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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), Lords Spokesperson (Wales Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 3:45 pm, 2nd February 2012

I recognise the principle that my noble friend is enunciating. That is why I said that we do not know what the consequences would be of the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Forsyth. It goes right to the heart of the architecture of the Scotland Act-to Section 29, which makes certain legislation not law, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, remembers well from the days of the passage of the Bill in 1998. To add this as a principle of devolution when its possible consequences have not been thought through is something that I would not wish to accede to without much greater thought as to what its implications might be.

I conclude by making that commitment but I also have to conclude with the other principle-the principle of devolution. Inevitably, if you devolve matters, Governments may not choose the course that you would wish to see. It is probably not unfair to say that Mr Tony Blair was not entirely happy when he learnt what the Scottish Government were proposing in 1999 about abolishing tuition fees and bringing back more generous student grants, but he accepted that that was one consequence of devolution. If we pursue a line that has been sometimes advocated today, we run the risk of undermining the purpose of devolution. Differences in policies can develop, and we will not always agree with those differences. But if we constantly fight against the differences and produce ad hoc legislation if something comes up that we do not like-even if we do not like it with a considerable passion-we must do so with great care, because there is a principle of devolution that could be well undermined if we do that.