Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 3:40 pm, 10th October 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I was just coming on to that. I thought that he would perhaps lead me on to the key of this agenda—and the objections and screams from the Scottish Conservatives. We will not agree to a schedule to this Bill for as long as this Parliament and this Government fail to respect the devolution settlement and indulge in this grotesque grab of powers that should rightly belong in the Scottish Parliament. That is what has happened. As long as it continues to happen, and as long as the Secretary of State refuses to respect devolution, there will not be a legislative consent motion from the Scottish Parliament. We are happy to have common frameworks across the United Kingdom, as we have said again and again, but they have to be agreed and negotiated; they cannot be imposed. As long as he continues to approach devolution as something that he can control and manipulate, this is not going to happen. The sooner he gets beyond that mindset, the better things will be.

The key dispute, where I ask the Secretary of State to respond, is about the World Trade Organisation regulations in the Bill. In his view, everything to do with the WTO is reserved. Does he not accept that the administration of WTO terms is a matter for the Scottish Parliament? We do not have to take the Scottish Government’s word for that, because in a piece of very useful legal advice from NFU Scotland yesterday we learned that it is indeed the case. The advice says that

Scottish Ministers will not have total freedom to apply domestic support as they see fit if the Secretary of State makes regulations setting limits in relation to WTO classifications.”

It also says that

“it would not be a legitimate use of regulation-making power to prescribe within the limits how Scottish Ministers would be able to exercise the powers to apply support.”

NFU Scotland agrees with us that WTO rules administration is a matter for the Scottish Parliament. [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State does not agree, what is his basis for not agreeing with the legal opinion of NFU Scotland.