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The coalition has advocated having easily understood legislation that protects public safety, whichever part of the United Kingdom one comes from. Public safety is endangered by complex firearms laws, and having a different regime for airguns in Scotland will increase the complexity of firearms laws. Devolving power over airguns will destroy the internal logic of firearms legislation as a reserve power and will fuel calls for the devolution of all firearms law, which I note the Bill specifically does not do; all the most serious firearms legislation is still reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament. There are already 36 offences that can be applied in relation to airgun misuse. The most recent legislation—the requirement

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in the Crime and Security Act 2010 to ensure that children do not have unrestricted access to airguns—came into effect only last month.

There is good evidence to suggest that increased powers, proper enforcement and education are behind the fall in airgun misuse that is most pronounced north of the border. The Government and Parliament are in the middle of a review of firearms legislation in the wake of Whitehaven, and Parliament is awaiting a response from the Home Office to the Select Committee on Home Affairs report on firearms. Devolving power over airguns in Scotland would be premature, would ignore the wider review and would mean having piecemeal legislation on firearms in response to outrage, which would damage effective legislation and enforcement. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has stated that

“in the ideal world, for the sake of lack of confusion…one set of legislation would be the best option”,

and that, given the number of airguns in circulation,

“in relation to cost and resources from a policing perspective, there would be a definitive impact”.

It has also said that regulating airguns in Scotland could be difficult and costly. It stated:

“Ideally, we would prefer them to come under the Firearms Act”—

that of 1968, to which the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West referred, and that of 1997, in particular, both of which are referred to in my amendment—

“so we don’t have two sets of rules.”

If a licensing system of air weapons was introduced, it would have a disproportionate effect on the operational capacity of the Scottish police forces. As I have said, they would not have the time or the manpower to deal with the issue properly. The new work load would require a serious displacement of staff from other more important fields such as crime prevention and detection. Any change to laws on airgun ownership proposed by the Scottish Government could criminalise an estimated 500,000 law-abiding airgun owners in Scotland overnight. The consequences of any change in controls over air weapons in Scotland would not be confined to Scotland, but no consultations have been launched to canvass the opinions of people in England and Wales who might be affected by such changes when they travel over the border. Any ban on air weapon ownership imposed by the Scottish Government would adversely affect trade and would lead to a significant bill for compensation for those who legitimately own air weapons. Is the Minister going to pay compensation to those people who suddenly find themselves with illegal weapons, or will the weapons simply become useless, in which case those people will lose out considerably?

7.15 pm

The absence of border controls between Scotland, England and Wales is likely to lead to non-compliance. If the Minister doubts that, let me cite an example. Since the 2004 English ban on self-contained air cartridge firearms, which are often called Brococks, of the 70,000 estimated to be in circulation, less than 10% have been registered, so there is widespread breaking of the law, but few people that I know of have been prosecuted because it simply is not possible to find them. Major restriction on air weapon ownership would make it

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impossible for Scotland to host the Commonwealth games or other major sporting events, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West pointed out.

Let me put my suggestions and alternatives to the Minister and then I will conclude. Education is having an impact. BASC, which I have mentioned, runs “young shots” days, and the Scottish Countryside Alliance offers next-generation days, at which BASC Scotland provides airgun and shotgun tuition to teach and remind many hundreds of youngsters about the safe and proper way to use airguns—something to which we would all subscribe. We should continue to encourage the police to circulate BASC’s airgun codes of practice, which already reach tens of thousands of people, and focus on enforcing existing law. We should also encourage people to try target shooting with airguns at clubs so that people of all ages can learn about the safe use of airguns in a controlled environment by qualified instructors and realise that airguns are capable of inflicting a lethal injury if misused.

I have to say to the Minister that I think the whole airgun issue has been driven by a tabloid press feeding frenzy on one or two incidents. I understand that, and the same thing would happen if those incidents occurred in England.

Jim McGovern: The hon. Gentleman mentions the tabloid press. I am sure he is aware that in the past week or so, the tabloid press have had a feeding frenzy about two football coaches in Glasgow falling out with each other, but there does not seem to have been the same feeding frenzy about an England football player taking an air weapon to a training ground and shooting someone.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I welcome that intervention. I take any infringement of airgun law very seriously indeed. Anyone who has an airgun, firearm or shotgun should use it safely and according to the law. I do not diminish incidents when they happen; I am merely saying that whether they happened in Scotland or England there would be the same tabloid coverage. I simply say, in all seriousness to all concerned, that I think we are better with one set of UK-wide firearms legislation, given that this is such a serious subject, so that everyone who uses a firearm of any sort, whether a shotgun, airgun or licensed firearm, knows exactly what the law is. Having different laws in the Principalities of the United Kingdom will lead to trouble.

Pete Wishart: Doing things differently in Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom is what we call devolution, and I say to the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) that we make no apologies for representing our constituencies and communities. If this is the legislation that our communities want, it is up to us as their elected Members to secure it.

I strongly welcome the clause and I congratulate the Calman parties on introducing it. It is one of the few examples in the Bill of a real and positive transfer of powers from the Scotland Office to Scottish Ministers, in recognition of the very significant and different issues in Scotland. The hon. Member for The Cotswolds mentioned the tragic incident in 2005 when young Andrew Morton lost his life at the hands of someone with an airgun. It was not the tabloid press but his parents who started a remarkable campaign to bring the issue to

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public attention, and they were supported in that cause by politicians, civic groups and everyone who took an interest in the subject.

Michael Connarty: I worry when a Scottish National party Member accepts the kind of smear on Scotland that the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) made. If we look at the press in England, we see there has been a succession of shootings and killings using handguns, not airguns, in and around the cities of England. The seriousness of the issue of deaths being caused by those carrying firearms is much greater in England than in Scotland, so let us not get things out of perspective.

Pete Wishart: I will come to the issue of firearms, which is central to our amendment, in order that we can, in Scotland, have responsibility for firearms, as well as for air weapons, which are, as we all acknowledge, a significant problem in our community. It is important that we have legislative responsibility for all such weapons in Scotland so that we can make our own laws, not just in regard to airguns, but in regard to all serious weapons.

A fantastic campaign led to calls for Scotland to secure legislative competence for airguns, which we are doing today. It led to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, writing to Jacqui Smith several years ago to ask that Scotland be considered as a pilot area for the licensing of airguns, and subsequently to a summit of all stakeholders to consider the problem in Scotland and propose a way of dealing with it. Many interesting issues were explored at that firearms summit. The Scottish Government went as far as publishing the necessary parliamentary order to transfer the power quickly so that they could start to deal with the issue in Scotland.

Why do we want legislative competence? I have explained why we think the situation in Scotland is different and why Scotland needs the power, but what we can do with it? This might satisfy the hon. Member for The Cotswolds about our intentions: it is not about trying to stop sporting events or getting in the way of the Commonwealth games. That is nonsense. They will go ahead. Many constituents of mine enjoy and participate in events with all manner of rifles and I have no problem with that.

The power would allow us to examine the issue seriously. The intention is to put together a Scottish firearms consultative panel involving all the key stakeholders to establish a range of views on the issue. One of its first tasks would be to develop and consider the merits of a pilot licensing scheme for air weapons. This would enable the Scottish Government to test the practicalities of air weapon licensing. It would also test whether air weapon licensing can operate effectively without wider reform of the firearms legislation. A pilot could take place in one or more areas in Scotland.

Our strong view, as I said to the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), is that air weapons are only part of the story when it comes to dangerous weapons in Scotland. At the firearms summit in 2008 there was clear agreement that the current firearms legislation is not fit for purpose. Something must be done to improve the situation. It needs to be comprehensively reviewed. I accept that a review is taking place and we will wait to see its conclusions, but

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we need action. If that cannot happen at UK level, and if the legislation is not satisfactory, we insist that firearms legislation control be handed to the Scottish Government so that we can make our own decisions about this critical issue.

Mr Davidson: The hon. Gentleman speaks about dangerous weapons. As he knows, more people are killed in Scotland by knives than by guns of any kind. Since its inception, the Scottish Parliament has had full control over knives, yet that problem has not been resolved. Will he clarify for me why he has such touching faith that simply transferring control over air weapons to Scotland will resolve the matter, when having full power over knives has not done so?

Pete Wishart: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the topic of knives. I am sure he would be the first to congratulate the Scottish Government on reducing the number of knife-related incidents in Scotland in the past few years. It is a remarkable achievement that in four years of SNP government, we have made real progress in reducing knife crime significantly.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: The hon. Gentleman seems to be arguing that he wants to go further than the Bill by devolving all firearms legislation to Scotland. The Scottish Bill Committee, in which he placed so much faith at the beginning of the proceedings, was split on the vote. Clearly, it is not the overwhelming opinion in Scotland that all firearms legislation ought to be devolved.

Pete Wishart: I accept that, but it is our strong view that all firearms legislation should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament because it would enable us to ensure that we could deal with all the issues relating to firearms.

David Mundell: It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman defined who “our” is. As he knows, the Scottish Government have tabled their own draft legislative consent motion in the Scottish Parliament, in which they agree with the clause and do not suggest that there should be any further devolution of powers in relation to air weapons.

Pete Wishart: As I said at the start of my remarks, we welcome the clause. It is a real transfer of power—one of the few transfers of powers in the Bill. Of course we support the clause. I have argued consistently that our intention is to improve and strengthen the Bill to deal with some important issues. If our amendment is accepted, we have an opportunity to deal not only with air weapons, but with firearms in their totality. Surely that is a better situation to be in than having responsibility for just one aspect.

David Mundell rose

Pete Wishart: I know that I will get the same sort of question again, but I will give way to the Minister.

David Mundell: I do not want to be picky, but in the LCM that the Scottish Government have lodged, they suggest a significant number of amendments to the Bill and state their views on re-reservation and so on, but they are clear that they support the clause as it stands.

