The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend asks an important question. What we have done so far has focused on the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, where Britain has led the way in supplying tents and blankets and in flying

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people back home to Egypt, because we want to ensure that a bad humanitarian situation does not become a humanitarian crisis. His point about access to western Libya is vital. Humanitarian aid agencies do not have access to all areas; they absolutely should have, and the Libyan authorities should see to that straight away.

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): Leaving aside the juvenile and puerile crack from the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), the Prime Minister will know that there is a cross-party consensus on the need for a no-fly zone. Given that time is of the essence, on how many occasions has he personally spoken to President Obama and on how many occasions has the Foreign Secretary spoken to Secretary of State Clinton?

The Prime Minister: The Foreign Secretary has probably lost count of the number of times he has spoken to Secretary of State Clinton—they seem to have an almost permanent telephone special relationship. I spoke to President Obama about the situation last week, and I have had a number of conversations with him about it. Crucially, now that we have a National Security Council and a National Security Adviser—which slightly mirrors the Americans’ arrangements—our teams have almost daily conversations, so we are totally up to date with each other’s thinking. We want the US to focus on what is happening in Libya and on what we need to do as an international community.

Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North) (Con): In the light of recent events, has the time come to expand the stabilisation unit?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is now special stabilisation funding, which is under all sorts of pressure as there are so many unstable parts of the world. We looked at this in the defence review, but we should keep it under review.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): Is not the tragic situation in Japan made even more acute by the country’s demographic time bomb? Like many western European countries, Japan has an ageing population. It is in times of need that we find out what unites us rather than tears us apart, so will the Prime Minister assure me that in this darkest of hours Japan will see the full force of British friendship and generosity?

The Prime Minister: I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I spoke to our ambassador at lunchtime today, and he said that the way in which we respond will be very important to the Japanese people. Japan and Britain have a very strong, close relationship, and we should do everything we can to say, “We are with you at this time of need, and we are going to give you aid and help.” Japan is an enormously capable country with fantastic technology and ingenious people, so if anyone can cope with the appalling things that have been visited on them, they can. There is also room for friends to help as well.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Gaddafi winning would be the biggest nightmare for the Libyan people. Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister took the

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lead in calling for a no-fly zone, against the tide of public and media opinion. Now, however, the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council have supported a no-fly zone. Considering the difficulties in Europe on Friday, if similar difficulties were to occur in the UN, would my right hon. Friend be prepared to lead a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone?

The Prime Minister: As I have said, the conditions for a no-fly zone must include the existence of regional support. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have already made that point. There should also be a demonstrable need for it on the ground, and I think that that is becoming the case. There must also be a clear legal basis for it, and that is why we are pushing this matter at the UN and why we will, I hope, make persuasive arguments about why a new UN resolution should include lots of different measures and steps that we can take, including plans for a no-fly zone. I think that we should pursue that track.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I applaud the Prime Minister for the leadership he has shown during this crisis. May I draw his attention to the problems of getting support for a no-fly zone, and to the disgraceful use of mercenaries? Is this not the time to have a debate on broadening the scope of the United Nations’ capacity to act?

The Prime Minister: This has been a perennial debate about whether the UN should have more specific capacity to act. We can certainly have that debate. I would make the argument, which I also make about the European Union, that, in the end, all the institutions in the world depend on the political will of their members. What was required on Friday in Europe—and we got some of it—was the political will for Europe to respond to what is happening in its neighbourhood. The same applies to the UN, and I think that there is political will there. It is incredible that a Security Council resolution was passed so quickly, and we need to continue to show that political will so that we can ensure that Gaddafi fails.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): In the light of the recent demands by the protesters in Bahrain for the monarchy to step down and for the setting up of an Islamic republic similar to that of Iran, has the Prime Minister made any assessment of Iran’s involvement in the events in Bahrain?

The Prime Minister: A number of people have speculated about that. From the information that I have, I would say that the Bahrainis have made efforts, not just recently but over the years, to make a stronger civil society and to put in place some of the building blocks of democracy. Of course there is an argument about whether they should go further and faster, and I would urge that they respond to what is happening now with further reform rather than with repression.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give a categorical assurance to the nuclear power industry in the United Kingdom? What has happened in Japan is catastrophic, but there are distinct differences between the nuclear power industry here and that of Japan.

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The Prime Minister: The nuclear industry here in the UK has a strong safety record, but it must never be complacent, because the consequences of failure can be so dreadful. We have to be eternally vigilant. What has happened on the other side of the world following an earthquake and a tsunami might sound like something that we might not experience in the UK, but if there are lessons to learn about how reactors fail, whether they fail safe and all the rest of it, of course we should learn them.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): I know that my right hon. Friend has visited Rwanda. During the genocide there, the UN retreated and the world stood by as thousands of lives were lost. Will he reassure me that we will continue to show leadership on the Libyan situation, so that many lives will not be lost in the same way again?

The Prime Minister: The Rwandan example is a powerful one, partly because of the immense scale of the barbarous murder that took place. Anyone visiting that country, especially the memorial built on top of the graves of literally hundreds of thousands of people, will see it as a standing warning of the fact that genocide can take place in our world, even today.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): May I suggest a note of caution to my right hon. Friend about a no-fly zone? Our record of intervention in this region has not been good. Meanwhile, a no-fly zone could require Colonel Gaddafi’s forces to be attacked and poses the question of what happens if we fail.

The Prime Minister: Of course we have to show caution and forethought and we have to think through all the consequences of our action. As I have said, however, I think the consequences of inaction are going to be worse than taking the sort of steps that I have spoken about. Of course we must learn the lessons from other conflicts, but there is a real difference here: the Arab League, the Gulf Co-operation Council and the Libyan opposition are all saying, “Please will you help us in this one particular way?” Turning the Iraq example on its head, if we turned round and said, “No, there is no question of this at all”, opinion in the Arab world might well be, “You look after yourselves when it is about your perceived security, but when it is our future and our democracy, where are you when we need you?”

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to fire and rescue service officers from West Sussex, based in my constituency, who are now in Japan helping with the relief effort after the earthquake and tsunami—and, indeed, to all the emergency workers from this country who so readily go out to disaster areas around the world, whether it be Haiti, New Zealand or wherever?

The Prime Minister: I certainly take great pleasure in praising people in the emergency services from my hon. Friend’s constituency and, indeed, from around the whole country who, at the drop of a hat, jump on an aeroplane and head off to New Zealand, Haiti or Japan and probably witness some appalling and truly harrowing scenes, which they then have to deal with. This is more than just a gesture from Britain to Japan, as these are

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some of the most highly trained people in our country and are great experts in what they do. I am sure they will make a real difference.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the Prime Minister and the House.

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Points of Order

4.42 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Defence questions, the Secretary of State outlined the amount of money spent on Trident preparations. In a debate in Westminster Hall a couple of weeks ago, a Minister outlined the amount spent and said that it was custom and practice to spend that. I want to know how I can find out under what authority that money is spent when all the Ministers seem to be incapable of identifying a budget head that would demonstrate that they are lawfully allowed to spend a certain amount on preparations for building a new nuclear submarine.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My sense is that he will want to table further—I use that word advisedly, as I dare say he has already tabled them—parliamentary questions precisely to identify the point on which he wants a specific answer. I think that is probably about as much helpful advice as I can give today, but I see the Secretary of State for Defence in his place and he will have heard the concern expressed.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. With regard to the comments of the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), who is no longer in his place, I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to consult the Hansard record for Prime Minister’s Question Time two weeks ago, which shows that there has been a considerable shift in the position of Labour Members on no-fly zones.

Mr Speaker: No. That is not a point of order. I yield to none in admiration for the attendance record and level of commitment that the hon. Member has shown over the past 10 months, but he must not abuse the point of order procedure to score what some people might well think is a purely partisan point. That is very untoward. I am sure he will not do that again.

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Scotland Bill

[2nd Allocated Day]

Further considered in Committee

[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Clause 24

Taxation: introductory

4.45 pm

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I beg to move amendment 37, page 16, line 17, at end insert—

‘(f) Chapter 8 provides for an Order in Council to specify, as an additional devolved tax, a duty charged on fuel’.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Nigel Evans): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 58, page 16, line 17, at end insert—

‘(c) Chapter 5 provides for an Order in Council to specify, as an additional devolved tax, a tax charged on quarrying or mining,’.

Amendment 59, line 17, at end insert—

‘(d) Chapter 6 provides for an Order in Council to specify, as an additional devolved tax, a tax relating to air travel,’.

Amendment 60, line 17, at end insert—

‘(e) Chapter 7 provides for an Order in Council to specify, as an additional devolved tax, a tax charged on the profits of companies,’.

New clause 8—Duty on fuel

‘In Part 4A (as inserted by section 24), after Chapter 4 insert—

“Chapter 8

Duty on Fuel

80O Duty on fuel

The Secretary of State shall, within one month of the coming into force of section 80B of this Act, lay in accordance with Type A procedure as set out in Schedule 7 to this Act a draft Order in Council which specifies as an additional devolved tax a duty on fuel.”.’.

New clause 15—Scottish tax on quarrying or mining

‘In Part 4A of the 1998 Act (as inserted by section 24), after Chapter 4 (inserted by section 30) insert—

Chapter 5

Tax on quarrying or mining

80L Tax on quarrying or mining

The Secretary of State shall, within one month of the coming into force of section 80B of this Act, lay in accordance with Type A procedure as set out in Schedule 7 to this Act, a draft Order in Council which specifies as an additional devolved tax a tax charged on quarrying or mining.”.’.

New clause 16—Scottish tax on air travel

‘In Part 4A of the 1998 Act (as inserted by section 24), after Chapter 4 (inserted by section 30) insert—

Chapter 6

Tax on air travel

80M Tax on air travel

The Secretary of State shall, within one month of the coming into force of section 80B of this Act, lay in accordance with Type

14 Mar 2011 : Column 50

A procedure as set out in Schedule 7 to this Act, a draft Order in Council which specifies as an additional devolved tax a tax charged on air travel.”.’.

New clause 17—Scottish corporation tax

‘In Part 4A of the 1998 Act (as inserted by section 24), after Chapter 4 (inserted by section 30) insert—

Chapter 7

Tax on profits of companies

80N Tax on profits of companies

The Secretary of State shall, within one month of the coming into force of section 80B of this Act, lay in accordance with Type A procedure as set out in Schedule 7 to this Act, a draft Order in Council which specifies as an additional devolved tax a tax charged on the profits of companies.”.’.

