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I recall trying to persuade the Government that after the transitional year the Treasury should still have an interest in how such matters are dealt with, but I failed. However, when the Treasury gets a feel of this in the next financial year, I am sure that it will want to keep in contact for the following year.
We also spent many happy hours discussing the Comptroller and Auditor General and whether he would have an impact after the transitional year. I am pleased that progress has been made with regard to how the Scottish Parliament should account to, and be held to account by, its equivalent of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I welcome that. Assurances on that were given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and I am always glad to be able to tick off assurances given and delivered as the days pass before the parliament begins its work.
With regard to Article 3(1), am I right in thinking that "the principal appointed day" is 1st July, or is there another such principal appointed day? I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that it is, indeed, 1st July.
As this is the first of a large number of such orders, can the Minister say how we are proceeding with consideration of them? Are the Government satisfied that all the necessary orders will be in place? I know from a letter which the noble Lord was kind enough to send to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon that a significant pile of pieces of secondary legislation awaits our consideration. As this is the first to be considered in your Lordships' House, I wonder whether we are on track and whether all the secondary legislation will be in place by, I presume, 1st July.
Article 4(1) refers to the Lord Advocate. I should have thought that the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland would be in place before 1st July because they will be part of the Scottish Executive. I am not sure why we need that belt and braces, but I shall not go much further into that matter because it strays into legal fields and, as the Minister will recall, by and large I left such matters to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon when we considered the Bill.
However, perhaps I may consider just one legal matter. When we considered the Bill, I recall discussing at some length what is now Section 64. Unfortunately, such is the size of the pile of Hansards on that Bill that I have found it impossible to find the actual discussion. We discussed exactly which receipts would be returned to the Consolidated Fund. I now see that the order refers to fines, forfeitures and fixed penalties. I understand from press reports that they will amount to some £22 million. If the Scottish Parliament is to be
That is my only substantive comment on this piece of secondary legislation. It certainly looks about right and deals with the issues that we know will arise during the transition. We can only hope that the Government have not omitted anything and that nothing now omitted will emerge later in, say, June or July. I would be amazed if in June or July we did not find arising something that we have not covered in a piece of legislation of this size and in a shift of power of the size that is envisaged in the devolution proposal.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I entered the Chamber in listening mode and from listening to the Minister I had hoped to discover two points. First, I wonder whether the Minister can explain--he did not do so in his opening speech--the difference between "transitory" and "transitional". Why do we have both words? That defeats me. It may well defeat the Minister also, but it seems an extraordinary piece of drafting.
The more substantive point was that just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I cannot understand why the fines, forfeitures and fixed penalties cannot be paid right away into the Scottish Consolidated Fund on day one of the Scottish Parliament coming into being. The Scottish Parliament will be responsible not only for the administration of the courts, but also for Scotland's entire prison and judicial service. The only explanation which the Minister could offer was that such matters are not at present part of the Scottish Office budget. Perhaps I may point out that plenty of things will be happening in the future which are not now part of the Scottish Office budget. It seems odd that the proceeds from Scottish crime should go to the Westminster Treasury rather than to the Scottish Administration. The Nationalists used to say, "It's Scotland's oil" so perhaps we can say, "It's Scotland's crime and we should have a share in the proceeds".
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene for a moment on a point beyond the transitional matters, but still very much relating to Scottish finance. I thank the Minister for some answers that he gave me earlier in writing in response to my questions about agriculture when he said that the Scottish Parliament will have full responsibility for agriculture.
The other day I came across something that sparked off a thought in my mind. We have been talking about fines, forfeitures and fixed penalties. The European Union has a way of imposing fines on other governments, and the United Kingdom has just been asked to pay back £34 million mainly due to inadequate controls in the sheepmeat sector. Once devolution takes
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. The sums going into the Scottish Consolidated Fund are explained in Article 8 of the order while the sums going out are explained in Article 9. They include the cost of preparing for the Parliament, the expenses of the Lord Advocate and of Ministers, and other expenses that arise in the public interest. Who controls the budget of the Consolidated Fund? The order explains that in the transitional year expenses must not exceed £50 million. Who sees to it that that is what is happening? Will that be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland throughout the transitional year or will it be, first, the Secretary of State for Scotland and then whoever is responsible for the budget of the Scots Parliament?
