Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 9th November 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish Crossbench 6:45 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith drew my attention to this issue the other day and so I thought I might join in the debate. I am semi-disappointed--but only semi-disappointed--to see that it is the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the all-purpose Minister, who is to reply. Goodness knows what the Government would do if the noble Lord ever left the Government. They would have to appoint four new Ministers to take his place. I had rather hoped that it would be the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, who, like myself, lives in Scotland. In his previous capacity the noble Lord would have driven his car--although I suspect he was driven--to the headquarters of the Scottish Media Group. That might have been subject to a workplace parking levy if it had not been for the actions of the Scottish Parliament. However, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is a Scot of second generation, if I can call him that, from the great McIntosh clan, I am happy to see him answering the debate, although he will not be quite as affected by these decisions as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald.

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament dealt with a transport Bill. Murray Tosh, a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament, had tabled an amendment to remove from the Bill the workplace parking levy, on which one or two people in Scotland are keen. The Executive, in the person of Sarah Boyack, accepted the amendment. It was not a case of the Parliament voting against the Government; the Government accepted the amendment. It split the Liberal Democrats because those in the coalition--for example, those who have ministerial cars--agreed with Sarah Boyack in agreeing with the Conservative amendment to take the levying of workplace parking out of the Bill. But at least two of their colleagues--who clearly do not have Mondeos--actually voted with the Scottish National Party against the amendment tabled by my friend Murray Tosh. It will be interesting to hear whether the Liberal Democrats in this House have any views on the subject; whether they agree with Jim Wallace and his friends, or with Donald Gorrie and his friend or friends.

If we are not careful businesses operating on a UK-wide basis will be affected by different provisions in Scotland from those applying in England and Wales. I know that the Government will say, "Well, that is devolution", but we are talking about businesses which think that they operate on a UK-wide basis. I think that business will find it odd. It may make Edinburgh and Glasgow marginally more attractive than English cities as places for businesses to set up. So maybe I should not complain too much. But it seems to me to be odd. If there are too many divergent positions like this, the United Kingdom will begin to be less like one country and more like two separate countries. Perhaps the Government should consult Sarah Boyack and ask her why she decided, along with her colleagues, to abandon the idea of workplace parking levies; and perhaps the Government should consider doing likewise in England.