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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 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) 4:15 pm, 2nd February 2012

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, gave a fair analysis or description of what his amendment is intended to do. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, said that this might just be an oversight in the original arrangements. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said that it was too small a matter for the Calman commission. I think that quite a significant change is proposed; it is not a small matter at all. The fact that I do not recall any representation on or consideration of it as part of the Calman commission may say something about whether there is widespread support for it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, asked why legislative competence has not gone hand-in-hand with executive competence. I think I am right to say that executive devolution was not present in the 1998 Act, but was subsequently negotiated between the then Scottish Executive-I think that Mr Henry McLeish took a role in that-and the Labour Government. The agreement reached was one of executive devolution. The Labour Government did not think it right at that stage to extend legislative devolution, and that continues to be the position of this Government. The Government are committed to maintaining a GB-wide national rail network which is publicly specified and funded in the public interest but which is provided by the private sector.

It is important to recognise the substantial executive devolved powers which Scottish Ministers have in relation to railways. They include giving general guidance to the Office of Rail Regulation, giving notice of their requirements for the outputs of the rail network in Scotland and the level of public funding available to the Office of Rail Regulation and publishing a Scottish railway strategy. They also have power to designate, let, fund, manage and enforce Scottish franchises and publish a statement of policy on franchising; to set fares; to publish a code of practice protecting the interests of disabled passengers; to appoint a member of the Passengers' Council; to give financial assistance to any person for the purpose of developing Scottish railways; and to publish freight grants schemes for Scotland. Indeed, they have considerably more powers than that. Of course, the Scottish Executive have also taken considerable initiatives in building and constructing new railways-my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie is probably a personal beneficiary of the railway from Stirling to Alloa-so substantial powers are already available.

However, as I said, we believe that devolved powers are best exercised within a coherent GB structure, as provided for under the Railways Acts 1993 and 2005. It is essential that the overall regime for the provision of rail passenger services and their regulation remains a reserved matter. It would not be sensible to run the railway in such a way that the Scottish Parliament through legislative devolution could overturn the framework that governs the operation of passenger services in Great Britain as a whole.

The noble and learned Lord raised the question of Wales. I will certainly confirm the position, but the fact that we wish to keep a GB structure means that there is no legislative devolution to the Welsh Assembly.