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 McCluskey Lord McCluskey Crossbench 8:50 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, I am sorry that the Government were unable to adopt something more along the lines of my Amendment 67. The purpose of that amendment was to ensure that there was an independent Scottish Fiscal Commission, and the provisions in it were designed to achieve exactly that. However, I recognise that I could not possibly win a vote if I sought to move that amendment and divide the House.

The other point is that in substance, Amendment 56L does the job as well as one could reasonably expect it to. I am happy to support it in the circumstances and I will not move Amendment 67, but I have one modest question. The point is that subsection (1) of the new clause says:

The Office for Budget Responsibility has a right of access at any reasonable time”.

Note the word “reasonable”. The next line says that it is entitled to ask for information,

“which it may reasonably require”.

New subsection (2) says,

“which the Office reasonably thinks necessary for that purpose”.

I am not sure how that operates, because it was well understood in law that the word “reasonable” was so elastic that it was not precise enough—for example, to found a conviction for not doing the reasonable thing if that is what the statute required you to do. Therefore I am not sure how this is to be policed. If the Office for Budget Responsibility asks for information in the way that is qualified by the word “reasonably” in this new clause, and if the Scottish Government do not agree with its assessment of reasonableness, how is that dispute to be resolved?