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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 6:45 pm, 21st March 2012

I had not appreciated the qualification of being accepted by both Parliaments. If they are accepted by both Parliaments, that will fulfil my requirements and belief.

I have an amendment which suggests a further referendum on devolution-whether we should have the status quo, devo-plus, devo-max or a multi-option referendum. I am not in favour of that now and I shall not press that because that was going to be 35 days after independence. I confess that this amendment has not received universal support; in fact, it has not received any support at all, which is probably why I am not going to press it.

A stronger reason is that we heard a very powerful argument from both Front Benches that the 1997 referendum's second question gives power to Parliament to decide further devolution. If both Parliaments, as my noble friend Lord Reid has agreed, decide on further devolution, I do not think a referendum is necessary.

Finally, there is the question of further devolution which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, raised in his interesting intervention about porridge oats and punctuation. I agree-and now it seems the Prime Minister agrees-that further devolution needs to be carefully considered. We have got that in the Statement which the Secretary of State made today. It should be carefully considered; as a number of people have said, the devolution we have at the moment-which is the devolution of the Calman commission, the further extension-has been agreed on an all-party basis, and on the basis of consensus and consultation. That should be the basis of any further extension of devolution.

Both my own party, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats, the Minister's party, have commissions looking at this. In our debates on Thursday, we had an indication that already there is a degree of a mandate in relation to further fiscal devolution.

There are other issues in relation to the referendum, such as the role of the Electoral Commission, which I strongly support as being responsible for the conduct of the referendum. Another is the franchise, because while the Scottish Government propose to extend it to 16 and 17 year-olds, I believe there should be no unilateral reduction in the voting age just for one referendum. There are a number of other detailed matters which we will come to in the later amendments.

We now have this agreement on the legislative consent Motion. We have substantial agreement that greater tax powers are acceptable, and that borrowing consent, which we are giving to the Scottish Parliament, is welcome, and that specific areas are now being devolved. Let us not make any mistake about it: this implementation of the Calman recommendations is a very substantial increase in the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. We should not be hiding that under a bushel. We should be proclaiming it from the rooftops. Many of the advances have come from pressure from Labour MPs and Labour Peers. It is something I am now proud to support fully. I beg to move.