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Clause 48

Exercise of functions


Amendment made: No. 321, in page 21, line 14, at end add
'after he ceases to be a Minister of the Crown'.--[Mr. McLeish.]

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire): I beg to move amendment No. 279, in page 21, line 14, at end add--


'(7) Nothing in this Act shall permit Scottish Ministers to exercise any function or to enjoy any power in any part of England, Wales or Northern Ireland.'.

The Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 310, in clause 51, page 22, line 10, leave out from 'enactment' to end of line 12. No. 305, in clause 52, page 22, line 13, at beginning insert '(1)'. Government amendment No. 322. No. 280, in page 22, line 29, at end add--


'(2) Any dispute which arises between a Minister of the Crown and the Scottish Ministers as regards the exercise of powers in subsection (1) shall be resolved as a devolution issue in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 6.'. No. 286, in clause 59, page 25, line 2, after '(1)', insert
'Subject to an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament,'. Government amendment No. 323. No. 287, in page 25, leave out line 5. No. 288, in page 25, line 9, at end insert--
'(1A) The provisions in subsection (1) above shall also apply to statutory functions exercisable by Scottish Ministers'. Government amendments Nos. 324 to 329, 306 and 330. No. 307, in clause 101, page 45, line 11, leave out '58 to 60' and insert '58 and 60'. Government amendments Nos. 331, 308 and 332.

Mr. Heald: Before I discuss amendment No. 279, I should say that I have similar feelings to the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), but in this case

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about the Government's reaction to a substantial number of Conservative amendments in this group. I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said: we have not seen much of this, but it is good that the Government have considered and accepted the arguments for many of our amendments in this group. Amendment No. 286, which requires an affirmative resolution of both Houses in order to transfer additional functions from United Kingdom Ministers to Scottish Ministers, has been accepted in Government amendments Nos. 323 to 329 and Government amendment No. 306. I welcome the sight, on pages 1726 and 1728 of the Amendment Paper today, of amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, me and other colleagues, to which the Secretary of State has added his name, in a constructive spirit. He has also tabled Government amendment No. 331, which is identical to our amendment No. 307. It is good to see that he has accepted the argument that the functions of the House should not be transferred to the Scottish Parliament without adequate scrutiny and debate in this place. We are glad that we have been able to help him to improve the Bill, and we should now like him to go a little further.

7.15 pm

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) said earlier that, in this Committee, the Conservatives have not been trying to bring about an effective, workable Scottish Parliament; the amendment gives the lie to that claim, because it shows that the Conservative party has tabled amendments that even the present Government--not a Government who are very often minded to accept amendments--have accepted, and the Minister has had to accept the logic of our arguments in substantial measure in this group of amendments.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): A weakness.

Mr. Heald: I would not accept that for a minute, and the hon. Gentleman knows it.

The purpose of amendment No. 279 is to ensure that Scottish Ministers are not permitted to exercise functions or enjoy power in any way in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. It is obvious why that should be the case. Scottish Ministers are not directly accountable to this place. If they exercise functions in England or the other countries, it is impossible for constituency Members to challenge them or in any way to bring them to account. Therefore, I hope that the Minister can give an assurance tonight that Scottish Ministers will be unable to exercise functions or enjoy powers in England, Wales or Northern Ireland as a result of clause 48 or as a result of the Bill as a whole. If he wants to give me that assurance now, I should be happy to give way.

Mr. McLeish indicated dissent.

Mr. Heald: It looks as though he is saving that for later.

Amendment No. 310 is designed to remove the exception that at present would require the UK Government to consent to the designation of an enterprise zone by Scottish Ministers, in clause 51(2). The amendment would stop the Government centralising

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power over inward investment and important decisions about enterprise in the Department of Trade and Industry in London, and so the amendment would protect and enhance Scotland's ability to succeed in that area of enterprise.

It is worth highlighting the success of recent years. One of the healthiest aspects of the Scottish economy has been the record levels of inward investment. The year 1995-96 was another record year for inward investment in Scotland. Inward investment has been a vital component in transforming the Scottish economy from being reliant on the old primary industries supported by taxpayers' subsidy to being very much at the cutting edge of the new and expanding high-tech silicon industry. In the year to March 1996, Locate in Scotland and the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department were able to attract to Scotland 84 inward investment projects involving planned investment of nearly £1 billion and the expected creation or safeguarding of more than 12,500 jobs.

Although Scotland accounts for about 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, figures published by the Invest in Britain Bureau show that, in the past few years, more than 18 per cent. of all inward investment projects attracted to the United Kingdom and about a quarter of the new jobs associated with such projects have gone to Scotland. Britain receives more foreign investment from outside Europe than all the other European Union countries combined. In 1995-96, inward investment in Scotland created 1,000 jobs on average per month. In the five years to March 1996, Locate in Scotland recorded 400 inward investment projects involving planned investment of almost £3.5 billion and the expected creation or safeguarding of about 50,000 jobs.

