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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, the point of not putting that on the face of the Bill is to make sure that there is provision for something that might happen in the future. However, one possible tax could be a dog licence tax, which my noble friend Lord Steel mentioned. I wish to make it very clear that it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to have a dog licence tax, nor indeed, the last time I checked, was it the policy of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. I hope I will not embarrass my noble friend Lord Steel by what I am about to say but I remember that, in an election when I was leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats-it must have been the 1999 Scottish election-and my noble friend was a candidate in Lothian, he announced somewhere along the line that he wanted a caravan tax. I had to spend a whole day making it very clear that this was his personal view and not the view of the party. My noble friend seems to be a rich source of potential taxes.

However, one of the taxes that the Calman commission considered was a plastic bag tax, which had arisen in the Scottish Parliament where all sorts of ways had been found to try to see whether it could be brought within competence. That is the context. I hope that before we come back to this matter on Report, my noble friend will look at paragraphs 3.170 and 3.171 and will understand the context in which the recommendation was made.

I may be anticipating the debate we will have next week, but putting criteria on the face of the Bill would undoubtedly give the courts the ability to decide whether they have been met. The question of the extent to which these criteria have been met is, I believe, a political one, and one which Government and Parliament would be best placed to determine when a particular issue presents itself. However, it is clear that we will have an opportunity to return to this so I will not detain your Lordships further. I invite my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.