Scotland Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 21st March 2016.

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Photo of Lord McCluskey Lord McCluskey Crossbench 4:00 pm, 21st March 2016

My Lords, I promise to be brief. I have been in this House just short of four decades and I have noticed that the easy way to empty the House at the end of Oral Questions is to read out the name of a measure that contains the word “Scotland”. In raising the matter that the amendment raises, I also realise that, to get a collective groan from around the House, the words “Barnett formula” are a pretty good start.

I do not want to repeat any of the arguments made. My one purpose in raising the amendment, which I think speaks for itself on what it seeks, is to assist the people of Scotland to understand the truth of the manner in which Scotland’s public expenditure is to be financed following the arrangements made under the fiscal framework. I do not think that very many people in Scotland have grasped what has happened. Indeed, there has been no opportunity to discuss the matter in the other House before the Bill is passed. My only purpose in moving the amendment is to encourage the Government to produce a publication of the kind requested that shows the truth of that financing so that we can all go out, talk about it and stick it in the face of the superb SNP propaganda machine, which feels no obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I would have sat down at that point, but because the Minister has made some general remarks of a kind that would normally have been made, in my early days here, on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, I simply say that I am unhappy with the Bill. It subordered the United Kingdom Parliament to a group of 10 Members of the Scottish Parliament, who took eight or nine weeks to produce a document. Since May last year we have been obliged to spend our time implementing the Government’s version of that document. I do not think that all the proposals in the Smith commission report were fully thought through and, of course, Ministers in this House were plainly given a brief to accept no amendments. They did particularly well in dealing with that difficult brief, but I do not think that their position was a very sound one.

One of our purposes was to give the other House an opportunity, before the Bill passed into law, to discuss the fiscal framework. I repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, often said, which is that the other House should have been given that opportunity.