Scotland Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour 3:30 pm, 22nd February 2016

My Lords, I hesitate to enter this debate, especially as it has been going on for a long time and I have always opposed Scottish devolution. I accept what has happened, that changes have to be made and that we have to move forward. However, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, makes an interesting point and if he forces a Division, I shall certainly support him in the Lobby.

As this debate has proceeded today, I have become more and more alarmed. We must choose our words very carefully. When my noble friend Lord McAvoy says that the Bill must go through, that is not the same as saying that, “This Bill must proceed”. We need an absolute guarantee that the Bill will not reach the statute book until the fiscal agreement has been reached; otherwise it will face opposition at every stage. Anyone who raises a question is accused of deliberately trying to stop the Bill going through and to stop the Scottish people getting their own way. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to see a lasting settlement that will avoid the procedure whereby it seems that, almost every five minutes, the Scottish National Party demands greater concessions which it is given and which it accepts and hails as a great victory. The next day it says, “We have been sold down the river again”. If the debate on the future of Scotland is to be proceeded with solely on the basis of the attitude that the Scottish National Party takes, we are doomed to disaster.

This House and this Parliament have a responsibility, and we should proceed on that basis. When the Minister gets to his feet, he should at least give a categorical assurance that, if we reach Report and still do not have a fiscal agreement, that Report stage will not proceed until the agreement is reached. If he cannot go that far, he should at least go so far as to say that the Bill will not go on the statute book until that agreement is reached and agreed by Parliament.