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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 2:33 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 2:33 pm, 2nd February 2012

I think that things are moving up the scale, although they are taking some time to do so. We are making a little bit of an impact there now.

I want to make it clear that in moving the amendment I am conscious of the sensitivities in relationships between Westminster and Holyrood, and between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. We have found in many of our discussions that this is a sensitive area in which we have to tread very warily, and I would hesitate to say anything that suggested that the UK Parliament was imposing its will upon the Scottish Parliament.

I say that having been a Member of the Scottish Parliament for four years. A number of noble Lords who have participated in these proceedings have also been MSPs-including the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who was Presiding Officer, the noble Lord, Lords, Lord Selkirk, Lord Watson and others who have participated, and, of course, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, the Minister who is to reply. Those of us who have been in Holyrood are aware of those sensitivities and we move with caution.

However, this Parliament has some responsibilities. The action of the United Kingdom Government in imposing very high fees precipitated this issue in the first place. I know that this is one area where the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and I might not totally see eye to eye. I am very pleased to see present the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, who was a distinguished vice-chancellor of my old university, Edinburgh-not when I was a student, I hasten to add; he is not nearly that old, and neither am I. His experience and deep knowledge of the university sector will be very helpful, and that demonstrates some of the value of this Chamber.

We also have a wider responsibility for the European Convention on Human Rights and the equality legislation, as epitomised in the Equality Act. We therefore have to bear some responsibility for and take some interest in discrimination and equality. What has been not just proposed but agreed by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Government is tremendously unfair discrimination against students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who go to Scottish universities. It really is quite disgraceful. It is astonishing, when you think of it, that students from Lisbon, Madrid or Berlin will all get in free to Scottish universities, but students from Belfast, London or Cardiff will have to pay fees.