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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 Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Labour 5:45 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, at some stage I think we were concerned that this might be a complete waste of time if we were not going to get a legislative consent Motion. Whether it was necessary was not the issue. It was a question of whether there was a nod of approval or acceptance from the Scottish Parliament.

In our lengthy debate last Thursday, some of us raised our concerns about what we considered to be the inadequacies of the committee system in Scotland. It would appear that this concern over those inadequacies is shared by the First Minister in so far as he pays attention to them. We are continually assailed in the Scottish press by the question of which country Scotland should be compared with. Should it be Norway or Iceland? It is not Iceland any more and it certainly is not Ireland. Perhaps Belarus would be an appropriate example of a northern European country that operates on the whim of its leader. However, that will be regarded as an insult to Mr Salmond. Such is his sensitivity and the thinness of his skin that if I were to make such a suggestion, I do not know whether I would get off a plane at Edinburgh Airport tomorrow night, although I would be happy to have a go.

We are also indebted to our new communicator-the new electronic man behind me, my noble friend Lord Foulkes. I have heard it said that he has been called a Twit. I do not think that is an unparliamentary word; it may well be appropriate in this case. I have never known the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to express himself in anything like as few words as 140. I am sorry; I meant to say 140 characters. I do not know whether there is a sequential tweet here, but perhaps the relevant material could be placed in the Library so that we could see the Foulkes Twitter sequence.

Coming back to the point, it would be helpful if the Minister could give us some indication of the conversations that he had with the First Minister and how this concordat has been arrived at. If we can reach agreement on that matter so quickly, perhaps other problems can be dealt with in a similarly efficient, if not particularly democratic, way.