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5.10 pm

Jonathan Reynolds: I rise to support the Bill and to commend both Front Benches for the cross-party support on this issue. It would have been easy for the Labour party to play this for short-term political advantage in the last Parliament or this one; that we have not done so is to our credit, especially that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood).

I am a former shadow Rail Minister and was a member of the Bill Committee, so I feel confident in saying that I am familiar with this issue. I say this: this

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1675

country needs HS2. The key issue is capacity—it has always been about capacity. So often the conversation has been bogged down in arguments about journey times, but that misses the point. Of course, if it takes me less time to get from the House of Commons to Stalybridge station’s world-famous buffet bar, that is welcome, but it is more important that I can do so on a train with enough seats for everyone. With the west coast main line expected to be full by the middle of the next decade, it is vital that we act now. In fact, this is the one time I can think of when this country has acted on a major infrastructure problem before it has become acute. If only our predecessors had done the same with aviation capacity!

The railways are filling up and are crying out for this investment. The statistics speak for themselves. Each day, 3,000 passengers arrive at Euston or Birmingham standing up on trains, having been unable to get a seat. The benefit of HS2 will be to address that looming capacity crunch. More powerful than the statistics, however, are the experiences of passengers—especially those who have the unpleasant experience of being on a packed train leaving or coming into London. I can still vividly remember my wife phoning me after a particularly hellish journey from London to Manchester. Eight months pregnant, she was forced to spend the two-hour journey on the floor outside the toilet entertaining a two-year-old. That should not happen on a 21st-century railway network.

The common arguments against HS2 do not stack up. Spending the money on upgrading the existing line will cost more and give us less. Building a new line that is not high speed will cost nearly as much but give us a fraction of the capacity. Saying we should spend the money on local services rather than north-south improvements fails to understand that the way to improve local services is to free up that existing infrastructure by building a new line. As for the argument that this will be a railway only for the wealthy, we simply have to apply the laws of supply and demand. The guaranteed way to price people off the railway would be to do nothing, because if demand is rising and supply does not increase, prices will go up.

I have great ambitions for what HS2 can deliver for the north, and particularly Greater Manchester—jobs, growth, connectivity, better wages, better career paths and, of course, the opportunity for hard-pressed Londoners more easily to spend time in the UK’s real first city: Manchester. I commend the Bill to the House.

5.13 pm

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I was not expecting to be called, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am delighted.

Having sat on the Select Committee, I wish to say two things, hopefully in less than a minute. First, the hybrid Bill Committee system needs overhauling: 160 days—not for me, as I only joined after the election—and 1,600 petitions is unsustainable. Somebody needs to look at the system. Finally, we should all celebrate the fact that we have a record number of people travelling on trains, but we need more capacity. I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, even though he did not acknowledge that I had been on the Committee,

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that we need to plan this thing properly. We must ensure that there is proper connectivity into HS2 from all the other lines and that the west coast main line and other lines can make the most of the opportunity for freight.

5.14 pm

Andy Slaughter: I support the principle of high-speed rail and this project, not least because it allows the regeneration of the Old Oak area in my constituency—by some distance the largest development area in the country, bringing more than 24,000 homes and 50,000 new jobs to an area of severe deprivation. I support the project with reservations, and I have been happy to work with those on both sides who will be voting against the Bill tonight, because the local implications for residents, businesses and the environment have not been properly considered through this process. I say that with all due respect to the Committee, which has done an excellent job and worked incredibly hard.

In the minute left available to me, let me mention three things. First, if the issue is about capacity and not so much about speed, why are there not more stations, which would make it more beneficial to areas between London and Birmingham? Secondly, why are there not better links with HS1? I accept why the Camden link had to go, but it is ridiculous not to have those better links.

Thirdly, why can we not have a proper integrated centre at Old Oak, which would bring the Great Western line, the overground, the underground and Crossrail together? It is a huge wasted opportunity not to use that land properly. It is a real waste of public money and opportunity in that area. I urge the Government to look at that again and to work with the new Mayor, who I hope will be my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), to ensure that we have proper regeneration on that site.

5.16 pm

Three hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, 22 March).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 399, Noes 42.

Division No. 231]

[

5.16 pm

AYES

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Anderson, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Ashworth, Jonathan

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baldwin, Harriett

Barron, rh Kevin

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Borwick, Victoria

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brennan, Kevin

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Buck, Ms Karen

Buckland, Robert

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Cairns, Alun

Cameron, rh Mr David

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Chishti, Rehman

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crabb, rh Stephen

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

De Piero, Gloria

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Double, Steve

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Peter

Dowden, Oliver

Dromey, Jack

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Chris

Evans, Graham

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Foster, Kevin

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Green, Kate

Greening, rh Justine

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hamilton, Fabian

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Carolyn

Harris, Rebecca

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Helen

Hayes, rh Mr John

Hayman, Sue

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hillier, Meg

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hodge, rh Dame Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, rh Mr George

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jarvis, Dan

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Mr Marcus

Jones, Susan Elan

Kawczynski, Daniel

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kennedy, Seema

Kinnock, Stephen

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Kyle, Peter

Lamb, rh Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Charlotte

Leslie, Chris

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, John

Mann, Scott

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Meale, Sir Alan

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Mordaunt, Penny

Morden, Jessica

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, Grahame M.

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Ian

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nandy, Lisa

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Jess

Philp, Chris

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Powell, Lucy

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Pursglove, Tom

Quince, Will

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raab, Mr Dominic

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Julian

Smith, Nick

Smith, Royston

Smyth, Karin

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevens, Jo

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Streeting, Wes

Stride, Mel

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Derek

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Throup, Maggie

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tredinnick, David

Trickett, Jon

Tugendhat, Tom

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vaz, Valerie

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

West, Catherine

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williams, Mr Mark

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Wragg, William

Wright, Mr Iain

Zahawi, Nadhim

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jackie Doyle-Price

and

Guy Opperman

NOES

Baker, Mr Steve

Baron, Mr John

Bone, Mr Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Cash, Sir William

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Davies, Philip

Dowd, Jim

Edwards, Jonathan

Elliott, Tom

Fabricant, Michael

Farrelly, Paul

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flynn, Paul

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Hoey, Kate

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kelvin

Lefroy, Jeremy

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Loughton, Tim

Lucas, Caroline

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

Nuttall, Mr David

Prentis, Victoria

Redwood, rh John

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Saville Roberts, Liz

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Starmer, Keir

Tracey, Craig

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

White, Chris

Williams, Hywel

Tellers for the Noes:

Andrew Bridgen

and

Mrs Anne Main

Question accordingly agreed to.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1677

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1678

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1679

Bill read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1680


High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Carry-Over (No. 3)

Ordered,

That the following provisions shall apply in respect of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill:

(1) Further proceedings on the Bill shall be suspended until the next Session of Parliament.

(2) If a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as those in which the Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in this Session—

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first, second and third time;

(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in Session 2013-14, Session 2014-15 or this Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in the next Session.

(3) The reference in paragraph (1) to further proceedings does not include proceedings under Standing Order 224A(8) (deposit of supplementary environmental information).

That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Today the British Medical Association has announced that it plans to escalate the industrial action of junior doctors planned for 26 and 27 April. Can you advise me as to whether you have received any notification from the Department of Health about whether the Secretary of State for Health intends to make a statement to the House tomorrow, updating us on what action he will take to avert that industrial action and bring an end to the ongoing dispute?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I have had no notification that the Secretary of State is coming forward. However, the hon. Lady has got the matter on the record, and I am sure that people will be listening to the debate that is taking place at this very moment. Let us wait and see.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Believe it or not, this is a point of order about procedure. We have just had a debate and a vote and have approved over £55 billion of expenditure. The Third Reading debate on this country’s biggest ever infrastructure project lasted just half an hour and large numbers of hon. Members were not able to be called. I would have liked to have talked about the lack of investment in Lincolnshire’s railways, for example, and other points could have been made. The limits have become absurd, so will you have a word with Mr Speaker? The Procedure Committee, of which I am a member, is looking at this, but we could have a procedure by which you or one of your colleagues could have extended the debate for just another half an hour.

Mr Deputy Speaker: As you know, it is a matter for the Government how they timetable the business. As you rightly say, you have a view that you wish to express. Unfortunately, we are not in charge of the business. I am sure that everybody who reads Hansard will realise that you have raised this on the Floor of the House, even though it is not a point of order for the Chair.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have raised the issue of the procedures on the hybrid

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Bill process with the Procedure Committee, but because it is a private process it may be difficult for the Committee to look at those. I very much hope that the Government are going to re-examine the hybrid Bill process, and that view has been echoed in the words of many of my friends, particularly those who have served on the HS2 Bill Committee.

The process is not satisfactory from the perspective of either the House or the people most affected by the project. I very much hope that this will not take too long and you could advise me as to whether the House eventually could change those procedures, so that large infrastructure projects are not dealt with in such an opaque and difficult manner.

