clause 54 will enable Scottish Ministers to take decisions on safety zones for renewable energy installations in Scottish waters by making Scottish Ministers the appropriate Ministers, and it will enable them to take responsibility for ensuring that offshore renewable energy installations are removed or decommissioned at the end of their useful life. It ensures that consent to and decommissioning of offshore renewable energy installations and the management of Crown Estate assets in relation to such installations are the responsibility of Scottish Ministers, rather than being divided between Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State.

Clause 55 delivers the Smith commission agreement by devolving to Scottish Ministers, when acting jointly with the Secretary of State, the power to require the Competition and Markets Authority to carry out a market investigation reference when they suspect that features of a market are preventing, restricting or distorting competition. Clause 56 requires Scottish Ministers to lay Ofgem’s annual report and accounts before the Scottish Parliament. To enable that, it ensures that copies will be provided to Scottish Ministers.

Clause 57 gives effect to two key elements of paragraph 38 of the Smith commission agreement relating to Ofcom. It gives Scottish Ministers the power to appoint one member to the Ofcom board to represent the interests of Scotland, and it requires Ofcom’s annual report and accounts to be laid before the Scottish Parliament. Clause 58 gives effect to paragraphs 39, 40 and 41 of the Smith commission agreement relating to the appearance of the Northern Lighthouse Board, Ofcom and Ofgem before the Scottish Parliament on matters relating to Scotland.

Finally, part 7 contains standard technical clauses, including general provisions associated with the Bill, such as transitional provisions, commencement arrangements and the short title.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Before speaking to amendments 157 and 158 to clause 49, I would like to comment on clauses 50 and 51, which relate to fuel poverty support schemes and energy company obligations. I would like the Minister to explain—indeed, to justify—why those clauses are constructed as they are. They amend existing primary legislation, but they are far from clear.

Our starting point must be paragraph 68 of the Smith commission’s report, which states:

“Powers to determine how supplier obligations in relation to energy efficiency and fuel poverty… will be devolved. Responsibility for setting the way the money is raised… will remain reserved.”

Importantly, it then states:

“This provision will be implemented in a way that is not to the detriment of the rest of the UK or to the UK’s international obligations and commitments on energy efficiency and climate change.”

Indeed, paragraph 68 is one of the more prescriptive in the report.

Clauses 50 and 51 also state clearly that any action proposed by Scottish Ministers should not be to the detriment of the United Kingdom as a whole. I want to press the Minister on the criteria to be used by the Secretary of State to determine whether a course of action proposed by Scottish Ministers would be to the detriment of the UK. That is clearly stated in clause 50, and at several points in clause 51. Specifically, proposed new section 14A(8)(b) in clause 50 refers to schemes likely to

“cause detriment to the United Kingdom”.

However, it does not state how detriment in all cases may be judged to have occurred. Proposed new section 14A(9) states that

“considerations that the Secretary of State may take into account include the costs imposed on suppliers by virtue of schemes made, or to be made, by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers under section 9.”

That is section 9 of the Energy Act 2010.

In clause 51, proposed new section 33BCA(7) and others make similar references to “detriment” and to “costs”. Here, too, the phrase “may take into account” is used, which strongly implies that the Secretary of State will not be obliged to take costs into account. It seems that he will also be able to take other, non-specified factors into account. The same can be said of other amendments to existing legislation proposed in clause 51.

What I find worrying about the proposed new sections in clauses 50 and 51 is the lack of specificity and the significant discretion placed in the hands of the Secretary of State. Apart from the politics of this, there is a question of the lack of clarity and, with it, the possibility of any course of action being justiciable. I am not a lawyer—I am an ordinary person—but my experiences over the past decade or so tell me that if there is a lack of clarity in legislation, all too often it is the judges who end up providing that clarity.

I am thinking of the action taken two years ago by the UK Government against the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government wanted to protect Welsh agricultural workers after the UK Government abolished the Agricultural Wages Board, and the UK Government lost the case in the Supreme Court. That is simply an example that springs to mind of what can happen when legislative imprecision leads to legal problems. I would welcome the Minister’s response to the points I have made.