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Pete Wishart: Indeed, we do support the clause as it stands. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is an astute follower of what happens in the Scottish Parliament, so he will have heard Kenny MacAskill and other colleagues saying on several occasions that what we require in Scotland is full control over all firearms legislation. That was the outcome of the summit held back in 2008 and that is what we seek to achieve this evening. We can achieve it. All we need to do is get the Committee to support us on amendment 3 this evening.

Michael Connarty: Will the hon. Gentleman explain how that would operate? I deal with firearms quite a lot in my constituency. I would like to hear what the difference would be if legislative control were transferred. The regime is very strictly run by the police, and the laws encompass everyone in the UK.

Pete Wishart: I am about to come to that. Let me explain first what we are trying to achieve with the amendment, and I will then deal with the hon. Gentleman’s wider point. He may intervene again if he feels that he is not getting a satisfactory response.

Our amendment deletes a small section that states that power over the control of “specially dangerous” weapons remains with the Secretary of State. It ensures that the Scottish Parliament will have the power to legislate for all air weapons, including the “specially dangerous” weapons that require a firearms certificate. The Bill as it stands includes a power for the Secretary of State to designate “specially dangerous” air weapons, which would then fall under the reserved regime that applies to all other firearms. In that case, the power would lie with the UK Government and Ministers and would not be subject to any approval from Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Parliament.

We therefore propose that the relevant power be exercised with the consent of the Scottish Parliament, even if it is not transferred. We believe that this is important because there are different and distinct issues relating to firearms in Scotland. I do not want to mention specifically all the tragedies that have taken place. We have only to recall Dunblane several years ago to recognise the very real issues that we have in Scotland involving firearms. It would be much more sensible for all firearms to be under one control in one central point. Scottish police forces have taken great interest in our plea and they would be interested in developing and exercising it.

We want to avoid complication. Our amendment would devolve legislative competence for all air weapons to the Scottish Parliament. I intend to press the amendment to a Division because it is important. This is one of the few opportunities that we will get to improve the Bill significantly and ensure that all weapons are included in it. It is a small measure designed to improve the Bill, as we said we would, and I urge the entire Committee to support it.

Cathy Jamieson: I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to this part of the debate. I hope it will be one based on the experience of representing an area that has had its fair share of difficulties with airguns, and of four years as the Justice Minister in Scotland, including at the time of the incident that has been referred to when a toddler lost his life in the east end of Glasgow as a result of an air weapon. Far from responding

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to any media frenzy, I hope that I was able as a politician to respond to the real tragedy for people in the local community, not least the child’s parents, who witnessed the event and had to deal with the consequences.

At that point, when there were demands for an immediate, all-out ban on air weapons, I took the view that we should take a considered approach that looked at the evidence and brought together the police and other organisations. At that stage I met a number of those organisations. I believed that it was best to deal with the situation not through a piecemeal approach, but by working with the UK Government to secure changes on sentencing and tightening the legislation, which we did, and with a view to looking at how a licensing regime could operate in Scotland in future. I welcome the clause that will give the Scottish Parliament the opportunity to do something about this.

7.30 pm

Let me make a few comments to clear up some misunderstandings about the types of areas where there have been incidents with air weapons. The hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) said that most of these incidents occur in the Strathclyde region. If he looks at a map of the Strathclyde region, he will see its size and scale and note that it takes in not only cities and large towns, but small towns, rural areas, remote rural areas, islands and everything in between. It is not entirely accurate to suggest that because the figures relate largely to Strathclyde it is not a problem for the rest of Scotland. Indeed, the opposite could be argued; the region takes up so much of Scotland that if it is a problem there, we can be pretty sure that it is a problem elsewhere.

The hon. Member for The Cotswolds also mentioned an incident that occurred only a couple of weeks ago in Auchinleck, which is in my constituency. Of course, not absolutely everything that appears in the tabloid press is 100% accurate. Only a few weeks ago there was some interesting reporting of a junior football match between Auchinleck Talbot and Cumnock Juniors that suggested that mounted police were involved in something akin to the charge of the Light Brigade. A constituent suggested to me that when the horses came on to the pitch it was more like dressage than a charge, so I understand that things can be exaggerated. However, in an era of mobile phones and 24-hour news, I also understand that any incident witnessed in a local community is likely to get into the public domain quickly, as people will report it to newspapers or online, perhaps on Facebook. Indeed, that is where many of my constituents first heard about the incident in Auchinleck.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Does the hon. Lady share my experience that the abuse of air weapons often involves not only the cases that make the newspapers, but the distressing circumstances of much-loved family pets being injured or killed when shot at? Those stories never make the headlines, but they nevertheless cause great distress in communities.

Cathy Jamieson: I absolutely agree. Of course, those are the types of incidents that local newspapers report far more regularly than national newspapers.

Information about the incident in Auchinleck quickly got into the public domain, some of which was not absolutely accurate. A number of school pupils were

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injured, albeit by what the hon. Member for The Cotswolds described as a toy BB gun—I have more to say on that in a moment—and required hospital treatment, so I hope that he is not suggesting that it is not necessary to have a serious look at how that gun got into the hands of the people who used it, what they were doing with it and why they became involved in such an incident. To be honest, I recognise where he is coming from in relation to his sporting and shooting interests, but I find it difficult to understand in any event why anyone living in an urban environment would require an air weapon in their home. It is time we looked at the issue, and I hope that that is something a licensing or other regime in Scotland could deal with.

I want to say something about firearms in general. I accept many of the points made by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), but I do not believe that at this stage we require responsibility for the whole range of firearms legislation to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. However, I do think that it is incumbent on the UK Government—perhaps the Minister will indicate what discussions he will have or has had with Home Office colleagues—to ensure that the provisions of the 1968 Act still stand the test of time. The worst possible thing that could happen is that we devolve something and discover subsequently that we will have to revisit it, for example if the definition of what constitutes an airgun is no longer seen to meet the needs of the legislation we are devolving.

I want to say something on BB guns, because I know that in many instances they are the weapons—I use the word “weapons” rather than “toys” because of the damage they can inflict—that cause exactly the problems that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) identified. I also believe that there is a gap in the legislation, because those weapons appear to be easily available, particularly to children and young people. The fact that they are not covered by legislation sends entirely the wrong message. I would be interested to hear whether the Minister will have discussions with his Home Office colleagues to take that forward.

I appreciate that other Members want to comment in the debate and so do not intend to speak for much longer. I feel that the time is right, and I have given the matter careful consideration because my initial response when Justice Minister, as I have said, was that we should not legislate or press for legislation in haste. It is four years since that time, and considerably longer since the incident in Easterhouse, so no one could accuse us of legislating in haste when we take these measures forward.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: The hon. Lady is making a cogent and reasonable case, and I am interested to hear what she has to say as a former Justice Minister. In the Andrew Morton case, as I said in my contribution, Mark Bonini was sentenced to life imprisonment, so what does she think it is about the current laws that is not working and needs to be modified?

Cathy Jamieson: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I say to him gently that the people of Easterhouse, and perhaps people more widely in Scotland, feel that legislation that would prevent someone like that from having an air weapon in their home in the middle of Easterhouse would be of assistance. That is why there is strong support in Scotland for a ban on air weapons.

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That is not the province of any particularly political party, but something that has united people across political organisations and local communities.

I said that it is not about legislating in haste. I believe that the time has come to look at how we can ensure that no other family goes through the same trauma as did the family in Easterhouse, but we will do that by having workable legislation. I end on a note of caution, because there are a number of areas where I think a great deal of further work needs to be done to ensure, for example, that the cross-border issues are manageable. We need to look at that in detail. It is entirely possible to look at exemptions for sporting activity, and I know from my previous experience in the Scottish Parliament that fruitful discussions were held, and I am sure continue to be held, on the transport and use of guns for sporting activities. This should not be the end of the matter. If the proposal is included and the Bill passed, it will be a stepping stone on a journey to ensure that, wherever possible, we avoid such incidents as have been described and are able to look at how best the existing firearms legislation throughout, importantly, the United Kingdom can be strengthened. In particular, I make the plea, which I shall repeat when the review reports, for the careful consideration of including in legislation BB guns and weapons like that to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands.

Mrs McGuire: I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson). For those colleagues who are not aware of her work as a Justice Minister, I hope that they will see what she managed to do when she held that difficult position and airguns became a major issue in Scotland. I acknowledge what she did.

I fear that the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), for whom many in the House have great respect, has taken a big hit tonight, because in prosecuting his case he fails to understand that the issue of air weapons is slightly different in Scotland. That is why we feel it important to allow the Scottish Parliament to regulate air weapons in Scotland. I, like the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), have a large rural constituency, and I have had no correspondence—letters or e-mails— at all on the issue, yet many in my constituency see air weapons as part of an introduction to country sports, and I fully recognise that.

I fear also that the hon. Member for The Cotswolds anticipates what a Scottish Parliament might do with such powers, but he has to recognise that it has Members with urban constituencies and many with rural constituencies, and they will take into account the balances that have to be struck to ensure that they do not undermine a way of life or an activity that is important to many communities in Scotland.

When the legislation banning handguns was passed in 1997, one argument was that it would undermine sporting activity. That has not happened, because in that legislation we ensured that there was a tight regime and that any sporting activity was conducted in a safe context. That is what we are asking for in the Bill before us, because the debate has thrown up some issues that could cause confusion if they are not attended to properly.

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I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun that we need to be clear about what we are doing in passing this element of the Bill. Indeed, on Second Reading, I asked the Minister whether he had consulted his colleagues in the Home Office to ensure that we had the definitions right and did not allow some air weapons to fall outside the legislation. I should still be interested to know what discussions he or his departmental colleagues have had with the Home Office to ensure that we get the definitions right.

I fully support the probing amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) has tabled, because the issue is not just about passing this element of the Bill, but about instilling in the House the confidence that, in passing the legislation, we have in place all the other elements that are required to make it an effective piece of devolution, while maintaining safety both north and south of the border and not allowing for any confusion, which might exist if we do not get the legislation right for those people who, as the Minister will know, cross the border regularly. I hope that he will deal with the specific issues that have been raised. This is an issue not of principle, but of detail, and I hope that he will be able to give us some assurances this evening.