Mr Deputy Speaker: The House can invite the Procedure Committee to look into this matter, as you well know. And you know better than I do how the procedure of this House works, after so many years in this place.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether we could have a tidying-up of the procedures of the House. In the light of English votes for English laws, Health questions and Education questions, as they are termed, are actually English Health questions and English Education questions. It would be better for voters up and down the length of the current UK if they understood that.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Once again, the answer is the same: it is for this House to invite the Procedure Committee to look into the matter. If you believe there is a wrong, I am sure the Committee will make sure it gets put right.

I have now to announce the result of today’s two deferred Divisions. In respect of the question relating to electricity, the Ayes were 287 and the Noes were 232, so the Ayes have it. In respect of the question relating to public sector pensions, the Ayes were 287 and the Noes were 211, so the Ayes have it.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1682

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]


With the leave of the House, I will put motions 4 and 5 together, as they cover the same area.

Scotland Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Scotland Bill, it is expedient to authorise any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under the Scotland Act 1998 out of the National Loans Fund.

Scotland Bill (Ways and Means)

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Scotland Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment of sums into the National Loans Fund.—(David Mundell.)

Scotland Bill (Programme) (No.3)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Scotland Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Orders of 8 June 2015 (Scotland Bill (Programme)) and 9 November 2015 (Scotland Bill (Programme) (No. 2)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

(1) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement at today’s sitting.

Subsequent stages

(2) Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

(3) The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(David Mundell.)

Question agreed to.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1683

Scotland Bill

Consideration of Lords amendments

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I must draw the House’s attention to the fact that financial privilege is involved in Lords amendment 22. If the House agrees with the amendment, I shall ensure that the appropriate entry is made in the Journal.

Clause 3

Elections

5.38 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Mr Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments 2 to 62.

David Mundell: This is a truly significant day for Scotland. If this Bill completes its parliamentary progress, it will add to the already extensive responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament a range of important new powers. It provides even greater opportunities for the Scottish Government to tailor and deliver Scottish solutions to Scottish issues. The Scottish Parliament that returns in May will be a powerhouse Parliament that has come of age. Crucially, it will be much more accountable to the people who elect it, which is the hallmark of a mature democratic institution.

I am pleased to say that Lord Smith of Kelvin has confirmed that the Bill puts into law the agreement that the five main political parties in Scotland reached, and that the fiscal framework that was agreed means that the recommendations of his commission have been delivered in full.

Last week, the Scottish Parliament debated the motion on whether to grant legislative consent to the Bill before us today, and the agreement was unanimous. Deputy First Minister John Swinney remarked:

“The Smith process delivered an agreement for additional powers that—if they are used in the right way—can benefit the people of Scotland.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report, 16 March 2016; c. 3.]

I agree with him wholeheartedly on that.

The debate last week demonstrated the consensus among all parties in Scotland that these new powers present a tremendous opportunity for Scotland. That was clear in their unanimous vote to grant legislative consent to this Bill. This process goes to show that both of Scotland’s Governments and both of Scotland’s Parliaments can work effectively together in the interest of the people in Scotland and right across our United Kingdom.

No individual or party held a monopoly of wisdom as to how the Smith agreement might best be translated into legislation. Many people, both inside and outside this Chamber, have contributed to the Bill as it stands before us today. I thank hon. Members and noble Lords for their contributions as the Bill passed through this House and the other place.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. When this important work was being done, there were obvious and big

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1684

consequences for England. Which Minister or Ministers spoke for England during the negotiations?

David Mundell: My right hon. Friend has asked that question before. This legislation has been debated on the Floor of this House and on the Floor of the other place. Extensive scrutiny of the Bill has taken place. Indeed, there has been the opportunity to scrutinise the fiscal framework as well, so extensive scrutiny has been delivered in relation to this legislation for the people of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Bill has been strengthened by the scrutiny it has received, and I am pleased that the amendments that I will cover shortly are a positive and constructive culmination of that process.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Going back to the previous intervention, it was obvious from the voices on the Scottish National party Benches that all the other Ministers, especially those from the Treasury, spoke for interests other than those of Scotland. Is it not time to move away from this form of devolution, whereby we effectively get the crumbs from the table at Westminster, to a model that Copenhagen shares with the Faroe Islands and Greenland, in which the larder is always open and they get to choose their own powers. Instead of taking the crumbs from Westminster, we should be able to take the powers that we want from Westminster when we want them.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

David Mundell: The hon. Gentleman’s colleagues may agree with him, but I do not think that the people of Scotland do. The people of Scotland made it very clear in September 2014 that they wanted to remain part of our United Kingdom, but they wanted a Scottish Parliament with enhanced powers, which is what this Government are delivering. The hon. Gentleman strikes a rather sour note, given the consensus within the Scottish Parliament and among his colleagues in the Scottish Government—a consensus that recognises the importance of these powers that will be delivered by this Bill if it completes its passage today.

I also acknowledge the work of the Committees of both the Scottish and the UK Parliaments, including those chaired by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) in this place, by the noble Lords, Lord Lang, Baroness Fookes and Lord Hollick, in the other place and by Bruce Crawford in the Scottish Parliament. The broad range of evidence and expertise they marshalled in the Bill’s scrutiny has improved it materially.

I also wish to thank the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, and Scottish Government officials for their always courteous engagement in this process. Scotland gets the best outcome when its two Governments work together.

I am truly grateful to all my officials at the Scotland Office and the officials from the 10 other Whitehall Departments whose hard work has got us to this stage. My noble Friends Lord Dunlop and Lord Keen of Elie have played an essential role in the Bill’s passage through the other place; I also commend Lord McAvoy and Lord Wallace of Tankerness in particular for their work. The origin of the Bill is the Smith agreement, and I once again pay tribute to Lord Smith of Kelvin and

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the representatives of all five of Scotland's main political parties for reaching an agreement that redefined the devolution settlement.

5.45 pm

A number of technical amendments were made in the other place to ensure that the Bill devolves the powers intended effectively and efficiently. There were also substantive amendments related to the fiscal framework and responsible parking.

In line with the Smith Commission agreement, the fiscal framework agreement changes the powers available to the Scottish Government for both resource and capital borrowing. Lords amendments 22 and 58 set out clearly, and consistent with the existing legal framework, new borrowing powers for the Scottish Government. Lords amendments 23 and 59 deal with independent fiscal scrutiny in Scotland and the UK. Those amendments formalise the arrangements around the Office for Budget Responsibility’s access to information from Scottish institutions, notably the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Scottish Government.

A number of minor and technical amendments were made to the welfare provisions in the Bill. Lords amendments 50 to 52 are minor amendments to ensure that powers and procedure for secondary legislation transfer effectively. Lords amendment 24 is technical in nature and ensures that executive competence will be transferred to the Scottish Ministers, so that they can make payments of Sure Start maternity grants, funeral payments, cold weather payments and winter fuel payments when clause 21 is commenced. Lords amendment 28, which proposes a new clause after clause 30, and Lords amendment 29 make it clear that the Social Security Advisory Committee and the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council will advise the Secretary of State only, and Lords amendments 25 to 27 are technical amendments made as a result of that change.

Lords amendments 1 to 20, on elections, are also technical amendments which clarify the provisions and improve the drafting. Lords amendments 17 to 20 in particular amend clause 11 on the supermajority provision in the Bill. The amendments enable a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to pass to Royal Assent if the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament decides that a simple majority is required: the Bill is passed with a simple majority but is referred to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court agrees that only a simple majority was required. Lords amendment 57 provides that clauses 3 to 12 will come into force on such a day as the Secretary of State may appoint by regulations made by statutory instrument. That will allow time for necessary consequential and saving provisions related to elections to be made.

Lords amendments 30 to 36 are technical amendments that would remove an unnecessary reference in clause 35 to the Equality Act 2006.

Amendments to clauses 39 and 40 and schedule 2 align the competence of the Scottish Ministers for road signs and speed limits with the competence of the Scottish Parliament. As a result, once the clauses are commenced, the Scottish Ministers will have the power to make regulations providing speed limit exemptions or to give general directions in relation to traffic signs and pedestrian crossings to the same extent as the Scottish Parliament has legislative competence. A considerable amount of work has already been done to

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develop a new set of regulations to prescribe speed limit exemptions. If they are to be truly effective, changes to relevant traffic signs regulations will also be needed. Traffic signs are already being devolved to the Scottish Parliament in other clauses of the Bill. Work on traffic signs regulations has also been part of a long-term project to bring in GB-wide revised regulations.

Those amendments will enable the Secretary of State, with Scottish Ministers’ consent, to make a single set of regulations that are GB-wide in their application and allow vehicles used for various purposes connected with devolved matters to have exemptions from both speed limits and certain road signs and general directions. The aim is to assist stakeholders and avoid duplication of work already carried out by the Department for Transport, benefiting everyone who needs to travel at speed on roads. In addition, these amendments treat amendments to section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 made by the Road Safety Act 2006 as though they were in force when clause 38 comes into force.

In Committee, Labour tabled an amendment on responsible parking. The amendment was also raised in the other place. I have for some time been committed to seeking a solution to this issue. Lords amendments 38 and 46 seek to address the long-standing problem of irresponsible parking, which has a particular impact on people with disabilities, parents with pushchairs and the elderly, especially when vehicles have been badly parked on pavements. We took forward discussions with the Scottish Government on this matter, and, as a result of these discussions, amendments were tabled in the other place that will enable the Scottish Parliament to address this issue. This is a good example of the sort of running repair which from time to time it is prudent to make to the devolution settlement, and demonstrates the collaborative relationship between the two Governments.