Let me turn to clause 49—Rail: franchising of passenger services. It amends section 25 of the Railways Act 1993 to remove the prohibition on public sector operators bidding for a franchise in relation to a Scottish franchise agreement. The Smith commission’s report stated clearly, in paragraph 65:

“The power will be devolved to the Scottish Government to allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises funded and specified by Scottish Ministers.”

Labour’s amendment 157 would take a small but significant step further, but in a way that is in keeping with the spirit of the Smith commission’s report. In proposing to allow not-for-profit operators, it echoes the proposal by Gordon Brown prior to the referendum.

As things stand, the Scottish Government are already responsible for letting and funding the ScotRail franchise. The legal framework for letting the franchise is provided by the Railways Act 1993, the Transport Act 2000 and the Railways Act 2005. These, collectively, preclude state-controlled organisations from bidding for franchises. Members might find it surprising, however, that state-controlled bodies from other countries are not precluded from holding a franchise. Abellio, an offshoot of the Dutch national state railway, was recently awarded the ScotRail franchise by the Scottish Government. That decision raised a few eyebrows. The general secretary of the RMT union said:

“Scotland could have taken control of its own railways. Instead, they have opted to go Dutch, meaning that profits will be sucked out of the system to underpin investment in fares in Holland.”

That is a real concern for many people. ASLEF’s general secretary spoke for many when he criticised the “perverse” decision by the SNP Government in Scotland.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Health) 9:15, 6 July 2015

In fact, the Scottish Government did not have the power to choose to give that franchise to a public service within Scotland, so to criticise them for giving it somewhere else seems a little perverse.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I will come to that, because it is an entirely predictable response from the SNP.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the decision was indeed somewhat perverse. I say that because the Scottish Government could have delayed the tendering process in the full knowledge that they would soon have the power to award a franchise to a public or not-for-profit operator that could reinvest any profits back into Scotland’s railways, but they chose not to delay. They knew the legislation was coming and pre-empted it.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Health)

The Scottish Government have put a break in the franchise so that if we are lucky enough to have this power in the Scottish Parliament by 2020, we can give the franchise to our own public sector.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I am glad that the SNP accepts the point I am making.

It would have been better if, instead of putting nationalist sentiment first, the SNP considered harsh economic reality and the wellbeing of the Scottish people, but no—it decided to press ahead. As SNP Members are well aware, rail passengers are suffering badly as ScotRail has adopted an approach to industrial relations that the Scottish TUC’s Graeme Smith has described as “nothing short of shambolic”. Few would disagree with that comment.

Yesterday, ScotRail cancelled a third of its usual Sunday services after pay talks with train drivers’ union ASLEF stalled. Abellio ScotRail has written to staff to offer voluntary redundancy, even though the franchise was supposed to guarantee that that would not happen. In the light of these developments, it is important for us to say clearly that Abellio’s workforce planning and industrial relations are shambolic—and that is an understatement.

Why on earth is what is happening on the Scottish railways being allowed to happen? Surely what is needed is in-depth scrutiny and a review of the previous tendering arrangements. In tabling amendment 158, our desire is not merely to put the spotlight on the foolish behaviour of the SNP Government in Scotland, but to ensure that they learn the lessons so that their mistakes cannot be made again. I hope that Members on both sides of the Committee will feel able to support our amendment on that basis.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Before I deal with the amendments and new clauses in my name, I should like to address a few words, through you, Sir David, to the other place. The way in which we are considering this Bill means that a large group of new clauses that try to give real life to the Smith commission proposals will not even be discussed this evening. They would give Scottish local authorities the general power of competence already enjoyed by English local authorities. They also refer to subsidiarity and to devolving power genuinely not just to the Scottish Parliament—of which I am one of the biggest supporters—but to Scottish local government. The new clauses would actually allow local government in Scotland to be constitutionally defined so that no one, either in this place or in the Scottish Parliament, could ever take away the rights and liberties of Scottish local government.

