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Amendment made: 136, page 76, line 21, leave out paragraph (a). —(Stephen Barclay.)
This amendment would ensure that the Bill does not affect the powers of the Scottish Ministers under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, as expanded by section 22C of that Act, that were previously devolved by Order in Council.
Queen’s consent signified.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I thank all Members for their participation in the debates that have taken place as the Bill has passed through the House. I believe the Bill has been strengthened by the scrutiny it has received, and the number of positive and constructive amendments that have been agreed to today is testimony to that. I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Bruce Crawford MSP and the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, which has proved invaluable. Although I have not agreed with them on everything, I respect enormously their contribution to the Bill’s passage.
I thank John Swinney MSP and the Scottish Government officials for their always courteous engagement in the process. Scotland obtains the best outcome when its two Governments work together. I also thank my own officials and those in other Departments throughout Whitehall for their contributions.
The origin of the Bill was the Smith agreement, and I again pay tribute to Lord Smith of Kelvin and the representatives of all five of Scotland’s political parties for reaching an agreement which represents the new devolution settlement for Scotland. I also pay tribute to everyone who has worked so hard since then to enable us to reach this point today. I sincerely believe that the Bill delivers what the people of Scotland voted for decisively last September: one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world, with the strength and security that come from being part of our United Kingdom.
No individual or party holds a monopoly of wisdom in respect of how the Smith agreement might best be translated into legislation, and the six days of debate that we have had on the Floor of the House have allowed me to listen to a variety of points of view and suggestions for further improvement. The Government have responded with the package of amendments that was presented on Report, and the Bill will proceed to the other place with its provisions clarified and strengthened.
There can be no reasonable doubt that the Bill delivers the Smith agreement in full, and the debate now moves from constitutional arguments to the important decisions that will affect the lives of people in Scotland. Will the Scottish Government create new benefits, or top up existing ones? What kind of schemes to address fuel poverty best suit the particular circumstances of Scotland? Will local communities be given a greater say in the management of assets such as the Crown Estate? How can Scotland’s public sector boards show the way forward for gender equality? Each of those decisions will now form a direct part of Scotland’s vigorous public debate, and each of them will be made in Scotland for the first time.
The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government will be more responsible and more accountable to the people of Scotland. That is what the Bill means for Scotland: the vow delivered, and a powerhouse Parliament within a strong United Kingdom. Now is the time for us all to work together to make these new powers a success for Scotland.
I echo the Secretary of State in thanking everyone who has been involved in the Bill’s passage, including his officials and the people who have been so supportive to Labour Members. I thank my Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend Ruth Smeeth, and, of course, my hon. Friend Wayne David, who has spoken on many parts of the Bill, but I also thank the Clerks in the Public Bill Office, who have been incredibly helpful in putting the Bill together. It has been like wading through treacle at times, but they have always been courteous, and their advice has always been well received.
Let me be absolutely clear at the outset about the Labour party’s position. We fully support the Bill and all that it seeks to achieve. [Interruption.] One would think that SNP Members would just stop for two minutes during the Third Reading debate. When the Conservative Secretary of State spoke, there was complete silence, but when the Labour party speaks, the braying mob starts. That tells us all that we need to know about this place. With the amendments that have been accepted this evening, the vow has been delivered in full. The Bill delivers on the powers promised and agreed by all parties, including the SNP, in the Smith commission.
In 1998 Donald Dewar said:
“There shall be a Scottish Parliament”—[Hansard, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 25.]
and it was Labour, with the consent of the Scottish people, that delivered that Parliament. This Bill will make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world. It meets not only the terms of the vow, but the timetable laid out by Gordon Brown last year. We promised a process by the end of October; it was delivered. We promised it would conclude by St Andrew’s day; it was delivered. Draft legislation was promised by January; it was delivered. Second Reading of the Scotland Bill was promised straight after the election, regardless of who won; that was delivered. We promised that, no matter what parties formed the Government after the election, we would deliver a Bill to meet what the Smith commission set out; and thanks to the Secretary of State’s amendments put forward on Monday, that has been delivered. It is absolutely clear that this Bill, as amended, will place at the Scottish Government’s disposal the powers to make Scotland the fairer and more equal country that we all aspire for it to be.
From the establishment of the Scottish Parliament to the Calman commission to the Scotland Act 2012, Labour has supported more powers for the Scottish Parliament, but we are absolutely clear about what we stand for: we believe in devolution, not separation. That is what the people of Scotland voted for last year, and we respect the sovereign will of the Scottish people.
They said they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom but with a strong Scottish Parliament. They said they wanted to continue to pool and share resources across these islands. They said that they wanted the continued security that being part of a bigger union of nations and family of nations brought.
The Bill provides an historic opportunity for our politics in Scotland to turn from talking about the constitution to talking about the country, and about what we can do to make Scotland the fairest nation on earth, instead of what we cannot. Let’s grasp that opportunity. Let’s build that fairer nation. Let’s give the people across Scotland the politics they deserve. In the words of Donald Dewar, there shall be a powerful Scottish Parliament.
As is customary, it is appropriate to put on record the appreciation of all parties, and I do so on behalf of the effective opposition in this Chamber, the Scottish National party. I thank, too, colleagues in the Westminster SNP group who have taken part in the debate, and colleagues in the Scottish Government, with whom we have worked closely throughout the passage of this Bill.
Those watching at home, as opposed to those sitting in the Chamber—for those who are not aware of it, our proceedings are trending among the top 10 most discussed issues on Twitter tonight; a great many people in Scotland have been watching our proceedings—will have noted a number of things. They will have noted that for the first half of proceedings there were more SNP Members in the Chamber than those of all other parties combined. They will have noticed that, with less than six hours allocated for debate—notwithstanding the fact that an offer was made by the SNP for a second full day on Report—the Government tabled 200 new clauses and amendments, and we had an opportunity for only seven Divisions. On an issue that is supposed to be defining for Scotland’s constitutional future, that is no way to legislate. The idea that legislating as we just have is worthy of the mother of all Parliaments, as some people choose to call it, is way out of place.
We have heard a great many claims about the delivery of the vow. This evening, we have seen Labour Members agreeing with the Conservatives, as they have so often over the last years—[Interruption.] Indeed, they are signalling their co-operation and that they work closely together. That has been noted. In particular, it has been noted that this evening, the Labour party voted with the Tories against tax credits being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. On a defining issue—
Six hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (
Question agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.