Lords amendment 49 revises clause 45(8) on onshore petroleum to ensure that the Secretary of State’s enforcement ability in relation to reserved matters is preserved for licences in respect of onshore Scotland. Amendment 48 removes a redundant reference.

Clause 68 confers on the Secretary of State the power to make consequential, transitional and saving provisions by regulations. Lords amendments 53 to 56 amend this provision in response to feedback from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

The Government made substantial amendments to the Bill on Report in this House. The Lords amendments are largely technical, but nevertheless include important provisions related to the fiscal framework and responsible parking. I am pleased that they were accepted in the other place. I urge the House to accept the Lords amendments.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): The Secretary of State’s description of the road traffic changes had me mesmerised. I could have listened to him all evening. We thank him for that.

It is a great pleasure to speak on behalf of the official Opposition. I am not going to pretend that the passage of the Bill has been entirely enjoyable, smooth or stress-free, but we are where we are and it has definitely been worth getting to this place. Every Member of this House and the other place should be incredibly proud of what has been achieved in such a short space of time. Some will

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say the Bill does not go far enough, and some will be disappointed that it does not contain what they wanted, but I think today marks a historic day in the devolution journey of our Scottish Parliament.

When this Bill is passed—there is no longer any doubt that it will be passed today—Scotland will have one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world. That is what the Labour party has always wanted from that process. It was the former Prime Minister, the former Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, who devised the vow that promised more powers. Let us pay tribute both to him and to the Daily Record for publishing it at the time. [Interruption.] I knew I would get a reaction to that. If only I had said The National, the response from the SNP Benches might have been different.

That paved the way for the Smith commission, skilfully chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, who managed to negotiate cross-party agreement on the form that those powers should take. That in turn laid the foundations for the Bill before us today. It has now passed through this place and the other place. A revised fiscal framework has been agreed, crucially with the Barnett formula at its heart. As promised, the vow has been delivered, with Barnett protected. That was always a Labour party priority, as we recognise the integral role played by the Barnett formula in maintaining public spending in Scotland. That said, and as the Institute for Fiscal Studies astutely observed, during the fiscal framework negotiations it was, ironically, the SNP Government who insisted upon Barnett as sacrosanct. With the zeal of the convert, they argued vociferously for an approach

“which ensures the ongoing pooling and”

sharing

“of some proportion of ‘devolved’ revenues across the UK.”

Of course, as long-standing advocates of the Barnett formula and the principle of pooling and sharing resources that it enshrines, we gave the Scottish Government our full backing in those negotiations. I wonder whether that now means that the Scottish National party has renounced its No. 1 policy priority of full fiscal autonomy—perhaps we will hear this evening.

However, at least for the time being we have an agreement. The irony is that this Bill will wing its way to Her Majesty to receive Royal Assent, hopefully later tonight, on the eve of what would have been separation day in Scotland. It creates one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world, as opposed to the White Paper prospectus promised by the SNP in 2014.

Some of the Lords amendments speak directly to that agreement, delivering, for example, the strengthened borrowing powers and the enhanced fiscal oversight of Scotland’s public finances that this fiscal framework provides for. Now that the last impediment to the Bill has been removed, we must focus on the powers that the Scottish Parliament is receiving. As the Secretary of State has said, the legislative consent motion has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Given that today is the last day of the current Scottish Parliament, it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to all the MSPs, from all parties, who have served since 2011. With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will say a word or two about those MSPs, particularly Labour MSPs, who are retiring from the Scottish Parliament, having done so much in the process of

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getting this Bill here today. They include Hugh Henry, Duncan McNeil and Richard Simpson, who have served since 1999. There is my old university friend Richard Baker, who was first elected in 2003, and Margaret McDougall, Graeme Pearson and Drew Smith, who were elected in 2011. They all retire with our best wishes, especially Malcolm Chisholm, who was also a long-standing Member of this House. He retires leaving a distinguished record of public service to his constituents. We wish him well. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), who is not in his place. The Scottish Parliament’s loss is this place’s gain. Are we not lucky indeed?

With the passing of this Bill and the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament, we can today lay the old arguments of the referendum to rest, alongside any doubt that the vow has not been delivered. The conversation must now move on to how these powers are used—or not used in some cases. It is worth briefly reminding ourselves what those powers are, because they are considerable, and the Lords looked at them in great detail, for which we thank them. The Scottish Parliament has power over rates and bands of tax on all non-savings and non-dividend income. That means it can put taxes up or bring them down; it can increase or reduce the thresholds at which the different rates are paid; or it can choose to do nothing and keep things pretty much as they are, short of affording a tax break to higher earners—champions of the status quo perhaps—even if, in so doing, some people are abandoning a manifesto pledge to reintroduce the 50p rate for those earning over £150,000. That is what some have chosen to do, but that is not what we would do

I wonder how commentators have looked on that particular process. Owen Jones, who is often quoted by the SNP Members now beside me, called it

“a huge blow to their credentials”.

What does the Scottish Trades Union Congress think of the Scottish Government’s grand plans for devolved taxation in Scotland? It calls them

“a disappointingly timid approach to tax policy…Breaking the consensus on increasing the additional rate is difficult to fathom.”

It said it was an approach that is

“difficult to reconcile with the Scottish Government’s”

so-called

“social and economic objectives.”

For the past five years, many people had the mantra “more power for Scotland.” Today, when the Bill is passed, we will have a powerful Scottish Parliament—power not as a point of principle, but power to be used for positive, progressive change. I can tell the House, in no uncertain terms, that the Scottish Labour party will not settle for power for power’s sake. We will not settle for the political choice of austerity. This Bill goes straight to the heart of how we would do that. We will oppose austerity in the UK and we will oppose it in Scotland, and when we get into government we will reverse it. We will build a better and fairer Scotland for all, and taxation will not be our sole tool for doing so.

Lords amendment 22 strengthens the borrowing powers available to the Scottish Government, as agreed in the fiscal framework, allowing them to invest more in capital infrastructure or to smooth out fluctuations in devolved taxes.

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6 pm

In short, with those amendments and powers, the Scottish Parliament will have the power radically to reshape the social and political landscape in Scotland. As we all know, if we are to have the excellent public services and high standards of living enjoyed by countries in other parts of the world, we must have the revenues to pay for them, and that means making bold decisions.

Scottish Labour has already begun to set out how it would use the new powers that are coming to Scotland, along with those that Scotland already has, to maintain and increase levels of investment in education and public services. A Scottish Labour Government will depart from the discredited political doctrine of austerity and increase public spending over the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament. We will be bold, and we will be radical, because that is the only way to really change people’s lives. We understand that having power is pointless if we are not prepared to use it. It is a shame that others—the Conservative Government and the SNP Scottish Government—will go into this election with a powerful Parliament offering a pale imitation of the status quo. After the blood, sweat and tears of getting this Bill on to the statute book, that is unfortunate. Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on with the SNP’s cuts to schools, Labour will use those powers.

In the course of our consideration of the Bill, the Labour party has focused on securing practical, progressive changes to it. Where we felt it fell short of the Smith commission, we have sought to improve it. Where there has been disagreement, we have not declaimed noisily from the rafters, but sought to reach compromise. In adopting that approach, we have won valuable concessions from the Government—changes to the Bill that will make a real, practical difference to Scotland.

In this place, we secured the power to create new benefits in devolved areas, and we elicited welcome clarity on the application and extent of the provisions to top up existing benefits. That will allow the Scottish Parliament, effectively, to design a new social security system to suit the needs of Scotland. Given last week’s Budget, thank goodness it has that power.

In the other place, we campaigned successfully, as the Secretary of State said, for an amendment to the Bill to devolve competence over pavement parking to the Scottish Parliament. If hon. Members remember, it was the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) who mentioned the issue on Second Reading in this place. The amendment marked the culmination of a lengthy process that started with a private Member’s Bill introduced by the former Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, several years ago. I would point those who think that the amendment is a minor measure to the many charities—most prominently, Living Streets and Guide Dogs UK—that campaigned hard and long to secure it. I thank them today for their unstinting efforts.

Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, especially people with sight loss, parents with pushchairs, and wheelchair users and other disabled people. By securing the amendment, we have cleared the way for the Scottish Parliament to take legislative measures to protect those people and to increase the safety of our streets.

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The Government’s other amendments in the Lords are merely technical and tidying-up provisions, and we do not, of course, oppose any of them.

I would like to close by thanking those who have brought us to this juncture. The former Prime Minister deserves our thanks—it was his vow, which was itself a product of his passion for Scotland, that paved the way for the process that created the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) also deserves our thanks for pushing forward with the vow and making sure we secured the new powers for Scotland in the legislative programme. In this place, I would also like to thank the Secretary of State and his team. He has always been an affable adversary and has shown a willingness to work constructively to improve the Bill. In particular, his staff deserve great credit for the way in which they have helped us navigate the Bill.