It is a flaw in our legislative process when we are not even allowed to debate those very important issues in our own Parliament. They have not even been dismissed. I very much hope that colleagues in the other place will note that those issues have not had a hearing. I think that many people—democrats from all parties—who were excited about the possibilities of what arose from the referendum and the Smith process will feel that this House has cheated them out of a proper debate on some of the wider issues of devolution.

This is going to happen again on another day, when the English version of devolution will be debased and devalued by a mere rearranging of the EVEL deckchairs in the House of Commons. I think people will live to regret that day, too.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport)

As my colleagues have said, the principle of subsidiarity should not stop at local authorities. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that subsidiarity should be about people being able to take control themselves as and when they need to do so?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Gentleman, but subsidiarity is not stopping at local government in Scotland and many would argue that it is not really started at local government, either. There are many examples of how the Scottish Parliament, over which the hon. Gentleman’s party has majority control—there is no one else to blame—is sucking up powers. That sucking sound we hear from north of the border is the powers going up from local government to Holyrood. On subsidiarity, if it were justiciable, local government and, in fact, any individual, could take the Scottish Government to court if they removed the constitutional powers that I would have suggested had we had time to discuss the new clauses in the next group of amendments, but sadly we are not going to reach them.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport)

Has the hon. Gentleman studied the document by the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy in Scotland? It was a cross-party and civic society exercise in examining how Scotland might go forward. In fact, I as an SNP member was a signatory and co-author of that document and was on the commission.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. Before Mr Allen responds to that intervention, I would be grateful if he drew his remarks more closely to the amendments under discussion.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Drew Hendry is putting a terrible temptation in my way, but I will resist it.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

In a moment. Why do we need that document? I gently remind the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey that we need it because of what his party has done to the police service, the fire service, local government, courts and colleges. I would be very happy to talk about the nationalisation of the police service in Scotland or the closure of 17 courts, but if I were to do so Sir David would call me to order. I could tell the Committee about the 23 local enterprise companies that were abolished and turned into just two, and give many other examples, but I will not stray there, Sir David, because I know you would say that I was out of order.

What I will say is that local government must play its part. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I can agree that local government has to be respected and recognised, and that my new clauses promote that possibility. Instead of that being at the whim of whoever happens to run the Scottish Government, it could be constitutionally defined. I suggest incorporating the words on subsidiarity from the Maastricht treaty. I suggest that the First Minister establishes a series of powers and competences for local government that can be changed only by a two-thirds majority in the Scottish Parliament. Those are ways in which, I hope he would agree, local government in Scotland could demonstrate to local government in England how to do things. Throughout the passage of the Bill—I hope the hon. Gentleman will give me credit for having been here on a considerable number of occasions—my concern has been to ensure that what is good enough for Scotland, and Scotland should have the very best, also applies to England.

I give way to Owen Thompson, who has been very patient.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

My hon. Friend Drew Hendry mentioned the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy. The Scottish Government have also introduced the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which contains powers for greater local community decision making. The Scottish Government have given greater decision-making powers to local communities than anyone has ever given them in Scotland. Mr Allen mentioned police and fire matters. There is greater local scrutiny of those matters than there ever was under the fire and police boards.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. This is very ingenious, but I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman kindly related his remarks to the amendments before us.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Certainly, Sir David. You are right to admonish the hon. Gentleman for trying to lure me, yet again, into discussing local government, which I would not wish to do. Although I worked hard to table eight new clauses on Scottish local government, it is probably of no concern to this Committee, which seems to regard it as an irrelevance. I think that that is mistaken, because local government is key to devolution in Scotland and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To get back to the plot, Sir David, Lord Smith referred strongly in the foreword to his report to the need for localism in the further devolution of powers. He was very clear about that. If Members in all parties, collectively, can be clear about that too, we will see that each nation of the United Kingdom can be governed much more effectively when as much power as is humanly possible is given to the appropriate level. That includes not just Parliaments, Assemblies and Executives, but local government and—to pick up the very good point made by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey—beyond that, through double devolution, to neighbourhoods and communities, which can deliver many of the services that are currently over-centralised in Westminster, Whitehall and Holyrood.

