Scotland Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:20 pm on 21st March 2016.

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Photo of Lord McCluskey Lord McCluskey Crossbench 3:20 pm, 21st March 2016

My Lords, I accept that Amendments 1 and 2 could not be moved, and will not be moved by me or by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. However, in the light of the Minister’s statement, I make a brief comment. It sounds to me very like a Pepper v Hart type of statement, designed to guide a court, when a court sits down to decide on an ambiguity in the interpretation or application of the provision. I am not at all sure that it will work, but it is no doubt the best that the Minister could come up with, even with the assistance from behind him of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who is unfortunately unable to be here today. It does not solve the problem, but it is better than nothing.

The very fact of making the statement appears to be to concede the point that we were all making, that the provision in the clause is just a shibboleth, because Pepper and Hart statements have no locus at all unless in a court of law when a statement is invoked to assist the interpretation. However clear the statement is, it is not binding on the court, which has a duty to apply the words of the statute to determine what it means. However, I welcome it, while regretting that the Government did not pick up on the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, which would have solved the problem within the statute itself, and we would not have needed this. However, in the light of the Government’s attitude, we have to leave it there.