I thank Labour’s shadow Scotland team, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David), who is not in his place today, due to illness. He has been invaluable in his willingness to step into the breach, even when the debate was at its fiercest. I give special thanks to the Clerks in the House of Commons Public Bill Office for their support and, more importantly, their patience, and to the impartial experts in the House of Commons Library. In the other place, I thank my right hon. Friend Lord McAvoy for leading on the Bill for the Opposition in such an energetic manner. I also thank my right hon. Friends Lord McFall and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock for their learned advice and support.

I would like to mention the Law Society of Scotland, which I worked with on a number of amendments, and which was always ready with an expert and impartial perspective. Michael Clancy of the Law Society—this is an interesting diversion and something we have not experienced before now—has sat under the Gallery in both this and the other place for every single Scotland Bill sitting since 1997, but he had to leave to catch his flight this evening so he has been unable to watch these proceedings and has missed the very last sitting. [Hon. Members: “It’s not the last!”] It is certainly the last sitting on this Bill; I am sure that everyone can agree with that. We wish him well and thank him for his advice. I also thank Lord Smith of Kelvin and the commissioners of all parties who played an integral role in the process.

It may not feel like it, but this is a historic day for Scotland that will fundamentally change its social and political landscape. All we have to do now is make use of these substantial powers. We take up that challenge. It is now up to others to do the same.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray). It is a calumny that he has been described as negative. He spent much of his time at the Dispatch Box trying to be positive about the Scotland Bill. Parts of his speech were positive and we welcome that, and we also welcome the Secretary of State’s positive comments.

The Scotland Bill is an important step in extending the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and in Scotland’s journey towards greater self-government. That journey has quickened in pace since the Scottish National party was first returned to power in 2007. The Bill follows progress including the Scotland Act 2012, the

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independence referendum and the Smith commission itself. As Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said, the Bill delivers additional powers that can benefit the people of Scotland, including extended powers over tax, new powers over welfare, and responsibilities for the Crown Estate, tribunals and the licensing of onshore oil and gas activity.

The agreement on a fiscal framework published on 25 February increases the Scottish Parliament’s financial responsibility, is consistent with the Smith principles of no detriment, and is fair to the people of Scotland. As the Bill, including the amendments under discussion, provides useful powers and has moved towards delivering more of the recommendations made by the Smith commission reports, and as the agreement on the fiscal framework would be a fair basis for future funding consistent with the principles agreed by the Smith commission, the Scottish Government recommended that the Scottish Parliament should consent to the Bill. On 11 March 2016, the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee published its report on the Scotland Bill and the fiscal framework. Although it makes recommendations on specific policy areas, its overall conclusion is that the Scottish Parliament should consent to the Bill. That is what is before us. On 16 March, the Scottish Parliament consented to the legislative consent motion for the Bill.

The SNP has, of course, governed in Scotland for nine years, and every indication is that the people of Scotland have been delighted with the governance of Scotland under the SNP. I join the Labour party spokesman in paying tribute, as I did earlier today, to every outgoing Member of the Scottish Parliament—not least my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond)—of all political parties, who have worked hard to achieve the best governance that decision-making closer to home can bring.

The outgoing Scottish Government have already acted with pace and creativity, in consultation with others, to be ready to use the limited powers—there are, of course, limits on the powers that are being devolved. That includes introducing a social security Bill within the first year of the new Scottish Parliament, to support the transfer and administration of Scotland’s new, devolved social security benefits. It also includes enhancing opportunities for employment and inclusive economic growth by improving support for people to move into employment through reform of the Work programme and linking employment programmes with training and education.

The outgoing Scottish Government have also committed to abolishing fees for employment tribunals, to reduce the burden of air passenger duty by 50%, and to promote equalities by taking early action on gender balance on public boards. They have also set out longer-term intentions for further income powers, are committed to a progressive taxation policy and have applied that to decision on existing tax powers. Commencement of most of the new powers will take place in 2016, but new arrangements for the use of major new powers on matters including tax and welfare will not be in place before April 2017 following scrutiny of the proposals by the Scottish Parliament.

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On 11 March 2016, the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee published its final report and gave its unanimous recommendation that legislative consent be given to the Scotland Bill. That was described as

“a significant milestone in a remarkable political process”

by Committee convener Bruce Crawford MSP. I pay tribute to him and his colleagues on the Committee, as I do to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, for their work. Although the Scotland Bill and the Smith commission could have delivered more effective and coherent powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Bill provides useful additional powers in important areas such as taxation and social security.

The UK Government amended the Bill to reflect some of the comments of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and its Committees. With an agreed fiscal framework that increases the Scottish Parliament’s responsibility and protects the Barnett formula, the Scottish Government recommended that the Scottish Parliament consent to the Scotland Bill. The final report of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee also had some important things to say:

“There are still some areas where we feel that the Scotland Bill continues to fall short of the spirit and substance of Smith…Nevertheless, the Bill has been improved during its passage through our detailed scrutiny and we welcome the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland has been prepared to listen to the evidence we have presented and improve the Bill in other areas…in our view, on the basis of the information provided to date by both governments, we are prepared to endorse the fiscal framework underpinning the powers to be devolved to Scotland as part of this Bill. Therefore, on balance, we recommend that the Scottish Parliament gives its legislative consent to the Scotland Bill.”

UK Government amendments that implement more of the Smith report, including the permanence of the Scottish Parliament, are welcome. However, it needs to be said that the Scotland Bill continues to fall short of the spirit and the substance of Smith in some areas, including the devolution of employment programmes and the future operation of the legislative consent provision. It is important to understand that the UK Government can still effectively veto the exercise of devolved powers over universal credit by inserting their own date for the changes to commence. The social security provisions on discretionary payments and assistance are still subject to restrictions, notably for those who are under sanctions. The Smith report was clear that the Scottish Parliament should have complete autonomy over devolved benefits. The Scotland Bill is many things, but it is not federalism or near-federalism. Anybody who understands the powers of the German or Austrian Länder knows that to be true. It is an improvement, and it is progress.

We in the SNP thank all in the Scottish Government who have been involved, especially John Swinney. We also thank those on the UK Government side, even though—this is an important rider—I see that there is a Minister from the Treasury on the Treasury Bench, and we all know that the Treasury wanted a fiscal framework that would have made Scotland worse off by £7 billion. Thank goodness for the efforts of John Swinney and colleagues in the Scottish Government. I would like to take the opportunity to thank my SNP MP colleagues, who have worked so hard on the Bill throughout the parliamentary process. In fairness, it is also right to place on record the fact that Members in the other place spent a lot of time on the Bill.

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Most importantly, I thank all those in Scotland who have believed in more powers. They did not draw lines in the sand or say, “This far, and no further”, as others have done, even in the recent past. Thanks to all those yes voters and all those SNP voters, Westminster has had to take note. This is just the latest stage on Scotland’s journey, and there will be many more. We agree with the amendments, and we wish the Bill to proceed. That is exactly what will happen today.

David Mundell: I will not detain the House for long, but I want to respond briefly to some of the points that have been made.

I add my best wishes to all Members of the Scottish Parliament who are leaving at this election, particularly my colleagues and others who were elected to the Scottish Parliament alongside me back in 1999. A number of people who have served in Parliament throughout that period are leaving, and others who are standing in the election will be leaving, although not necessarily of their own accord. We should wish them well.

6.15 pm

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) and the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) for what they said about Scotland Office officials. They will both recognise that the Scotland Office is a small team, and bringing the Bill together, along with 10 other Whitehall Departments, has been a very significant undertaking for the Scotland Office. I pay particular tribute to the Bill team, who have navigated us to this point.

I also pay tribute to Michael Clancy and his efforts on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. All Scottish Members, including the new ones at the last election, will have come to see Michael as one of the most dogged pursuers of improved legislation across the gamut of what affects Scotland in this place. I very much welcome his involvement.

My test for the Bill was the views of Lord Smith of Kelvin. He has been absolutely clear that, with the amendments made to the Bill on Report and with the fiscal framework as negotiated, the Bill fully meets the Smith commission recommendations. That is the test—the objective test—that should be applied to the Bill.

I welcome the contribution that all Members have made, particularly in Committee. We have had some lively discussions on the Floor of the House. I very much welcome the work of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee in the Scottish Parliament. I have said in correspondence with Bruce Crawford—I am happy to put this on the record in this Parliament—that its scrutiny of the Bill has been exemplary and has contributed significantly to improving it. We of course recognise the detailed scrutiny of the Bill in the other place.

The Bill is now on the final stage of its journey, so it is appropriate briefly to consider what lies ahead. The co-operation between Scotland’s two Governments and Parliaments that has underpinned the Scotland Bill and fiscal framework will be fundamental to the success of the work that now needs to take place to implement the new powers. Last week, the Deputy First Minister and I discussed the initial plans for the transfer of powers following commencement, and I will continue that dialogue with the Scottish Government immediately after the Holyrood elections.

