Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 3:30 pm, 15th March 2012

I appreciate that my noble friend may not have had briefing or thought about the question of benefits, and I must say that I had not thought about it until the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson of Glen Clova, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, raised it. But it is an important point because of how very small changes in income make a huge difference to the benefits that people are entitled to, because of the nature of the taper. So there is the effect on the individuals of the use of these powers by the Scottish Parliament; they will not be dealing with the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Government but with the Department for Work and Pensions.

There is a serious point here, because if the Scottish Parliament substantially raised income tax so that net incomes were lower there could be very significant increases in benefit costs arising from that action. My noble friend finished his speech by saying that this was all about increasing accountability of the Scottish Parliament for its decisions, but how can it be increasing accountability if the result of its decisions was to send a bigger Bill to my right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith in his department and perhaps, thereby, create pressure on payment on benefits in England because of the unexpected consequences of this provision? So this is a transfer payment.

Before we get to the next stage, could my noble friend have a word with his colleagues whose responsibilities lie in this area and write a letter to those of us taking part in these proceedings, indicating how the circle will be squared?