Committee (4th Day)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 6:00 pm, 15th March 2012

My position is diametrically opposed to that of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on the general power. I agree with him that it would be good not to have the accountability element so heavily dependent simply on the extra tranche of income tax. However, it is up to the Scots to decide how or if they wish to move further, and on which taxes. The general power seems wholly reasonable, and for us to pick and choose air passengers or whatever seems a rather bad idea.

Mine is not a complete laissez-faire position. As I said in my debate with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, on a previous day in Committee, a counterpart to a general power is a mechanism for neutralising the macroeconomic effect. You would be very rash to start to recreate the situation that we have seen in the eurozone with Greece and Germany. That is why I am very nervous about having devo-max or devo-plus, unless and until the monetary or borrowing consequences of greater fiscal autonomy are spelt out. When we come to the borrowing bit of the Bill, I will have something to say.

I do not know what the right rate is for air passenger duty, and I consider it irrelevant to the debate on the Bill. I doubt very much that Mr Salmond, with his green credentials, would follow the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in thinking that a lower rate would be the right one. There are many taxes other than this one that he might prefer to lower. But it is up to them, following the procedure that would require consultation with us. The lead should come from them.