Scotland Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 22nd February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 4:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

My Lords, we should be coming to a conclusion, so I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long. However, I remark that my noble friend Lord Selkirk, in a wonderfully elegant and skilful speech, invited your Lordships, not unreasonably, to delay the Bill. What gives my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s amendment weight and reason is the joint letter from the two chairmen of the two senior committees of this House, which has scarcely been addressed in this debate at all. They have both said, after considerable deliberation, that it would not be proper or wise for us to proceed until we have the fiscal framework before us. We therefore have to find some means of doing that—if possible keeping within the timetable, which is an unreasonable one. It was not unreasonable to start with but it has become so because of the extraordinary foot-dragging of the seeking of the agreement itself. That is not our fault.

It is also important to remember that we are here for a purpose. It is the reasonable purpose of seeing that the legislation we pass is fit for purpose and does not handicap unnecessarily or unfairly any part of the United Kingdom. From what I have heard this afternoon I understand that that is something we cannot fairly do until we have the framework.

What other devices are there to achieve this compromise of timing? I am sure it is already in my noble friend the Chief Whip’s mind but there is, of course, the device of recommitting clauses that have been taken in Committee at a later stage when circumstances change. I remind the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope—I hope I have got my procedure right—that the clause stand part procedure is in Committee and therefore there are no opportunities to suddenly excise a clause that has already been voted in. It is asking to decide the same issue twice in opposite senses. Therefore the idea of a recommital which gets round that decision seems a reasonable one. I put that to your Lordships as well as my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s plan B, as it were, which also has its merits, but I think they are less good because there would be less chance to do anything with this Bill once it is on the statute book.