Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 5:00 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, undoubtedly £500 million is an anachronistic figure. As has been said several times this afternoon, devolution has moved on, and time has moved on. However, I draw noble Lords’ attention to another aspect of the Silk recommendations—namely, the fact that the report said that the borrowing limit should be subject to review at each spending review. Therefore, it is my view that, rather than putting a bald figure in the legislation, we need not just a figure but a mechanism in law which requires the regular review of that figure. Further, the Explanatory Notes should at the very least give some kind of rationale for how the figure was arrived at as the appropriate figure. I ask the Minister to address that issue in his reply.

Having said that, the key point is that borrowed money has to be paid back out of future spending—so the more the Welsh Government borrow, the more they eat into their spending capability in future years. I am rather cautious about this figure of £2 billion, because the Scottish Government have a right to borrow £2.2 billion. Therefore, to balance this properly, we need to look in great detail at other borrowing obligations that the Welsh and Scottish Governments have.

Given that the Bill clears the way for income tax powers, it is obvious to me that the £500 million figure needs to be looked at—but we need more clarity on the figure that is there and a proper mechanism for future revision.