Stewart Hosie: It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship on this second Committee day, Mr Evans. I look forward to what I hope will be a detailed and constructive debate. Given that a Treasury Minister is present, we may receive some intelligent, enlightening and instructive answers from the Government. I am intrigued to see the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, along with the Secretary of State and a junior Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Obviously the Government decided to bring in the big guns to do the difficult stuff. I am sure that that will help over the next two days.

There are four taxes that we wish to be devolved: corporation tax, fuel duty, the aggregates levy and air passenger duty. I shall touch on the first two briefly, and say a little more about the aggregates levy and air passenger duty later.

The Bill has been considered by the Committee in the Scottish Parliament. As Ministers know, there was much agreement on many matters, but there was disagreement on a number of others, including corporation tax. I think it useful for this Committee to understand the minority view of the Scottish Committee, which said:

“A major failing of the Scotland Bill is that it does not devolve control over corporation tax, one of the most important economic levers available to a Government pursuing economic growth. In many countries corporation tax has been the key component of a strategy to increase competitiveness and improve growth. Without this power, however, Scotland is missing out on the opportunity to give itself a competitive edge… This situation could soon be worsened by the UK Treasury's consideration of devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland. The CBI Northern Ireland has stated that cutting corporation tax in Northern Ireland would have a ‘transformational’ impact on the Northern Irish economy—giving an immediate boost to the profits of businesses and generating 90,000 jobs. With control over corporation tax Scotland would be in a position”

to do much the same. The very fact that the United Kingdom Government were taking a similar approach to corporation tax would justify that position, the Committee said.

As Scottish and other Members will know, a significant body of business opinion backs the devolution of corporation tax—

Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): Name him.

Stewart Hosie: I did not want to take up too much time by listing all the business people in annexe A of the Committee’s minority report, but I shall be happy to do so if the hon. Gentleman wishes.

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It is not simply the business community that has backed the devolution of corporation tax. A man who is hugely respected across the political divide in Scotland is Campbell Christie, the former leader of the Scottish Trades Union Congress. He has said:

“Higher growth will create jobs and generate more tax revenues to protect frontline public services, as well as repaying the high level of debt. To achieve this, Scotland's government need greater economic powers. But the Calman legislation does not meet this need.”

Fiona O’Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): I cannot let the hon. Gentleman get away with saying that the business community in Scotland supports the devolution of corporation tax. The Scottish Parliament Bill Committee report clearly states that there was not widespread support from that community.

Stewart Hosie: I did say that there was significant support in the business community, and I stand by that. The one thing I will not do in the next two days is engage in the politics of the Committee report. I want to consider its recommendations, and indeed identify proposals to which there was opposition. There is certainly significant business support for the devolution of corporation tax, which will enable the right decisions to be made to engender economic growth.

Mr Donohoe: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stewart Hosie: Not at the moment.

Campbell Christie also said:

“I firmly believe a Scottish government equipped to vary all taxes—including corporation tax… would be able to tackle the serious difficulties we face.

I do not want a tax regime to be imposed on Scotland that is utterly unfair and inadequate to meet the challenges we face. I hope Scotland’s politicians will join me in opposing these unfair proposals.”

I hope that Members throughout the House will note carefully what Campbell Christie said about the devolution of that tax.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): The hon. Gentleman says these proposals would be unfair, but one of the fairest things a Government can do when working with the business community is ensure that businesses have time to prepare for change. At present, when there is such a great priority on the economic strengthening of the nation, we need to work in a relationship of trust with the business community. Therefore, is it not unfair to suggest the introduction of this tax at this time?

Stewart Hosie: No, it is not, and if the hon. Lady looks at later amendments she will find that an entire series of them is related to the commencement powers, precisely to ensure that the right things are done at the right time, with the agreement of everybody involved. We will consider that, and I hope the hon. Lady is still present in the Chamber when we do so.

Two specific corporation tax issues relate directly to the Bill’s provisions. Existing provisions allow assigned revenue from a share of income tax—one large tax and a chunk from that, and lots of small measures. It would be much better if there was a balanced basket of taxes,

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so there was not an over-dependence on, and therefore a potential volatility from, having such a large amount of assigned revenue from a single tax. It would also be preferable if there was a personal tax and business taxes, so that they could be offset. It would also, of course, be preferable to remove the perverse disincentive under the Bill in respect of any future Scottish Government reducing income tax. Let us imagine that a Government decided that, for whatever reason, such a measure might be sensible to stimulate growth, but the Scottish Government took the hit in reduced revenue yield from income tax while the UK Government took the benefit of increased corporation tax. The effect of having only a large personal tax, and not a significant business tax, is that it unfairly and unnecessarily removes the number of economic or fiscal levers open to the Scottish Government. That is an important point.

Mr Donohoe: I had experience of the shipyards in the ’60s and ’70s, and we came upon something called transfer price fixing, whereby companies in Scotland—and elsewhere—would fiddle with the prices, such as those charged for gear boxes at Linwood. How would we overcome that in practice, because I can foresee exactly the same dangers arising under corporation tax?

Stewart Hosie: The hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting point, which relates to what the Government say. They believe in tax competition, as do I, but we must avoid unnecessary tax or regulatory arbitrage not just within the UK but between the UK and other countries. There is a balance to be struck between proper tax competition, which is legitimate and fair and proper to stimulate growth, and unnecessary changes simply to get a quick short-term fix in terms of the arbitrage, which would be unhelpful. That highlights the analogy with price fixing that the hon. Gentleman drew, and he is right to be conscious of that.

We rehearsed the arguments about fuel duty at some length in our debate on the Supply day motion a few weeks ago, so I do not intend to go into that in considerable detail, but I will go into it in some detail.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Is my hon. Friend aware that there is to be a photo call on fuel outside Westminster at 2.30 tomorrow afternoon involving the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor? Does that not remind my hon. Friend of a couple of sly foxes complaining there are no more chickens left in the coop?

Stewart Hosie: That is the sort of analogy a crofter from Barra would want to draw. When in opposition, the Liberal part of this Tory-led coalition promised a rural fuel derogation and the Conservative part promised a fuel duty regulator, and instead of being foxes round a chicken coop I would rather they both kept their promises and delivered on their pre-election commitments.

Mr MacNeil: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Stewart Hosie: Not at the moment, because I want to make a couple more points.

As we have said in previous debates, this issue is important because in Stornoway, in my hon. Friend’s constituency, fuel routinely costs £6.50 a gallon; in the

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Chief Secretary’s constituency diesel routinely costs £6.30 a gallon; in the major cities fuel costs more than £1.33 a litre—more than £6 a gallon; and I am told that Orkney recently had the £7 gallon. Hon. Members will know from the testimonials from the road haulage industry, the Freight Transport Association, FairFuelUK, taxi drivers, the Federation of Small Businesses and many others that businesses and communities are struggling with the inflationary effects of high fuel costs.

Mr MacNeil: Tomorrow, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor will complain about the price of fuel, but is not the point that for years and years as the price of fuel rose they said not a cheep? They were utterly blind to the troubles we had in the Western Isles when they were in government, but all of a sudden they want to say something .

Stewart Hosie: It was not that they were simply blind to it; members of the Labour party have said—I believe that their leader recently said this—that Labour found it difficult to implement a fuel duty regulator when they were in power. It was not so much that Labour found it difficult as it actively opposed every attempt to do it.

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stewart Hosie: Not at the moment.

Before I get too distracted, let me return to the Bill. The whole point about this amendment and our seeking the devolution of fuel duty powers is that we are not doing this for its own sake. Everyone understands the difficulty, as we have raised it many times, so this is about action. If the UK Government will not act, it is perfectly reasonable for the powers to be devolved so that a Scottish Government can act.

The two significant taxes dealt with in this first group are the aggregates levy and air passenger duty. In written evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee, Professor Iain McLean said:

“I am not persuaded by the UK Government’s reasons for rejecting Calman’s other two tax devolution proposals, namely Aggregates Levy and Air Passenger Duty. As Scottish Ministers have correctly pointed out, the litigation which is given as a reason for rejecting the transfer of Aggregates Levy was already in progress when Calman reported. If Scotland is willing to take any revenue risk arising from that litigation, it should be allowed to.”

Likewise, the fact that the UK government intends to convert air passenger duty into a ‘per plane’ duty argues for, not against, devolving it. The principle of subsidiarity implies that the Scottish Government, not the UK Government, should decide how to tax flights originating at small Highland or island airports. Airports don’t move. They are a very suitable devolved tax base.”

On aggregates duty, Professor McLean said:

“The shape of landfill tax is obviously complementary to that of (any successor to) Aggregates Levy.”

Landfill tax is being devolved, so the approach being taken here is rather illogical. It is also a key recommendation of the Scottish Parliament’s Committee that aggregates tax is devolved. The final Calman commission report said:

“The Commission has recommended that a number of “green taxes” (Air Passenger Duty, Landfill Tax and the Aggregates Levy) be devolved. As well as helping to increase the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament, control of these taxes

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will provide important policy levers in relation to environmental issues, allowing the Scottish Parliament and Government further options in determining policy.”

That makes perfect sense. Excluding two of the three taxes in that “green taxes” category not only makes a mockery of the Calman report, but, more importantly, decreases financial accountability and removes what Calman called “important policy levers”.

Mr Donohoe: I have campaigned on this issue for some time, as has the aviation group within the House. We have asked for this tax to be looked at because it is just ridiculous, given what is happening in Europe. If the tax were to have been devolved, the Government’s position was that it should be devolved, and there was to be a variant—one would presume that that is why the hon. Gentleman is asking for the tax—where would the money come from for any downward variation?

Stewart Hosie: I shall answer that when I come to air passenger duty, because it is a perfectly valid question. In general terms, if any Government chose to increase a tax they would see an increase in yield or behavioural change. Likewise, if they chose to decrease a tax they would either see a reduction in yield or behavioural change. In the case of corporation tax, all the evidence in country after country shows that when business taxes have come down, business tax yield has increased. Those judgments would need to be made depending on the tax, the decision and the part of the economic cycle.

5 pm

Let me carry on with aggregates tax before I get back to air passenger duty. Calman went on to describe the aggregates levy as

“a tax on the commercial extraction in the UK of rock, sand and gravel. Anyone who is responsible for commercially exploiting aggregate in the UK is liable, and the levy is based on weight”—

somewhere under £2 a tonne, and it

“came into effect in 2002, and was introduced to address, by taxation, the environmental costs associated with quarrying operations (noise, dust, visual intrusion”—

and so on. He went on:

“It is also intended to reduce demand for aggregate and encourage the use of alternative materials where possible.”

Those were sensible policy objectives. Calman said:

“The levy is usually applied to quarry operators, but it can be shifted to customers or users of the aggregate—the key distinction being where it is commercially exploited. The Aggregates Levy also applies to aggregates drawn from the seabed in UK territorial waters and to imports.