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To date, both Governments have agreed that the full devolution of income tax rates and thresholds for non-savings and non-dividend income will commence in April 2017. Air passenger duty will be devolved in April 2018, and the implementation dates for welfare will be agreed by the joint ministerial working group on welfare. The majority of the remaining provisions will be commenced either on Royal Assent or two months after Royal Assent.

Political discourse in Scotland is already changing as a result of the Bill, moving on from a debate on process to one about how the powers will be used. I am expecting a lively debate during coming weeks about how these powers should be used for the benefit of the people of Scotland. I look forward to working further, after the elections, with the Scottish Government to ensure their smooth and effective transfer. I urge the House to accept the Lords amendments.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 62 agreed to, with Commons financial privileges waived in respect of Lords amendment 22.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Under section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993—the Maastricht Act of Parliament —there is a requirement on the Government:

“Before submitting the information required in implementing Article 103(3) of the Treaty…to report to Parliament for its approval an assessment of the medium term economic and budgetary position in relation to public investment expenditure”. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. This is a serious point of order to which I hope Members will want to attend. If they do not, they can always pursue their enthusiasms elsewhere. I want to listen to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, as should those on the Treasury Bench.

Sir William Cash: As the Minister knows, that provision concerns convergence criteria, and stability and growth factors. The trouble is that the document we have been given, entitled, “2014-15 Convergence Programme for the United Kingdom: submitted in line with the Stability and Growth pact”, contains in pages 141 to 145 a detailed assessment of the position on welfare caps and other spending, including matters relating to disability benefits and personal independence payments, about which there has been a great deal of controversy over the past few days.

I therefore submit to you, Mr Speaker, that it is impossible for the Government to be able to submit that document, which has now been significantly changed as a result of the controversy of the past few days, and it is therefore inappropriate for them to proceed with this debate. What is your view?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, which I think I will describe as a conscientious effort at derailment of the Government’s intended programme of business. I say that not in a pejorative sense, as it is a perfectly legitimate attempt. I hope that those on the Treasury Bench, and other Government Members, are cognisant of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and that they have followed the logic of his argument and the substance of his thesis. I am not altogether sure that all expressions on ministerial faces have been entirely comprehending of his point,

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even though it is pretty straightforward, but my advice to the hon. Gentleman is that if at the end of the debate he is dissatisfied, he will have to register that with his vote. He is saying that the terms of trade have changed, but that is often the case, and he should seek to catch my eye to develop his arguments more fully in the course of the debate.

Sir William Cash rose

Mr Speaker: I am not sure that there is really a further point of order, but as it is the hon. Gentleman, I am minded to indulge him.

Sir William Cash: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wanted to mention the ministerial code. After all, it is incumbent on Ministers to give accurate information to Parliament, and I wish to register that point.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has registered that point, although, as he will know, I am not responsible for the ministerial code. Others are, however, bound by it, and therefore have a responsibility to it. That point is on the record.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether it would be sufficient for Ministers to report orally to the House on how they propose to amend the figures, which are clearly wrong.

Mr Speaker: It is entirely open to Ministers to do that in the course of the debate. I have no desire to steer the debate as that would be very wrong, but I have a hunch that if the Minister does not provide satisfaction on that front, he might be peppered with attempted interventions from either the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) or the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). We will leave it there for now.

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Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993

6.24 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): I beg move to move,

That this House approves, for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government’s assessment as set out in the Budget Report and Autumn Statement, combined with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook and Fiscal Sustainability Report, which forms the basis of the United Kingdom’s Convergence Programme.

After four days of debating the Budget I am sure the whole House will welcome a further opportunity to debate the UK economy, given the information that will be provided to the Commission this year under section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993.

As in previous years, the Government inform the Commission of the UK’s economic and budgetary position as part of our participation in the EU’s stability and growth pact. The convergence programme explains the Government’s medium-term fiscal policies as set out in the 2015 autumn statement and Budget 2016. It also includes the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts. As such, it is based entirely on previously published documents that have been presented to Parliament. It is the content, not the convergence programme itself, that requires the approval of the House for the purposes of the 1993 Act.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Will my hon. Friend explain, for the benefit of the House, what he understands by the meaning of the word “convergence”?

Mr Gauke: The important point here is that the United Kingdom is not obliged to converge with other EU member states. If I remember correctly, the terminology dates back to the Maastricht treaty, and this is a part of the process that originates from that. The UK is not subject to any sanctions as a consequence of our participation in this process, nor are we required to take any directions from the European Commission in respect of our economic policies.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): But surely the purpose of tabling the numbers to the Commission is that it puts it under what it calls “surveillance”? It can then make an adverse report. It is very clear that the intention is that our budget deficit should never be more than 3% of GDP. I note that, for the first time in some time, the Government will at least get the budget deficit below 3%. I am in favour of doing that anyway, but is it not the case that they have to do that because that is what convergence is all about?

Mr Gauke: It is the case that the provision dates back to the Maastricht treaty—no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) can provide further details on its history—which was incorporated into the European Union (Amendment) Act 1993. That requires us to submit a report. The important point for the House is that this does not give the European Commission the ability to impose sanctions on the UK. I am in complete agreement with my right hon. Friend that the UK should not have excessive deficits, but that is a matter ultimately decided by this House, this Parliament and the elected Government of the United Kingdom.

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Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): I know my hon. Friend listened to what I said in my point of order, so I would like to address the point to him personally. Section 5 states:

“Her Majesty’s Government shall report to Parliament for its approval”—

on the basis that it is accurate—

“an assessment of the medium-term economic and budgetary position”.

It is absolutely clear, unless he can tell me that this document was prepared since the controversy of the past few days, that this cannot be accurate and nor can it be a proper assessment. To report to Parliament something that is not accurate is quite an important and rather difficult problem for the Minister, is it not? What measures will he take to correct the position, so that Parliament can approve it on the basis of an accurate assessment?

Mr Gauke: I will return to that point later, but let me address it in short now. The information provided to the Commission under this process is and has always been based on information already published. It is not a new exercise. We do not ask the OBR to go through the process once again. It is required to produce its documentation and make its assessments at the times of Budgets and autumn statements, and we do not think that our requirement under European legislation is such that we should require the OBR to go through that process again.

The essential position of the public finances remains the same. Notwithstanding the announcement on personal independence payments, it remains the case that from next year debt will be falling every year, that the deficit will be falling each and every year of this Parliament and that we will be in surplus in 2019-20. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) would not be keen for us, as a consequence of this requirement—I suspect he is no enthusiast for our going through this process in the first place, but the fact is we have to go through it—

Mr Nuttall: Why?

Mr Gauke: Because that is what the law requires us to do.

It would not seem proportionate, in these circumstances, to do anything other than submit documentation previously prepared by the OBR.

Sir William Cash: I just want to put this to bed. I have made the point that the documentation cannot be accurate—unless my hon. Friend is going to tell me the Government have changed the figures since publication—but there is a second point. It appears from the figures, which can be a bit confusing for some people, that there is a black hole. Some people allege it is as much as £4 billion and others say it is only £1.3 billion—it relates specifically to PIP—but he will appreciate that it is not possible for the documentation to be accurate. This has nothing to do with the OBR as such—it is not the OBR report being submitted—but concerns the Government’s own assessment. Will he be kind enough to get that right? It is important that we are accurate.

Mr Gauke: Our principled approach over several years has been that the documentation provided to the Commission is based on the most recent publications. I

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do not think it would be sensible or proportionate to rerun elements of a Budget process purely for an EU audience. That would not be the right thing to do.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): On the accuracy of the information being transmitted to the Commission, there is another matter, which has not been brought up. The figures for February’s tax receipts have led to a significant increase in February borrowing. It is therefore impossible in the final month of the financial year for the Government to hit their declared target for borrowing. It will be greater than the target—so, again, the information is inaccurate.

Mr Gauke: Again, I make the same principled point. We provide information already published in these reports—we do not seek to amendment it—although the hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point: should this be updated monthly in the light of public finance numbers? I would make a second point about the public finances, however. Having been in the Treasury for a little while now, I know that public finance numbers can be quite volatile, so one should take good news and bad on a monthly basis with a pinch of salt. It is only when one steps back that one has a good view of the overall position, and that is what the OBR does twice yearly.

On the process, I remind the House that although the UK participates in the stability and growth pact, by virtue of our protocol to the treaty opting out of the euro, we are required only to endeavour to avoid excessive deficits. The UK cannot be subject to any action or sanctions as a result of our participation in the pact. Following the House’s approval of the economic and budgetary assessment that forms the basis of the convergence programme, the Government will submit that programme to the European Commission. The Commission is expected to make its recommendations to all EU member states in mid-May. These recommendations will then be agreed by Heads of State or Government at European Council.

Mr Nuttall: This process takes place, as we both know, every year, and we have this debate every year. What, however, is its purpose? What possible benefit is there in going through the motion or charade of submitting this document to Brussels every year? What are the benefits for this country and for my constituents?

Mr Gauke: Apart from the fact that the law requires us to do this, I would tell my hon. Friend that the UK has a proud record of structural reform. We are performing better than many other EU member states. To the extent that other such states are able to examine the measures that we have been taking to improve the performance of the UK economy and to the extent that they see it as an example well worth following, this will help to strengthen other EU member states’ economies, which might have a benefit to the constituents of my hon. Friend. The fact that we are leading the way as the fastest-growing major western economy means that we have a proud record. We should not be hiding our light under a bushel.