I have tabled two of the new clauses in this group. New clause 50 concerns, in effect, a Bill of Rights. Earlier in the passage of the Bill, when I think you were in the Chair, Sir David, I suggested that the Scottish Parliament should continue with the Human Rights Act 1998, regardless of what this place does anywhere else in the United Kingdom. That Act should be safeguarded. I would go further, as I do in new clause 50. Human rights, as defined by the European convention on human rights, are very important. They are the fundamental block on which our liberties and freedoms rest, as I said in our earlier debates.

The issue of human rights could be taken further in Scotland through a discussion of economic and social rights. That is not an easy area, but it is perfectly possible for Scotland to lead in it. As the Scotland Bill is before the House, I have taken the opportunity to suggest that the Scottish Parliament could be a strong advocate of those rights. In the run-up to the elections next May, all parties in the Scottish Parliament should have a view on whether we can take human rights that one step further in one nation of the Union, even if human rights are being deferred, delayed and eroded in other parts of the United Kingdom.

One of the beauties of a federal system is that one part can pioneer and lead when other parts lag behind. The Minister knows that well from her experience of pushing forward ideas about early intervention and the treatment of children. She knows that if she works hard in her area, or if someone in one American state pioneers something, it is there as example for everyone else to pick up as and when resources allow. A varied ecology allows our politics to thrive and grow, and it is the antithesis of an over-centralised state based in Whitehall that tells everybody what to do whether they are in Nottingham, Aberdeen or Cardiff.

Our basic rights are important, so I urge the parties in the Scottish Parliament to bring forward ideas about economic and social rights. Many of our European partner countries have had such systems for decades, and we can catch up. If the rest of the countries in the Union cannot do so, perhaps Scotland can show us the way and lead us towards a Bill of Rights that includes those contained in the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

I urge the Committee at least to listen to the debate on new clause 50, and perhaps the other place will act, conscious that its duty is not merely to make amendments related to the Scotland Act 2012. There is a broader duty now on us—we are failing in it—and on the second Chamber. We can take the tremendous opportunity that we have been given by the results of the referendum and the election in Scotland to look afresh at our whole democracy and at how the separate pieces of the jigsaw come together to make the picture that we call the Union.

I also wish to speak to new clause 52, which proposes the establishment of an office of wellbeing. I have listened to colleagues from all parties discussing full fiscal autonomy, councils’ ability to levy taxes and so on. Of course, there has been a wide variety of interpretations of statistics—how unusual is that in this place?—but when we have talked about Union-wide matters, the Office for Budget Responsibility has helped us have a rather more focused debate. I am sure the Minister knows far more about it than most in the Chamber. My new clause suggests that there be an office of wellbeing, which would perform pretty much the same task in Scotland.

The office of wellbeing would be independent and could commission independent research, but it would be appointed in the first instance by Scottish Ministers. It would meet and issue reports to the Scottish Parliament. That would ensure that the economic change that is happening in Scotland could be properly analysed and reported on. The information could then be of use to everybody else in the Union. Even the most bitter separatists would surely not wish to injure—

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Those who feel that they are being referred to should take that upon themselves, but surely they would not wish to injure the rest of the Union. Surely that is not a price that anyone would pay. A body that could analyse what happens as Scotland evolves would benefit its near neighbours, and it could be of great use as we continue the discussions on Scottish devolution.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Defence)

Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on his terminology and on “bitter separatists”? Much of what he said was of great interest to many of us, but the spirit of it was perhaps lost by his use of those words.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I seem to touch a nerve every time I use the word “separatist” to describe those people who wish to separate. [Hon. Members: “ You said ‘bitter.’”] Well there may be bitter separatists and there may be lovely, generous warm separatists—I am sure there are; perhaps I am looking at many of them now. If people are pursuing a project so enormous that they might get offended at the word “separatist”—[Hon. Members: “You said ‘bitter!’”] Oh bitter—forgive me. In that case, so as to carry on in the right spirit I withdraw the word “bitter”. People of all temperaments who are separatists may wish to consider how they make their case, and they should not be too worried if someone refers to people who, for genuine reasons want to separate from the other countries in the Union, as “separatists”. That word has had a good outing now—hopefully, separatism and separatists will not cause such a problem now we have burst that bubble.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I was hoping to suggest “ardent” so that we can all move on a little.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I am happy with that—some are ardent and some are not so ardent, but whether they are separatists or any other word we care to use, the impact of some of their policies may be that Scotland separates from the Union. I would hate to see Scotland separate; I want the rest of the Union to learn from Scotland and ensure that England, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy the fruits of devolution rather than this constricted, over-centralised system that we all labour under, and that even people such as me can become bitter about, even though I am not a separatist.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that one cannot be too sensitive in a place where our visitors are known as “strangers”. He speaks about an office of wellbeing. How does he define wellbeing? Is it the same sort of wellbeing that we have in health and wellbeing arrangements in the NHS?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Again, we can get hung up on the words, and the Office for Budget Responsibility could argue about what “responsibility” means. I am trying to suggest that there should be an independent body that can define some statistical basis for the economic arguments we will all have, whatever our political differences. I think the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey wished to intervene, but I do not want to disturb him if he is looking at a good game on his PC.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport)

I was not looking at a good game, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. I wanted to pick up on the issue of pejorative terms because I do not think they help the debate. However, the hon. Gentleman should feel free to use whatever terms he wants because we will just go on representing Scotland. Perhaps the lessons that should be learned from Scotland are that the Scottish public voted in overwhelming numbers to return 56 SNP MPs and have them stand up and have Scotland’s voice heard, which it clearly is not being.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Again, that confusion of the SNP equalling Scotland; I do not regard that—

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Yes, but I think 6% of the United Kingdom electorate voted for the SNP, so if we get into statistical battles—[Interruption.] We are in the federal Parliament now. Those who get annoyed must understand that this is not Holyrood and MPs are not entitled to do to local government in nations outside Scotland what has been done to local government inside Scotland. That writ, where what the SNP says goes and we must do, does not extend to the federal Parliament. So I would say to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey that in the rough and tumble of debate on the Union, there is a fundamental question. Some people wish to have devolution and some people wish to separate—I regard that not as pejorative but as accurate—and those debates must be heard here, even if the electoral system has handed a large number of seats to one particular party. It is a matter of respecting the views of everyone else. If that is done, that party might be able to claim that it represents the people of Scotland. But it cannot claim to be the exclusive voice of Scotland when so many people did not vote for that party and, of course, a large majority rejected the fundamental platform on which the SNP stands—separation from the Union.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

We have heard a great deal about the fact there are 56 SNP Members. We are debating the Scotland Bill, so where are they? There are fewer than a dozen SNP Members in the Chamber. So much for being the voice of Scotland! [Interruption.]

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. Before Mr Allen responds to that intervention, may I remind the Committee that the knife falls at 10 pm, and other hon. Members wish to speak? I have been very lax in allowing Members to drift on to the third group, which is not for discussion. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to draw his remarks much more closely to the amendments.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

If other hon. Members wish to speak—forgive me, but I did not see anyone else rising—it is a very good reason for me to shut up and sit down.

Photo of Callum McCaig Callum McCaig Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Energy and Climate Change)

Amendment 154 addresses the consultation process on the renewable electricity incentive schemes. Paragraph 41 of the Smith commission report states:

“There will be a formal consultative role for the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in designing renewables incentives”.

Clause 53 provides that that would not apply in relation to

“any levy in connection with a renewable electricity incentive scheme”— or to anything that the Secretary of State deems to be a minor, technical or administrative change. In the light of recent matters that certain parties seem to think are minor, administrative or technical, but that my party views as a major attack on Scotland’s renewable energy industry, the inclusion of those words gives some cause for concern, as does the rowing back on what was promised in the Smith report.

The fundamentals of this are clear. The all-party devolution committee, about which we have heard much in the last few days of debate, said:

“Clauses 56 and 58 are identical to draft clauses 42 and 44 but Clause 53”— the one I am talking about—

“has been changed, and does not require the Secretary of State to consult the Scottish Ministers about any levy in connection with a renewable electricity incentive scheme, it is understood that this relates to Contract for Difference—Supplier Operational Levies and Capacity Market—Settlement Cost Levies. These are levy payments made by Suppliers to cover the operational cost of administrating Contract for Difference and Capacity Market.”