7.45 pm

Michael Connarty: I approach the issue from a slightly different position. I support clause 11, because it is sensible to route such decisions to the Scottish Government, and amendments 17 and 18, which I hope the Government will take on board. Strangely, in a Committee of the whole House, Members do not necessarily receive from the Government the moderate responses that they would if they were in Committee off the Floor of the House and outwith the view of the television cameras. Often, Ministers see the sense in amendments and accept them, but this is a much more public arena, so we might not get from the Government Front Bencher tonight the sensible response that we would have had if we had been off the Floor of the House. That is one of the problems of this theatre, as some people regard the Chamber.

I have had to handle many matters to do with guns—to do with normal firearms—because there is quite a large shooting fraternity in my constituency. My constituency is mostly urban, but it has a rural hinterland where people shoot in clubs, to get rid of vermin, which is what farmers consider rabbits to be, and they go further north to shoot deer. It is an urban environment, and with reference to the remarks of my good Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson), strangely, where somebody lives does not necessarily determine whether it is right for them to have a weapon of any kind; the question is what they are going to use it for, whether it is properly secured and whether they are properly licensed, controlled and monitored by the police.

I hope that in this Bill we are giving to the Scottish Parliament the power to think about—in keeping the whole thing in perspective—what I would call regulation rather than prohibition. The hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) is partly concerned by the idea, whipped up by whomever, for whatever reasons and with the aid of whatever quality press, that we are talking about—and we do use the phrase—a ban on airguns in Scotland. I hope that that is not the case, and we are not talking about someone running such a campaign.

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The problem with prohibition, which was very well exhibited in the USA when they tried to ban alcoholic drink, is that the banned item just goes underground. In that situation, weapons would not only be used but traded, and unfortunately a large number of illicit users might misuse them, so I hope that the Scottish Government are sensibly thinking about a regulatory regime for air weapons. People say that a licensing scheme will cost so much money that it will be easier or, certainly, cheaper to introduce a ban, but I hope that in Scotland there is a sense of perspective, so that the issue, when it is transferred, will be about regulation, not prohibition.

That is not at all to diminish the serious effects of the deranged misuse of such weapons. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) was right to point out that a lot of damage is done by misuse, particularly to domestic animals in our communities. I am sure that it does not happen just in communities in Scotland, either, and that the hon. Member for The Cotswolds did not mean to smear the good name of urban communities in Scotland, because we know of the terrible catalogue of murders by people using guns—firearms, not airguns—in England. I am sure that airguns are misused a lot in communities in England.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: The hon. Gentleman has been a Member for a long time and, in fact, as long as I have. I did not in any way mean to smear the people of Scotland, as he has inferred from my remarks; that was not what I said at all. Does he, in turn, recognise that the vast majority of firearms offences and, indeed, airgun offences are carried out by unlicensed users? We can have in place whatever regime we like, but those offences will still occur from time to time.

Michael Connarty: I wish that we could expunge from the memories of the people of Scotland, particularly central Scotland, the fact that a licensed gun owner used guns that were then allowed to create the carnage at Dunblane. It is not wrong to say that by regulating and banning the possession of handguns we did something very positive. There are times when controls are needed. In the United States of America, people can buy what are basically machine guns over the counter; we cannot, thank goodness. This obviously has a lot to do with the person who misuses the weapon, but it is also about its availability in the first place.

I hope that whatever regime is introduced in Scotland will be strict. A regular firearm user who is a hunter recently came to see me about relicensing and could show me that they had a strongroom that was totally secure, which meant that access to their guns would be very difficult for anyone. Their licence was approved by the local police, and it was a very thorough operation. I do not know whether that operation could be replicated for airguns, but that would stop a lot of the illicit possession. It is much easier for the local community around the area to know that someone is misusing such a gun if they possess it without a licence, in a similar way as applies to the possession of ordinary guns. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun agrees with that.

I hope that the Minister is listening to the support for these small amendments, which are useful and helpful. With apologies to those who aspire to have this in Scotland because we are Scottish, there are some serious

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types of airguns that should be licensed universally on an all-UK basis. That will not undermine the ability of our communities to know that people who have unlicensed airguns can be immediately notified to the police to have those firearms removed.

David Mundell: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Benton.

I can assure the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) that nothing that the Government put forward this evening is in any way determined by the fact that these proceedings are televised. I hope that we are bringing forward a reasoned response to important issues that have been raised in the debate on these amendments.

I wanted, during this discussion, to clarify the SNP’s position, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will understand why. I think that the logical explanation is that we now have devolution in the SNP, with a London SNP that is proposing an amendment to clause 11 and an Edinburgh SNP that is in agreement with it as it stands. In those circumstances, I find it extremely odd that the hon. Gentleman suggested that he was going to push this matter to a Division. He will have seen the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee report, which, in paragraphs 142 to 144, confirms that it was a unanimous view of that Committee that clause 11 should be supported. It states:

“We note that this excludes those air rifles, air guns or air pistols which are of a type declared by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the 1968 Act to be ‘specially dangerous’. These particular weapons are already banned and we see no reason why this would change.”

The Committee went on unanimously to recommend support for clause 11.

Dr Whiteford: I have here a copy of the Scotland Bill Committee report, which came out last week. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at paragraph 142 and the footnote attached to it, he will see that in fact there was a division on that point and the view was not unanimous at all.

David Mundell: The hon. Lady will also be aware of the text of the LCM to be put forward by the Scottish Government. Her Scottish Parliament colleague, Fiona Hyslop, kindly sent it to me, listing several clauses to which the Scottish Government want changes made. Clause 11 is clearly stated not to be one of them.

Dr Whiteford: May I once again draw the Minister’s attention to paragraph 142 and footnote 28, which clearly show that two members of the Committee, Brian Adam and Tricia Marwick, caused a split on the issue? Will he acknowledge that for the record?

David Mundell: I acknowledge for the record that the vote took place, but I also point out to the hon. Lady annex A, where the minority views on the issues on which her colleagues felt particularly strongly are set out, clearly stating their disagreement.

Stewart Hosie: This is not good enough. The Minister said that the Bill Committee was unanimous, but the footnote makes it clear that it was not—there was a division and a split vote. Will he now take the opportunity to correct what he said so that the Committee is not inadvertently misled by his earlier remarks?

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David Mundell: I certainly would not want the Committee to be misled by anything that I said. I referred to the paragraphs in the Scotland Bill Committee report, where it is clear that the Committee formed the view that it did. It is also clear that the Scottish Government have come forward with an LCM that supports this clause as it stands.

Clause 11 devolves a power to the Scottish Parliament in relation to the regulation of air weapons. This would enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate, if it wished, to create a separate regulatory regime for air weapons in Scotland. Members will wish to note that, as I said, the Bill Committee in the Scottish Parliament accepted the provision, and we wait to see the outcome of the debate on its LCM and the LCM proposed by the Scottish Government.

After careful consideration, the Calman commission concluded that firearms law should not be devolved in full. It is generally acknowledged that the UK already has some of the toughest firearm controls in the world and that the current unified regime represents the best way of tackling the problems that exist in relation to armed crime. The commission did recommend devolving power over a specific category—air weapons. The Government agree with this recommendation. Air weapons are the type of guns most often involved in firearms offences, and given the nature of their misuse most frequently to cause criminal damage, as we have heard, they are best controlled at the level closest to those affected. Reference was made to the specifics of the recent incident in Auchinleck, which demonstrated and reaffirmed the continuing concern in Scotland about the use of air weapons.

Cathy Jamieson: Given the Minister’s comments, will he make it clear for the record that if the clause goes through and the Bill is passed, a future Scottish Parliament could, if it wished, ban air weapons completely?

David Mundell: The hon. Lady makes an important point that also relates to the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown). In fact, passing the clause will not in itself ban air weapons of the category defined in Scotland. That is a point that I want to make to my hon. Friend.

8 pm

Cathy Jamieson: I appreciate that, but the point I was trying to get at, although perhaps I did not make myself clear enough, was whether, if the Bill is passed, the Scottish Parliament could enact a complete ban on air weapons if it chose to do so.

David Mundell: The Scottish Parliament will be able to enact a complete ban on air weapons that fall within the definition. The important point for colleagues such as my hon. Friend is that those who do not agree with that course of action will be able to argue their case in the Scottish Parliament. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) set out a strong case on the basis of her considerable experience, respected views and strong beliefs. I felt that my hon. Friend also set out a strong view, although Opposition Members and indeed Members of my party in the Scottish Parliament might not subscribe to it. It is important that people who hold

7 Mar 2011 : Column 716

such views move the argument on to the Scottish Parliament if the clause is agreed to, because that is the appropriate place for the debate to take place.

Michael Connarty: Will the Minister clarify the other point that he made? If I understood him correctly, he said that the air weapons that are not covered by the Bill, which the SNP is trying to amend so that they have power over such weapons, are already banned. The only thing that could be done differently would be to unban them. The SNP is therefore asking for the power to unban weapons that are banned. Is that correct?

David Mundell: The hon. Gentleman makes a useful intervention. The division that took place in the Scotland Bill Committee in the Scottish Parliament, to which we have referred, was on exactly that point.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that it would make a nonsense of all firearms laws if the Scottish Parliament banned air weapons completely, because people would still have legitimate licences for serious firearms, while airguns would be banned? Does he agree that that would be a complete anomaly?

David Mundell: I do not accept that it is inevitable that the clause or the Bill will lead to an anomalous situation. As I have said, it is for those who advocate a ban to make their case and for those who believe that it would be a retrograde step to make theirs.

As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said of her time as Justice Minister—I am sure this is also the case with the current Justice Minister—the Scottish Government need to have a close working relationship with the Home Office and the Home Secretary to ensure that there is a coherent interlinking of the measures determined here and in Scotland, just as with any devolved matter. I assure the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mrs McGuire) that there have been discussions on all aspects of the Bill with the relevant Departments. The Secretary of State for Scotland has met the Home Secretary. We are clear that the clause will provide the Scottish Parliament with the powers it needs to deal with air weapons, as proposed by the Calman commission.