Budget 2016 set out the Government’s assessment of the UK’s medium-term economic and budgetary position. In uncertain times and against a deteriorating global

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1699

economic outlook, the Budget delivers security for working people. It takes the next bold steps in the Government’s long-term economic plan. The UK is forecast to grow faster than any other G7 economy this year, with employment at record highs. Against that, productivity growth is weaker than forecast, while globally the economic picture is less positive than it was six months ago.

The OBR tells us that in every year of the forecast, our economy grows and so, too, does our productivity, but it has revised down growth in the world economy and in world trade. The OBR also notes concerns across the west about low productivity growth, and has revised down potential UK productivity growth. In the face of the new assessment of productivity and the slowing global economy, the OBR now forecasts that UK GDP will grow by 2% this year, 2.2% again in 2017 and then 2.1% in each of the three years after that.

I shall not go through all the figures that have been debated at some length relating to the deficit and the debt, and I shall not go through all the Government’s measures. What is clear is that we are restoring our public finances, heading towards a surplus at the end of this Parliament and reducing the deficit year on year. I hope that the House will, in line with section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, approve the economic and budgetary assessment that forms the basis of the convergence programme. I look forward to hearing this evening’s debate.

6.38 pm

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab): I have to say that I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). I draw the House’s attention to the wording of the motion, which states:

“That this House approves…the Government’s assessment as set out in the Budget Report and Autumn Statement”.

Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not accept the assessments made in the autumn statement, yet we are now going off to Brussels and—if the motion is passed; I hope it is not—saying that we accept them.

I hope you will give me a little latitude, Mr Speaker, because I would like to start by setting the scene of where we are with our economy and looking at some of the history behind it. We must look at credibility. In the 2015 general election, Labour lacked economic credibility and people voted accordingly. It is true that most of the economic meltdown in the UK in 2008 was due to world factors such as the Lehman Brothers collapse and so forth. Let me try, however, to dispose of the myth to which some in Labour still cling—namely, that there were no real problems with the UK economy when the world economic meltdown occurred in 2008 and that all Labour’s economic problems thereafter were due solely to world factors.

That analysis is just plain wrong, and most people know it. Most voters know that the Labour Government did great things to improve our society and our economy, but voters also know that Mr Gordon Brown made some fundamental economic mistakes—for example, the nonsense of his slogan “an end to boom and bust”, his light-touch regulation of the financial services sector,

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the disaster of the private finance initiative, and large deficits in the good times. Just before the world meltdown, the UK annual deficit was 3.1% of GDP.

As I have said in the House before, Mr Brown arrogantly ignored the warnings that some of us gave him well before the crash. I am angry and sorry that he made those mistakes, because they meant that the UK economy was not as well placed as it should have been before the world crash. Even without them, the UK’s defences would have been overtopped when the financial tsunami came across the Atlantic, but not by so much. Today, our economy faces what the current Chancellor has described as world headwinds, and because of the current Chancellor’s own mistakes, the UK is far worse placed to withstand those headwinds than it was in 2008, when the world tsunami hit. The national debt expressed as a percentage of GDP, for example, is far higher than it was in 2008, and it is now rising.

Sir William Cash: In the light of the strictures that the hon. Gentleman has imposed on his former Prime Minister, may I just mention that the national debt, which is currently regarded as being about £1.5 trillion, rises to between £3 trillion and £4 trillion if, for instance, Network Rail and the pension liabilities are taken into account? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that is the real position?

Rob Marris: Network Rail should be included; future pension liabilities should not.

The Chancellor is fond of saying that the current Government and the last coalition Government have fixed the roof while the sun was shining, and that Labour failed to do so. Well, only 20% of infrastructure projects have been started over the last six years. Under Labour Governments we had many more hospitals and schools, and we also had the £12 billion decent home programmes for doing up social housing. As a result, there was a great deal more social housing, including housing association and council properties, than there has been under the current Conservative Government and the coalition.

I welcome the creation of 2 million more jobs since 2010—that is the jewel in the Chancellor’s crown—but it has been bought with a sea of debt, a point to which I shall return. The proportion of part-time workers in the work force has remained broadly the same for the last 10 years, but there is concern about the growth of zero-hours contracts, although I must say that that concern is sometimes overblown. There is also concern about regional imbalances between London and the rest of the country, although I am pleased to say, as a west midlands Member, that they have lessened somewhat in the last two years. However, according to the Office for National Statistics, median gross weekly earnings in the United Kingdom fell by about 4.5% in real terms under the coalition Government.

A theme of the Chancellor’s Budget statement was

“We choose to put the next generation first.”—[Official Report, 16 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 951.]

What happened about student fees and loans in England? What happened about the abolition of the education maintenance allowance in England? What happened about the spiralling cost of housing in the last six years because the Government singularly failed to address that issue, thereby increasing intergenerational imbalance?

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What happened about this Government’s selling of a record amount of state assets this year? Those assets could have gone to the next generation. What happened about this Government’s carrying on with the disastrous policy of PFI? And what happened about the deficit and the national debt?

We were told that the deficit was not going to be eliminated by 2015. Well, these things happen. Is it going to be eliminated by 2020? Barely any commentators besides the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself believe that. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury says this evening that we are doing better than other member states. I have to tell him that that is not true. In the G7, for example, our deficit compared with those of the other seven states is the sixth worst. Only Japan is worse. In 2014, the deficit in Greece—poor old meltdown Greece—was less as a proportion of GDP than the deficit in the United Kingdom. In 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund, they will be the same. That is not a great example to set.

The changes, positive as they may be, with some anaemic growth and considerable growth in employment, have been bought on a sea of debt. Government spending is out of control. Let us look at the national debt. I am grateful to the economist Richard Murphy for providing me with these historical figures. In 2014 prices, the average borrowing by Labour Governments for each year in office since the war was £26.8 billion. The figure for Conservative Governments was £33.5 billion. The average borrowing, in 2014 prices, for each year in office excluding the period since the world crash in 2008—it could be argued to be unfair to the last Labour Government and the Conservative-led Governments to include that period—was £17.8 billion for Labour Governments and £20.6 billion for Conservative Governments.

Let us look at the percentage of years in which debt was repaid by Governments since the war. Part of the national debt was repaid in a quarter of post-war Labour Government years; the same happened in 10% of Tory Government years since the war. Let us now look at the total repayments of the national debt made by respective Governments, in 2014 prices. Conservative Governments have managed to pay off £19.9 billion of the national debt. Labour Governments, who have far more economic credibility, have paid off £108.8 billion. This Government’s spending is out of control. The national debt is up two thirds in six years, and this year it is forecast to increase slightly as a percentage of GDP.

It is a good thing that Mr Brown kept the United Kingdom out of the euro. Had he not done so, we would be in special measures big time under the terms of the growth and stability pact. The treaty defines excessive budget deficits as those that are greater than 3% of GDP. The current Chancellor has failed that test six years running, and on current forecasts—they could of course change next week—he is set to scrape in under the wire at 2.9% this year. The other element of the definition of excessive budget deficits under the growth and stability pact is that public debt is considered excessive if it is greater than 60% of GDP. It should also be falling by 5% per year on average over a three-year rolling period. The current Chancellor is on track to fail that test 10 years running.

The Chancellor is borrowing on the credit card to pay the day-to-day bills. He is also borrowing on a mortgage to buy bricks and mortar. That is fine for infrastructure— that is what Labour would do and it is what many

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families do. We borrow on a mortgage to pay for the bricks and mortar, but we should not borrow on the credit card to pay the day-to-day bills.

This Chancellor has been in office for six years and it is time that he took some responsibility. Frankly, it is wearisome, juvenile and harmful to our economy to keep blaming the previous Labour Government. I urge all Members of the House to vote against the motion tonight.

Mr Speaker: Order. I will just point out for the benefit of the House that we have an hour and four minutes of the debate left, which should be enough.

6.50 pm

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): I have already made my point about the inaccuracy embedded in the report and need not repeat any of that; I am sure that the Minister heard what I said. In a way, it is an impossible situation for him, but that does not remedy the inaccuracy and I need to hear what the Government propose to do. It may be inconvenient or fortuitous, but the reality is that it is there. The approval by Parliament of these documents for the purposes of onward submission to the European Commission simply cannot be conducted on the basis of the documents under consideration. I will now park the issue, but I am inclined to vote against the Government this evening on account of the inaccuracy, because it just does not make sense. If the Minister wants to, I will be glad if he tries to put things right in some manner, even if only orally, but he may be unable to do so. It is perhaps just as well if I leave things as I have just stated.

What I really want to refer to is the question of national debt, which I mentioned in an intervention. The problem is that the stability and growth pact, the convergence criteria and the 3% are important because they are the basis upon which countries decide whether to run their economies in line with European law or to be cavalier, and there are massive problems in the European Union relating to all that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) mentioned that we are just about on the cusp of 3% at the moment, but that is simply not the case in other countries, which raises an important question. For example, the Italians are in dire trouble and are in an enormous battle to try to get some wiggle room into the stability and growth pact, which has led to extremely bad relations with Germany.

