Scotland Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:50 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Sanderson of Bowden Lord Sanderson of Bowden Conservative 8:50 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, I strongly support Amendment 56L, produced by my noble friend. I consider the work of an independent fiscal commission to be vital for the future not just of the Scottish Parliament but of the whole United Kingdom in this new arrangement where so many powers are being devolved. I said at Second Reading that I believed the OBR was a great initiative of the coalition Government, and it was. I am pleased to see in Amendment 56L that, if the amendment is passed, the OBR will have access to the sort of information that it needs to help the Scottish Fiscal Commission come to the right conclusions. I am still smarting from the reports that came out from the SNP just before the referendum that oil was going to be $112 a barrel. If a Government in Scotland are to do their own forecasting and that is the sort of answer that we will receive, no one, but no one, will believe them.

The amendment moves the OBR and the Scottish Fiscal Commission closer together. I have seen a very useful letter from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to, I think, the committee in the other place. This is what he said about what the committee had said:

“There is a clear consensus”— that is, a consensus in the Scottish Parliament—

“that forecasting should be done by a body independent of government. We agree with the conclusions of the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament and recommend that an enhanced Scottish Fiscal Commission be made responsible for forecasting in Scotland”.

My question for the Minister is: how far has the Scottish Parliament gone in legislating in this matter? May I have an assurance that those words will come true and we will have a proper Scottish Fiscal Commission? A commission, of course, is only as good as its membership. Let us hope that its membership is very understanding and knowledgeable, because I believe this to be crucial to the future success of the new arrangements.