Scotland Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Hain Lord Hain Labour 4:15 pm, 22nd February 2016

My Lords, I want to briefly support my noble friend Lord Darling and, indeed, endorse the point made by the noble Lord, Lord MacGregor. It arises, in a way, out of a question that he put to me when I was giving evidence to the Constitution Committee. It is this: we have allowed tax devolution to leave the station without any clear idea of what the destination is.

I am an enthusiastic devolutionist. As Secretary of State for Wales, I brought in the Government of Wales Act 2006, and I was instrumental in helping to win the 1997 Welsh referendum—albeit very narrowly; it was a hard fight. My concern is one that I do not see being addressed in the Bill, certainly not until we have the fiscal framework, at least, before us to scrutinise. It is this: 40% of the wealth of the United Kingdom is generated in London and the south-east. So what happens if parts of the UK—across the UK, not just in Wales and Scotland but in the north-east of England, Cornwall, and other parts of England that are not as wealthy as the south-east and London—are offloaded from the ability to benefit from redistribution, and the fairness involved in that redistribution?

The Government’s present ideology seems to be, “You have the powers to raise your own taxes, and it’s on your heads”. And if that particular part of the UK, be it Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland, cannot raise what it previously raised, that is tough. I do not think that is a future for the United Kingdom that will command the support of all the nations and citizens of Britain and Northern Ireland. Therefore, although I cannot support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, I want to leave on the record a severe reservation about where this is all leading.