At the time of its introduction, it was envisaged that the Aggregates Levy would not represent a gain to the UK Exchequer because it would be offset by a 0.1% reduction to employer NICs and payments to devolved Aggregates Levy Sustainability Funds.”

A number of concessions to the levy already apply in Northern Ireland, so it could sensibly be argued that it already operates differently within different parts of the UK, which makes it much more bizarre that it is not being devolved at this time. Like landfill tax, the aggregates levy clearly accesses what is known as an immobile tax base—quarries tend not to move—hence the commission believed that it would be suitable for devolution. The SNP agrees and that is a firm recommendation of the Scottish Parliament Committee that considered this matter.

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Calman described air passenger duty in a similar manner. He said that it was

“an excise duty which is charged on the carriage, from a UK airport, of chargeable passengers on chargeable aircraft. It is paid by the aircraft operator…Presently, there are four rates of duty, depending on the destination of the flight and the class of travel”

starting at £10. He went on:

“The 2008 Pre-Budget Report announced reforms…from a two-distance band regime to a four-distance band regime, set at 2,000 mile intervals from London”

to the capitals of other countries. It

“is not payable on flights departing from airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands”,

which of course means that it is already functioning differently in one part of the UK from the rest, just like the aggregates levy, but:

“Flights from other areas of the UK to airports in this region are liable.”

In 2006-07, that brought in about £94 million—quite a limited amount. Calman went on:

“Assuming the devolution, and thus the potential application of different rates in Scotland than elsewhere…did not conflict with EU law, we think the devolution of APD would not be associated with administrative or economic inefficiencies and is therefore potentially achievable.”

The SNP agrees entirely. The argument against that is that the Government have APD under review and would not devolve it at the present time, and the Scottish Parliament Committee broadly shares that view and has recommended that it is devolved after the Government have completed their review. On the Scottish National party Benches, we prefer the opinion of Professor McLean, who said that

“the fact that the UK government intends to convert air passenger duty into a ‘per plane’ duty argues for, not against, devolving it.”

Our amendments and the new clauses associated with them lay out the mechanism to complete that devolution. They are very simple amendments and follow the process set out in schedule 7 to the Scotland Act 1998—

Fiona O'Donnell: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Stewart Hosie: I am just about to finish.

I commend the amendment to the House.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans. I shall address the Scottish National party Members’ amendments in a moment, but first let me make an observation about this part of the Bill, particularly clause 24. I strongly support the proposal to devolve substantial tax powers to the Scottish Parliament, making it responsible for raising approximately a third of its revenue. I shall not repeat the arguments I made on Second Reading, but the principle of the Scottish Parliament raising a good part of its revenue is vital. If that does not happen, the threat to the Union will be very real. To underline that point, let me quote from an e-mail that I received last night from a constituent, Mr Haig. It is worth repeating a couple of the points he expressed.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): He’s bored and is going to resign.

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Iain Stewart: Not that Mr Hague—this one is spelt Haig. I think the Foreign Secretary is rather preoccupied with matters elsewhere in the world.

My Mr Haig said, of the First Minister’s comments about free tertiary education in his interview on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday:

“What is it the Scots go without that we the English enjoy? More and more people I speak to are seething with this unfairness, especially in the current financial climate. How is it the Scots can afford this, and the English cannot? They even have an extra layer of government, and are able to afford that as well. Mr Stewart, English nationalism is going to rise slowly but surely over this. Your government cannot ignore this, otherwise you are going to create a fracture in the union, and the SNP’s most ardent supporters for independence are going to be the English.”

I agree. I am a Unionist and I want the Union to survive. The hon. Members for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) and for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) might support our doing nothing to increase support for their ultimate aim, but I do not.

Mr Russell Brown: I suggest that the hon. Gentleman responds to his constituent by making him fully aware of what the Scottish block grant is. If the Administration in Edinburgh decide to spend money in one fashion, there is no extra funding for it north of the border. In paying for one thing, we are sacrificing something else. Could that be a starting point for the hon. Gentleman?

Iain Stewart: I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says, but if the Scottish Parliament were responsible for raising more of its revenue, such arguments would diminish. I think it is right to give it the flexibility to raise additional revenue, if it so wishes, to fund extra programmes in Scotland from which my constituents south of the border may not benefit.

I agree with the incremental steps proposed in clause 24. We are for the first time starting to disaggregate the unitary tax system in the United Kingdom. That will have many consequences, some of which will be unforeseen, so we need to proceed with great care and attention to detail. I strongly welcome the proposal that we should not rush to set up a completely new system in one go. In particular, proposed new section 80B, which clause 24 introduces, contains a provision to allow the subsequent devolution of additional tax powers. That is the right way to go, rather than trying to devolve too much at this stage.

The hon. Member for Dundee East raised perfectly valid points about devolving other taxes, including air passenger duty, fuel duty and corporation tax, and we might well come around to doing that in the fullness of time. The Scottish Parliament’s response to the Bill noted that

“international experience does show some scope for differentiation of corporation tax,”

and we may get to that point. However, there are huge difficulties and intricacies that we must first consider about the operation of corporation tax. A later clause goes into some detail in defining a Scottish taxpayer for the purposes of the Bill and we would have to do something very similar for corporation tax. If a company were primarily located in Scotland but had its tax

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headquarters elsewhere, we would have to work out exactly which components of its income were liable for corporation tax.

Stewart Hosie: I have heard the hon. Gentleman make that argument before. He is being reasonable, and is making a reasoned case, but I disagree with him. However, does he accept the principle, in relation to the last point that he made, that tax liability would follow economic activity?

Iain Stewart: There will be huge consequences, some foreseen, but others unforeseen. We would need to undertake a huge amount of research to work out how to begin to disaggregate what has been a unitary UK tax system. I am not saying that it is impossible, or that it is something that we should not look at in future, but for the purposes of the Bill, I do not think that it is necessary, because clause 24 makes provision to look at devolving additional tax powers in future.

I am not going to say anything more at this point, because I want to deal in detail with other measures when we come on to the relevant clauses. Scottish National party Members have made a point about air passenger duty and landfill tax. I am perfectly content that measures are being negotiated at European level and elsewhere. Until they are resolved, it would be premature to include the devolution of those taxes in the Bill. I accept that the Calman view was that those matters should be devolved in the fullness of time, and I support that, but it is not necessary to include it at this point. I am therefore afraid that I cannot support the amendments if they are pressed to a vote.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): What a difference a week makes, as we continue our scrutiny of the Bill after our sitting last Monday. On Thursday, we witnessed a plenary debate in the Chamber at Holyrood on the recommendations in the report on the legislative consent motion. At the conclusion of the debate, there was a vote, and we witnessed a remarkable about-turn, as the Scottish National party supported the motion recommended in the majority report. After two years of sniping on the sidelines, it has joined the three other major parties in Scotland to support the Bill, and I genuinely welcome that.

Who is surprised at the pattern that has emerged yet again? This is a party that did not join the constitutional convention, but supported the devolution referendum. It came into power four years ago, promising that its top aim above all others was a referendum on independence, which was then dropped. The interesting allegations in Wikipedia about the First Minister’s comments on the party’s real aims, rather than all-out independence, add to the mix the overwhelming conclusion that it can talk about independence as much as it wants, but the SNP has never been on the true side of the people of Scotland, which is why it constantly has to play catch-up.

We have had an interesting debate about fiscal decentralisation.

Stewart Hosie: I am intrigued by the hon. Lady’s introductory remarks. They bear no relation to the amendments, but that should not surprise us.

There is indeed a very serious matter at stake. We have tabled an amendment to devolve the aggregates levy, which is a recommendation by the Select Committee

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on Scottish Affairs and by Calman, and will make the Bill better. If we can divide the Committees, will Labour join us?

Ann McKechin: We certainly support the principle of devolving the aggregates levy, but I wish to make sure that when we scrutinise the Bill we do so in the interests of the people of Scotland. There is genuine concern about court proceedings—interestingly, the hon. Gentleman failed to mention the comments by the British Aggregates Association in the report on the legislative consent motion, which said that it was sure that it was going to win the court case. Well, we will just have to see when that case comes to court. However, I would not want a Scottish Administration to be responsible for the risks that may result from a loss in that case, because that would not be in the interests of the Scottish taxpayer.

The report by the Holyrood Committee offers an exceptional exposition of the contentious remarks made over a number of years by the Scottish Government about why fiscal decentralisation would be to the benefit of the Scottish economy. We support the measures in the Bill, because we believe that they will make the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament more accountable to the taxpayer. They already benefit from uniquely broad spending powers, and the Bill rightly makes that power more accountable to the electorate. However, as the Committee knows, the Scottish Government argued prior to the establishment of the Committee at Holyrood that full fiscal decentralisation would grow the Scottish economy by an extra 1% per year. I refer hon. Members to paragraph 37 of that report, which states that

“the First Minister’s claim—of an additional 1% growth per year is an exaggerated version of what Professors Hughes Hallett and Scott have stated in their research.”

The Committee concluded that the evidential base for the statements made by Professors Hughes Hallett and Scott was, in its words, “remarkably weak” and that claims did not stand up to scrutiny. The Scottish Government did not provide any detail in the legislative consent motion.

5.15 pm

It is interesting that the Scottish National party is proposing two further taxes, fuel duty and corporation tax, and spent, on my reckoning, just under 20 minutes presenting what is apparently a full case explaining why those should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. That, again, follows a pattern. There are no costings, no specification, and no material explaining the practical implications for taxpayers, employers and Scotland’s financial sector, or the collection plans.

Fiona O'Donnell: Is my hon. Friend aware that when the Scottish Affairs Committee played good cop to the Holyrood Bill Committee’s bad cop, Professors Hughes Hallett and Scott went as far as to say that there was no real link between fiscal autonomy and economic growth, and that it is what is done with the powers that achieves growth?

Ann McKechin: My hon. Friend raises a pertinent point and one which even those who have argued for fiscal decentralisation admitted in Committee, including Ben Thomson from Reform Scotland, who had been a

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firm advocate of that policy. It was stated that all the evidence showed that it is the powers that are available and how they are used, and factors that are not purely fiscal, such as technological progress, investment in human capital and policies on education, that largely determine economic growth. Many of those powers are already with the Scottish Government.

Stewart Hosie: The hon. Lady asserted that no information had been provided. The Scottish Government provided an extraordinary amount of information, much of it at the request of the Scottish Affairs Committee, and all of which, I understand, is in the annex to the full report that it published, so that assertion was wrong.