Mrs McGuire: Will there be a clear definition of what exactly is understood by “air weapons”? It is not the discussions that are important, but the definition and the clarity of the legislation.

David Mundell: I will come on to that later in my remarks. We are satisfied that the definition, as set out in this legislation, is appropriate to deal with the issues raised by the Calman commission.

Cathy Jamieson: Given my concern about BB guns, will the Minister answer the question that I posed about whether he has had any discussions with the Home Office on that matter? Is there a way to ensure that the Scottish Parliament can deal with that problem?

David Mundell: The hon. Lady has just under three weeks to raise that issue in the Scottish Parliament in her capacity as a Member of that Parliament. On a UK basis, I am happy to undertake to raise with the Home Secretary the concerns that she has set out this evening.

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Stewart Hosie: That answer was interesting. Presumably it means that BB weapons, such as those that have been described, are not covered by the legislation, in terms of being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Will the Minister confirm that that is the case?

David Mundell: My understanding is that the Scottish Parliament would at this stage be able to take forward its own proposals in relation to a gun or implement of that type. As I understand it, we are not at the stage of having a definition for the weapon in relation to the incident, but there are implements of that nature for which the Scottish Parliament already has the power to make provision, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): Will the Minister confirm that BB guns are covered by the 1968 Act?

David Mundell: There are definitions in the 1968 Act of certain weapons. A BB gun is not defined as a type of gun in that regard. It would be within the remit of the Scottish Parliament to make provisions in that regard as part of its ongoing responsibilities.

The clause will allow the Scottish Parliament the freedom to design its own controls over air weapons, while allowing the UK Government to retain a consistent regulatory framework across the UK for the most dangerous weapons. That will send the clear signal that the UK does not tolerate deadly weapons. As I have said, it is important to note that we are considering not what law on air weapons should apply in Scotland, but who should be responsible for taking that decision. The clause will not automatically create a separate regime in Scotland, but it will give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for that decision. Any consideration of an alternative regime will require the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and other stakeholders to listen to all the views represented in Scotland and, crucially, to work through any cross-border issues that arise.

Amendment 39 would ensure that the 1968 Act continues to apply until the Scottish Parliament puts a new regulatory regime in place.

The Temporary Chair (Mr Joe Benton): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but the background noise is getting too high and it is difficult to hear. I want to hear the Minister.

David Mundell: Thank you, Mr Benton.

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds that the control of air weapons in Scotland will not fall into a state of limbo. By devolving power, we are not disapplying the present regime, but simply allowing the Scottish Parliament to change the laws that currently apply to air weapons, should it so wish. Until such a time, the existing rules will apply. I therefore suggest to my hon. Friend that his amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment 17 would prevent the Scottish Parliament from putting any controls on air weapons intended for use in recognised international sporting competitions. The Government recognise the legitimacy and responsibility of those who take part in safe and undoubtedly well-regulated use of air weapons for target shooting purposes. We fully accept that individuals engaged in such activity are highly unlikely to misuse their weapons.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 718

I also understand concerns that devolved powers could be used in such a way as to prevent such competitions from taking place in Scotland and that that would affect disciplines in the Commonwealth games. Although I understand that the air pistols and air rifles used at that high level of competition are relatively expensive and built to high specification for their grip and accuracy, it would be difficult in practice to distinguish those intended for such use from other high-spec weapons that are used in lesser competitions or for hunting small game or for vermin control.

The Calman commission took the view, and the coalition Government agree, that there is a case for air weapons being controlled at the most local level. We must accept that the natural result of devolution is that separate rules may apply in different areas of the UK. Apart from the question of principle, it would be confusing and potentially difficult to split air weapons into different categories when there is no clear difference in muscle energy between a gun used for competition shooting at an international level and one used for lesser competitions or other sporting purposes.

Amendment 38 would restrict the power of the Scottish Parliament to air pistols and air rifles with a muzzle energy below 6 foot/lbs. That means that any air rifle that has a muzzle energy between 6 and 12 foot/lbs would not be subject to any new controls that the Scottish Parliament tried to introduce, but remain subject to the Firearms Act 1968. Most modern air rifles fall within that range. Anything above what is already declared to be “specially dangerous” by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the 1968 Act becomes subject to the requirement to hold and abide by a firearms certificate under section 1 and will not be devolved. It is right to retain a common framework across Great Britain for the most lethal weapons. As I have already said, I see no reason to try to split responsibility for the lower powered air weapons that we are devolving in the Bill. Calman did not recommend that, and it is wrong that the Scottish Parliament should not be able to exercise control over the majority of air rifles in use today.

Amendment 3 would omit the words in the exception to the reservation, which provides for the Home Secretary to retain powers for declaring air weapons “specially dangerous”. Those are subject to stricter controls because they need to be tackled on a consistent basis throughout the United Kingdom. The effect of declaring an air weapon “specially dangerous” is that it becomes subject to the requirement to hold and abide by a firearms certificate under section 1 of the 1968 Act. Currently, air pistols that generate a muzzle energy in excess of 6 foot/lbs and other air weapons that generate a muzzle energy in excess of 12 foot/lbs are declared to be specially dangerous for those purposes.

In essence, air weapons that are the subject of such rules or orders are classified as firearms under section 1 or prohibited weapons under section 5. Since the regulation of such firearms and prohibited weapons will remain reserved, as recommended by Calman, it follows that the power to decide what is a section 1 firearm or a prohibited weapon should also remain reserved.

Amendment 18 would address cross-border issues, which several hon. Members raised. We should remind ourselves that the Bill is simply devolving the power to regulate air weapons—not setting out the framework

7 Mar 2011 : Column 719

for regulation itself. Any discussions about future operational challenges are therefore largely hypothetical at this stage. How far any alternative regime will differ from that which applies in England and Wales has yet to be determined. As I said, I encourage my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds to try to ensure that the debate that he set out this evening moves to the Scottish Parliament, if it is to consider those matters. Of course I accept that there could well be differences in its approach to controls, but that is a natural consequence of devolution.

The Scottish Government will, of course, need to consider carefully how any new controls in Scotland will dovetail with the law in England and Wales, Europe and the rest of the world. I am sure that they will consult widely if they choose to change the law. If the Scottish Government introduced licensing for air weapons, they would need to consider what form of temporary licence a visitor from outside Scotland needed on or before entry. Any such temporary licence could not be checked if the visitor’s first port of call was England or Wales, so the Scottish Government would need to think about how they might enforce such a requirement.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: Will my right hon. Friend address the point that I made before he concludes? What will happen to those people who currently have air weapons that are perfectly legal but would become illegal if the Scottish Parliament changed the rules? Would they be compensated?

8.15 pm

David Mundell: It would be entirely for the Scottish Parliament to determine what regime it introduced if it created a restriction. It would not be a matter for the coalition Government. There was no suggestion of compensation from this Parliament or Government.

I recognise the strength of feeling of hon. Members of all parties on the issue. As I said, there are important implementation matters to be considered, alongside awareness raising and education to ensure that those who currently hold and use air weapons lawfully are not unwittingly affected. However, I would argue that these are questions for the Scottish Parliament. Today, we are considering whether to support the recommendation of the Calman commission, which the Government have included in the Bill and has the support of the Scottish Parliament Committee. I therefore urge hon. Members not to press their amendments to a vote.

Tom Greatrex: I am disappointed with some of the content of the Minister’s response. In respect of amendment 17, I understand that the Scottish Parliament and the SNP—whether the Edinburgh SNP or the London SNP—is included in a cross-party understanding of what is required to ensure that the Commonwealth games are properly protected. I am sure that that will endure.

I am more confident about that than on the Minister’s comments on amendment 18. The amendment is intended to be helpful to the UK Government, which has a responsibility to ensure cohesion, so that things do not slip through the net.

I was concerned with the Minister’s hesitation on BB guns in response to my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) and for

7 Mar 2011 : Column 720

East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell). They highlighted the point on definitions that I tried to make at Home Office questions earlier. I hope that he will reflect properly on that prior to Report, particularly in the light of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs McGuire).

I am conscious that a number of hon. Members are in the Chamber and I am sure they have other things to get on with this evening. I hope the Minister reflects on my proposals. If he is unable to change his mind, we may return to them on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 3, page 7, line 27, leave out from ‘1968’ to end of line 34.—(Pete Wishart.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 8, Noes 392.

Division No. 216]

[8.18 pm

AYES

Hosie, Stewart

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Robertson, Angus

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jonathan Edwards and

Hywel Williams

NOES

Abrahams, Debbie

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Ali, Rushanara

Amess, Mr David

Anderson, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Austin, Ian

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Balls, rh Ed

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Barwell, Gavin

Bayley, Hugh

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Bone, Mr Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Bryant, Chris

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crausby, Mr David

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davey, Mr Edward

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

De Piero, Gloria

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Docherty, Thomas

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Elliott, Julie

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Chris

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flint, rh Caroline

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francis, Dr Hywel

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Mr Roger

Gardiner, Barry

Garnier, Mr Edward

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gilmore, Sheila

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Damian

Greenwood, Lilian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Gummer, Ben

Gwynne, Andrew

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Harris, Mr Tom

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, Tristram

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Javid, Sajid

Johnson, Diana

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Marcus

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Kawczynski, Daniel

Keeley, Barbara

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Long, Naomi

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Lucas, Ian

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCann, Mr Michael

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McKechin, Ann

McVey, Esther

Mearns, Ian

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Andrew

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munn, Meg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nash, Pamela

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

O'Donnell, Fiona

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perkins, Toby

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pound, Stephen

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reeves, Rachel

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Sarwar, Anas

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Sheridan, Jim

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Twigg, Derek

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 721

7 Mar 2011 : Column 722

7 Mar 2011 : Column 723

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Tom Greatrex: On a point of order, Mr Benton. In exchanges on clause 7, the Minister responded to a comment from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) about so-called secret clauses and said that they had been placed on the website of the Advocate-General. We have subsequently sought to find those clauses on that website, but have been unable to locate them, so can you advise the Committee on how we might be able to do so?