Such levies are fundamental to designing renewable incentives. The spirit and letter of Smith demand formal consultation with the Scottish Government. Frankly, I do not understand what the consultation on renewable incentives will be about if it does not include the money required to enable them to happen.

I want to hear from the Minister on this issue, but I have one final point to make about the message that will be sent to the renewable industry in Scotland and beyond if amendment 154 is rejected. Investors are already on edge because of the disastrous handing of the early closure of the renewables obligation. If the promise of meaningful consultation is withdrawn, it prompts the question of what else the Government have in store to wreck Scotland’s renewables potential.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 9:45, 6 July 2015

I am delighted to respond this evening. We have heard a wide range of views—albeit some ranging away from the proposed amendments—and I thank hon. Members for all their contributions.

Wayne David spoke to clause 49, on which the Smith commission agreement was explicit that the power to allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises funded and specified by Scottish Ministers would be devolved. Amendments 157 and 158 are unnecessary. Amendment 157 is not necessary as not-for-profit entities, public or private, are not precluded from being franchisees already. Amendment 158 would create unnecessary uncertainty by allowing discretion on whether a public sector bidder could join a live procurement process and therefore does not enhance the drafting in any way. New clause 65 would give the Scottish Parliament full competence over railways. That clearly goes beyond the Smith commission agreement, and would create the potential for unwanted disruption of networks and relationships between franchise authorities, passenger services and cross-border operations. I therefore urge right hon. and hon. Members to withdraw amendments 157 and 158 and new clause 65.

Turning to energy company obligations and fuel poverty, amendments 149 to 153 would depart from the Smith commission agreement. The agreement recognised that decisions that could impact on all Great Britain consumers have an impact on the Great Britain energy market as a whole and on UK international obligations that should be made at a Great Britain-wide level and remain reserved. Costs incurred by energy companies owing to supplier obligations affect all Great Britain’s consumers. Different costs incurred by a supplier in one area of Great Britain may cause competitive disadvantages and higher costs for customers in other areas. We think it would be in the interests of both UK and Scottish

Ministers that costs on consumers in one part of Great Britain should not be disproportionate to their benefits. We believe that proportionate costs across regions removes the possibility of those competitive distortions and cross-subsidy by consumers across Great Britain. We will look at ways of making the cost of obligations clear and equitable between Scotland and the rest of the Great Britain, and will work with the Scottish Government to identify the best way of achieving that.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly raised the question of who will decide what causes detriment to the UK. I can assure him that we will work with the Scottish Government to set up a process and methodology for evaluating the impact of schemes implemented in Scotland on their own, and in conjunction with schemes implemented in England and Wales, on the Great Britain energy market and on any relevant UK commitments and obligations. I can tell him that UK and Scottish Government officials have already begun working together to scope out how such a process could work.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

The Minister refers to how to address the price of energy in different regions of the United Kingdom. One of the things we would like in Northern Ireland, if at all possible, is a connector between Scotland and Northern Ireland, which would reduce our prices. Is that part of the Government’s strategy? She has not mentioned Northern Ireland and I am conscious that I would like it included.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I think the hon. Gentleman means an interconnector. I am absolutely a huge fan of interconnectors. That is not a part of the Bill, but I can assure him that I am happy to discuss that at any time and to facilitate conversations with the Scottish Parliament. I am, however, quite sure he will not need me to do that and is able to discuss that with them directly.

Our proposals on energy company obligations and fuel poverty are fair to all consumers and align with the Smith commission agreement. I urge hon. Members to withdraw amendments 149 to 153.

