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Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I have already asked my noble friend Lady Farrington two awkward questions. I know that this order is not about exchanging my driving licence for that of someone from Belgium, Germany or France. But I can understand that someone from those countries may want to exchange their driving licence for mine after 40 years offence-free driving in my case.

All I want to do at this time is to pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Farrington and to place on the record our appreciation of the way in which she dealt with these matters.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for dealing with the question I raised before this evening's discussion. When she considers whether or not to write to me with further information, perhaps she will deal specifically with the question of countries that are organised on a federal basis. Does that mean that we could have a situation where licences issued by one of those states were acceptable for exchange, but licences issued by other states were not? Or are we saying that we have to wait for a situation where all the jurisdictions within that country issue licences on an acceptable basis before the country as a whole can be part of the order?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, my understanding is that in such a case the standards in all states would have to be acceptable to allow the country to be considered as a candidate. Should it be otherwise, I will write to the noble Lord.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her response, which will assist in settling one of our major worries in regard to this order.

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I have no further objections. However, I should like to associate myself with the comments that have already been made. They do not surprise me because I know of the noble Baroness's competence from some time ago. Before I sit down, perhaps I can ask the noble Baroness to convey to her noble friend Lady Hayman our best wishes for her son.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood. My noble friend's son broke his wrist and obviously she wished to return home. If the answers have not been quite as comprehensive as they might have been, it is because I had inadequate time to brief myself.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.17 to 8.40 p.m.]

Scotland Bill

House again in Committee on Schedule 3.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 127:

Page 61, line 43, at end insert--
("(4) The standing orders shall include provision that a committee, which may not delegate its functions to another committee or sub-committee, shall be appointed with the function of considering accounts and reports laid before the Parliament in pursuance of section 66(1).
(5) The standing orders shall provide that--
(a) no member of the Scottish Executive may be a member of the committee appointed under sub-paragraph (4), and
(b) the person chairing that committee may not be--
(i) a person representing a party of which any of the Scottish Ministers are members, or
(ii) if each of the parties in the Parliament have one or more of the Scottish Ministers as a member, a person representing the party of which the First Minister is a member.").

The noble Lord said: This is an important amendment because it deals with the financial controls which will be exercised in the new parliament. In Clause 66 there is sketched out for us the financial controls which the Government will put in place from day one for the new parliament. As far as they go, they are reasonable. They deal with accounting and auditing matters. In particular, subsection (1)(f) refers to,

    "the publication of parliamentary accounts and of reports on such accounts and for the laying of such accounts and reports before the Parliament".

So the parliament will get reports. It will get reports from the government of Scotland, if I may call it that, and from the auditor general, who will have exercised his independent and very important function.

However, as far as I can see, there is little detail--I may be wrong about this--about how the parliament will exercise control and oversight over financial

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matters, and in particular over the reports of the auditor general. My amendment specifies essentially the system of parliamentary controls which are in place in the other place, which is where these financial matters are dealt with. My amendment would ensure that there is provision in the standing orders for the equivalent of the Public Accounts Committee, with some of the important safeguards associated with that committee.

Subsection (5) of my amendment states:

    "no member of the Scottish Executive may be a member of the committee".

I would not expect a member of the executive to be a member of the committee. However, for the removal of any doubt, I have included that provision. What is more important is subsection (5)(b)(ii) which concerns the person chairing the committee. That makes it perfectly clear that the chairman should not be a member of the governing party or parties. That is very much in accord with what happens in the other place, where, always, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is a member of the Opposition party.

I have also taken into account what might happen if all four parties got into a grand coalition, although I suspect that that is taking consensus politics about 10 bridges too far. The governing party here cannot conceive of such an amazing consensus. If I had not put that in, it would have been conceiving of it and telling me that that is why my amendment was defective. I have got to the pass before it. The amendment says clearly that, if all four parties form a grand coalition--there would be no chairman of the public accounts committee--the debar would be on the party of which the first minister was a member. It could be any of the other three parties, but not the one of which the first minister was a member.

