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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 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) 5:15 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, I certainly agree with the final point that accountability is as much about what you raise as what you spend. The point at the heart of the statement on funding and the no-detriment principle is that one should not be accountable for consequences which you as a Government would have to see through but which are the result of a decision that you have not made. Having to say why a certain project does not take place-following not a decision that you have made but a decision made by another Government-is not accountability. That is what one is seeking to address, and it links in with what has been said about the Holtham principle. Again, there is an intention there that, if the Scottish Government's tax proposals promote buoyancy in the Scottish economy, that should be to the benefit. Likewise, if they have tax proposals which have an opposite effect-they drive away enterprise and reduce revenues-there should be a negative consequence. A letter is not necessarily the best way to go through this issue but I am certainly open to ways in which we can go through it in more detail. This point links to the Holtham point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Browne.

The principal point is that this is not an issue of the Scottish Government getting two bites of the cake. It is to ensure that where a tax decision is made regarding the UK tax base by the UK Government, all taxpayers throughout the United Kingdom are treated in the same way as a result of that decision. It means, too, that if that decision has consequences-either inflating the money coming into the Scottish Government or reducing it-a rectifying amount is paid back or perhaps withheld from the block grant or, alternatively, is paid in addition. I regret that it is not the easiest thing to explain and there may be another way of discussing it other than across a Chamber. However, I emphasise that it is not a question of having your cake and eating it; ultimately, it is a question of ensuring accountability and making sure that the Scottish Government do not become accountable for a decision that is not their own. I cannot put it more simply than that. Although we may well return to this issue, on that basis I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.