If one looks at what happened in 2003-04, however, nobody blinked an eye when it suited Germany to play around with the pact and not comply with its provisions. Italy is in difficulties and Greece remains in monumental difficulties, infringing the rule of law in Europe as expressed in the stability and growth pact and the convergence criteria, but Germany insists that everybody else obeys the rules until it does not suit it to do so. I find that difficult to accept. In fact, I do not accept it; I reject it. Either there is a rule of law or there is not. The bottom line is that there is a great deal of talk in the European Union about the rule of law, but unfortunately Germany does pretty much what it wants

John Redwood: I remind my hon. Friend that, even today, when Germany would say that she is very virtuous in having no budget deficit, she still has a

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much bigger proportion of debt to GDP than the 60% criterion and no obvious means of getting back down there.

Sir William Cash: My right hon. Friend is, of course, right about that, as he really understands all these things. There are massive problems with the whole of this European project, not only because of the inconsistencies but because of the laying down of requirements and obligations that are, in effect, disregarded when it suits certain countries but not when it suits others. The performance required under section 5 relates not only to the accuracy of the figures, to which I have already referred, but to social, economic and environmental goals, as set out in article 2 of the treaty, and a range of submissions in respect of article 103, which deals with economic growth, industrial investment, employment and the balance of trade.

I am happy to agree that the Conservative Government have managed to retrieve the appalling situation that faced us before 2010, but that does not alter the fact that we are talking about a debt level of £1.5 trillion when it is actually very much more than that. I have suggested that if we include the pension liabilities, it could be as much as £3 trillion to £4 trillion. One really has to take that on board, because if someone who was running a company conveniently parked an element of required debt, the auditors would never give them a clean bill of health. I do not see how pension liabilities can legitimately be off balance sheet, given the scale of this debt and the fact that all those public pensions have to be paid.

I want to move away from that issue, and I would be interested if the Minister would be good enough to refer to one these points in his reply, if he has time. I want to refer now to another aspect of this paper being presented to Parliament for its approval. Page 19 is headed: “Economic opportunities and risks linked to the UK’s membership of the European Union”. What follows on the whole of the page is a litany of reasons why we should stay in the EU. All the arguments of those who say, as I do, that we should leave are dismissed, and I find it tendentious. I have already criticised the three White Papers on the grounds that they lack accuracy and impartiality, which I was promised by the Minister for Europe when I put the point to him during a ping-pong between the Lords and the Commons on the duty to provide information under sections 6 and 7 of the European Referendum Act 2015. Yet, here we are, confronted with exactly the same problem. It is not just that there is inaccuracy embedded in this document, which I am bound to say I do not think the Government can get out of, but there is inaccuracy that conflicts with the provisions of those sections. There is a real list of problems here.

I should also mention the reference on page 19 to the virtues of the single market. I voted for the Single European Act in 1986 but I did table an amendment to say, in effect, that nothing in the Act shall derogate from the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament. Things have moved on enormously since those difficult days, because if I table an amendment now to preserve the sovereignty of the UK Parliament, you, Mr Speaker, will allow it to be debated, and the Clerks of the House

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of Commons will not raise the difficulties that I was faced with then. In a nutshell, I was told by the then Speaker, and indeed by the Clerk of Public Bills, that I was not allowed to move such an amendment—it was as bad as that. Mr Enoch Powell came up to me in the Lobby and said, “I see that you have put down this amendment, and I agree with you.” As in so many other matters relating to economics, he was not exactly wrong.

Basically, this reference to the single market has to be weighed against whether or not it has achieved its objectives. Page 19 says that the single market is full of virtue and is entirely necessary for the United Kingdom.

7 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 15).

Business of the House

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15 and 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting,-

(1) Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply in respect of Questions on:

(a) the motion in the name of Mr David Gauke relating to Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993; and

(b) the motion in the name of Chris Grayling relating to Opposition Parties (Financial Assistance); and

(2) proceedings on the motion in the name of Chris Grayling relating to Opposition Parties (Financial Assistance) may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—

(Julian

Smith

.)

Question agreed to.

Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993

Debate resumed.

Question again proposed.

Sir William Cash: I wish to put on the record again the position with regard to the single market, and I would really like the Minister, for whom I have a lot respect, to answer my question, which I have put over and over again. It is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics and the House of Commons Library.

There is no disputing the fact that we run a trade deficit on current account transactions—imports and exports and good and services—of £58 billion a year, which is a lot of money. That £58 billion deficit is with the other 27 states of the European Union. In a nutshell, we run a loss of £58 billion a year, and I do not regard that as small change. However, Germany runs a surplus of £67 billion with the same 27 member states. If someone can tell me that that is a single market that we need, I would like to hear them repeat it from the Dispatch Box, because it cannot be in our interests.

Furthermore, if we take that same criterion of current account transactions, we run a surplus of well over £36 billion with respect to the rest of the world, and that is selling the same goods and services. Clearly, therefore, there is nothing wrong with our goods and services, but such trade does not work for us in the way that it could and should when we are dealing with the European Union and the single market.

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John Redwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that £12 billion of the £58 billion deficit with the European Union is the money that we have to send to it and that we do not get back? It is payment in order to buy its imports. One does not normally have to make a contribution to a country in order to import things from it.

Sir William Cash: It has been said in the past that the House of Commons is the only lunatic asylum that is run by the inmates, but I think we pale into insignificance compared with the European Union. This just does not work. I ask the Minister to make a note on the piece of paper in front of him to remember to answer my question relating to that deficit and surplus issue, because every time I raise it, I get no answer. Although I agree that we will continue to trade and to co-operate with Europe—we want to do so and they want to do it with us—when it comes to this question of the need to stay in the single market, it simply does not stack up. This document is put forward for approval by Parliament, so we are entitled to an answer to that question.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): In case the Minister does not answer, let me say that a sizeable proportion of the imports that Britain takes from the EU are in fact intermediate products, such as automotive parts, that go into goods that we then re-export. We are talking about supply chain interconnection, not free-standing goods.

Sir William Cash: I can only refer to the fact that these are ONS figures. They are endorsed and verified by the House of Commons Library, and I will leave my point at that.

The argument on page 19 moves forward to a suggestion that any

“new relationship which gives the UK…access to the single market that it needs”—

that assertion continues to be made—

“would involve contributing financially to the EU”,

which we are certainly doing to the very substantial extent of about £10 billion a year, and

“accepting the free movement of people”.

The European Scrutiny Committee has been trying to have a debate on that for the best part of 18 months, but without success. I had a meeting with the Minister about it only today. That goes right to the heart of the viability of free movement and the immigration that flows from it. The argument continues:

“and adopting EU rules without having any say over them.”

I repeat: without any say over them.

Today, the European Scrutiny Committee embarked on an investigation into the influence it is claimed we have and the manner in which decisions are taken in the European Union. This document implies that, somehow or other, we have massive input. The European ombudsman is looking into the question of trilogues, but within the decision-making process of the Council of Ministers it is horrendous to observe the extent to which votes are not taken. The so-called consensus on all matters, including those dealt with on page 19, is arrived at without a proper degree of accountability—in fact, I would say no real accountability of any kind. Decisions are taken in what I would describe as a Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” situation, in which the Illuminati—otherwise known as COREPER—make deals behind the closed

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doors of unsmoke-filled rooms. We do not know and cannot find out how the decisions are arrived at. There is no agenda; nobody knows who decided what and on what basis. It is an affront to the democracy of this country that the decisions that affect the daily lives of everyone in it in respect of the whole gamut of European rule making are made almost entirely without majority voting taking place, in COREPER. It is deeply offensive. It is a black hole and the European Scrutiny Committee is looking into it.

Finally, page 19 talks about productivity. All I would say on that is that, as I understand it, the OBR, whose report is contained in this document, says that the biggest problem this country has is lack of productivity.

The whole of our economic performance is being presented to the European Commission for approval under the 1993 Act and to Parliament for approval today. I will not vote in favour of the motion and I certainly will not approve this load of rubbish. I will vote against the Government because I do not believe that page 19 is true or accurate. I do not agree that the basis of the statistics relating to PIP is such that the document is sufficiently valid to be presented to Parliament. It is a serious matter. We have become far too accustomed to saying, “Oh well, it’s just a blip—just a slight mistake. Someone got something wrong. Let’s not take too much notice of it.” Well, I am going to take notice of it and I shall vote against the Government this evening on that account.


7.8 pm

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) about page 19 and that is the main reason I have entered this debate. It is an unfair exposition on the opportunities and risks linked to our membership of the European Union and I do not think it accurately reflects what the OBR has been saying. I am pleased that the OBR has now spoken for itself and put on the record the important point that it does not believe that in the five-year forecast period, were we to leave, there would be a decline in economic output or activity. Like many forecasters, the OBR believes that the net impact would be quite small. Of course, in line with others it has said that there could be volatility in currency and asset price markets. All I would add is that there has been massive volatility in those markets in the years we have been a member of the EU, so it would be somewhat outrageous to claim that that would suddenly stop were we to leave the EU, but I cannot see that it is a particularly damning point.

