Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Functions) Order 2000

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:40 pm on 24th May 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Government Whip 8:40 pm, 24th May 2000

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords who spoke and who, I believe, welcomed the orders. I agree with many of the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, relating to devolution and its development. He is right that these orders are made up of many different strands of different kinds of devolution. We have always said that in an exercise on the scale of devolution there will be elements which have been overlooked; issues will continue to arise which need to be dealt with, either to do with new circumstances or in the light of experience. Indeed, the noble Earl is quite right: these orders include elements of all of those.

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, asked specifically whether the orders duplicate as to the point he raised. We feel that the answer is definitely no. In accordance with Section 106 the order creates a requirement for a commissioner with special knowledge. The order relating to Section 63 requires Scottish Ministers' agreement to the Secretary of State's selection. So there is a distinction.

The noble Earl, Lord Courtown, asked specifically whether these provisions in relation to the tax credits Act mean that in some way taxation matters are being devolved. He asked whether this would impinge on the Westminster Parliament's rights. The answer is no. There are two elements in the order relating to the working families' and the disabled persons' tax credits under this Act. One is to be found in Article 3 of the order, which, taken with the schedule, confers the powers under Section 15(3) of the Act on Scottish Ministers. That means that they will accredit those organisations who can approve childcare providers, whose charges will be taken into account in calculating the childcare element of the working families' and disabled persons' tax credits. The function of assessing providers of childcare is clearly best carried out by those with expertise in the devolved areas of social work or education.

The other element covered by the order is the making of the regulations under Section 15 of the Tax Credits Act to set up the scheme for designating organisations whose charges can be taken into account in assessing those tax credits and related matters. This regulating power is to remain with the generic Secretary of State. But, as a result of this order, the agreement of Scottish Ministers will be needed.

I hope that noble Lords find those responses acceptable and feel able to support the orders.