Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Sassoon Lord Sassoon The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury 3:15 pm, 15th March 2012

My Lords, as I have tried to explain-and we can talk about the block grant at another point-the key point for these clauses and the interaction with the benefit system, which is very relevant, is that there will be a range of factors that will already be taken into account in calculating net income for the purposes of universal credit. I do not think that is conceptually any different for somebody who is working on one side of the border and living on the other. As we have been discussing during this really useful and important debate, the main-residence test will be the key driver here for most people. That will underpin all these considerations. In a sense, the points that the noble Lord has raised in relation to benefits are actually income tax points, which I have tried to cover by explaining that we are keeping this as simple as we can.

This has been a key debate on the heart of the Bill. We have a complex system of residence tests in the UK already. We are working with the possibility of a statutory residence test to make that simpler. Our watchword in this Bill is to introduce something that is as simple as possible for the majority of Scottish taxpayers as an overlay to the UK rules. That is why among other things the rather more complex approach in the 1998 Act is proposed to be superseded. It is all coming back to the main purpose of this to enable Holyrood directly to affect the level of its own income in a clear way that makes it accountable for the future Scottish budget and makes it dependent on the performance of the Scottish economy and policy decisions. These are the clauses that provide for the greater financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament to its electorate, with a real stake in Scottish economic performance, as a significant proportion of the budget for its public services will come directly from taxes set and raised in Scotland.

On the basis of the explanations that I have given the Committee, I ask my noble friend the Duke of Montrose if he would consider withdrawing his amendment.