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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

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

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), Lords Spokesperson (Wales Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 4:15 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Forsyth indicated that this amendment was a hook on which to hang a wider debate. I listened to the debate on Clause 28, to which my noble friend Lord Sassoon responded and in which the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, made a number of points. He raised the responsibilities and privileges of the respective Houses of Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, has given a very clear answer on that. It is also important to point out that our role is in relation to a constitutional question: should the Scottish Parliament have responsibility for a particular tax, or should it remain reserved? It is not about how a tax should be structured, who should have to pay it and exemptions to it. That would all have to be set out in primary legislation by the Scottish Parliament, should a tax be devolved.

I am sure it is accepted on all sides of the House that the question of what should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament is an important constitutional issue. I rather think that if it had been suggested that the House of Lords should not express a view on a power such as that contained in Clause 28, I might be in greater difficulty in trying to respond to an amendment suggesting that it should. However, I hear what my noble friend says about the tax in relation to Clause 28. I do not want to engage in a rerun of the debate that we had when my noble friend Lord Sassoon was responding, or indeed anticipate a debate which the noble Lord, Lord Browne, has indicated he intends to run when we come to Report. I am sure that there will be ample opportunity to do so.

I say to my noble friend Lord Forsyth that I think there is a genuine misunderstanding between us with regard to what the Calman commission meant when it referred to a specific tax. I think there are three other members of the Calman commission in the Chamber at the moment and I am sure that, if I have this wrong, they will jump up. The Calman commission identified some specific taxes such as an aggregates levy, which has been referred to, air passenger duty, landfill tax and stamp duty land tax. These were specified and specific recommendations were made in respect of them. Paragraphs 3.170 and 3.171 of the Calman commission report give a general background as to why we thought there should be a power to devolve other specific taxes in the future. By that, it was not intended that we should nominate in the commission's report, or indeed in a Bill, what these specific taxes might be; rather, it concerned the concept of a specific tax as opposed to devolving a general power of taxation to the Scottish Parliament. I think there is perhaps a genuine misunderstanding on what the recommendation intended. I may have a better understanding of what that intention was, having been party to it.