Ann McKechin: The hon. Gentleman did not refer to any of that evidence in support of his amendments. He also did not refer—why would he; it would be too embarrassing—to the purpose of the national conversation, which the Scottish Government instructed, and the many position papers that civil servants were struggling to produce and make sense of, at considerable cost to the Scottish taxpayer at a time when the resources could have been much better used.

The hon. Gentleman provided us with no independent evidence or statistics showing how, if fuel duty is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, it will result in a benefit to the taxpayer. The matter is urgent and we require immediate action. That is why we have called on the Chancellor to reverse the Tory-led Government’s VAT rise immediately and to suspend the fuel duty rise due in April. That would provide immediate relief to taxpayers and to drivers right across Scotland. That is the best way we can help people with motoring costs now.

The Calman commission recommended that the power on aggregates be devolved. We support that principle. The Government have indicated their intention to devolve it, presumably on the assumption that the court case will be decided in the Government’s favour. I would welcome the Minister’s comments when he replies, to confirm that that is still the Government’s intention.

It would be helpful to the Committee to understand what progress has been made on the Government’s review of air passenger duty, when they think that review will be complete, when they expect to be able to devolve the tax and whether they still wish to maintain the scheduled date of 2015.

New clause 17 relates to corporation tax, which the Scottish Government have been talking about for a considerable time. The pertinent questions that we all must consider carefully are what exactly does the SNP wish to do with the proposed power, where does it see the revenue gain coming from, and on what evidence is that based. Do we follow the Irish example of having a super-low rate, or do we follow the view of the SNP in Edinburgh and have retail business levy proposals, which were very badly thought out and arbitrarily proposed without consultation? Are we a high-tax or low-tax nation? Do we believe in high-quality, good value public services, or do we want to have a lower public expenditure base?

Some people believe that Ireland is an exact example for Scotland, but I argue that it certainly is not. Sadly, we no longer have the arc of prosperity argument from

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the Scottish Government. Nevertheless, it is important to note that when Ireland introduced its policy it was in a very weak economic position and the loss of revenue was relatively small, but that would not be the case for Scotland, which has a well-developed economy. If corporation tax is devolved, EU state rules require that the devolved Administration must not be protected from the revenue consequences of their decision.

It is clear that cutting corporation tax rates will cut revenue, at a minimum for some years, as suggested in the Exchequer evidence to the Holyrood Committee:

“A 10% cut in corporation tax in Scotland might cost about £600 million per year for an indeterminate period.”

The hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) has not specified what figure his party proposes for corporation tax, what loss to the Exchequer will result and when his party believes it will recoup the loss. No one in Scotland will want us to vote on the issue until we have the pertinent answers.

The CBI and other business organisations have firmly stated that they are against differential rates within the UK. Many of the experts who gave evidence to the Committee in Holyrood noted that it would create economic distortions—the brass-plating of booking profits through Scotland by manipulating transfer pricing. I refer Members to paragraph 54 of the Holyrood Committee’s report, which states:

“The Committee does not believe that Scotland should seek to maximise its tax income by becoming a tax haven for companies operating elsewhere in the UK.”

I entirely agree with that approach.

Some evidence was given regarding the example of Switzerland, which has a highly federalised and separate tax system in its various cantons, but the Swiss example points out that that would tend to lead to lower public expenditure. Is this what the SNP proposes for Scotland? The people of Scotland need to know whether the answer is yes or no. Paragraph 494 of the Committee’s report states that Professor Anton Muscatelli noted that the Swiss example is one where there has been

“a shift from corporate taxation to personal income taxation.”

He also pointed out that that is a volatile tax.

Hon. Members will be aware of that volatility, which occurred after the 2007 fiscal crisis. The major payers of corporation tax in this country are our banks and financial institutions. They took a huge hit in 2007-08 and onwards. The cost for the Scottish public amounted to £10,000 for every man, women and child in Scotland. Where would those funds have come from if the Scottish Government had had to bear the entire cost? Is the SNP willing to allow Scottish public finances to take that level of risk? Is it saying that it wishes to see a cut in taxes on banks? Yes or no? We have had no answer to that either. Labour has argued that the banks are not paying an appropriate share towards deficit reduction in this country and has again called today for the bank levy to be increased in the Budget.

In paragraph 505 of the Holyrood report, Professor Iain McLean, whom the hon. Member for Dundee East quoted, points out that the Northern Ireland experience between 1920 and 1972, when corporation tax was devolved, was marked by widespread tax avoidance.

Many similar questions need to be asked, but at the end of the day the SNP has failed to say what it wants to do with the tax, what kind of tax regime it wants in

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Scotland and what it proposes in relation to bank taxes: is it for lower or higher taxes? Today, there has been the sound of deafening silence.

I have a number of questions to ask the Government about clause 24 itself. They have still to respond in detail to the Holyrood Committee’s report, and given the timing of next week’s Budget I am sure the Exchequer Secretary has many other things in his basket. Does he not agree that, given the considerable number of points that the report raises, we can anticipate at least some substantive amendments from the Government? If so, does he agree that, to ensure the maximum amount of democratic scrutiny, they should be tabled prior to Report, not simply left until the Bill arrives in the House of Lords?

Last week, the Government announced a consultation on the so-called Cadder clauses, which, as the Exchequer Secretary is aware, were not part of the original Calman commission. That consultation will continue until mid-May. Does he not agree again that it would be better to postpone Report until it is complete in order to allow us properly to scrutinise in the Commons this important legislative and constitutional reform?

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Michael Moore): On the issue of section 57(2) of the 1998 Act and the new clause or amendment that we will table to it, the hon. Lady is aware and has rightly highlighted that we are undertaking a consultation. I am happy to say to her in public what I have said privately: she and members of other parties are very welcome to have discussions with officials to ensure that Members are aware of how that thinking is developed. Just to reassure her, anything that is introduced in another place will come back here for proper and thorough scrutiny in due course.

Ann McKechin: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his remarks, but I would prefer to have the earliest possible scrutiny in the House of Commons, and I certainly hope that the House will be allowed at the very minimum a proper period in which to scrutinise properly any amendments or new clauses that are introduced in the House of Lords, because this is an important constitutional issue. It is technical, but it is important that this House has the time to debate and scrutinise it properly, and that the public and the electorate know that we have scrutinised it appropriately.

Do the Government agree with the Chartered Institute of Taxation that a mechanism might be required to ensure that any future Scottish provisions do not conflict, and to consider how future UK treaties and EU rules might affect the powers that we provide to Scotland in the Bill?

Proposed new section 80B of the 1998 Act appears to include the possibility of devolving aggregates levy and air passenger duty in future. Will the Government confirm that the Scottish Parliament has a formal standing in consenting to the Orders in Council referred to in that section? Air passenger duty might be considerably altered by the time the review is complete, and that could be of significance to the revenue that can be anticipated from Scotland. Air travel in Scotland has its own distinct features, particularly within Scotland itself and to the north and isles areas, so it is important that there is a full and proper discussion not only here in the Houses

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of Parliament, but in the Scottish Parliament, should there be any difference in the levy’s impact on the Exchequer.

On the calculation of the block grant, will the Government consider the Holyrood Committee’s proposals that the reduction in grant might be indexed to changes in the income tax base for the rest of the UK? Will they consider also the principle of a formal review of the grant reduction mechanism after 10 years, as the report recommends? If Ministers were able to give us an indication of the Government’s view, that would be helpful. What consideration have the Government given to the Holyrood Committee’s recommendation that the transition period for the income tax powers and the calculation of the block grant reduction be reduced or done away with in its entirety if, for example, the measures on the tax base are implemented? Finally, what consideration have the Government given to the recommendation that while a flat-rate structure should be adopted initially, this decision must be carefully evaluated as experience is gained of operating it? That simply follows from the experience of other devolved Administrations in dealing with income tax.

I would welcome the Minister’s comments. We will vote against any move by the SNP on fuel duty or corporation tax. Apart from that, we will support the Government’s clause.

5.30 pm

Mr Russell Brown: I did not intend to speak on the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie), but I feel that some issues need to be addressed, and I want to put to him one or two questions about fuel duty that I hope he will answer when he responds to the debate.

I am sure that no one in the Chamber does not recognise how difficult this issue has become for motorists in any part of the UK—particularly, I recognise, for those in the northern and western isles. However, when I look at the whole concept of devolving this additional tax on fuel duty, I wonder, in all honesty, whether the proposal would have been before us if fuel prices at the pumps were not so expensive. The hon. Gentleman has not given the slightest indication how this additional income would be used. More importantly, does he have even a ballpark figure on how much would be raised in additional taxation going to the Scottish Parliament? In a previous debate, he and I discussed the fuel duty stabiliser, of which he has been a great advocate. As I pointed out to him, his advocacy has not always been consistent, as there was one year when the SNP dropped the proposal. If he had his way and managed to get the amendment through, and the fuel duty charge became a devolved issue, would he totally abandon the whole concept of a fuel duty stabiliser?

I am not in favour of a fuel duty stabiliser, as I have made clear to constituents who have corresponded with me over recent weeks. I need only point to the campaign run by FairFuelUK, which has not given the slightest indication of what it thinks is a reasonable price for fuel and a reasonable level of duty. The wider public might think that this is a tremendous idea, but I warn the Committee, as I have warned my constituents, to be very careful. With the current fluctuating price of fuel—crude oil—and the way that the marketplace is at the moment, if a fuel duty stabiliser were suddenly introduced,

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we would end up with fuel pegged at a price that is unsustainable. People filling up their cars are already baulking at the whole concept of what they have to pay, and it is completely wrong to peg pump prices at a level that is unsustainable.

I will also briefly mention the rural fuel derogation, about which the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), who is not with us, might have some idea. I hope that the hon. Member for Dundee East will indicate the average mileage of someone living in the northern or the western isles. I recognise how painful it must be for people living in those localities to pay 10p or 15p per litre more than people on the mainland. However, the pain that such people suffer if they do 5,000 or 8,000 miles a year is comparable to that suffered by people in areas such as mine who have to do 15,000 or 20,000 miles a year, or more. Fuel prices are only one element of motoring costs. People in some places pay an astronomical price because of the miles that they have to cover. On an annual basis, people on the islands might not pay more; they might even pay less if they have a low mileage.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): The hon. Gentleman should not denigrate the fuel duty derogation in the way that he has. On large islands such as Mull and Islay, people do a significant mileage. The use of fuel is not just about the number of miles one drives; if one drives on single track roads and has to stop and start all the time, one uses a lot more fuel. The important thing is to get the derogation established on the islands and to make it workable. It can then be extended to remote parts of the mainland.

