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Lord Hardie: I shall respond to Amendments Nos. 21, 22, 30, 42 and 52 as a group, because I appreciate that the noble Lord is raising a question of principle at this stage, as his last remarks made clear.

However, before responding to the amendments, perhaps I may put on record my appreciation of the Tax Law Review Committee's Report on appeals procedures on national insurance disputes. The report, which was published on 18th February, reflects the calibre of the committee's expertise, of which the noble Lord is a valued member.

As the Committee will be aware the situation regarding the future handling of national insurance contributions appeals is now rather different from what it was when the arrangements described in this Bill were first decided.

As has been said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget that the administration of national insurance through the Contributions Agency, which is currently an executive agency of the Department of Social Security, will be transferred to the Inland Revenue.

The related national insurance contributions policy functions will also be transferred once decisions on the future of contributory benefits have been reached as part of the wider work on welfare reform.

The transfer will require a lot of hard work to ensure a smooth transition. I am sure that the Committee will appreciate that, so soon after the Budget Statement, I am not able to give details of how the national insurance scheme will fit into the Inland Revenue's work, or of how contributions appeals will be handled. However, I can give the assurances that, in formulating their plans, the Government will give due and proper consideration to the Tax Law Review Committee's Report.

As my noble friend Lord Haskel has already explained, we do not intend to pre-empt Parliament by making amendments to this Bill to reflect the transfer, in advance of Parliament's agreement that the transfer should take place. Nor, indeed, are we in a position to make wholesale changes to appeals provisions so quickly after the announcement. It seems to us far more logical that the necessary changes should be made as part of the legislation which will enact the transfer, giving both the Government and Parliament time to scrutinise the implications in appropriate depth.

I therefore must ask the Committee to agree that the arrangements on the face of this Bill should stand, but with the firm undertaking that they will be quickly

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reviewed and revised in the light of the proposed transfer; and that the revised arrangements will draw on the considerations that have been so ably expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and the Tax Law Review Committee. In the light of these assurances I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: I am grateful for the statement made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. That statement, together with that made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and the letter which I received from the noble Baroness, go further than I had expected when I tabled the amendment. I understand the reasons why the Government wish to defer the matter to a later date. I fully accept that it would not be appropriate to proceed with these issues in this Bill. I hope that in due course we shall see the legislation enacted in the form which the Tax Law Review Committee has proposed. In that hope, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 23:

Page 3, line 41, at end insert ("and
(c) in relation to Scotland, the Chief Medical Officer of the Scottish Office.").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 23, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 24, 33, 34, 38, 40, 41 and 137.

This group of government amendments makes changes to the provisions for the appointment of persons to the panels to act as members of appeal tribunals. Clauses 6 and 7 currently provide for the appointment of separate panels by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Advocate respectively. I intend to oppose the Question that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill. Taken together, these amendments will result in the appointment by the Lord Chancellor (under Clause 6) of a single panel of persons for the whole of Great Britain.

The amendments have become necessary following the introduction of the Scotland Bill, which interacts with the way in which Clause 7 in its current form is intended to operate. Under the terms of the Scotland Bill, the Lord Advocate will remain as head of the Systems of Criminal Prosecution and Deaths Investigation in Scotland. He will also be the Law Officer to the Scottish Executive. Most of his other ministerial policy functions, including those relating to tribunals, will be transferred to the Scottish Ministers. With the exception of the Lord Advocate's retained functions and any conferred specifically on the First Minister, it will be for the latter to determine the allocation of ministerial responsibilities in his team. That does not preclude the possibility that the Lord Advocate, as a Minister in the Scottish Executive, might have similar functions to those he exercises at present in relation to tribunals. But it will not be clear who would be the Minister responsible for these functions in Scotland until after Scottish devolution has

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taken place. In my view, it would not be right to retain the present Clause 7 in the knowledge that the functions it lays on the Lord Advocate would be removed through another Bill currently before Parliament.

To ensure that there are clear arrangements in place, the Government now propose that there should be a single panel and that the Lord Chancellor should retain the appointment function for the whole of Great Britain until after devolution. However, it would still be the position that the Lord Chancellor would consult the Lord Advocate in making appointments to the panel. At that stage, the UK Government may consider transferring to a Scottish Minister the function of making appointments to a panel in relation to Scotland. This would be achieved through provisions in the Scotland Bill for the further transfer of functions. Such transfers would be by Order in Council and would be subject to the affirmative procedure in both the United Kingdom and the Scottish Parliaments. Before bringing an order forward, the UK Government would want to satisfy themselves as to the arrangements which would be made for handling this function. In particular we would have regard to the distribution of responsibility within the Scottish Executive for relevant judicial appointments matters.

We believe that this course offers clarity about the responsibility for the appointment of panel members across the initial period of establishment of a Scottish Executive. I commend these amendments to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Higgins: I presume from what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate has said that it is proposed that we should discuss the deletion of Clause 7 together with these amendments. That seemed to be what he was saying. Perhaps I may comment on the amendments and on Clause 7 at this stage of the proceedings.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, was somewhat premature a little earlier when he apologised for overlooking the role of the Lord Advocate because, as I understand it, if we accept these amendments, the Lord Advocate will not have the responsibilities which are attributed to him.

At all events, I wonder whether I may seek to clarify the situation with regard to the question of timing. As I understand it, the Government are proposing to bring forward further amendments on Report. Is that correct? The letter which we received from the noble Baroness seemed to indicate that there were later amendments to come and I am not clear whether that is so or whether these are the amendments which the Government have in mind.

Be that as it may, perhaps I may seek to establish exactly what is the sequence of events. As I understand it, the Government thought that it would be wrong to go ahead with Clause 7 given that the Scotland Bill is also going through Parliament. But are we to understand that, under the transitional arrangement, the Lord Chancellor will have sole responsibility, albeit in consultation, for the appointments but then subsequently, an order by affirmative resolution will be taken to reverse the

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situation? It is a somewhat confused picture. I am not even clear under which piece of legislation--the Bill now before us or the Scotland Bill--those resolutions, subject to affirmative resolution, will be made. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will answer those matters and we can then take the matter from there.

Lord Hardie: It is not the Government's intention to bring forward any more amendments in relation to this matter on Report. There may be other amendments which deal with different aspects on Report but none to deal with this issue.

As regards the effect of this, if Clause 7 is deleted, then the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is right that the Lord Chancellor will have sole responsibility for making the appointments, albeit in consultation and one of the consultees will be the Lord Advocate.

The affirmative resolution will be made by both the UK and Scottish Parliaments. Therefore, it will be under the Scottish legislation and not under this legislation. And, yes, the intention is that once the Scottish Parliament is established and the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, of the executive, has decided which of his Ministers should have responsibility for that particular function, that will then be known to the United Kingdom Government. They will then consider whether those arrangements are appropriate and will bring forward the necessary affirmative resolution.

As I indicated, the fact that that transitional arrangement is being entered into will not preclude the First Minister from appointing the Lord Advocate to deal with that matter in Scotland. But the whole point of devolution is devolving to the First Minister all ministerial functions other than those dealt with specifically in the Scottish Bill. It would be inappropriate to fetter the discretion of the First Minister in the allocation of ministerial functions. That would be a matter for the Scottish executive.

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