Scotland Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 7:30 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, having recently moved from Scotland to London, I will leave that to the noble and learned Lord, but I would certainly declare an interest—not that the Scottish Government in Edinburgh are remotely concerned with what happens in Caithness; they are much more concerned with the central belt. I do not think that Caithness is going to benefit very much.

I raised at the meeting hosted by my noble friend this afternoon the question of the tangential consequences of the no-detriment principle. It was quite clear that the Chief Secretary thought that this was a grey area. Let us take the example mentioned earlier by my noble friend Lord Forsyth and myself, of air passenger duty and the Edinburgh-Glasgow axis against the Manchester-Newcastle axis. If consequences flow from that, they are going to be very hard to prove, and, quite frankly, as far as I could determine, the Chief Secretary was not terribly interested in them. But if they can be proved by one side, we then get into the question of the resolution mechanism. The lawyers in this House have clearly shredded the mechanism that is before us, so we are now in an even worse situation in that we have a mechanism that is not going to work satisfactorily from the legal point of view; that will be difficult to implement in the first place; and that could be highly prejudicial to the north of England and other areas in the rest of the United Kingdom.

I have some sympathy with my noble friend on the Front Bench. I have been in his position when the whole House was against me and the only people on my side were those who were sitting to my right and to my left. That is the situation today. However, I would ask him to take this away and try to implement something of what my noble friend Lord Forsyth has requested. Of course this has to be a political deal in the end, but it is one that the United Kingdom Government have lost and the Scottish Government have won.