Mr Brown: The hon. Gentleman, like so many people, has merely used the terminology of significant mileage. We need clarification. Will somebody in this Committee please put figures on this? To a person on the islands, significant mileage may mean 5,000 or 6,000 miles. I appreciate how difficult it is for people living in remote, rural localities. However, we are talking about finance—something that I am not an expert on, as I am sure hon. Members know. We need to be clear in our minds about what we are doing here.

Mr Reid: Perhaps I can give the hon. Gentleman an indication of the distances involved. The distance from Fionnphort on Mull to the largest town on the island, Tobermory, is 50 miles. Somebody driving from Fionnphort to the largest town on the island and back therefore travels 100 miles.

Mr Brown: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s clarification of the distances that people travel. I believe that that will be important in the case that the Government are trying to make for a rural fuel derogation. I am not demeaning anyone, but saying that we need to be clear when discussing finance what the situation will be.

Those are the brief points that I wanted to make, and I hope that we can get clarification before we vote on these issues this evening.

Fiona O'Donnell: You may not have been present the last time I spoke on the Scotland Bill, Mr Walker, but it was my birthday. Every time I speak about the Scotland Bill, it feels like my birthday.

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In contrast to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie), the Bill offers real progress for Scotland and a recognition of all that has been achieved at Holyrood. At the same time, it offers the stability of remaining as part of the Union, which protects Scotland against some risks. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be disappointed by what he called the politics in the report of the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee. Perhaps, however, we should look at the history of how we have come to this point.

We had the Scottish constitutional convention and the Calman commission, both of which the hon. Gentleman’s party declined to be part of. Those things stand in sharp contrast to the SNP’s own record, because the national conversation, which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) spoke about at some length, has delivered nothing for the people of Scotland or the Scottish Parliament. That contrasts with what is on offer before the Committee today. Of course there is detail in the Bill that we need the Government to iron out, but even the Bill Committee in the Scottish Parliament—I believe it is the first time that a Committee of that type has been established, to give the Bill the scrutiny that it deserves and merits—has acknowledged that there is time to work on some of the details.

We could fair see how all puffed up with pride the hon. Gentleman was about all the amendments that he had brought before us, but I have to say that I found his arguments unconvincing. The SNP had all the time that Calman was discussing a way forward to come up with some detailed proposals, and it had some weeks of the Scotland Bill Committee’s work in Holyrood, yet what do we see? A single piece of paper containing its proposals for lasting change and progress in Scotland. I am afraid that is the sum total of its contribution.

Stewart Hosie: This is very confusing. I am not puffed up with pride; I am simply doing my job. We have tabled amendments on capital borrowing, revenue borrowing, corporation tax, fuel duty, air passenger duty, aggregates duty and previously on air weapons, road safety, the coastguard and other matters. I believe Labour’s substantive amendment would re-reserve some food labelling powers. That is not a hugely impressive record.

Fiona O'Donnell: I will withdraw my remark, then, and acknowledge the humility that we have now heard from the hon. Gentleman. Up until 20 February, however, we had seen none of the details of the SNP proposals. I have sometimes accused Conservative Members of shotgun legislation, and I have to level that accusation against him as well.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason why we do not need to table copious amendments is that we took part in the deliberations of the Calman commission and in all the consultation related to it?

Fiona O'Donnell: I absolutely agree. The whole process has been about consultation, and at some point the SNP has to admit that perhaps the reason why it has been outside the process, and why it had to file a minority report, is that it is just plain wrong on this

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issue. I genuinely appeal to SNP Members to pause and consider whether Unionist parties would really advance legislation that would put Scotland and the Union at risk.

I am tempted to think that spring has come to the House, because what we have heard today is not the sound of chickens but the sound of constitutional cuckoos. That is what SNP Members are. They allow others to do the work and build the nest, then they come and try to throw our eggs out.

Stewart Hosie: We are hearing some interesting analogies. Far from throwing the eggs or the chicks out of the nest, we are bringing to the table today the aggregates levy amendment recommended by the Committee in the Scottish Parliament and by Calman. We hope to divide the Committee on it today. Will the hon. Lady join us in backing it?

Fiona O'Donnell: My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North has answered that question. If the hon. Gentleman was not listening, or if he was not able to follow it, I am afraid I cannot take responsibility for that.

I will press on and talk about the SNP’s corporation tax proposals.

Pete Wishart: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Fiona O'Donnell: No, I would like to make some progress and actually talk about the amendments. [Hon. Members: “Come on!”] Oh, alright then. Don’t say I’m not kind.

Pete Wishart: I am trying to understand Labour’s position on our amendments. They are what the Scottish Bill Committee and Calman agreed on, and we are providing an opportunity to put them to the vote today. Is she honestly saying that she will not take the opportunity to support her own case?

Fiona O'Donnell: This may not be something that the hon. Gentleman is used to hearing, but I am going to tell him, “Not yet”. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North said, until we have a ruling and clarification, there is a risk to the Scottish Government. That does not mean withholding those powers for ever, but it is about protecting Scotland and looking out for its interests.

5.45 pm

On corporation tax, the hon. Member for Dundee East spoke about how he was in favour of tax competition. It appears that the only trend available to the Scottish National party is a downward one—a race to the bottom. We must therefore ask how they will make up the shortfall in revenue. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North spoke of an £600 million annual loss to the Scottish economy for an indeterminate period. What will the SNP cut to make up for that? Will it cut apprenticeships, health care or education? That question has not been answered.

We are also rather short on consultation, which is unsurprising given the SNP’s absence from the consultative process throughout the history of devolution. I will be interested to hear the hon. Member for Dundee East—that

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is not an invitation to intervene—address the question of exactly whom the SNP consulted in drawing up its proposals and how that took place. Consultation has been the Labour party’s approach, but I suspect that it has not been the SNP approach.

The Committee today has a clear choice on whether to adopt a set of proposals that offer progress and development for the Scottish Parliament and Government. I very much hope that after 5 May, the Scottish Government will take advantage of all the levers at their disposal that encourage and foster economic growth in Scotland. At no point in the Bill’s progress or the Calman commission has the case been made to advance the cause of full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. I respect the SNP position, and I like them to be up front and honest about it. The SNP wants independence—that is their one policy aim, even if it seemed not to talk about it quite so much over the weekend. The SNP would expose Scotland to those risks, whereas the Bill and the Calman Commission offer the opportunity for Scotland to have a mature Parliament that takes responsibility at the same time as spending money, and that will answer many of the criticisms in the e-mail from Mr Haig to the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart).

If the amendment is pressed to a Division, I hope the Committee makes the right decision and recognises the achievements of the Bill, and that it rejects the SNP’s minority report and fantastical proposals.

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker, and to respond to the debate on the proposed amendments to clause 24.

Pete Wishart: Just before the Minister starts, can he explain why a Treasury Minister is replying to the debate when the Bill was presented by the Scotland Office? I know there are plans to do away with the useless Scotland Office, with which the SNP agrees, but does this situation just add flames to that particular fire?

Mr Gauke: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has read the Command Paper, which was signed off by both the Secretary of State for Scotland and I. The debate relates to taxation, so it seems perfectly appropriate for a Treasury Minister to respond. Indeed, I warmly welcome the kind response I got from the hon. Gentleman’s colleague, the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie). It is very unusual for me to be described as a “big gun” but I am none the less grateful for those words. The Scotland Office and the Treasury have worked closely on the Bill, and in particular on the provisions that we are debating, and I am pleased to continue that co-ordination.

Stewart Hosie rose

Mr Gauke: I have never given way quite so often, but perhaps this is the way it works.

Stewart Hosie: The Minister suggests that he signed off the Command Paper with the Secretary of State for Scotland, but the names on it are those of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary of

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State for Scotland and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I am sure the Minister’s name is in there somewhere, but it would be good if he could tell us where.

Mr Gauke: I only wish I could have signed it off—such is my enthusiasm for the Command Paper. I work closely with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, however, and the point I made was that the Treasury signed off the Command Paper. We work happily as one Government, so I am pleased to be able to respond to the amendments—assuming I now have the chance to do so.

The Government’s proposals in the Bill facilitate the largest transfer of power from the United Kingdom to Scotland since the creation of the UK. By devolving stamp duty land tax and the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax, the Scottish Parliament will be able to raise approximately one third of its own budget, thereby significantly improving its financial accountability. Only last Thursday, the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Bill—121 in favour, three against and one abstention. To devolve additional taxes now, as the hon. Member for Dundee East argues, without the consent of the Scottish Parliament would be thoroughly inappropriate. There has been a long consultative process that both the UK Government and the Scottish Government and Parliament have been through, so to include the devolution of additional taxes now, on a whim, would not be the right course of action.

As well as those general points, there are some specific reasons why these taxes should not be devolved now in the Bill. I shall deal with those in a little detail. First, on amendment 37 and new clause 8, the Calman commission did not recommend that fuel duty be devolved. It concluded that different fuel duty rates would make artificial opportunities for cross-border shopping, creating economic distortions. More significantly, however, it highlighted the EU energy products directive that sets a principle of one rate of fuel duty per member state. Devolving fuel duty to the Scottish Parliament would require the EU to grant the UK a derogation from this directive, and the Calman commission acknowledged that it would be unlikely to be granted. A contrast can be drawn with the rural fuel discount derogation that the Government are pursuing.

Amendment 58 and new clause 15 relate to quarrying and mining. Although the Calman commission recommended devolving the aggregates levy, a tax on quarrying and mining is much wider and has not been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament. Even if the scope of the amendment was narrowed to devolve only aggregates extracted from the land, as Calman recommended, I would not accept it at this point. The aggregates levy is currently under legal challenge in the EU courts, and it would be reckless to devolve it while the challenge remains. I will not devolve a tax to the Scottish Parliament where there is any risk that it could subsequently be deemed to be illegal. That would be a substantial risk for the Scottish Parliament, which was the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin).

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister clarify how it is reckless? What is the element of risk involved were it to be transferred now to the Scottish Parliament?

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Mr Gauke: The risk is this: should it be found subsequently that the aggregates levy, as currently constituted, is not legal, the loss of that revenue would be immediate and significant for the Scottish Government. The hon. Member for Dundee East referred to the special rates of aggregates levy in Northern Ireland, and asked why they could not therefore be applied in Scotland. I make the point, however, that the Northern Ireland credit scheme was suspended on 1 December owing to the legal challenges at the European courts.

The confirmation sought by the hon. Member for Glasgow North is set out in the Command Paper accompanying the Bill: once the aggregates levy has overcome the legal challenge, we will devolve it to Scotland. Clause 24 enables that to happen.

