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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Labour 3:00 pm, 2nd February 2012

I am very pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord MacGregor. There seems to be an outbreak of unity in the Chamber today and we should be grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Foulkes, for their amendments. The amendments may have imperfections but the point has been well made that devolution was to be about the extension of democracy, greater accountability and, ultimately, greater transparency. Through that, we hoped that there would be a measure of equity. In fact, what we have here is a classic example of the inequitable character of our constitutional arrangements.

I voted very reluctantly in favour of the principle of charging fees-I was probably one of the last converts from the Whips' arm-twisting process and what have you. However, I am not sure whether I would have voted in favour of the principle of fees if I had thought that it was going to be abused in the way that it is being abused by the Scottish Government. From the very speedy but quite succinct analysis given by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, of the accounting procedures adopted by the separatist Administration in Edinburgh, it is quite clear that they are out to discriminate against the rest of the United Kingdom and to prevent young people coming to our universities. If they do come, they will be making a disproportionate contribution to the finances of these institutions.

It is certainly the case that some institutions for historical reasons, such as Edinburgh, are probably better endowed and better able to introduce generous systems of support. There are a number of institutions that one might almost call marginal in their financial capability to provide the kind of support-