I am sure that I do not have to explain to your Lordships the importance of the Public Accounts Committee in the other place. It is an extremely influential committee. Its reports are highly influential and are read with great care by governments. They are taken into account in a very serious way. Arguably, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is by far the most powerful Back-Bencher in the House of Commons; and so he would be in the Scottish parliament.

My right honourable friend in the other place, who is the current chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. David Davis, proposed a number of amendments to the Bill at the Committee stage in the House of Commons. He received a number of assurances from Mr. Henry McLeish, the Minister in charge of devolution. Referring to the whole question of the standing orders and what is in the Bill, Mr. McLeish said:

    "It is only a framework. For the reasons I have given, the Parliament must be responsible for the detail".

I have no great argument with that. He went on to say:

    "In framing that detail, it can incorporate--if it so wishes--the suggestions featured in these amendments"--

the amendments regarding a public accounts committee--

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    "such as the establishment of a Committee similar to the Public Accounts Committee. I have no hesitation in saying that I hope that the Parliament will do that. My experience as a member of the Committee was excellent, and it does invaluable work. However, the Parliament should be able to decide on the best way forward, even though my preference would be to go for a Public Accounts Committee".--[Official Report, Commons, 12/2/98; col. 637.]

So the Government were saying that if it were left to them--if they were in the Scottish parliament--they would have a public accounts committee, but they were not going to go as far as to say that there ought to be one.

The position improved a little because on 19th May on Report, when my right honourable friend returned to the matter, Mr. Henry McLeish said:

    "On a second and perhaps more positive note, a meeting of the all-party consultative steering group yesterday agreed that, as part of the Standing Orders, we might want to identify a few Committees to recommend to the Scottish Parliament, and that one would be the equivalent of the Public Accounts Committee. Hopefully, that will satisfy the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and ensure that the integrity of the person who chairs such a Committee is beyond doubt".--[Official Report, Commons, 19/5/98; col. 763.]

My right honourable friend Mr. David Davis had started his speech with the words, "Clearly, I welcome", when the curtain came down in the other place and mystery surrounds what he was welcoming. I am sure that I can speak for him when I say that I welcome the assurances. But given the assurances, I fail to see why we cannot put something on the face of the Bill along the lines I suggest.

I can understand it if the Government say that they do not want to specify everything on the face of the Bill and that they must leave such matters to the parliament or, in this case, to the consultative steering committee, which is working on this matter. But this is rather a zig-zag issue in that some matters clearly ought to be left to the parliament; some ought to be dealt with by us in the Bill; and some matters fall in the middle. I am sure that we could have many happy hours of argument--and we will have--as to where each one falls. I think the equivalent of the Public Accounts Committee falls firmly as something that ought to be put on the face of the Bill. There are far less important matters on the face of the Bill regarding how the parliament will work than a public accounts committee.

I appreciate that this House has less to do with these matters than the other place. It is after all the other place which votes the money and which is responsible for raising the money. The other place is also responsible for spending it. As the great bulk of the money going to the Scottish parliament will come from the United Kingdom Parliament, and as the spending of that money will be very much left to the Scottish parliament--I have no complaint about that--there is something to be said for this Parliament laying down clearly to the Scottish parliament that we expect a public accounts committee, or something named differently if that is what is wanted, as we do not want to call the first minister the Prime Minister and we do not want to call the presiding officer the Speaker. I have avoided all that

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by not naming the committee at all but by referring to it as a committee for,

    "considering accounts and reports laid before the Parliament in pursuance of section 66(1)".

We should put that in the Bill and make sure that the standing orders make provision for the committee. I am not bothered about its total formation but the chairmanship, which is all-important. There may be a parliament with four parties where no one has an overall majority. There may be a temptation not to make the stipulation that the chairman ought not to be a member of the governing party. While I do not believe my previous point about taking account of a situation where all four parties would be in a grand coalition, I suspect that two or three may be in a coalition and they may not be very happy about a member of the fourth party being given such a powerful position. I can imagine a situation where that might arise. We should not leave it to the parliament to do what Mr. McLeish said he clearly hoped that it would do. This is a case where we should turn the hope of the Minister and of the other place into clear detail in the Bill. I beg to move.

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