Scotland Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 7:45 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the arguments put forward by my noble friend Lord Forsyth, as I do for those put by my noble friend Lord Caithness as regards the cross-border implications. As a Scot by birth and resident in the north of England for the past 18 to 20 years, the air passenger duty alone has enormous implications; those points have been well made.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked: what can we ask the Ministers on the Front Bench to do? They have been immensely helpful and have been bending over backwards to answer many of our queries. But to have a Statement and a debate last Wednesday on a document that was available only on the Thursday certainly posed great difficulties for those of us who have legitimate questions to ask. We had a briefing earlier today on the question of fiscal scrutiny. I am a newcomer to the Chamber, but I believe that the main thing that your Lordships’ House does extremely well is to scrutinise the legislation that comes before us. I believe that it would be hugely remiss of this Chamber not to scrutinise the fiscal framework, which as I say has been put before the House only in the past week.

We are being asked to take it on trust that the Scottish Government will table an amendment that will allow the Office for Budget Responsibility to have some force in this process in the Scottish Parliament. But what if that amendment is not forthcoming? The present complexion of the Scottish Parliament and the Select Committees that would normally perform the scrutiny of this and other parts of the Scotland Act, as it will then be, is by and large SNP; they are populated by a large majority of Members of the Government from that party. I cannot believe that the scrutiny will actually take place in the Scottish Parliament to the extent that we would wish to see.

I have some sympathy with Amendment 56ZA for the simple reason that we would be failing in our duties if we did not subject the fiscal framework and other parts of the Bill to scrutiny by your Lordships’ House. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked what we are asking Ministers to do. I do not think that we wish to delay. It would not be in the interests of your Lordships’ House or of Parliament to delay the adoption of this Bill, but we owe it to the people of Scotland and the people of the United Kingdom to scrutinise the fiscal framework and those remaining parts of the Bill of which we have not previously had sight.