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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative 5:45 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, I would like to probe a little further the question that my noble friend Lord Forsyth has raised about where we stand on legislative consent Motions. I do not know if what I have will throw any more light on the topic but, as noble Lords will know, we have spent quite a long time considering when a legislative consent Motion might appear. I draw to your Lordships' attention that there is enough evidence from what Ministers have told us that primary legislation does not require legislative consent.

I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is not in his place because much of what I have to talk about refers to what he told us in this House in 1998. He and others in the House will recall that in the Committee stage of the Bill the question of an application of an Order in Council as being the route by which amendments to Schedule 5 could be achieved was discussed. It is just possible that some people's recollections might, like mine, be a little hazy since most of this discussion took place at around 11 pm-something that we were beginning to get used to the other day. There was a serious probing amendment, which said that the power to use the Order in Council mechanism should be removed in regard to Part I of Schedule 5. The mechanism was insisted on by the Minister because it was the Government's intention to make it a condition of procedure that the Scottish Government had to agree to alterations to Schedule 5. Great emphasis was placed on this, which was considered the unequivocal virtue of the Privy Council process. However, the Minister's view was clearly that primary legislation did not require the agreement of the Scottish Parliament; this can be found in Hansard at col. 849 on 21 July. Therefore, the Scottish Parliament would officially have no say in any primary legislation.

Here, today, we will be only too aware that on previous days the Committee has endeavoured to add amendments to the Bill that would bring in more detailed recommendations by the Calman commission and others. So far, all these efforts have been rejected and many of the amendments at this stage appear to aim to introduce them using the Privy Council route at a later stage. From the approach taken by the Labour Government before us, it seems that any or each of these Orders in Council will properly be subject to a legislative consent Motion from the Scottish Parliament, which is different from the one that we are talking about today. As we have proceeded with this legislation, a great deal has been made of the idea that we are looking for the completion of the Motion before we get on to the Bill.

It is important that the procedures that are required should be absolutely clear. Since this is primary legislation, it would appear-from applying the explanations that were offered to us-that the legislative consent Motion is not strictly necessary for the Bill but would be for the statutory instruments to implement it. Could the Minister tell the Committee whether this argument for seeking some sort of agreement with the Scottish Parliament is just part of a concordat or is being introduced for politeness, or whether some legislative measure has recently been introduced that requires its fulfilment? If not, is it not true that in hard legislative terms the consent of the Scottish Parliament is not required?