The Temporary Chair (Mr Joe Benton): That is not really a point of order to which the Chair can respond, but I will allow the Minister to clarify the position.

David Mundell: I will e-mail the hon. Gentleman with the relevant details.

Stewart Hosie: Further to that point of order, Mr Benton. The Minister has generously offered to e-mail those secret amendments to the Front-Bench spokesman of the Labour party. I take it that he will want to communicate with the whole Committee, so placing the amendments in the Library would be more helpful.

David Mundell: I am happy to accede to that request, Mr Benton.

Clause 12

Insolvency

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Tom Greatrex: I support clause 12, but I have a couple of questions about its implications. As the Committee will be aware, this clause and attendant issues were the subject of detailed scrutiny by the Calman commission. It was corporate insolvency practitioners who pressed the case on that commission for introducing such a clause, which effectively re-reserves some aspects of corporate insolvency work.

The Scottish National party has responded with a blanket, knee-jerk reaction against the proposal, because it does not believe that powers should be re-reserved. The Labour party takes a different view. The Calman commission examined the range of powers as a whole, and determined which, in Scotland’s best interests, should be devolved and which should continue to be reserved. As we all know, it concluded that there should be some changes, but not too many. We accept that recommendation, and also the comments of the LCM Committee, but the

7 Mar 2011 : Column 724

Scottish Federation of Housing Associations—from which Members will no doubt have received a briefing—has expressed concern about the implications for registered social landlords. Housing policy is, of course, devolved.

I am aware that, as no registered social landlords have been affected yet, the position is theoretical. However, on 25 February the Secretary of State told the convenor of the LCM Committee that the Government did not intend to cause any difficulty relating to housing policy, that they would consider introducing section 104 orders when that was necessary and appropriate, and that discussions were taking place between the Scotland Office and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. May I ask the Minister to confirm his intentions, so that we can ensure that the federation’s concern is not used unduly as an excuse to oppose the clause merely because it re-reserves a power, and that it is being dealt with?

Dr Whiteford: I am glad to have an opportunity to respond to the amendment in a way that does not involve any sort of knee-jerk reaction. I intend to discuss the substance of the issue, which is the power to transfer power over all insolvency matters and all aspects of company liquidation back to the House of Commons. Currently, certain aspects are devolved.

When the Commission on Scottish Devolution examined the issue it identified some shortcomings in the existing set-up, notably a degree of overlap in responsibility between the rules relating to insolvency governed here and those governed in Holyrood, and a need for consistency across the United Kingdom. As many Members will know, the Calman commission responded to the concerns expressed by, in particular, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Law Society of Scotland by recommending that the United Kingdom’s Insolvency Service should be responsible for the rules to be applied by insolvency practitioners on both sides of the border, with the consent of the Scottish Parliament, and that the Scottish Parliament should retain its legislative competence over corporate insolvency.

Members will note that clause 12 goes way beyond the Calman recommendation. It would transfer powers over all aspects of company liquidation to the House of Commons. I urge the Committee to think very carefully about the clause, because I believe it is a rather blunt instrument which could have a number of undesirable and unintended consequences. I suspect that there is broad agreement in the Committee that the existing legislative framework pertaining to insolvency in Scotland could be strengthened and improved, but the real question is how we should go about it. Should we, as the clause suggests, simply re-reserve powers—which might be a quick and dirty way of dealing with the matter—or is there a better way of achieving the desired outcomes of consistency and efficiency?

I fear that clause 12 will create as many problems as it solves. We should bear in mind why the powers were devolved in the first place. The purpose was largely to take account of the distinctiveness of the Scottish legal system. When Professor George Gretton, the Scottish law commissioner and expert on insolvency, gave evidence to the Calman commission, he stated emphatically:

“Insolvency law has to fit in within the general corpus of the law, including such matters as the different court structures, the different systems of what Scots lawyers call diligence, the different systems of property law, and the law of voidable transactions.”

7 Mar 2011 : Column 725

He pointed out that the aspects of corporate insolvency law that had already been devolved by the Scotland Act were pretty much aligned with the areas that were peculiar to Scots law. The issue was thought through carefully in the first place, and I feel that we too should think carefully before unravelling the existing provisions without taking account of the wider implications.The chair of the Scottish Law Commission, Lord Drummond Young, has also expressed concern about the implications for the sensible reform of Scottish commercial law, should these powers be re-reserved.

As the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) has already pointed out, some of the deepest concerns about the consequences of the clause have been expressed by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, which has argued against it in the strongest possible terms. Members of that association own and manage 47% of Scotland’s affordable rented housing stock. They have an annual turnover of about £1 billion, and assets worth about £8 billion, so we should not take their concerns lightly. Housing is a fully devolved matter, and the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate on all aspects of housing policy. There have been a number of changes to housing policy since the advent of devolution, as well as significant policy developments. This has been a dynamic area of activity in the life of the Scottish Parliament.

Back in 2001, in an amendment to the Scotland Act 1998, responsibility for legislation relating to the insolvency of social landlords in Scotland was devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The amendment order was agreed unanimously, with cross-party support, in the Scottish Parliament, and the provision was passed in Westminster. The amendment enabled the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 to address the potential insolvency of registered social landlords. The 2010 Act established the Scottish housing regulator as an independent body to safeguard tenants’ interests and regulate the financial well-being and governance of registered social landlords.

Assessing the risk of insolvency among registered social landlords is an integral aspect of the existing regulatory regime. The 2010 Act also gave additional powers to the Scottish housing regulator to act quickly when a registered social landlord was facing insolvency, thereby safeguarding the interests of tenants and of the wider social landlords sector. There have been no cases of insolvency among Scottish registered social landlords in the past 40 years, but those representing the sector are not at all complacent, given the economic environment in which they are operating and the experiences that they have seen in other parts of the UK. They believe that there needs to be provision for a regulatory authority to deal with such matters in a timely and appropriate way, should cases of insolvency arise.

The regulatory framework that has been established in Scotland is designed to reduce the possibility of a social landlord becoming insolvent by preventing the situation from occurring. I am sure that Members will appreciate the importance of that, not only for tenants and social landlords but for the wider housing sector and other stakeholders. In particular, effective regulation is crucial to the ability of registered social landlords to access lending at competitive prices. The Council of Mortgage Lenders made that clear in its response to the 2007 consultation, and it is estimated that Scottish

7 Mar 2011 : Column 726

registered social landlords have saved about £70 million in the past five years by being able to access lower lending margins than are available in the commercial sector.

All this provides a practical illustration of why a strong regulatory framework is important, and why these matters were devolved in the first place. We really should not be rash enough to dismantle that framework. We must also bear in mind the fact that, if we pass clause 12, any future measures relating to the insolvency of registered social landlords would require legislation at Westminster, with all the difficulties of securing time that that involves. We need to recognise the practical benefits of devolution in this area, and not try to reinvent the wheel in our efforts to tidy up the loose ends in the wider insolvency provisions.

In housing, there is a strong case for preserving the coherence and alignment of the legislative policy making and regulatory frameworks. This would be broken if insolvency powers over registered social landlords were to be re-reserved. If the main reason for clause 12 is to tidy up insolvency provision from a UK point of view, it would be most regrettable if it were to make housing policy significantly more untidy in the process. I have a real concern that, in time, such a dislocation of policy from regulation could lead to delays, fragmentation and inappropriate decision making. It would be a retrograde step, and it would reverse recent progressive measures that have had the support of the Scottish Parliament right across the political spectrum.

I urge Members to look again at this matter. We need modernisation of the insolvency provisions; that will be very welcome. This is not the way to do it, however. There are many ways of doing it, and key to the process will be better inter-governmental working. I would also draw the House’s attention to the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee, which took these concerns seriously and recommended that legislative consent on this clause should be subject to certain provisions being drafted. We are not in a position to see those provisions today, so I would urge Members to oppose the clause in the interim, until we have a workable and effective solution before us.

8.45 pm

Michael Connarty: I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), who has both conflated a lot of issues that are of obvious concern to her party and not been quite open about what happened on the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee. We have heard what seems to be a strange argument: the SNP is for devolution unless it does not win the vote, because on a devolved committee the SNP moved an amendment and lost. Then the committee concluded that it was

“content to recommend to the Scottish Parliament that it should give its legislative consent to the provisions in the Scotland Bill relating to the re-reservation of insolvency, subject to provisions being drafted which will secure capacity for devolved legislation to affect the winding-up of Registered Social Landlords”.

On the one hand the hon. Lady is conflating lots of issues of obvious concern to her party, but on the other she is denying the democratic process when it goes against her in the devolved Parliament.

The third thing that the hon. Lady has done is make a case as though that case were not recognised by everyone, on all sides, in the evidence given to this Parliament.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 727

Hopefully, the Government are listening to that, and those on our Front Bench have stressed the same points. However, there is another fault that people show when trying to enthuse people—I think that the common phrase is “overegging the pudding”. There has not been a bankruptcy or insolvency of a registered social landlord in Scotland in 40 years, because of the way in which their arrangements are structured. I was active in the early days of the housing association movement as a leader of a council in Scotland. Across all the parties we created a structure that mainly secures registered social landlords from the problems experienced by those landlords who are thirsting for profit and therefore taking risks by borrowing and overextending themselves. Registered social landlords are to be commended because they tend not to get themselves into such situations, which is one of the reasons we set them up as we did.

Everyone takes seriously the point made by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, including those on our Front Bench and, I hope, the Government. Therefore, we should have the necessary safeguards to allow the points made by the SFHA to be taken on board. The SFHA is worried about the speed of action should there ever be a problem, and hopefully the final legislation will recognise that. However, we cannot conclude from this that we should therefore go against the recommendation of the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee and against common sense in having a system across the UK to address a problem that faces a lot of the corporate bodies and private organisations in the UK at the moment.