Mr Davidson: I am genuinely unclear about the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I fail to see how the Scottish Government lose if the action results in the aggregates levy being ruled illegal. They do not have an aggregates levy at the moment. If it is transferred to them and then abolished, they will not have it either. Not losing something that they do not have already is not a deficiency. Would any additional risk result from the transfer of the aggregates levy?

Mr Gauke: The point is that there would be a reduction in the block grant, because the revenues from the aggregates levy would be going to the Scottish Government. If it was subsequently found that the aggregates levy in its current form was not legal, either we would have to readjust the block grant or the Scottish Government would have to bear the shortfall.

I shall move on to amendment 57 and new clause 16. The Calman commission recommended the devolution of the UK’s air passenger duty, not a general power to tax air travel, which is what the amendment seeks. The UK Government are exploring changes to their aviation tax system, as stated in last year’s June Budget, and will look at devolution of this tax base in that future work. However, it is not appropriate to devolve aviation tax until these changes have been explored, with any major changes subject to consultation, and a decision on the future of UK aviation tax made. To do otherwise would mean that the Scottish Parliament would have to plan the future of their new tax without the context of the UK version. I would also like to answer the point about the process of a new tax. Clause 24(6) provides that any new tax would need to be approved by the Scottish Parliament, under section 80B of the Scotland Act 1998. That would clearly apply in these circumstances.

I turn to amendment 60 and new clause 17. The Calman commission recommended that corporation tax not be devolved. The Scottish Parliament has endorsed this, although it wants to stay engaged in any future discussions on corporation tax devolution. Both the Calman commission and the Scottish Parliament recognised very good reasons why not to devolve the tax. First, the Calman commission concluded that if comparable levels of public services were to be maintained, the scope for substantive reductions in the rate of corporation tax in Scotland was limited, unless the Scottish Government are able to increase revenues from other sources. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North said, under European law there will have to be a reduction in the block grant commensurate with the value of the reduction in the corporation tax rate.

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Secondly, the commission also believed that the potential administrative impacts of such a move were significant. The creation of compliance costs to businesses operating on either side of the border, as well as the increased collection costs to the Government, would be undesirable in the present economic climate.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): The Exchequer Secretary might be aware that the Conservative economics commission in Wales has advocated the setting of corporation tax at a regional level. What does he say to that?

Mr Gauke: We will consider that. At the moment, however, we are concerned with Scotland and Wales in particular. There is a slightly different issue with Northern Ireland, where the Government have not yet made a decision on the devolution of corporation tax. Clearly, however, the circumstances in Northern Ireland are different: it does not have a land border with the rest of the UK, but does have one with a country that has a substantially lower rate of corporation tax.

There are a number of detailed questions about how some of these tax matters will be addressed. Various points arose from last week’s Scottish Parliament report, and we will respond to those in due course. However, I am keen that the joint exchequer committee—that is the title suggested by the Scottish Parliament, and it is one we are happy to take onboard—which will consider these matters in some detail, meets as soon as possible after the Scottish elections and the formation of a Scottish Government. We can then discuss some of these matters and provide further details in the future.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): Can the Minister assure me, as a Member representing a seat on the English side of the border, that such reviews will take into consideration the effects that any tax powers may have on the English side of the border, as well as the Scottish side?

6 pm

Mr Gauke: It would be fair to point out that the Calman commission took into account some of those issues, because—to take the examples of corporation tax or fuel duty—there could be significant issues with full devolution, and we will of course take into account the interests of all parts of the country.

Pete Wishart: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Gauke: I am hoping to wind up soon, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Pete Wishart: Perhaps the Minister could answer the question—a question that the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) also raised—about the process in which we are now involved. When are we likely to see amendments that reflect the will of the Scottish Parliament’s Committee? Will they be introduced in the House of Lords? Like the hon. Lady, I would find that unacceptable: such amendments have to be debated in this place. When will we be able to debate them in this House?

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Mr Gauke: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland addressed many of those issues earlier, but let me make this point about the devolution of tax. It is important to have the consent of the Scottish Parliament, which is why we are proceeding as we are, which is not the approach of the Scottish National party. Neither this Government nor, I believe, the vast majority of hon. Members would seriously consider making amendments that affected the powers of the Scottish Parliament without its consent. However, as has been said, devolution is a process, not an event. This is an enabling Bill. The Scottish Parliament can ask for additional tax powers over the course of time and have them duly considered. Clause 24 gives the power to add new devolved taxes. The Command Paper accompanying this Bill sets out the process for taking forward the devolution of the aggregates levy and air passenger duty, but any future devolution must happen with the wholehearted consent of the Scottish Parliament, not just following the proposals of a minority of Members of this House. Given that, I ask the hon. Member for Dundee East to withdraw his amendment.

Stewart Hosie: Let me respond briefly to some of the key points raised. The hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown) talked about a fuel duty regulator, as he has done on a number of occasions. He knows very well the difficulties faced by hauliers and others in the south-west of Scotland. He asked whether I would give up on the proposal in this place if it were delivered in Scotland. I said in my speech that if the UK Government would not deliver it, the powers should be devolved, so that the Scottish Government could act. I simply want fair play on fuel. It is important that the power should be devolved, so that the Scottish Government can act if the UK Government will not.

The hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) made an interesting speech, as she always does. She valiantly tried to defend the lack of Labour attempts to strengthen the Bill. She spoke in favour of Calman, but rejected one of the key Calman recommendations, which was the aggregates levy proposal. The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) also made an interesting speech. She raised the notion of—I think—a £600 million loss every year if there was a 10p cut in corporation tax. No one has ever suggested an immediate 10p cut in corporation tax. That was a straw man, set up to be knocked down, and bears no relation to the policy of any party in this House.

Ann McKechin: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could clarify what rate of corporation tax he would propose if the power was devolved.

Stewart Hosie: I would like it cut over a number of years, taking the benefit of the announcement effect and taking advantage of the experience of other countries, where, with modest changes on a downward spiral in corporation tax, the business tax yield has increased. That is very sensible and is, I think, what the current Government have in mind.

Let me turn briefly to what the Minister said. He said that the proposal would provide around one third of Scotland’s budget. That is similar to the figure of 35% proposed by the Calman commission, but that included all the revenue proposed by Calman, much of which is

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not in the Scotland Bill. That figure was also calculated on a baseline that excluded capital expenditure from the Scottish budget. The Minister will find that the actual percentage share is considerably lower. He said that the Government would never seek to devolve taxes on a whim. Let me assure him that we would certainly not want to do that either. We would want to devolve taxes only to provide balance and a basket of taxes to mitigate any volatility, which may well arise when the bulk of our assigned revenue comes from a single, personal tax.

I am not convinced by many of the arguments I have heard. There is a very strong case indeed for trying to push forward with the Calman proposals, particularly on the aggregates levy, so I intend to divide the Committee on amendment 58, but for now I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 58, page 16, line 17, at end insert—

‘(c) Chapter 5 provides for an Order in Council to specify, as an additional devolved tax, a tax charged on quarrying or mining,’.—(Stewart Hosie .)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 8, Noes 292.

Division No. 222]

[6.6 pm


Hosie, Stewart

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Robertson, Angus

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Tellers for the Ayes:

Pete Wishart and

Jonathan Edwards


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bagshawe, Ms Louise

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Mr Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

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

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

14 Mar 2011 : Column 72

14 Mar 2011 : Column 73

Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill .

Clause 25

Amendments relating to the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs

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

Ann McKechin: I should like to ask the Minister a couple of questions about this clause, which is technical in nature and will enable HMRC to disclose information to the Scottish Ministers. Given the terms of the Holyrood Committee’s report on the appointment of an additional accounting officer responsible for Scottish income tax, and the duties and accountabilities of HMRC, should that proposal be put on a statutory footing? That question was raised by the Committee, and I should be grateful for the Minister’s response.

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Will the Government also consider the Committee’s recommendations that the work of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Office for Budget Responsibility be subjected to audit in respect of aspects of devolved taxes? If it is subject to audit and the Government have thought about it, I should be grateful to find out whether, in order to facilitate proper accountability to the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, it should be carried out by the National Audit Office or the Auditor General for Scotland, or both. It is important to clarify these points at an early stage. In debating the previous group of amendments, the Minister spoke about the new Treasury committee between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, but I am sure that Select Committees in this House and those in the Scottish Parliament will want to have an opportunity to look into this work and, where necessary and when the clauses are implemented, to review the work of HMRC. At this stage, I would be grateful for any further clarification from the Minister.

Mr Gauke: I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) for her questions. We do not believe it is necessary to put the additional accounting officer on a statutory footing, but let me repeat our assurances, which I hope will satisfy the hon. Lady. She asked detailed questions arising from the Holyrood Committee report published last week and she will not be surprised to hear that I believe we can look at this matter within the bilateral Exchequer committee. I understand her desire to have greater clarity as soon as possible, but it is important to get the matter right. The committee will have an opportunity to meet shortly after the formation of the Scottish Government, and I hope we will be able to make some progress on some of those detailed points.

Clause 25 is a technical provision. It enables HMRC to share with the Scottish Government information about the collection and management of devolved taxes, while ensuring the confidentiality of that information. I thus believe that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to .

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26

Scottish rate of income tax

Ann McKechin: I beg to move amendment 68, page 18, line 11, after ‘may’, insert

‘after consultation with such persons as Scottish Ministers consider appropriate’.

The Temporary Chair (Mr Charles Walker): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 69, page 20, line 5, after ‘may’, insert

‘after consultation with (a) Scottish Ministers, (b) the Scottish Parliament and (c) such persons as it considers appropriate’.

Amendment 70, page 20, line 21, leave out subsection (4).

Government amendments 61 and 62

Amendment 43, page 20, line 35, after ‘Treasury’, insert

‘, with the consent of the Scottish Parliament,’.

14 Mar 2011 : Column 75

Amendment 44, line 38, at end insert—

‘(6A) For the purposes of subsections (4) and (5)—

(a) reference to the consent of the Scottish Parliament means consent by resolution, and

(b) standing orders must provide that only a member of the Scottish Government may move a motion for such a resolution.’.

Government amendment 63

Amendment 47, clause 29, page 23, line 12, after ‘Treasury’, insert

‘, with the consent of the Scottish Parliament,’.

Amendment 48, line 28, at end add—

‘(7) For the purposes of subsection (4)—

(a) reference to the consent of the Scottish Parliament means consent by resolution, and

(b) standing orders must provide that only a member of the Scottish Government may move a motion for such a resolution.’.

Government amendment 64

Amendment 49, clause 31, page 24, line 8, after ‘Treasury’, insert

‘, with the consent of the Scottish Parliament,’.

