Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:49 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 4:49 pm, 10th April 2019

My Lords, it is right that we as a Government reflect on the success of devolution. Devolution working is inherently a good thing, and in this order—and, I hope, the one to follow—we see how the nuances of that can work. Whisper it not, but the Scottish and UK Governments really do get on remarkably well at official level and at ministerial level—only occasionally are buns thrown. That is necessary within the devolution settlement. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, is right to say that we as a Government should perhaps do more to reflect on the successes and, indeed, some of the shortcomings of devolution to date. I know that, in the various discussions we have had in this House, challenges have been expressed by the Scottish Government about certain elements of future policy. We will need to cast our eye to the horizon and give consideration to how devolution—which is, of course, a process—can continue.

On this order, I am happy to echo the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, when he talks of the skill and quality of the draughtsmanship and the drafters themselves of the original Scotland Act 1998. It is a good Act that has stood the test of time; the fact that we are here is testament to that. I am very happy to make that statement.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked a question about concurrent powers. I asked that question too. I will give noble Lords an answer—they may or may not decide that this is a good answer, but it is the answer I have. There are no known intentions for UK Ministers to exercise any functions relating to this order on behalf of Scottish Ministers. This is almost like the unknown unknowns and the known unknowns of the former US Secretary of Defence. As things presently stand, it is not anticipated that that will be an issue, but the noble and learned Lord is quite correct that that does not mean it will never be an issue. I say only that, should that arise, I do not doubt that it would need to be taken forward through the proper channels between the two Governments to ensure that it does not become a constitutional problem or a constitutional crisis. The Government today do not anticipate that, and nor do I.

I will go back and read Hansard to check what I did not answer last time. I will make sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, gets an answer; I would not like to leave anything hanging there. On that basis, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.