Dr Whiteford: This is an argument that has come directly from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, which is concerned about preventing such problems from occurring in the first place. It is the SFHA that is worried about the environment in which it currently operates. I know that we will shortly debate housing benefit in this House, but one of the SFHA’s concerns is that changes to housing benefit could have serious repercussions for cash flow. It is concerned that the financial position is not as secure as it might have been. That is why we have to take this issue seriously. I wish that I could share the hon. Gentleman’s optimism, but hoping that something might come forward is no way to go through the parliamentary process.

Michael Connarty: Allow me to recommend that optimism to the hon. Lady, who is new to the House. That optimism, which I have carried with me for 18 years, might stand her in good stead if she survives as long as I have in this place. They do say—I am quoting Gramsci, the socialist—that pessimism of the intellect should breed optimism of the will. She will certainly require that again and again if she sits on the SNP Benches in this place, I can tell her that.

I am deeply involved in fighting a case involving a bad insolvency in my constituency. In a sense, I have had to step over a line that I have drawn for myself since devolution, where I have had to say, “This is not a matter for me: I have a remit as a UK parliamentarian and my colleagues”—Members of the Scottish Parliament—“have a remit devolved to them.” I try to keep the two apart quite strictly. I try to encourage

7 Mar 2011 : Column 728

devolved organisations to write not to me but to my MSP colleagues, and to engage them properly in the process. I was involved in the scrutiny of bankruptcy in Scotland legislation here in Westminster between ’92 and ’97, and knew quite a lot about that. I therefore find the current environment frustrating, as many companies are facing serious challenges because of economic conditions and are having to go through the insolvency process.

Although the case I took on involves what is currently a devolved matter, I knew that re-reservation was being reconsidered, so my conscience was somewhat assuaged. The reality is that the insolvency process is not very pleasant. It is never pleasant for people to be bankrupted or to have their goods and chattels sold by a bankruptcy administrator who seems to be their friend until the moment when they sign the form, and who then turns out to be their enemy. In the case I am currently involved in, there is a house for sale. The insolvency administrator has allowed it to be vandalised, so quite a lot of the financial benefit to the creditors has been lost, and seems to be ignoring any offer from anyone to buy the property.

This issue should be a responsibility across all the Chambers, and I think it makes sense for the same rules to apply in Scotland as in the rest of the UK. The Bill’s provisions would bring them into line. We should all realise that it does not matter which side of the border people are living on or trading in, and that they must be dealt with properly by the insolvency laws and its practitioners. I have serious reservations about the way they are currently regulated. I look forward to this being returned to being a reserved matter so that I can fully engage in it.

David Mundell: Clause 12 implements the Calman commission recommendation that the UK Insolvency Service should be made responsible for laying down rules to be applied by insolvency practitioners on both sides of the border. The commission was persuaded by evidence from stakeholders, including the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, that a consistent approach to winding up would bring significant benefits to insolvency practitioners, creditors and others dealing with insolvent companies in both England and Wales and in Scotland. Many windings up involve groups of companies that operate on both sides of the border, and it will be more efficient in terms of both time and money if the same winding-up rules are applied to each insolvent company in the group, except where Scottish common law dictates otherwise.

As a result of the proposals, the reorganisation of groups of companies will be more efficient and lead to increased returns for creditors and shareholders. Group reorganisations may involve subsidiaries being wound up, and a common approach to winding-up rules would help reduce the cost and complexity of group restructuring where constituent companies operate in both Scotland and in England and Wales. In its evidence to the Calman commission, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, which regulates most of the insolvency operators working in Scotland, highlighted the benefit of consistent rules in promoting a more stable environment for corporate recovery and turnaround.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 729

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I am interested in what the Minister says about having the same rules across an economic single market. By that logic, is he arguing that this should be not a UK competence, but a European competence across the single market in which we all live?

David Mundell: I understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from, and his party’s position in relation to matters European, which, as I understand it, would have Scotland as a member of the euro, which I steadfastly disagree with.

The Law Society of Scotland reported in its evidence to the commission that, because of the increased number of insolvencies of groups of companies, practitioners have for a number of years been having difficulties where parts of the group are subject to the English rules and part to the Scottish rules. The Calman commission was persuaded that a consistent approach should be taken to winding up rules, and the UK Government agree. The commission recognised that its first option for implementing its recommendation—UK legislation followed by a legislative consent motion—might not be achievable, so it suggested primary legislation amending the devolution settlement as an alternative means of securing the desired effect. The first option would not fully and effectively transfer legislative and Executive competence in this area, and that could result in continuing divergences in the rules. That would frustrate the objective expressed by the Calman commission, which is why we are adopting the second of the commission’s options and re-reserving the winding up of business associations in its entirety.

Schedule 2 is introduced by clause 12. Having just one Parliament responsible for the rules relating to winding up in Scotland will aid flexibility and responsiveness, and address problems that have been reported by insolvency office holders when the law changed in one jurisdiction but not the other. In fact, we are seizing the opportunity that the Bill provides to deliver for Scotland the benefits of modernisation changes, some of which have been in place in England and Wales—and for the existing reserved insolvency procedures in Scotland—for nearly two years. These changes lift administrative burdens by allowing insolvency office holders to make full use of advances in information technology made over the past quarter of a century to communicate with creditors, thus reducing the costs—for the benefit of creditors.

The changes were made to reserved insolvency procedures in Scotland in 2009 and 2010 by a combination of legislative reform orders and subordinate legislation, but because of the division of responsibility for rules between the UK and Scottish Parliaments the changes could not at that time be extended to windings up taking place in Scotland. That is an example of some of the unnecessary and confusing divergences that have developed between the two jurisdictions about which the Calman commission expressed concern. We are taking steps to address that concern and thereby ensure that creditors of windings up taking place in Scotland are able to enjoy similar benefits to those provided for creditors of windings up in England and Wales.

I wish to deal specifically with the points raised about registered social landlords. In that context, I fully agreed with the appraisal of the hon. Member for Linlithgow

7 Mar 2011 : Column 730

and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) of the contribution of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford). I accept that she has legitimate concerns, which she raised in the Scottish Affairs Committee. As part of my appearance before that Committee, I undertook to meet representatives of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. I am pleased to report to this Committee, as I have done to the Scottish Affairs Committee, that that meeting has taken place and we were able to have a full discussion about these concerns.

The first and most important point is that no change to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 will be brought about by these measures. They will not change the provisions of that Act or the regime and regulator that were put in place; they will not change the insolvency processes envisaged by that Act. Part of the concern appeared to be about what happened if the insolvency procedures put in place by that Act did not work and had to be changed, and whether this House would be as responsive in dealing with those concerns as the Scottish Parliament. I know that the hon. Lady has a fundamental view about the balance between the former and the latter. However the experience of not just this Government, but the previous one, when the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) was in the Scotland Office and the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) was aiding her, suggests that the UK Government have demonstrated a willingness to support the legislative intentions of the Scottish Parliament. The Insolvency Service is held in particular regard for the measures it has brought forward to modernise insolvency practice in areas for which it has responsibility in Scotland and, indeed, in England and Wales. I am pleased to report that the Insolvency Service will meet the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations at the beginning of April to discuss any specific ongoing concerns that might still exist.

9 pm

Dr Whiteford: Will the Minister clarify exactly which issues remain outstanding with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations that necessitate a further meeting?

David Mundell: Following our meeting with the federation, I wrote extensively on the specific points that I had raised. My interpretation concerned whether Westminster would be as responsive as the Scottish Parliament if new issues arose. It is extremely important to take on board that this is about new issues and not about the adequacy of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010. That Act is in place, as are the arrangements for insolvency. The issue is whether, if the arrangements that have been put in place did not work and other arrangements had to be brought in, that could be done expeditiously in the House of Commons, and I believe it could. Indeed, one Opposition Member is the former distinguished Communities Minister of the Scottish Parliament and I cannot imagine that she would allow the Government to sit idly by while there were requests for changes to insolvency procedures in respect of registered social landlords in Scotland. That issue is not a basis for continuing concern, but we are committed to the dialogue involving the Insolvency Service and the federation.

It is important to re-emphasise the point that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk confirmed—that the Scottish Parliament’s current powers

7 Mar 2011 : Column 731

in relation to RSLs are not whole powers regarding RSL insolvency. They relate only to the winding up and only where it concerns a moratorium on the disposal and management of property held by an RSL, so the Scottish Parliament is not currently able to make provision for all aspects of the law on RSLs. The view of the Calman commission was that the ability to make provision in this area was fragmented and should be returned to Westminster to deal with that fragmentation. Clearly, there are Members who could never agree with the return of powers to Westminster, however sensible that might be, but I hope that on this occasion they will accept that the measure will benefit Scottish business and will not be detrimental to the RSL sector. On that basis, I hope that the Committee will not divide on clause 12.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The

Committee

divided:

Ayes 357, Noes 8.

Division No. 217]

[9.4 pm

AYES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Amess, Mr David

Anderson, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bayley, Hugh

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Bone, Mr Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Bryant, Chris

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davey, Mr Edward

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

De Piero, Gloria

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Docherty, Thomas

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Mr Roger

Gardiner, Barry

Garnier, Mr Edward

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gilmore, Sheila

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Damian

Greenwood, Lilian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Harris, Mr Tom

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendrick, Mark

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jamieson, Cathy

Javid, Sajid

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Marcus

Joyce, Eric

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Long, Naomi

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Lucas, Ian

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Mann, John

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCann, Mr Michael

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McClymont, Gregg

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McKechin, Ann

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munn, Meg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nash, Pamela

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

O'Donnell, Fiona

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reeves, Rachel

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Sheridan, Jim

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Twigg, Derek

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bill Wiggin and

Mr Philip Dunne

NOES

Hosie, Stewart

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Robertson, Angus

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Noes:

Jonathan Edwards and

Hywel Williams

Question accordingly agreed to.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 732

7 Mar 2011 : Column 733

7 Mar 2011 : Column 734

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Thomas Docherty: On a point of order, Mr Benton. You might not be aware, having been in the Chair, but apparently the Scottish nationalists have been tweeting tonight that Labour MPs voted not to devolve Government responsibility to the Scottish Parliament. I would be very grateful if you advised me what we as MPs can do to ensure that all SNP Members are aware of the actual facts, rather than just twittering.

