Scotland Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Darling of Roulanish Lord Darling of Roulanish Labour 7:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

In relation to the Barnett formula, I chose my words carefully. I said that it worked; I did not go on to say “terribly well” or “extremely well” or “without any complaint”. If you look at the north-west of England, there is a legitimate complaint there that Barnett treats it the same as it does the south-east of England, when their economies are clearly very different. I know that successive Chancellors looked at the Barnett formula. I looked at it in the halcyon period of the three weeks between taking office and discovering that Northern Rock was on the horizon, which presented me with rather more pressing problems that I had to deal with. But I can see why, it having been there for so long, no one has touched it. I am sure that others in this House will know that the late Joel Barnett often said that he never intended it to last. It was a fix but it worked. However, where I agree with the noble and learned Lord—I will confess to not having studied his proposed new subsection (2) in the detail I perhaps should have done—is that if we are having a new system, we really need to know how it works. What we do not want is what happened in the aftermath of the Smith commission, when everybody signed up to it and the next day it was denounced. That will not work. If we have something that does not work, let us find out now rather than coming to that awful realisation over several months and years to come.