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Barnett Consequentials

Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Scottish National Party, North Ayrshire and Arran 9:30 am, 3rd March 2016

What parliamentary mechanisms are available to hon. Members to scrutinise Barnett consequentials within the estimates process. [R]

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

What parliamentary mechanisms are available to hon. Members to scrutinise Barnett consequentials within the estimates process.

Photo of Steven Paterson Steven Paterson Scottish National Party, Stirling

What parliamentary mechanisms are available to hon. Members to scrutinise Barnett consequentials within the estimates process.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Estimates are formal requests for authorisation of expenditure proposed to the House by the Government. Scrutiny of these, which are effectively departmental budgets, is undertaken in a variety of ways, including debates selected by the Liaison Committee, and it is also open to Select Committees to examine these budgets. The Procedure Committee has recently announced that it will look at the House’s procedures for examining estimates and the passing of legislation that authorises this expenditure—the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, which we dealt with yesterday.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Scottish National Party, North Ayrshire and Arran

I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for her answer. May we have a commitment today that steps will be taken to modify the estimates process so that Members representing Scottish constituencies can properly scrutinise the impact of legislation on Scotland?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I think the hon. Lady is on the Procedure Committee. Is that right? [Interruption.] I think she is. She will be aware of the inquiry that is happening right now. I believe that the Committee is accepting written submissions till 25 March. I really want to emphasise this point: when I served on a Select Committee, we certainly dedicated time to scrutinising budgets. I encourage all Select Committees to do likewise.

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

Yesterday, this House approved a budget spend of more than £600 billion without any real debate or breakdown of the Barnett consequentials. As fewer than half the Secretaries of State have taken oral questions since the estimates were published, how are Scottish MPs—or indeed any MPs—meant to hold the Government to account?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I believe that there are avenues to do that. I welcome this inquiry by the Procedure Committee, especially as it might open up some new ideas, and I hope that all political parties will contribute to it. I really encourage this idea that Select Committees are one avenue. Of course Ministers are always held to account at this Dispatch Box, and by written questions as well.

Photo of Steven Paterson Steven Paterson Scottish National Party, Stirling

The hon. Lady keeps telling us that the Procedure Committee is reviewing the estimates process. Will she tell us whether, when giving evidence to that Committee, she or the Leader of the House will be supportive of reform of the estimates process?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am not sure whether the Procedure Committee has invited me or my right hon. Friend to give evidence, but I am sure that it will. Our Government have always been in favour of modernisation of the House, and there is no reason why that journey will not continue.