We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 21st March 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 4:15 pm, 21st March 2012

My noble and learned friend is absolutely right. Amendment 74B is indeed about the impact on the privileges of the House of Commons. Everything that I said can relate to that if I think very carefully on my feet. Amendment 74B relates to the previous debate that we also had with my noble friend Lord Sassoon about enabling new taxes to be created in Scotland by Order in Council. That related to new Section 80B created in Clause 28, which is the power to add new, devolved taxes. It says:

"Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend this Part so as to ... specify, as an additional devolved tax, a tax of any description".

I cannot think of an example since ship-money where it has been possible by Order in Council to create a new tax. We have very particular procedures for creating new taxes. The Finance Bill right up until, I think, 1969 had to be considered on the Floor of the House of Commons in Committee. Special rules apply to the conduct of the Finance Bill, including-still, I think-that it is not subject to guillotine. The noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, would be able to help me with that. I certainly think that it is not subject to a guillotine in Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a leeway, given to no other Minister in the Government, to have as big a Bill and as much time as required. That is because the Finance Bill is central to the whole nature of Parliament, which is about voting and raising means of supply.

The particular innovation in this Bill enables a completely new tax to be created. Mr Alex Salmond might decide he wants a window tax or a tax on landed estates or our local income to finance local government. All that is required is that an Order in Council is approved by both Houses of Parliament. As has already been pointed out, Orders in Council are not normally able to be amended and are not normally voted against in this House. I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for telling me which amendment I am speaking to. I have tabled this amendment because I cannot understand how, given the position of this House in respect of taxation, it can be right that first, new taxes can be created by order in the other place and, secondly, this House should be involved in consideration of the imposition of new taxes by order. That seems to impact upon the privileges of the House of Commons.

In truth, however, this amendment is simply another opportunity to raise a serious constitutional innovation, which creates very unfortunate precedents. I am hoping that even at this late stage I can impress upon my noble and learned friend that the explanation we were given for these powers being contained in the Bill, when we considered them earlier, was that the Calman commission had recommended that there should be powers in the Bill to provide for additional, specified taxes. This Bill does not provide for additional, specified taxes; it gives a completely open-ended power.

We have just received, as was referred to earlier, an indication of the agreement that has been made in order to get Alex Salmond's permission for this House to continue with the Bill. This is the deal that the Government have entered into. It provides for the inclusion of some new taxes-some of which we have already debated, such as the aggregates levy. Why can my noble and learned friend not amend the Bill on Report and make provision for those specified taxes to be included? I do not like the order-making power. He could put that provision into the Bill and it could be approved, then it would go back to the House of Commons and would be approved there. Why can we not have a list of specified taxes which are to be included rather than this open-ended and highly undesirable procedure, which I believe challenges the very basis of this House? I beg to move.