Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 15th March 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Sassoon Lord Sassoon The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury 5:45 pm, 15th March 2012

My Lords, I will speak to both Amendments 58A and 58C, which have similar effects-namely that they would require the Scottish Parliament to set uniform rates across Scotland for taxes on land transactions and on disposals to landfill. My noble friend's amendments would be an inappropriate restriction on the power of the Scottish Parliament in this area. The purpose of devolving tax powers is to transfer some of the responsibility for public funding services in Scotland to the Scottish Government. My noble friend says that he has been converted to devo-max, whatever that may be, and that he wants more of it. Here is a good example of where we are suggesting in the Bill more devolution than the noble Lord would like through his amendment.

Accepting as I do that we should wholeheartedly support improvements in the accountability of the Scottish Parliament to the people of Scotland, the devolution of stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax is very important. The Calman report estimated that these could yield the Scottish Government over £600 million a year, so it goes to the heart of the accountability issue. Also, a key premise of the Calman report is for the Scottish Parliament to be fully accountable for its devolved taxes, a principle which the Government support. To achieve this, the Scottish Parliament must be allowed the full power to vary the rate of the devolved taxes. It is for the Scottish Government and its Parliament to take decisions over the design of the taxes through consulting the Scottish people and passing its own legislation. Scottish Ministers may well decide to set uniform rates of tax on land transactions, or on disposals to landfill, across Scotland, but I suggest that that decision is for them and not for this House or this Parliament. I cannot see a strong argument-any argument-as to why we should interfere with the Scottish Parliament's freedom to set its own taxes across Scotland as it sees fit, once there has been an agreement that a particular tax should be devolved. For that reason, I urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.