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Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland): I refer to amendment No. 286, which inserts a new schedule in the Bill and sets out certain types of procedure for subordinate legislation. That is a welcome step forward for clarification, but on even a brief reading we find that if paragraph 3 applies, instead of Type F procedure, Type A procedure shall apply, and so on. For further Bills, would flow charts meet statutory requirements? I welcome the efforts that have been made to simplify the legislation, but flow charts might be the ultimate in simplification.

Mr. McLeish: They might lead me to understand the measure more than I do, which could be a hindrance in some circumstances.

I shall deal first with amendment No. 146, then with subordinate legislation and the new schedule in amendment No. 286. Amendment No. 146 amends clause 97 in two ways. First, in the new subsections (4) and (5), it provides that, where the clause 97 power is used to split a European Community or international obligation that is expressed in quantitative terms so that part of it can be transferred to Scottish Office Ministers, the order will not be made unless they have been consulted. That is important. Secondly, new subsection (6) will ensure that the Secretary of State's powers of intervention under clause 54 can be used to ensure that the Scottish Ministers' share of a quantitative international obligation is met.

Examples of international obligations and obligations under European Community law that will fall within the scope of these amendments are likely to include EC

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quotas for livestock subsidies, and the United Kingdom's obligations under the Kyoto protocol on climate change and related Community law to achieve certain targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

All parts of the UK will be required to meet a fair proportion of such obligations, not least to ensure that unfair burdens are not placed upon business in one area compared to another. Where it is possible for the Scottish Ministers to contribute to the achievement of the obligation through the exercise of their powers, it is obviously right that they should be apportioned a share of the obligation. An order under clause 97 will enable that to be done. The order will be made by a Minister of the United Kingdom Government or by Her Majesty in Council on the advice of such a Minister, and will be subject to procedure at Westminster only.

The amendment sets out the procedure to be pursued. Consultation will be required, but it would be impossible to define at this stage what that will mean. A framework will be defined for such consultation. The final order will be processed in this House.

Dr. Fox: I am less reassured than I was at the beginning. This is an area where there could be litigation over devolution. We need certain information in this debate, not least the minimum definition of consultation that satisfies the legality of the Bill. The Minister says that there will be some form of consultation, but what will that mean? When the matter goes to court, as it surely will, what is the Government's legal advice on what constitutes minimum acceptable consultation under the terms of this part of the Bill?

Mr. McLeish: It is absurd to suggest that we can clarify and define that this evening. The changes that we are suggesting should be set against a background of important European and international obligations. It makes sense that a process should be established that will deal with quantitative obligations. That is the first major point. Obviously the Government will continue to work within the context of the Scotland Act, which I hope the measure will become after this week, and that of the Scottish Office. Our purpose will be to work out specifically what will be involved in consultation. I do not think that it would be appropriate this evening to try to speculate on what, in the Opposition's eyes, inadequacy would be.

Mr. Grieve: I appreciate that what consultation may or may not be is a difficult thing to define. However, it would be helpful if the Minister spelt out the reality of who calls the shots. United Kingdom Ministers will decide, after having consulted, how the quotas will be allocated, and that is the end of the matter. I am sure that he will confirm that to the House.

Mr. McLeish: First, we accept that there is a serious attempt by the Westminster Parliament to discuss obligations with the Holyrood Parliament. However, we have discussed before European Community and international obligations and the need for the Holyrood Parliament to be consistent in its application of these obligations. We are talking about a further situation where we have not qualitative but quantitative considerations. It seems elementary and straightforward that if there is a process of consultation to be defined, it will clearly flow,

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as a framework, from the amendment that we shall agree this evening and from the Bill when it is enacted and becomes law.

Mr. Letwin: I must ask the Minister to answer the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) put in an earlier intervention. Would United Kingdom Ministers, following consultation, lay down what the quotas are to be, and that would be the end of the matter?

Mr. McLeish: That is not what we have said. As for international obligations, Scotland will be able to go much further on the basis of the devolution settlement than Scottish Office Ministers can now. We are saying that we must take international obligations very seriously. Scotland is obliged to implement these obligations. That is not to say that Scotland will want to do something else.

First, we are talking of obligations that have been placed on the United Kingdom, so there must be a process to deal with them. That is elementary. Secondly, if that process is to work, there must be a basis upon which we consult. That is put into the Bill by the technical amendment that we are considering. If a debating point is being made, it will not wash. We know that international obligations are vital and we are ensuring that when we consider quotas, in respect of the environment or anything else, there will be proper discussions between the two Executives in proceeding to implement international obligations. I think that it is very straightforward.

Mr. Dalyell: I hardly expect Ministers to endorse the perspicacity of its choice of individual to do it, but the fact is that Heriot-Watt decided, wisely or unwisely, to ask me to give the Lothian lecture on Friday on the subject of devolution, science and technology and the environment. The Government Whip gives a wry smile but that is the position that I am in.

I am asking for some guidance. Am I wrong in thinking that at the end of the day these delicate questions of quotas--not only fish but carbon dioxide emissions--depend on what the Government must call good sense and good will, and that there is no legal framework on which to allocate responsibilities? We must all hope that the good will is to be found. Is there anything other than good will for deciding these matters?

Mr. McLeish: That is just not true. The 190 hours that we have spent dealing with the Bill have been about creating a legal framework that will enable us to debate and discuss issues and process and implement decisions that are applicable both to Westminster, if that be necessary, and Holyrood. I can reassure my hon. Friend. I shall write to him with the full back-up of the framework with which we are dealing. It is right to say--I shall make what I hope is the final point--that written into the Bill is consultation in respect of European and international obligations. From that will flow the framework that will make that consultation work.

Dr. Fox: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way once again. We agree that there must be a mechanism for dealing with quotas. We also agree that there has to be consultation. However, in the event of disagreement, who makes the final decision about the allocation of quotas within the United Kingdom? On whom will that legal responsibility and power actually fall?

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6.45 pm

Mr. McLeish: To repeat a point made earlier, I said that such matters would be dealt with in this House after due consultation.

The fact that is missing from Opposition arguments is that we need to have a fixed and agreed position on international and European Community obligations. That means, rightly so, the necessity for dialogue and consultation. Is it too radical to suggest that the Opposition might see that as sensible and straightforward? I repeat again that a framework is outlined in the Bill that will take us forward on these issues. There is nothing terribly surprising before us. However, the Opposition always want to try to recreate a bit of interest about matters that have been discussed during various stages in the other place and in this place. There is nothing dramatic before us this evening. We simply have a consultation process built into an existing clause.

Mr. Grieve: Just when one felt that the debate on the Bill was coming gently to its end, it is interesting how matters are reawakened and we return to the central principles and the difficulties in the operation of this proposed legislation. The Minister says that we are failing to understand the spirit behind the proposed legislation but I understand that spirit very well. I understand also its limitations. It is--[Interruption.] Does the Minister want me to give way to him?


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