Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 2:30 pm, 15th March 2012

My Lords, the noble Duke has raised a very important issue. I had indicated my intention to oppose Clause 30 stand part, and this is grouped with the noble Duke's amendments.

The noble Duke has raised one or two of the anomalies. My noble friend Lord Maxton intervened with another. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to this because this whole issue is bristling with anomalies. There are all sorts of difficulties that could happen. When we got an informal briefing from the Minister and some of his staff, I raised the question of students-postgraduate and undergraduate students, researchers. There are all sorts of people who would be difficult to identify as Scottish taxpayers or not. There are diplomats and civil servants who move up and down regularly who might be difficult to identify. We have heard about people on the ferries and the sleepers. There are fishermen who could be classified in this way. There are all sorts of difficulties that arise.

There are some people in Scotland who may have a residence in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, but also a third residence overseas. How do the days resident overseas come into the calculation? This question was raised when we used to have residence qualifications for Peers' allowances and I recall that it created tremendous problems, which was one of the many reasons why we moved to the arrangement we now have. This is an absolute minefield of anomalies.

If the theory of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is right-he has been arguing it very carefully-that Scotland is inevitably going to be a much more highly taxed area than England, imagine the situation that could arise on the border. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, might look at this; it might be a way of regenerating the borders. More and more people could live just over the border, living in England to pay English tax but coming in to Scotland to take advantage of the better services in Scotland. There are all sorts of difficulties that could arise.

We were most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, for organising the seminar. I do not know about other people who went to it, but I came away with more questions at the end than I had at the beginning. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raised a lot of the questions in that seminar. In his reply, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, can tell us if, following that seminar and the genuine points of concern that were raised, some further consideration has been given to trying to make a simpler system for identifying who Scottish taxpayers are. The arrangement in the Bill is far too complicated to implement effectively.