Powers to make further provision: devolved authorities

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 17 December 2018.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 5:45, 17 December 2018

I beg to move amendment 77, in schedule 6, page 45, line 43, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

We tabled the amendment because the schedule allows for the transfer of powers to Scottish Ministers and the power to make provisions on issues such as aquatic and animal diseases. The schedule will allow Scottish Ministers to make provisions for

“the purpose of monitoring, controlling, preventing or eradicating diseases of fish or other aquatic animals…in particular…provision regulating the importation, exportation, movement, storage or handling of…fish or other aquatic animals…products derived from fish or other aquatic animals…any other thing that the Scottish Ministers consider may carry, or otherwise affect the prevalence of, a disease of fish or other aquatic animals.”

We want to change that to an affirmative procedure because it will be a much better way of doing things.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

The amendment is a step too far. There is sufficient protection for affirmative resolutions under clause 36 and paragraph 3(2) of the schedule, as the Minister pointed out. The Scottish Government need some leeway to be able to use the negative resolution procedure, and I do not think there is any need for this amendment. I would like to know whether the Labour party sought any assurances from the Scottish Government on whether they thought this amendment was necessary. I suggest that if the Scottish Government had wanted such an amendment, they would have tabled it themselves.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is in many ways a mirror amendment to one we discussed earlier. It is unusual for me to agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, but he makes an important point: if we have just agreed one set of provisions giving the right to use the affirmative or negative resolution for England, it would suggest that we do not trust Scotland if we said that all their resolutions should be subject to the affirmative procedure. What is good for one part of the UK should be good for Scotland as well. I do not think this amendment is appropriate.

I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that this has been put in at the request of the Scottish Government. We worked closely with all the devolved Administrations to understand what they would like included in the Bill on their behalf, and this particular section dealing with the ability to fight aquatic diseases is understandably very important to Scotland, given that it has such a large salmon farming industry. It is at the request of the Scottish Government that this has been included in the way that it has. I think it is right that we treat the Scottish provisions in the same way that we treat the English provisions. I hope the shadow Front Bench will not see the need to press this particular amendment.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

We have been pretty consistent throughout the process in saying that we think affirmative measures are better because they provide extra scrutiny and extra control, and we think that is beneficial.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

On that point, given that the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues consistently say that the Scottish Labour is the party of devolution, does he agree that if Labour is the party of devolution, it should respect devolution rather than trying to make legislation here that the Scottish Government have not asked for?

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I do not think that is how devolution works. Devolution is a collaborative process. That is my reading of it. It is not a zero-sum game.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, even where the Government in Edinburgh have agreed something with the Government in London, neither Government should expect to be immune from scrutiny by Parliament?

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I absolutely agree with that. In any system of democracy, at every tier there should be an element of interface and interaction, and that will be an ongoing process. It is not about a gradualist approach to independence, which is how the Scottish National party would like to view devolution. That is not how we view it. I will conclude, because there is no point in labouring this—pardon the pun—by saying that we accept that there is no agreement. It is unfortunate that we keep losing these votes on the negative emphasis versus the affirmative, but we are where we are in terms of the arithmetic. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have already covered part 1 of schedule 6, which specifically relates to the powers taken for Scotland to manage aquatic and animal diseases. I will briefly comment on parts 2 and 3, which make provisions for both Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Administration. Hon. Members will have noted that the provisions for Wales and Northern Ireland are different from those for Scotland in that parts 2 and 3 also have provisions that mirror clause 31. In other words, schedule 6 gives Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Administration the ability to make those technical conservation measures that we discussed earlier in the context of clause 31 for England.

I should point out that at this stage that, when the Bill was drafted, Scottish Ministers said that they did not want those provisions included in the Bill on their behalf. We understood that at that point they might have been considering doing this themselves through their own legislation. However, we have recently been told by Scottish Ministers that that position has changed and they would like us to perhaps consider at a later stage of the Bill adding powers for Scotland akin to those afforded in parts 2 and 3 for Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is obviously an issue that we will discuss further with Scottish Ministers. It is complicated by the fact that they have not yet confirmed that they will grant a legislative consent motion for the Bill. Nevertheless, I thought I should highlight to members of the Committee why there is a difference between part 1 for Scotland, and parts 2 and 3 for Wales and Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6 accordingly agreed to.


That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Iain Stewart.)

Adjourned till this day at Seven o’clock.