Amendment 50, line 8, at end add—

‘(5) For the purposes of subsection (4)—

(a) reference to the consent of the Scottish Parliament means consent by resolution, and

(b) standing orders must provide that only a member of the Scottish Government may move a motion for such a resolution.’.

Government amendments 65 and 66

Government new clause 18—Orders

Ann McKechin: I am speaking to amendments 68, 69 and 70 and I wish to put it on record that the wording of those amendments was suggested by the Law Society of Scotland. I shall speak to the amendments first and then to the clause stand part—with your agreement, Mr Walker. I have a substantial number of questions to put to the Government about the implementation of this important clause.

On amendment 68, new section 80C empowers the Scottish Parliament to set by resolution the Scottish rate of income tax. This is an important power that is required to be exercised in accordance with the principles set out by the consultative steering group report published by the Scottish Office in 1999. These principles include accountability, openness and accessibility with a view to making possible “a participative approach” to “policy and legislation”. Accordingly, Scottish Ministers should, we believe, be required to consult those considered to be appropriate when proposing the resolution for the Scottish rate—much in line with existing practice of the Treasury here.

On amendment 69, new section 80G enables the Treasury to disapply or modify section 6 of the Income Tax Act 2007. This could involve issues such as gift aid relief or pensions relief. The order would be introduced in the UK Parliament and debated and passed or rejected in the UK Parliament. However, it could substantially affect the Scottish rate and Scottish taxpayers, as well as Scottish charities and pension funds, so we believe that

14 Mar 2011 : Column 76

Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament should be specifically consulted prior to any amendment of these reliefs.

Finally, amendment 70 takes out subsection (4). We have concerns about the provision. Section 80G(4) provides that an order made under that section

“may, to the extent that HM Treasury consider it to be appropriate, take effect retrospectively”.

We believe that HM Treasury should, at a minimum, consult Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament if retrospectivity is required. The Minister will not be surprised to hear me say that I think all Governments should avoid retrospective legislation whenever possible—unless there is a proven and specified need. We think that the case for retrospective application in this instance has not yet been made out.

The amendment is designed to probe this issue. The Scotland Office has indicated that the power would be used to make tax reliefs applicable retrospectively, but I suggest that this could be done either by regulation or statutory instrument. The clause enables a charging order to be made by the Treasury, which is a matter of concern to us. Any retrospective action by the Treasury could—I stress could—have a detrimental impact on individual taxpayers and on the Scottish parliamentary budget. I hope that when the Minister responds he will provide some assurance about the circumstances in which and when the Government intend to use this power. I hope he will confirm how limited the power will be when it comes to its practical exercise.

Paragraph 673 of the report by the Holyrood Committee asked a number of questions about residence. The question of residence is one about which most of the tax experts we consulted expressed some concern. I understand that there is no statutory definition of a UK resident taxpayer. This legislation, however, attempts to define by statute a Scottish resident taxpayer. Given that that is, in a purely technical sense, a subset of a UK resident taxpayer, I think the Minister would accept that it is unusual to have a fixed statutory definition within a floating definition. I would like to question him a bit further about how this will work in practice and what the levels of risk are in respect of the current application of the law.

Paragraph 673 of the Holyrood Committee report asks what “place of residence” means, as defined in clause 26, as it appears to be different from how residence is understood in other areas of tax law such as capital gains tax. Does place of residence imply ownership when juxtaposed against “main place of residence” in new section 80E(a), (b) and (c)? Place of residence and main place of residence are not defined in that new section, which I fear could present problems of interpretation. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified his understanding of the interpretation in this case.

How the tax is to be applied in practice is an important issue. The vast majority of Scottish taxpayers live the whole period of their lives in Scotland or live there for very substantial periods, and it is relatively easy to define who those people are. What about people working on board ships or on oil rigs, for example? What about members of our armed forces and what about those who are neither UK resident nor employed by non-UK employers? As I said, the Scottish taxpayer is defined by reference to an individual who is resident in the UK for

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income tax purposes. The current definition of UK residency lies in 86 pages of guidance that are the subject of frequent revision by HMRC. How, then, can the Government be confident that this definition is going to work? Do the Government agree with the Chartered Institute of Taxation that the introduction of a possible statutory residence test for the UK is now essential? Experts in, for instance, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Federation of Small Businesses and CBI Scotland have expressed concern about the lack of a concrete definition. What are the Government doing to address those concerns expressed by professional experts? I understand that they are considering the issue. Will the Minister tell us whether they are likely to attempt to provide a better definition of a UK resident taxpayer in the Finance Bill that will follow next week’s Budget statement?

6.30 pm

Will the Government clarify the position of personal representatives of a deceased person? Will they count as individuals for the purpose of this definition? If so, will any income arising during the administration of an estate be treated as income subject to the Scottish rate?

What are the Government doing to address concerns about the “close connections” test? For example, an English oil worker who lives in England but commutes to a Scottish oil rig—which, of course, is a regular occurrence—will not have a close connection, but a Scottish resident who works in England and returns to Scotland for weekends and holidays could be caught. How will the Government deal with mobile workers who may find it impossible to know where they are until a day count is carried out at the end of the tax year?

It has been suggested that there is a high risk of perception of unfairness because the definition of “Scottish residence” is so loose that wealthy individuals can arrange their affairs in such a way as to avoid a higher rate of tax. How do the Government plan to avoid such a scenario? What mechanisms do they propose to deal with disputes about the application of the rules? Will there be a special tribunal system and a right of appeal?

Do the Government not agree that if a non-UK resident is working in Scotland and liable to pay tax, it should be paid at the Scottish rate? The Bill currently provides for company directors, sports people and entertainers undertaking duties wholly in Scotland to pay UK income tax on income earned entirely in Scotland, but not to pay Scottish income tax. Employees will inevitably approach their employers rather than the tax office for information on their tax status. What will the Government do to support employers? I appreciate that the implementation of the Bill is a number of years away, but I think it important at this stage to give businesses and employers as much reassurance as possible about how the Government will seek to minimise the burden and bureaucracy that they may have to face as a result of the Bill.

When the Federation of Small Businesses surveyed its members, it found that 18% of them did not use PAYE software to administer their payrolls by means of computer systems, but undertook the task manually. Is it not unhelpful of the Government to suggest that many small businesses should be forced to take on the burden of identifying and administering the new tax

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rates? What specific measures will the Government introduce to help small businesses with 10 or fewer employees to cope with the changes?

Although there has been some publicity in Scotland about the Bill, south of the border there will be little knowledge among businesses that may employ a few staff north of it. What kind of public awareness campaign will the Government conduct to make companies aware of the proposed changes and their impact on payrolls?

I should be grateful if the Minister told us about any of the discussions he has held with the high-level expert group about the definition of Scottish residence and the issues that have arisen as a result of those discussions, which I understand have been proceeding for some months.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation has suggested that HMRC will need to

“staff up properly in anticipation of a considerable extra flow of questions when the Scottish income tax goes live.”

What are the Government doing to achieve that, given that in recent months HMRC has been closing offices across Scotland and the rest of the UK and reducing its capabilities?

Under the Bill in its present form, no account is taken of a split year, which means that once someone is classified as a Scottish taxpayer he or she will remain one for the entire year. The opposite will apply to those living in another part of the United Kingdom. For example, if a company’s one Scottish employee moves south, the company will have to continue to have a Scottish taxpayer on the payroll even when that person is no longer a Scottish employee. What is the Government doing to address an anomaly that some may consider unfair?

Do the Government not agree that new section 80G (1) is drafted too widely? The Chartered Institute of Taxation has described it as a Henry VIII provision. Do the Government not think it inappropriate to use secondary legislation to make major structural changes in primary legislation without proper oversight from the UK Parliament, and indeed the Scottish Parliament, on whose budget such measures could have a substantial impact?

If changes such as pension deduction rules are required, should they not be effected through primary legislation, or should not the Scottish Parliament and Government at least be given the right to be formally consulted? As I said earlier, we are concerned about the potential retrospective application of orders. Do the Government not agree that individual taxpayers deserve a degree of certainty in regard to their tax affairs as the end of a tax year approaches?

John Stevenson: The hon. Lady has raised many issues connected with income tax. I may be demonstrating my ignorance of the Scotland Act 1998, but under that legislation the Scottish Parliament could have increased or decreased the basic rate by 3p. Why were these issues not addressed then?

Ann McKechin: I was not a Member of Parliament at that time, unlike some of my colleagues who were in the House when the legislation was discussed in detail. I think it fair to say, however, that a great deal was left to the potential for secondary legislation. As the hon.

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Gentleman knows, those provisions have never yet been used. That is one of the reasons that the Calman commission specifically addressed the issue of fiscal accountability.

The hon. Gentleman may also be aware of recent debates in the Scottish Parliament following the decision of the Finance Secretary—without informing the Parliament—to advise HMRC that it would not be required to implement the rules for a few years. I do not wish to discuss that controversy, but I will say that the establishment of the Calman commission was partly due to the fact that the rules had never been implemented. Much of the detailed work that we are now considering had been put on the shelf without being properly examined. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but I think it necessary for me to ask the Minister a number of detailed questions in order to ensure that the Government’s intentions are on record.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): Given that income tax issues such as this are addressed throughout the world where jurisdictions—for example, American states—abut each other, does the hon. Lady consider them to be reasons for fundamentally objecting to the Bill, or simply matters of minor detail that could be resolved by means of secondary legislation?

Ann McKechin: As I have made clear, on Second Reading and throughout this debate, Labour fully supports the principles behind the Bill and the additional fiscal powers given to the Scottish Parliament. Before the election, the Labour Government supported the Calman commission, as we made clear in a White Paper published in the summer of 2009. I think that all these issues can be dealt with, but, as I am sure accountants and lawyers will confirm, the devil is in the detail at times. It is important for the House of Commons and, no doubt, the House of Lords to give the Bill proper scrutiny, because ultimately individual taxpayers, businesses and employers will have to live with the consequences of its implementation.

Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): Is it not worth reminding the Committee that, no matter what was said in 1997, the Opposition voted against it?

Ann McKechin: Indeed, and the fact that we now have converts to the cause shows what a difference the passage of time makes. As I said earlier, I am pleased that even the SNP has agreed to the LCM motion.

Our present approach is consistent with the approach that the Labour party has always taken to constitutional reform, which is to seek political consensus before introducing legislation in the House of Commons. The reason we have such a degree of consensus this evening is that we have spent a good deal of time examining details of the legislation. I congratulate the Holyrood Committee, which has done an excellent and thorough job in examining many of the issues in great detail. We all benefit from its work and from last week’s debate in the Scottish Parliament, which showed that the Scottish Parliament and its Committees are more than capable of doing a thorough job in scrutinising legislation.