Let me turn to renewables incentives. Amendment 154 would remove subsections (2) and (3) of new section 90C of the Scotland Act 1998, in clause 53, such that changes of a minor, technical or administrative nature would no longer be excluded from the requirement to consult Scottish Ministers, nor those made by the Secretary of State that are not subject to parliamentary procedure. Callum McCaig has raised his concerns about this area of consultation. Removing subsection (3) would remove the exclusion to consult the Scottish Ministers on any levy in connection with a renewable electricity incentive scheme. Amendment 154 would require consultation not just on the design of renewable incentive schemes, but on their operation. This would not be in keeping with the Smith commission agreement and would lead to over-complex and time-consuming consultations that would affect the smooth operation of the schemes.

Photo of Callum McCaig Callum McCaig Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Energy and Climate Change)

The Smith commission refers to

“a formal consultative role for the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in designing renewables incentives”.

I simply cannot understand or fathom how excluding levies gives the Scottish Parliament a consultative role in designing those incentives.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are talking about consultation with the Scottish Parliament on the design of renewable incentive schemes. The point I am making is that where there are minor, technical changes, the need to consult would be too time consuming and burdensome on both sets of Ministers. That is why we urge him not to press amendment 154.

Amendment 155 concerns the Competition and Markets Authority. A market investigation is a significant undertaking by the CMA, and the impact of business uncertainty and potential remedies may spread across the whole UK. Let us not forget that the CMA is funded by the UK Government, so it is only fair that, just like UK Ministers, Scottish Ministers should be required to involve the Secretary of State in any decision to require the CMA to undertake an investigation. I therefore urge hon. Members not to press amendment 155.

Turning to the amendments from Mr Allen, I fully recognise the position that he is trying to convey. He and I have had many conversations on wellbeing, and he will know that I am a big fan of devolution—I am a fan of devolution to local government and a fan of this devolution Bill. The Bill proposes fundamental changes that will give unique new powers to the Scottish Parliament that it has not had before. It will mean that, overall, this devolution settlement is one of the strongest anywhere in the world. The Bill will give significant new powers to Scotland, and it is important that all Members get the opportunity to do justice to those.

Equally, the hon. Gentleman will recognise that we do not want to be telling the Scottish Parliament whether it should be setting up its own commission on wellbeing or, indeed, what sort of commission it should establish. It will be for Scottish Ministers, with the support of their Scottish MPs, to decide when and if they want to establish their own commission for wellbeing and, of course, what sort of powers they want to devolve to their local government, local enterprise partnerships and so on.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I agree with what the hon. Lady is saying, but will she also touch on the rights of local government, so that it, too, can have responsibilities and clarity about its role? At the moment, that is unfortunately not the case in Scotland—or, indeed, any other part of the Union—but we now have an opportunity to give local government in Scotland that freedom.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, he will be looking carefully at the debate and at all the feedback right across the House, giving consideration to all those proposals to see whether there is anything more we need to do to improve the settlement for Scotland. A lot of valuable contributions have been made and there is a long way to go with this devolution Bill. I am sure my right hon. Friend will listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but at this point there is nothing further I can add to his comments, other than to say that I would of course entirely support any work done on wellbeing for any of the countries that make up the United Kingdom.

I think it is an incredibly important subject, and I certainly pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he has done. We have worked in close co-ordination on giving every child the best start in life and on the importance of wellbeing. I pay tribute to the Scottish Parliament, too, because I am aware of the enormous strides made in Scotland on supporting wellbeing and the best possible start in life for every child. I commend that Parliament for its foresightedness. I sincerely believe that other parts of the United Kingdom have something to learn from its actions.

To conclude, the discussion of all the amendments has been important. Today has been a bit of a wash-up, in that we have discussed everything ranging from the new powers for Scottish Members and appointing new members to the Northern Lighthouse Board to Scottish television stations and taking parliamentary submissions from Ofcom and Ofgem. We have also talked about new powers for the Scottish Parliament to be able to decide on the measures it wants to make to deal with fuel poverty and about incentives for new supplier obligations in Scotland to deal with those struggling to pay their bills.

I think that this set of measures represents an enormous transfer of powers from the UK to Scotland. All right hon. and hon. Members should be very pleased about that. We have heard a number of views on all the issues raised today, but for the reasons I outlined, I believe that the Bill’s clauses are in keeping with the Smith commission agreement, so I urge hon. Members to withdraw their amendments.

Clause 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 47 to 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.