Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 12:31 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 12:31 pm, 15th March 2012

My Lords, before continuing the Committee stage of the Bill, I should like to ask my noble and learned friend for some information about the progress that has been made on securing the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.

I should also like once again to complain about the fact that this Scotland Bill is being considered on a Thursday, when Members of this House who live in Scotland generally travel north. This matter has been raised previously. When I have raised it with my colleagues, I have been told that the Opposition have requested it. It is deeply inconvenient. I know that a number of colleagues have been unable to participate as a result.

I should also like to complain also about the time which has been made available for consideration of the amendments. All the amendments that I have tabled, and I have quite a number, relate to matters which were not considered in the House of Commons. All of them raise relatively serious points. I read on the groupings list that we will sit until the business is completed. I have plenty of stamina, but I would suggest that debating these matters relating to Scotland-we will of course try to expedite them-late on a Thursday evening is very unsatisfactory, especially when we are talking about an important constitutional Bill many of whose issues were not addressed in the other place where the Bill was subject to the usual guillotine procedure.

I return to the main point on which I feel the Committee should be advised, which is where we have got to on the question of the legislative consent Motion from the Scottish Parliament. This is important. Throughout the proceedings in relation to the introduction of new taxes in Scotland, my honourable friend David Gauke, the Treasury Minister, rested on the fact that a legislative consent Motion for the Bill had been passed by the Scottish Parliament, saying that,

"any future devolution must happen with the wholehearted consent of the Scottish Parliament".-[Hansard, Commons, 14/3/11; col. 70.]

All the consideration of the Bill by the other place was on the basis that it had the support of the Scottish Parliament, but that is no longer the case.

There was a legislative consent Motion passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2001. That is the legislative consent Motion which was noted on the Bill's formal entry to this House. Indeed, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill state at paragraph 8:

"A further Legislative Consent Motion on additional amendments will be debated later in the legislative process".

That referred to amendments to the Bill after consent by the Scottish Parliament. Since then, there has been an election in Scotland and there is a new Administration led by Mr Salmond. The committee of the Scottish Parliament, meeting on 13 December 2011, which was a year and one month after the First Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, was unable to recommend that the Parliament pass a legislative consent Motion on the Bill until the Bill had been amended in line with the committee's recommendations. It is of course for Mr Alex Salmond to table a Motion for legislative consent, which he has consistently refused to do.

I think I am entitled to ask my noble and learned friend what is going on here. The other place considers the Bill on the basis of a legislative consent Motion which no longer applies, with a Minister saying that we could not do this without the consent of the Scottish Parliament; at an earlier stage of the Bill, we were assured that negotiations were continuing with the Scottish Parliament and that Ministers had every confidence that they would have legislative consent; and now, today, we are about to embark on considering bringing in revolutionary tax powers for the Scottish Parliament and we still do not know whether we have a legislative consent Motion. What is the status of this and what is the Government's position? Is the Government's position as David Gauke told the other place, that any future devolution must happen with the wholehearted consent of the Scottish Parliament, and why are we taking so much time, with the House apparently being prepared to sit until the early hours of the morning if necessary, to deal with a Bill which may not meet the requirements of Alex Salmond and the Scottish Parliament?