The Temporary Chair (Mr Joe Benton: I have heard the point of order, but as it is not a procedural point I cannot rule on it. I am very sorry.

Schedule 2 agreed to.


Clause 13

Regulation of the health professions

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Tom Greatrex: I rise to support clause 13 on the regulation of health care professionals. In some ways, it falls into the same category as the one we described in relation to clause 12. The Calman commission looked at an issue, and in this instance it decided that the best interests of Scotland would be for the issue to be dealt with on a UK-wide basis. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) said that her response to the previous issue was not a knee-jerk one; I assume that she or one of her colleagues will now rise to explain that there will not be a knee-jerk response to this issue. There seems to be a pattern emerging: when the Calman commission recommends that things be done at a UK level, it must be wrong, and when it recommends that they be done at a devolved level, it must be right. I am afraid that that does not strike me as consistent with serious consideration of these issues.

Since the passage of the Scotland Act 1998, several new categories of health care professionals have come into existence. In some instances, their regulation has been less than complete, and when they require regulation, it is appropriate that it is done in the same place. That proposal has been supported by the Calman commission and by the Scotland Bill Committee, and it was reflected in the White Paper and in the draft Bill. The Health Professions Council, NHS Lothian and others have supported this as a sensible approach. In evidence to the Holyrood Bill Committee, the Health Professions Council observed that

“there is widespread consensus that a consistent UK-wide approach to the regulation of health professions is both appropriate and beneficial to professionals and the public.”

This is beneficial to the public and consistent for the professionals.

We support the clause instead of trying to find a reason to object to it simply because it reserves a power. That does not strike me as a sensible way of dealing with the issue. However, no doubt the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will now try to enlighten me.

Pete Wishart: I rise to oppose the clause. This is part 2 of the great Calman clawback. Presumably we are going to see an attempt by the Tory-led Government to take powers away from the Scottish Parliament, once again with Labour complicity and support.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 735

The Bill is characterised as one that gives powers away to the Scottish Parliament, but the previous clause and this clause demonstrate that one hand most definitely giveth, but the other most definitely taketh away. We oppose the clause, first, because it is anti-devolutionary, and secondly, and most importantly, because it is not necessary. The Scottish Parliament is totally in control of Scotland’s health services. Scottish Ministers are responsible to the Scottish Parliament and, in turn, to the Scottish people for the structure and delivery of health services. We have our own national health service in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has a direct interest in ensuring that Scotland’s particular needs and circumstances are taken into account in decisions made about the health service in Scotland, including the regulation of its work forces. Since 1999, we have developed a different NHS in Scotland—one based on the needs of the Scottish people.

Thomas Docherty: The hon. Gentleman talks about the regulation of work forces. Does he therefore believe that we should have a separate Health and Safety Executive for Scotland?

Pete Wishart: There would probably be a strong case for that. The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. In Scotland, all the regulations for the regulation of health professionals that existed before the 1998 Act came into force are continuing to be regulated at a UK level from the Department of Health. That includes nearly all doctors, nurses and dentists. The Scottish Government have a little toehold into regulation as regards important new professions that have been designed since the 1998 Act came into force—for example, operating department practitioners, dental nurses, dental technicians, orthodontic therapists, pharmacy technicians and practitioner psychologists. It is incredibly important that we do not lose that toehold.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): If the hon. Gentleman were consistent, he would be arguing that all the health professions should be regulated in Scotland. Surely it does not make sense for dentists to be regulated UK-wide and dental technicians to be regulated in Scotland, but for them all to be regulated in one place.

Pete Wishart: There is eminent logic in what the hon. Gentleman says, and there is very little of it that I could not support. Of course all these important health professionals should be regulated in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Reid rose

Pete Wishart: I will give the hon. Gentleman another shot.

Mr Reid: I said that the professions should all be regulated in one place. It is the hon. Gentleman who is saying that they should be regulated in different places.

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman confirms what I was saying. Of course they should all be regulated in one place, and that should be the Scottish Parliament. They should be under the direct control of Scottish

7 Mar 2011 : Column 736

Ministers, because we have a Scottish national health service—perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware of this—that has been designed and structured by Scottish Ministers who are accountable to the Scottish people.

Tom Greatrex: I do not wish to involve myself in the spat that has been entertaining us, but given that the hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that there is a different health service in Scotland that has different professions, will he explain which medical professions exist in Scotland that do not exist in England?

Pete Wishart: I am really pleased that the hon. Gentleman has asked that, because that is one of the things that I am most keen to come on to. If he is not satisfied by what I say, I ask him to come back on me, because I will list some very important professions that receive regulation from Scottish Ministers.

The most important point is that we have the toehold that I have described. All the UK devolved Administrations work together on these important issues to find innovative practices and new ways of doing things. That is important work. The current arrangements support and create dialogue and the sharing of ideas in reserved and devolved areas.

I come to the examples that the hon. Gentleman is so keen to hear about. The first is practitioner psychologists. The Department of Health originally wanted all such professionals to be educated to doctorate level. That would have posed major problems for the NHS in Scotland, where the majority of them are trained to masters level. That is why we need separate regulation. NHS Scotland has also piloted the position of physician assistant, which is an assistant to medical practitioners. Unlike their equivalents in England, such people can prescribe and work across a variety of roles in the Scottish NHS. Those are not the only two examples. Health care scientists were identified as a priority for regulation in the 2007 White Paper, in which the Department of Health proposed that the new education and training arrangements envisaged for England should also apply in Scotland, where there are different needs and a different educational system. Perhaps it has escaped the hon. Gentleman that as well as having an NHS in Scotland, we also have our own devolved education service. The training of many such professionals requires different regulation and different standards.

Mrs McGuire: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has explained exactly why Scotland needs different regulation from the rest of the United Kingdom. Will he tell the Committee how many health care scientists are practising in Scotland and who currently regulates them?

Pete Wishart: I am disappointed in the right hon. Lady, because she usually does better than that. She has clearly not been listening to what I have said. I have given three examples of new professions that have emerged since 1999 and that have benefited from separate regulation in Scotland, but there are more. Why would anyone want to re-regulate those professions, which have given such key benefits to the NHS in Scotland?

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): For the avoidance of doubt, will the hon. Gentleman clarify that it is his view that there are no health care scientists in England?

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Pete Wishart: Of course there are health care scientists in England, but they are trained differently. Scotland has different educational institutions that require different regulation from those in England. That is why we are saying that it is important that these responsibilities rest with Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament.

Mrs McGuire rose—

Pete Wishart: I have given way once to the right hon. Lady. I hope that she wants to make a new point.

Mrs McGuire: The hon. Gentleman has not answered my first intervention yet. [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) would just face the front and fold his arms, the world would be a better place. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) argued that people are trained differently in Scotland and should therefore be regulated separately. Health care professionals such as doctors and nurses come from other countries where they have been trained differently, but we still regulate them in the same way when they practise in this country. His argument is therefore specious.

Pete Wishart: Doctors who come to the NHS in the rest of the UK are subject to UK regulation. The NHS in Scotland is a different beast from that in the rest of the UK. That is the point. The NHS has been developing for the past 10 years and we have to recognise that.

Ann McKechin rose—

David Mowat rose—

Fiona O'Donnell rose—

Pete Wishart: I have a real choice here. I will give way to the shadow Minister.

Ann McKechin: Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether he is proposing a separate Scottish college of nursing, bearing in mind that the Royal College of Nursing certifies not only all nurses in the United Kingdom, but courses across the Commonwealth? Is he suggesting that Scottish nurses would not benefit from that level of certification?

9.30 pm

Pete Wishart: Perhaps I will stick to the amendment and put the case for continuing to leave the matter in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.

Fiona O'Donnell: I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman has got me animated about the issue because it seems so clear-cut. What would the position be for someone who trains as a health scientist in Scotland? Could they work in England or would they be regulated to work only in Scotland?

Pete Wishart: Reciprocal arrangements work across a variety of jurisdictions. Of course a health scientist trained in Scotland could work in England. We have a separate NHS, which has developed differently from the NHS in the rest of the UK in the past 10 years—that seems to have escaped hon. Members in the debate. It has new professions that require different regulation.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Pete Wishart: I have given way enough—I did not want to spend so much time on this, but I have been generous in giving way to several Labour Members. [Hon. Members: “Give way!”] Go on, then.

Ian Murray: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, even at the second attempt. Does he agree with the NHS in Lothian, which covers my constituency, and the Health Professions Council, which gave written evidence to Holyrood when the Scotland Bill Committee sat? It stated:

“We observe that there is a widespread consensus that a consistent UK-wide approach to the regulation of health professions is both appropriate and beneficial to professionals and the public.”

Why does the SNP differ from that approach?

Pete Wishart: I have no doubt that that is exactly what was said, but the only evidence taken by the Calman commission was from two royal colleges, which talked only about doctors.

Fiona O'Donnell rose—

Pete Wishart: I have already given way to the hon. Lady. The UK Department of Health evidence to the commission concluded:

“The Department of Health is not seeking any change to the reservation of the health professions in the Scotland Act 1998. In practice, both the Government and the devolved administration have always sought to apply a UK-wide framework to the regulation of health”.

It is not interested in re-reserving the issue, and I do not know why we are.

We have a different NHS in Scotland, and it is recognised that the implementation of some policies would have to be different in Scotland. Given that the provision is clearly anti-devolutionary and not in the interests of the NHS in Scotland, we will not support it, not because of any knee-jerk response but because of the examples that I have mentioned and that I hope have been accepted by the Committee. We have a toehold in regulation across the UK, we will not give it up lightly and we will oppose the clause.

Mr Reid: I am fully behind the Government on the clause. If we listened to the advice of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), we would end up in a confused position. If we joined him in the Lobby tonight, some health professions would be regulated UK-wide and others would be regulated in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman referred to some dental professions that would be regulated in Scotland while dentists would be regulated UK-wide. That is clearly an anomalous situation.

Mr MacNeil: Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the sky would fall in if we had an anomalous situation?