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I should be interested to know whether the Government agree that the retrospective application of an order could adversely affect the budget of the Scottish Parliament. For example, if the Budget is set in March and the Treasury lays an order in October to apply a relief clause retrospectively, that could have grave implications for the Scottish Government’s budget. That is another reason why I seek some reassurance about the Government’s intentions for the use of this clause.

How do the Government propose to deal with avoidance of the Scottish tax rate? Unlike other jurisdictions that have devolved taxes, and where there are different forms of collection and reporting, many people self-assess or are in pay-as-you-earn schemes, and they are not currently specifically called on to declare their residence to the tax authorities in the way required by the Bill. The Bill’s provisions only apply to income; they do not apply to dividends or to interest on savings, and we would want appropriate measures to be taken to ensure that people do not end up transferring income into another route, to try to avoid the income tax provisions made by the Scottish Parliament.

What provisions have the Government put in place for the self-employed? Will, as anticipated, the self-assessment tax return have to be altered, with additional questions on residency for example, particularly for those who work in a different part of the UK? I realise there are specific measures dealing with Members of Parliament and we are automatically included, but it has been pointed out that Scottish judges serving at the Supreme Court are not covered by the Bill’s provisions. Similarly, other senior Government officials travel from different parts of the country for their work. It is important that they are aware of what may be expected of them in terms of self-assessment claims.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): Many of the hon. Lady’s comments imply that she is unhappy with residency being the method for working out where people pay tax, but it seems to me that there is no alternative. Is her position that she would like everybody to fill out a tax return?

Ann McKechin: No, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not want to burden the taxpayer unnecessarily with additional questions and pieces of paper and that I think the residency basis is the simplest way to deal with this issue. The problem is that we have a floating definition of a UK resident taxpayer, and from that we are trying to define in very exact terms a Scottish resident taxpayer. That is the point at which there could be challenges, and sometimes mischief in that people might try to change their declaration of where they believe they are resident.

This situation is unlikely to arise for the vast majority of taxpayers in Scotland; most of them will be faced with a very simple exercise. Nevertheless, as I have pointed out, in other jurisdictions with devolved income tax there are ways in which people have to declare where their residence is that we currently do not have in the UK. I want the Minister to say whether the Government are aware of any potential problems, and what measures they intend to put in place to avoid them, so that the maximum level of tax that is due is collected and returned to the Scottish Government, and so that administration is kept to a minimum. All hon. Members

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will be concerned about the cost to the Exchequer, and also about the costs to individual businesses. That is why I am asking these questions, but I agree that residency is the easiest way to define who should be liable to tax.

I also appreciate that a decision has been taken not to include interest on dividends and on savings. People will comment that that perhaps creates a degree of unfairness because some individuals get the majority of their income from those sources, but I acknowledge that there are complex and expensive practical difficulties in applying a residency test for those types of revenue, and that ultimately the benefit may not be great. We therefore understand why the Government have phrased the clauses in this way, but the devil is in the detail of defining exactly what they will mean in practice.

Stewart Hosie: The hon. Lady will understand that there is a very close relationship, particularly at the lower levels of income, between dividends and savings income, income tax and, as importantly, income tax allowances and thresholds. We have not tabled amendments on this topic, and it is extremely complicated, but if it were proved that there is an inherent logic in bringing together income tax, the tax on savings and dividend income, and how that relates to thresholds, allowances and the Scottish rate, might the hon. Lady and her colleagues be prepared to listen to that argument in future?

6.45 pm

Ann McKechin: The Holyrood Committee did not consider that in detail, and the Calman commission did not make any specific recommendations that would lead us to legislate tonight. We have to reach a compromise in respect of striking a balance between fairness to Scottish taxpayers and having a system that is as simple and easy to understand as possible, and that reduces the administration costs to the Scottish Government as far as possible.

On thresholds, given that the Welfare Reform Bill has just been introduced with proposals on universal credit at the same time as this Bill is passing through the House, I ask the Government to say what consideration has been given to the impact on welfare benefits. Those on low incomes often have the most complicated tax affairs. Most benefits are calculated on after-tax income. If the Scottish rate income tax is higher than the basic rate, Scottish taxpayers on benefits will be entitled to claim more benefit. Will the Government ensure that the extra benefit is paid automatically, or will they issue public information on how full entitlement can be claimed? How will the new proposals on universal credit be implemented in respect of these tax changes? The Government have stated that their general rule on the tax base is one of no detriment, but I ask the Minister to reflect and give any assurance he can about whether there might be a possible conflict.

Conversely, if the Scottish tax rate is lower than that of the rest of the UK, Scottish taxpayers on benefits will be entitled to fewer benefits in some cases. What mechanism will the Government put in place to ensure that adjustments are made to their payments? We would be concerned if those on the very lowest incomes were adversely affected in their entitlement to the welfare benefits system. That is largely based on the national

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insurance system of course, which is separate from the tax system, but, as the Minister will be aware, the interaction between benefits and taxes is complex, and I am sure none of us would want to do this in a way that adversely impacts on pensioners, people on lower incomes, single parents, the disabled and others who may already have many concerns about what is being proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill. I hope the Minister can reassure us that he will not be adding to that burden.

Are the costs of implementation still as estimated in the Command Paper? How do the Government intend to control those costs? There is a long period of implementation, and hon. Members may be concerned about that, as some implementation schemes have taken longer, and been much more expensive, than originally estimated. Will the Minister tonight undertake to produce an annual report to the House of Commons until the full-scale implementation of the scheme, so that we may better scrutinise it, and ensure that value for money to the taxpayer is maintained and that the burden—which, of course, is ultimately to be met by the Scottish Government—is kept to a minimum?

Iain Stewart: I support the clause, but I wish to raise a couple of specific examples just to test that the definition of a Scottish taxpayer as set out in the Bill is robust and covers all eventualities. I appreciate that the examples I am about to give are technical, and if the Minister is unable to give me a definitive response tonight, I hope he will be able to do so on Report.

My first example is based on the situation my father was in for a number of years. It relates to proposed new section 80E(3)(c) on the definition of Scottish residence, as opposed to residence of another part of the UK. My father’s home was, and is, in Hamilton, just outside Glasgow. By any reasonable test, that is his main residence: it has been the family home for generations; my mother lives there; and it is what my father would call home. However, for a number of years he worked for the Civil Aviation Authority and although he was mainly based at Prestwick, the nature of his job required him to spend a considerable amount of time at its headquarters in London. He rented a flat in central London, where he was registered on the electoral roll for council tax, for utility payments and for all the other aspects of living in a dwelling. For a number of tax years he spent a majority of nights in London, as opposed to spending them at the family home in Scotland. Therefore, if I have read proposed new section 80E(3)(c) correctly, he would not be deemed to be a Scottish taxpayer. I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm whether that is the case. If so, is this not an anomalous situation and will the Government re-examine what the definition of “a Scottish taxpayer” should be?

Secondly, I wish to discuss the “Caledonian sleeper” question, which relates to proposed new section 80F(1)(a) and the number of days spent in Scotland

“at the end of the day.”

I do not have a detailed knowledge of the railway timetable, but let us suppose that the sleeper train left Glasgow at 10.30 pm or 10.45 pm and so was clearly in Scotland at the end of the day. If it traversed the border before midnight and so was actually in England on the stroke of midnight, would that day be counted as Scottish or English for the purposes of this calculation? I hope hon. Members will forgive me for raising this

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very detailed point, which will affect only a small number of people, as it is the job of this Committee to tease out these practical matters. I do not expect the Minister to give me a definitive reply right now, but I would be grateful if he undertakes to examine the matter and give an answer at a later stage in our proceedings.

Sheila Gilmore: It is important that we move forward on these tax powers for the Scottish Parliament. The big difference between these proposals and the ones in the Scotland Act 1998 are that these apply to all the different rates of tax. The structure being used and the fact that there will be a corresponding reduction in the block grant will deliver to the Scottish Parliament a real ability to make decisions, be accountable and test how well these things work. We wanted that in Scotland and we need it, but that is not to say that the arrangements will not have any complications and that there is no need to be clear about the answers to some of these questions. Some could be covered by regulations that are to follow, but there is always an anxiety involved in depending too much on detailed regulations, as opposed to primary legislation.

I wish to discuss two particular areas, one of which is tax avoidance and the provisions that the Government suggest we put in place to deal with it. The last thing that we would want is for those who have the ability to arrange their tax affairs in different ways to be able to avoid paying this tax, as that would harm the Scottish economy and undermine the whole principle behind what we are trying to achieve. We need to know what provisions will be put in place to deal with tax avoidance in the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) mentioned the self-employed, and they are also important. It is easier for them to arrange their tax affairs in a beneficial way, whereas those of us on PAYE may not be able to do that. It is important for self-employed people to know exactly how this system will work for them, particularly if they generate earnings in different parts of the United Kingdom, as it is quite possible for such people to generate.

I also have concerns about the future interrelationship between the benefits system and the tax system. This is important because the way in which benefits are calculated for some people depends on their income after tax, which means that a variation in tax will affect benefits. The Government may be clear that systems will be in place to deal with that very quickly, but the last thing that people on benefits need is any uncertainty about their income. They need to know how any increases in their income, and therefore in their tax liability, or any decreases in their income will affect them, because at that level of income people suffer particularly badly when changes are made. If the Welfare Reform Bill proceeds in full, we will be moving towards a new benefits system at just about the same time as some of these new powers come into force, so it is important to get this right. I urge the Government to provide answers to these questions, if not now, in time for Report, so that we can be clear about how this interrelationship will work.

Fiona Bruce: May I begin by telling hon. Members how pleased I am that, after a thorough independent evaluation of the devolution settlement in Scotland,

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this Government have been quick to legislate on this issue, fulfilling a manifesto commitment of more than one party in this House? After more than a decade, the time is right to assess the implications and consequences of the devolution settlement.

I shall now speak generally in support of the provisions of clause 26. The Calman commission review predates the economic crisis, but the need to recover the UK’s economic strength makes this issue ever more important. It is clear that economic growth will be driven by enterprise in local communities. Creating a Scottish rate of income tax will give the Scottish Government more responsibility over not only how they spend revenue, but how they raise it. That is a crucial discipline, which we hope will increase the likelihood that fiscal decisions will reflect the needs and priorities of Scotland, the Scottish economy and, most importantly, the people of Scotland. This is an opportunity for genuine fiscal accountability.

The proposals outlined in the Bill are not entirely new, but they do mark the next stage of the devolution settlement for Scotland. The existing Scottish variable rate gives the Scottish Government the power to raise or reduce the basic level of income tax. As Donald Dewar, the original First Minister, said, the Scottish variable rate