Mr. Ernie Ross: It will do as well under the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Heald: The hon. Gentleman claims that a Scottish Parliament will be able to build on that success. That is what this amendment is about.

Mr. Rowe: Is my hon. Friend aware that one spurious reason for trying to impose on the south-east of England an entirely artificial creation called the regional development agency is that that will somehow help us to vie with Scotland and acquire silicon implants of our own?

Mr. Heald: The regionalism argument is designed to defuse the West Lothian question. Opposition Members are concerned that the idea of regionalism is offered as some sort of solution to the West Lothian question. I know that the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) believes that there is no such thing as the West Lothian question, but most senior Labour figures have acknowledged that such a question exists and needs to be addressed. It is wrong to implant in England a form of regionalism that is alien to it and to ignore the fact that England is a country like Scotland or Wales. As to my hon. Friend's point, I see no reason why a regional development agency should be imposed on Kent when the county may not want it.

There has been inward investment success in Scotland. It has been linked to enterprise zones, which is the burden of this amendment. It would be wrong to sell the Scottish

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people a false prospectus. The White Paper gave the impression that all enterprise would be devolved. It now seems from the Bill that the dead hand of Whitehall in the form of the Department of Trade and Industry will co-ordinate enterprise zones and may well act against Scotland's interest. We have moved the amendment in that spirit: it asks the Minister to provide assurances that enterprise in Scotland will be safe.

Government amendment No. 332 seeks, at a very late stage in the proceedings, to reserve to the United Kingdom Parliament the Industrial Development Advisory Board for Scotland. Is that part of the DTI agenda to retain control over enterprise policies in Scotland? Does it fit with the policy approach that is set out and that the amendment seeks to defeat? I ask the Minister to provide those assurances. Will the co-ordination of enterprise zones in Scotland require the consent of the United Kingdom? Will the DTI retain control over inward investment packages and enterprise zones in Scotland? Does Government amendment No. 332 have the same intention, reserving the Industrial Development Advisory Board for Scotland to the United Kingdom Parliament? What are the Minister's intentions in that regard? I seek his assurances that Scotland will not be short-changed.

Amendment No. 280--upon which amendment No. 305 is consequential--ensures that, when any disputes arise in respect of shared powers in clause 52 as to the prime responsibility for a particular issue, they will be resolved using the judicial procedures for devolution issues that are set out in schedule 6 to the Bill. A mechanism is clearly needed, and there seems to be no reason why the procedure in schedule 6 should not apply. What is the Minister's thinking on that important issue? Will he concede the logic of our argument in this area and agree to our amendments?

The Government have already agreed to amendment No. 286--the first in the group--which would require an affirmative resolution of both Houses for subordinate legislation to transfer additional functions from United Kingdom Ministers to Scottish Ministers. Amendments Nos. 287 and 288 go a little further than that. Amendment No. 287 would permit the transfer of additional functions only on the basis of concurrent or shared powers with United Kingdom Ministers. There would be no further transfers solely to Scottish Ministers.

That would provide some clarity. Throughout consideration of the Bill, Opposition Members have expressed concern that this is a slippery slope: it could lead to the transfer of function after function from the United Kingdom Parliament to the Scottish Parliament, and that ratchet effect would slowly drive the Scottish Parliament from being devolved to being independent.

The Minister says that the Government are totally in favour of a devolved Parliament and that they have made it clear that they do not want separatism or independence. That is what he said in the previous debate. If that is so, it is surely right to provide some clarity about what functions may be devolved and how far the process can go. That would disabuse the Scottish Parliament from the outset of the notion that the process could lead to independence. I await the Minister's answer on amendment No. 287. That would provide clarity and ensure that the Scottish Parliament would devolve future powers only on a concurrent or a shared basis.

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Amendment No. 288 follows the same theme. It says that it would be possible to transfer the sole statutory functions of Scottish Ministers so that they are concurrent powers shared with United Kingdom Ministers. In other words, there would not be a ratchet effect: we should move from a one-way street to a situation of allowing some interplay between the two Parliaments. That could occur if it is found that shared or concurrent powers would be helpful in areas where the Scottish Parliament has sole statutory functions at present.

I ask the Minister: what is wrong with that? Why is it not possible to say now, with some certainty, that those are the limits within which functions will be transferred? There should be an element of flexibility, if necessary, to transfer powers that are solely Scottish to a joint and shared arrangement. I look forward to hearing the Minister's views on that subject.

I have already mentioned Government amendment No. 332, which seeks to reserve the Industrial Development Advisory Board to the Westminster Parliament. We are concerned that that may interfere with Scotland's ability to continue its inward investment success. Therefore, we ask the Minister to explain why the measure is proposed at this late stage.


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