Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 2:15 pm, 15th March 2012

The noble Lord is unkind. I asked a question about the position of charities and charitable contributions in respect of this Scottish income tax regime. It strikes me as a bit strange that by this stage of the Bill-after all, we are talking about a Bill that has been around this place for more than a year-the various groups that have been consulting and the technical groups that have been grinding on have not reached a conclusion. To be told that this will happen after Royal Assent means that we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke. We are being told to go along with this and, "By the way, after the Bill is law we will tell you what its effect will be". That is the opposite of what parliamentary scrutiny is supposed to be about. In my day as a Minister, first of all you had to get your policy right; you then had to get your drafting right; then you had to go through the legislative committee. If you turned up and could not answer all the questions, dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s, you went back to the bottom of the queue and lost your place in the Queen's Speech.

Here we are, more than a year on. I am not making a difficult point; it was made by honourable Members on both sides during the passage of the Bill in the other place-almost a year ago. At that time, the answer was the same as that given by my noble friend now-that it will be dealt with by the technical committees, and that the Government hope to report shortly. I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that I will table it again because at the next stage of the Bill my noble friend ought to be able to answer those questions. People in Scotland who are running charities will want to know this. If we are asked what will be the impact of the tax, is the answer, "We are not sure but we will tell you after the legislation has been passed"? If the answer is that, for example, for people paying the Scottish rate of income tax-if it is higher-on the amount that is given to the charities, only the English element will be allowable, and we discover that only after Royal Assent, just think what the nationalists would make of that as an argument and how aggrieved the charities would be.