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The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving us that quick canter back through the Scotland Act 1998, which brings back a vision of late nights and long exchanges. He told us about the various Acts that are being effected. With regard to the powers being transferred from the 1970 and 1999 Acts, was the power to appoint general commissioners devolved to the Scottish Executive at the time of the Scotland Act? Is that why the 1999 measures are not implemented in Scotland? Was the lack of those powers in Scotland discussed when they were implemented in England and Northern Ireland? Is it likely to be necessary to devolve any other powers under the Access to Justice Act 1999, when Scotland has not benefited from its provisions?
Presumably, since the Act of Union, if one is accused of cheating on one's taxes in Scotland, one has been liable to be tried in a Scottish court. However, devolution has introduced a whole new factor. Does the general commissioner of income tax have any
I turn to the amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which allows exceptions to the ruling on criminal records. It appears to have a particularly interesting background. The Minister told us that some additional exemptions have already been passed for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Executive issued a consultation paper in December, showing the amendments that they would like in this field. It contains a list of the professions that they would like to be added to those who can insist on seeing the full range of a person's convictions when considering that person for an appointment. The consideration of the matter is already well advanced. It seems that, when the lack of powers was recognised, there was a fairly mad scramble to get the proper powers in place.
It might seem reassuring to see, in the Explanatory Note, that the instrument has no financial effect on the UK Government departments. However, presumably any increase in the numbers who can require that additional information will require an extra capability by those who need to supply it. That is likely to be an additional expense for the Scottish Executive. Has the Minister's department made any assessment of the cost? If the matter does not come under him, what assessment have the Scottish Executive made?
I return to the Access to Justice Bill. The drawback is that once the provision is in place, the Scottish Executive, in paying the expenses of the commissioners and their clerks arising out of the execution of their duties or when the Scottish court so order it, will land up having to pay towards the collection of a UK tax. Is it possible for the Scottish Executive to limit that in any way?
With regard to the amendment to the Transport Act 2000, considerable discussion was had in another place about the debate that took place last May regarding the ferry service between Scotland and Northern Ireland. That debate happened around the time of the introduction of the service from Rosyth to Zeebrugge. No change was made at that time. Have any new factors come to light since then that have precipitated the introduction of the measure?
Another question arises from the statement that the powers remain with the UK ministry as well as with the Scottish ministry. If either makes a ruling, must payment come from the Government in the UK and/or from the government in Scotland?
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I start by saying that it is good to see the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, back at the Dispatch Box. I am also grateful to the Minister for his comprehensive explanation of the order.
This is an eclectic order, as it deals with three totally unconnected issues. But that is the stuff of such constitutional measures, and it satisfies my instinct for the devolution of power and the increasing autonomy
The transfer of the rehabilitation of offenders suspension measure was not the one that worried me. The former social services worker in me recognises the increasing and widening need for people in positions of trust to be subject to a full disclosure of their previous convictions, within a confidential setting.
Nor did the power to make maritime and inland waterway freight facilities grants worry me. It is eminently sensible for suitably leveraged capital grants to be made available to create harbour facilities and so divert freight from multiple HGVs on the road network into coastal shipping. In doing so, we will make a further stab at meeting our Kyoto and other environmental targets. Indeed, the power being devolved seems especially generous, allowing the Scottish Executive to build facilities even furth of Scotland as well as within.
The order seems to complement the other recent order, in which we were asked to devolve power to subsidise shipping services to other places outwith Scotland, such as the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry. We must watch with interest to see how the new ferry service from Rosyth to Zeebrugge establishes itself. Similarly, the new freight service from Invergordon to Orkney will remove HGVs from that difficult northern section of the A9 up to Scrabster. Even more esoteric is the possibility of assisting with the service offered in Shetland by the Norrena on the Denmark-Shetland-Faroe Islands service.
Finally, I come to the power, or the duty, to pick up the tab for the general commissioners. This worries me, when I consider the worst case scenario. It seems to be a case of the devolution of expenditure rather than policy. I acknowledge that Scottish Ministers appoint the general commissioners, but they do not have any control over income tax policy, as other noble Lords have said. It sounds like a case of taxation without representation or, at least, expenditure without a handle on policy.
When we discussed the issues yesterday in Scotland, people suggested to me that the general commissioners could lose a class action, perhaps from a particular point of principle, with the consequence of a large number of taxpayers having valid claims against them. Does the Minister agree that, in such circumstances, the UK Treasury should make contingency funds available, bearing in mind that Scottish Ministers have no say in taxation policy? I do not see why the Scottish block grant should pick up the tab on that issue.
The general commissioners are not the only ones who may increase the Executive's expenditure. The marine freight facilities grants will cost money, but that will be controllable expenditure drawn on a deliberate budget. The unpredictable nature of the indemnification of the general commissioners may be a real problem to the Scottish Parliament.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, we must congratulate my noble friend and the noble Earl on having made so much of what seemed an incomprehensible order when I first looked at it. The Explanatory Note attached to it told me nothing. I could not understand it. However, when I went to the Explanatory Memorandumboth have been suppliedI understood much better. We must thank the Government for producing that, because it explains what is going on.
I apologise to the Minister. I missed the first minute of his speech. I was at an all-party group upstairs. Everything happened so fast that I could not slide down the banisters quickly enough. The part of his introduction that I heard about the general situation and how the developing intricacies of devolution to Scotland are being met was extremely helpful. The Government are increasingly able to explain what they are trying to do when making such arrangements. It is terribly important that they are well done, because the day may well come when there is a government of a different party at Westminster from that at the Scots Parliament. It is very important that the arrangements are robust.
We are dealing with grey areas in which people work in contexts that are controlled partly by Westminster and partly by the Scots Parliament. It is very important to get it right. I think the Minister said that liaison between United Kingdom Ministers and Scottish Ministers was important to achieve consistency.
I have only one question. I think I understand what the Government are saying and it seems perfectly sensible. My noble friend and the noble Earl asked interesting questions and we look forward to the answers. My question is simply about money. This will involve money for the Scots Parliament that is currently the Westminster Parliament's money. There do not seem to be any costs in the rehabilitation of offenders changes, but the arrangements for shipping that begins in Scotland and ends somewhere elseor, mysteriously, can also begin and end somewhere else and still Scotland might want to help it along with moneywill cost money, which will have to be taken from the Scottish block. As the noble Earl has said, the indemnifying of general commissioners of income tax and their clerks will undoubtedly cost money.
As with a lot of these orders, the question is how much will be added to the Scottish block to cover the measures. Will there be a conscious movement of money to fund them? The cost is not very great in the context of the whole Scottish budget, but it is being imposed on the Scots Parliament. Doubtless it wants this to happen and will have agreed to itand I can see whybut it is being imposed. The UK taxpayer is not going to have to pay for it.
I think I gave the Minister notice of my question. How precisely will the issue be handled? The situation will be repeated with many of the orders under the Scotland Act. That is an important question and we would like a clear answer.
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