I am trying to imagine what would happen if a different party were in power in the Scots Parliament from that in power at Westminster--that is, a different party from that to which the Secretary of State belongs? How would that control be exercised? What will happen if the Comptroller and Auditor General does not like what is being done with the Scottish Consolidated Fund? How can he intervene? One is trying to picture whether this will work smoothly. As the Minister said, it is really important that the transitional year goes smoothly and the parliament gets off the ground to the satisfaction of the Scottish people who will be watching very closely how it works.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I believe that a number of matters of important detail have been raised in this short debate. Perhaps I may confirm, first, that the principal appointed day is indeed 1st July. That deals with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. As regards a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, I can tell him in response that I could offer a definition of "transitory" and "transitional" in that we as politicians are transitory but this House is transitional. However, I do not think that that is the nature of the definition which rests in this legislation. I cannot think of anything better at this time of night, so perhaps the noble Lord will leave the matter with me.
I move on now to the point about the way our European colleagues impose what are effectively fines on governments for various shortcomings. The answer to that is quite simple. If the shortcoming in the opinion of the European Commission is the result of action or inaction on the part of Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Parliament, the "fine" would have to be paid by the Scottish executive. The money is available to the latter. As is the case now in agricultural matters, it is the agricultural budget of the Scottish Office which has to stump up the cash if there is an error in payments made to farmers in Scotland. One good way to avoid it is to keep better stock records. I have to make that point time and time again to a number of farmers. Indeed, that is one of the big improvements that we can make.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked who controls the budget. Up to 1st July it is the Secretary of State and, thereafter, it will be Scottish Ministers. However, the Comptroller and Auditor General has to agree issues as they come through. The interesting point about the role of the auditor general for Scotland is that the legislation makes it clear that, basically, he has to be appointed and the Scottish legislation has to give him certain duties to allow him to grant credits so that money can come out of the consolidated fund. Therefore, there is no way that the Scottish Parliament could be tempted not to appoint an auditor general for Scotland and somehow avoid the appropriate scrutiny and control. Indeed, if it were to try to do so, it would simply not be able to get the credits to spend the money. Everything must be properly in place.
I turn now to the business of fines. I notice that the noble Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Steel seem not so much to be running after their colleagues in the other place but rather colleagues of the party which is not represented in this House. I refer of course to the Scottish National Party. I am interested by the argument that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Steel, came close to advocating, that somehow fines should fund the judicial service. The noble Lord does not seem to agree. I am glad to see that he is moving away from that. However, from the way he explained it, he seemed to be saying that we could use the money collected from fines to fund the judicial service. That would be an interesting proposition. Whether we increase fines in order to pay for better pensions for judges--a matter which is close to my heart and close to the hearts of many Members of your Lordships' House--I do not know. I believe that there are probably better ways of doing so.
The income from fines has never gone into the Scottish Office block; it has always gone into the UK Consolidated Fund. This new arrangement does not alter the position. It is not money which was previously available to the Scottish Office and which is now being taken away. Indeed, it never was available to the Scottish Office. As I said, it went into the Consolidated Fund. I suggest that it would be inappropriate for fine income to work its way into the Scottish Office block because, in a way, that would give the criminal justice system an incentive to maximise fine income and make inappropriate disposals of cases. For example, in some cases the most appropriate method of disposal would be a community service order. However, if you are running a bit short of income, people may slap in a fine rather than imposing a community service order. I do not believe that that is the appropriate way to proceed.
As I said, there is nothing new in the procedures. We are trying to hand over to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish executive arrangements which presently obtain within the relationship of Scotland and the United Kingdom on the financial side. The position on fines reflects that fact. With that explanation, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support the order. I commend the order to the House.
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