Mr Reid: We would end up with a much worse situation than the position whereby all professions were regulated UK-wide. The latter makes much more sense. I understood from the answers that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire gave to interventions that he wants all health care professions to be regulated separately in Scotland from the rest of the UK, although

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I note that the SNP has not tabled an amendment to that effect. It would lead to a strange situation, which would not benefit patients.

Mr Davidson: Surely the hon. Gentleman is in error to suggest that SNP Members did not articulate the fact that they want all the professions to be separately registered in Scotland. The spokesman said that he wanted doctors and dentists to be regulated separately in Scotland—even more evidence that he is a bad man.

Mr Reid: The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct—[hon. Members: “Oh!”] I did not say in what he was correct. He was correct when he said that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire stated that he wanted all professions regulated separately in Scotland. However, my point was that SNP Members have not tabled an amendment to that effect, which I suspect indicates that even they lack confidence in their case.

Fiona O'Donnell: Perhaps I could assist the hon. Gentleman in correcting my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson). He was wrong in omitting to point out that not only did the Lib Dems come sixth in Barnsley, they lost their deposit.

Mr Reid: I suspect that if I respond to that intervention, Mr Hoyle, you will rule me out of order.

To go back in order, if as the SNP suggests all health care professions—doctors, dentists and so on—are regulated separately in Scotland, it would add more cost and bureaucracy. It would also mean that a doctor who is qualified in Scotland and who wants to move to England would have to get separate qualifications, and vice versa. That would not benefit patients, and nor would it assist professional development.

Mr MacNeil rose—

Mr Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP) rose—

Thomas Docherty rose—

Mr Reid: The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) was first.

Mr MacNeil: Does the hon. Gentleman find it strange that a nation would want to regulate its own health professionals?

Mr Reid: The cures for diseases are the same throughout the world. The cure for measles in Scotland is not different from the cure in England.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr MacNeil: Is the hon. Gentleman making the case for worldwide regulation?

Mr Reid: I was giving way to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir).

Mr Weir: I am listening closely to the hon. Gentleman. Do we not already reciprocally recognise qualifications within the EU, and is it not the case that doctors can come from other parts of the EU to practise in the UK? Therefore, what is the problem with the recognition of Scottish qualifications and Scottish regulation?

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Mr Reid: Simply put, those arrangements would add a new layer of bureaucracy and waste time. Currently, a doctor can move from Scotland to England or vice versa with no problem whatever. The hon. Gentleman simply wants to put bureaucracy in the way.

Thomas Docherty: The hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) and the Minister, who represent the north-west of England and the south-west of Scotland respectively, are both in the Chamber. The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) will probably be aware that many of their constituents, and the constituents of Members on both sides of the House, will travel to use services on both sides of the border. Does he not agree that this debate is another example of the tabling of Mickey Mouse amendments to slow down the process by a party that will come worse than sixth in the forthcoming elections?

Mr Reid: I agree with the hon. Gentleman on cross-border traffic, which is important, but he gives SNP Members more credence than they deserve. They did not actually table an amendment—they did not put that amount of work in—and are simply opposing the Government. If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire had been consistent, he would have tabled a new clause to the effect that all health professions would be regulated separately in Scotland, but he did not bother to do so. He is simply opposing a sensible Government measure.

I meant to speak for only a minute or two, but all those interventions took up quite a lot of time. I conclude by reminding the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) that in the Henley by-election, the Labour party were fifth with a lower share of the vote than the Liberal Democrats got last week.

Mr Davidson: Is it appropriate at this point to mention that fifth is actually higher than sixth? I have been approached by a number of Members in the Lobby who have told me that the Liberal Democrats came sixth only because the SNP did not stand—

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think we both know that this is not quite a part of the clause 13 stand part debate. If what the hon. Gentleman is saying is not part of that, I call the Minister.

David Mundell: Thank you, Mr Hoyle, and welcome to this debate, which I can see you are already enjoying.

I did not intend to speak for long. I was looking forward to the erudite contribution of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) on why Antarctica should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, and how after 12 years of devolution, Antarctica has been discovered to be an important matter for which the Scottish Parliament must have responsibility.

Pete Wishart: I am also disappointed about Antarctica. However, is the Minister pleased that Antarctica will now join time and outer space in schedule 5 of the Scotland Act?

David Mundell: I think that schedule 5 of the Scotland Act is the appropriate place for Antarctica.

7 Mar 2011 : Column 741

Thomas Docherty: I would speculate that the reason the Scottish Parliament should have responsibility for Antarctica is that there are probably just as many Liberal Democrats in Antarctica as there are now in Scotland.

The Chairman: Order. We are dealing with health professions. We have not quite got to Antarctica yet, so I think we will ignore that part.

David Mundell: I accept your ruling, Mr Hoyle, although it is sometimes important to point out to Opposition members that for the first eight years of the Scottish Parliament there was a Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition.

Mr MacNeil: I would love to know why the Minister thinks that London rather than Edinburgh should have responsibility for whatever portion of Antarctica we are talking about. Is he ashamed of Scotland? Why should it be London? Why should Scotland not have that power? What is he ashamed of?

The Chairman: Order. We are discussing health. We are not discussing Antarctica.

David Mundell: We have learned tonight that London SNP has control over Edinburgh SNP, because it is the Westminster SNP Members who determine the response to the Scotland Bill, and not their colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, who have a completely different point of view on a number of these measures.

The Scotland Act 1998 provides that the regulation of certain health professions is a subject matter reserved to the Westminster Parliament. Clause 13 implements the Calman recommendation to reserve the regulation of all health professions, not just those specified in the Scotland Act. The clause re-reserves the regulation of health professions, and I can confirm that the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee has stated that it is not opposed to the re-reservation of powers to the UK Parliament. The Scottish Parliament will vote on the Scotland Bill on Thursday, and we await the outcome of that vote, as I have said previously. Further, devolution is not a one-way street, and the Scotland Bill, like Calman, is about delivering a balanced package that works for the people of Scotland, as the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) said. The Scotland Bill does just that: it updates the Scotland Act with a two-way transfer of powers.

Since Royal Assent of the Scotland Act, the regulation of any health professions not regulated by the legislation listed in section G2 of schedule 5 has been a matter that falls within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Westminster Parliament was, therefore, unable to introduce legislation to regulate such professions without such legislation also being approved by resolution of the Scottish Parliament. Although the Scottish Parliament has had the power to introduce for Scotland separate legislation in respect of the regulation of these health professions and any other health professions not included within section G2, it has chosen not to do so and instead has approved the use of the existing, reserved machinery orders made under section 60 of the Health Act 1999 to regulate new groups of health care professionals.

The Calman commission criticised this mixed economy and considered that the current situation was unnecessarily time-consuming and cumbersome owing to the need to obtain agreement from the Scottish Parliament. The

7 Mar 2011 : Column 742

commission also pointed out that the current mixed economy presented risks in terms of consistency that could lead to the fragmentation of standards across the UK and threaten the mobility of practitioners across all four countries, which is a point that Members have raised. The Government agree that there are risks with the current situation. The Calman commission also noted that the current processes gave the Scottish Parliament some influence over the regulation of reserved professions—for instance, where there are orders and regulations relating to the regulation of professions that cover both devolved and reserved matters. The commission also took the view that there should be a common approach to the regulation of the health professions.

The Government have accepted the arguments made by the Calman commission, so the clause re-reserves the regulation of all health care professions currently regulated by legislation. It also has the practical effect of reserving to the Westminster Parliament the subject matter of the regulation of any new health professions in the future.

Notwithstanding the reservation that the clause will deliver, the UK Government will continue to agree policy in relation to the regulation of the health professions with the Scottish Government. The UK Government, through the Department of Health in England, will continue to engage closely with officials in the Scottish Government—and, for that matter, with the Administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales—to develop future policy proposals concerning the regulation of health care professionals. This will ensure that the views of the Scottish people will be taken into consideration as we go forwards, but in a manner that will deliver a consistent approach to regulation that works for the whole of the UK.

Mr MacNeil: If in future a certain type of health profession develops that exists only in Scotland, is the Minister saying that regulation of it should be done in London?

David Mundell: The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was challenged to identify health professions that could exist only in Scotland—and failed to do so. The regulation will be dealt with in accordance with schedule 5. When we have had some identification of a health profession that could exist only in Scotland, we will be able to look at what the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have to say about it.

Mr MacNeil: It would be good practice in shaping and making law to prepare for any eventuality. I put a particular type of eventuality to the Minister, but he has not provided an answer. If there is a certain type of medical profession that exists only in Scotland, what will happen?

David Mundell: I am afraid that that represents the level of debate on re-reservation that we have witnessed tonight. The SNP’s opposition to re-reservation is based entirely on dogma and political viewpoints rather than on the interests of the people of Scotland. The Calman commission looked very closely at these issues and considered that the balance lay with re-reserving the powers. The Government support that re-reservation and nothing we have heard in this debate or the previous one—or, I suspect, that we would have heard if we had

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had a debate on Antarctica—would convince any Member who looked at these matters either objectively or with the interests of the people of Scotland at heart to support the SNP position. I hope that SNP Members will withdraw their frivolous opposition so that the Committee will not have to divide on the issue.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 340, Noes 8.

Division No. 218]

[9.47 pm

AYES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Ali, Rushanara

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bayley, Hugh

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blomfield, Paul

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bryant, Chris

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davey, Mr Edward

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Docherty, Thomas

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gilmore, Sheila

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendrick, Mark

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jamieson, Cathy

Javid, Sajid

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Long, Naomi

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Mann, John

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McClymont, Gregg

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McKechin, Ann

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Michael, rh Alun

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nash, Pamela

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

O'Donnell, Fiona

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Perkins, Toby

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Sheridan, Jim

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Smith, Angela

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Twigg, Derek

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bill Wiggin and

Mark Hunter

NOES

Hosie, Stewart

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Robertson, Angus

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Noes:

Hywel Williams and

Jonathan Edwards

Question accordingly agreed to.