My hon. Friend has gone on at some profound length about what is wrong with page 19. I hope Ministers will look again and realise that it is not a fair exposition of the OBR’s position. Linking the OBR’s position with Christine Lagarde’s comment, which is obviously a comment made for the “stay inside” campaign trail rather than for normal commentary purposes, gives a misleading impression.

I wish to make some more fundamental points about the figures and the document before us this evening. Let us start with why we are doing this at all. It is a completely pointless exercise, but it is legally required by the treaty and the framework of law under which we live. It is a great pity that in the renegotiation this, along with dozens of other things, was not sorted out because

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if, as the Minister says, the Government can ignore the advice and the policy laid down by the European Union to control the deficit and get the debt down, what is the point of the Government having to table 300 pages of carefully selected documentation, go through the surveillance procedure, on some occasions receive a report saying that their policy is not good enough or they are not converging in the way that the European Union wishes, and the Government then saying, “Well, fortunately, there is no penalty on us so we will ignore that”?

It is strange to belong to a club, accept the rules and then, when we do not like the rules, say, “Of course, we didn’t really want any of that and fortunately we have been opted out of the penalty bit of it.” It is a strange exercise. I suspect that the official machine of the Government, which goes on whoever is in office, is quite guided by all this. There is probably a wish on the part of officials to get the British Government policy and the figures closer to the convergence requirements. It is high time the European Union itself had an honest debate about the most pressing and most difficult target it has set—the target that all member states should keep their stock of debt to 60% of their national income.

Practically every member state is way above that, and some of them violate the target by having more than double the level set down by the European Union. Why does that body think it is sensible to persevere with a target that none of the member states wish to keep and none of them are trying to reach?

George Kerevan: May I add that the rule that sets the 60% target also states that member states in breach must have a rectification programme and bring their debt level, whatever it is, down by five percentage points a year, which this Government have significantly failed to do and significantly will fail to do for a long, long time?

John Redwood: All the Governments are failing to do that, and it is even more pressing and difficult for a country such as Greece, where the penalties do apply because it is in the euro scheme. Despite all the best efforts of the European leadership, the European Central Bank and others, and very cruel and difficult expenditure cuts that Members in this House would not have accepted for the United Kingdom, Greece is still miles off getting anywhere near the stock-of-debt target and it has struggled until recently to get down to the deficit target.

We need to ask fundamental questions of our European partners about why we go through this routine and what malign influence it has on some economies and some economic performances around the European Union, which should be a matter of common concern all the time we remain in that body. The Minister says this is not a new exercise and it is not much of a burden on the British state; it is just one of those things, and we send in figures that we produce for other purposes. That is not quite true. The introduction to the document clearly has to be written, the selection has to be made, it is clear throughout the document that it is written for domestic purposes and for the purpose of forwarding it to the European Union, and we try to produce figures that we would not otherwise produce in order to conform with the workings of the European Union.

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Next, I would like to highlight the figure for the convergence criteria and the so-called treaty deficit on page 186 of the report. That shows that in 2016-17, if all goes well and these figures work out, for the first time in many years we will get below the 3% target to 2.9%. That makes my point: we would not have to calculate that treaty deficit, think that it was significant or use it as part of the guidance for the British economy if we were not signed up to this surveillance and management system within the European Union. The Minister has to bear it in mind that there is actually some subtle guidance in the European policy. I think that many of my constituents would find it quite surprising that we have to table 300 pages of detailed financial and economic information in order to comply, and that that is then put through a scrutiny and surveillance process.

The next figure that I would like to highlight is on page 156, which shows how much in “expenditure transfers” we have to make to the European Union institutions—in other words, how much money we send that we do not get back. We see that the November forecast for 2016-17 was £10.7 billion, which is a very considerable sum, and that the March forecast, just four months later, has gone up to £11.8 billion. Between the autumn statement and the current Budget there is an increase of £1.1 billion in next year’s expenditure transfers to the EU institutions.

That figure of £1.1 billion is very close to the figure that the Government had pencilled in for disability cuts. I do not know about you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I would rather not have the disability cuts and not pay £1.1 billion extra to the European Union. Why can we not make those kinds of choices? The reason, of course, is that we are signed up to membership of an organisation that thinks it knows better than we do how to spend our own money. I think that people in the United Kingdom are getting very frustrated at being told that we have to be very careful about our priorities, only to discover, if they get guidance from these complex figures, that the European Union can take £1.1 billion extra off us for next year without a by-your-leave. That leaves us struggling to find that money when we try to make the Budget add up, ending up with options and choices that I am sure Ministers did not really want to make, and which Parliament, in its wisdom, has decided should not be made.

I draw the House’s attention to some very important figures on page 205 that the Government are sending to our European partners and masters about projected net migration into the United Kingdom. I was very happy to campaign with my right hon. and hon. Friends at the previous general election on a sensible and sensitive policy of controlled migration, wishing to get it down to the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament. It was a very popular policy, because I think that people liked the idea that there would be a fair system offering sensible rules so that people could understand it before deciding whether or not to come to our country. Interestingly, the forecast that we are sending to the European Union shows that the level of migration will stay much higher than the Government’s target—it shows 256,000 in 2016, declining to 185,000 in 2021. There is also a further projection in which net migration stays considerably higher, actually above 250,000 in every year.

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I think that matters, because the Government’s intentions are very clear: they would like to get net migration well below these forecast figures. Why, then, is the forecast so high? I think that it is very simple: the forecast is that high because the European continental economies, particularly in the south of our continent, are performing very badly and have created mass unemployment on an extremely worrying scale, so the UK, which has a more successful economic policy that is generating a lot of jobs, is acting as a magnet for people who are otherwise without hope of employment.

That policy is making it very difficult for the United Kingdom Government to hit their very popular target on migration. I hope that when this document is submitted Ministers will follow it up by pointing that out to the European Union and saying that they have a solemn promise to keep to the United Kingdom electors, who helped elect them to government, and that this set of EU policies, creating joblessness and therefore triggering a lot of foot-loose migration around the European Union, is making it very difficult to honour that promise.

It also leads us to worry about the quality of some of these forecasts, because I am sure that the Government wish to get the level down, but there is a great danger that the variant of a much higher level has been put in, because actually that is what they are afraid will happen. I hope the Minister will consider that when he replies and that if we are going to go through the process of submitting our homework on economic matters to the European Union to be marked—by sending it 300 pages of figures—we will also say to it, “You are making it impossible for us to meet our legitimate wish to create more jobs to mop up unemployment in our country and to get wages up, as we would like to, because your failing economic policies in many parts of the euro area are bringing a number of migrants into our country that makes it impossible for us to meet our targets.”

Those are just a few brief comments on an extremely complex set of documents and numbers, which show that, while we stay in this body, we need to engage much more and to get some change so that there is honesty in the targeting and an understanding of the damage that some of the targets and policies are creating. However, it will not be a surprise to hon. Members to learn that I think that the simplest thing would be for us to leave the European Union so that this is the last one of these documents we ever have to produce. We can then take control of our own money, banish austerity, spend the £10 billion on things that we want and leave the European Union free to get on with its political union, which is clearly what it will need to do to try to deal with the mass unemployment, the lack of cash transfers and the inadequacy of its regional policies.

I hope tonight’s debate will be of use to the general public and that they will understand that we can take back control, spend our own money, and have prosperity, not austerity. That is what we will get if we leave the European Union.

7.21 pm

Mr Gauke: The debate has addressed both the Budget and our membership of the European Union, so I am grateful to be on my feet at this point, and not later.

Let me respond to some of the points that have been made. To come back to what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) about the numbers, it is important that the document is based on

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1710

information that has been published in advance and that we do not produce a mass of separate information and documentation for the purposes of meeting this requirement.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) will be aware—indeed, he touched on this—the requirement goes back to the 1993 Act. We are complying with obligations in our domestic law to provide this information, and it is therefore right that we do so.

The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone about our trade deficit with the European Union brings me to the wider issue of our membership of the EU. I know that he shares with me a belief in free trade, and in transactions where there is a willing buyer and a willing seller, both parties benefit from the transaction. The point I would make in the context of our membership of the EU is that, whereas 44% of our exports go to the European Union, only 7% of the European Union’s exports come to the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham mentioned the contributions we make to the EU. It is worth pointing out that, thanks to the deal secured by the Prime Minister, our net contributions—whether in cash terms, in real terms or as a proportion of GDP—are in fact falling.

Let me turn to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris), who speaks as a shadow Treasury Minister. For the first time in the six years I have been a Treasury Minister, we have heard an apology from the Labour Front Bench for borrowing too much money before the crash. That is something the hon. Gentleman deserves some credit for, because, try as we might on many occasions, we never got one out of Ed Balls.

The hon. Gentleman criticised the Government’s record on borrowing, but let us be clear: had we stuck with the structural deficit that we inherited, by 2020 we would have borrowed an additional £930 billion over 10 years. It is also worth pointing out that in May 2010, the International Monetary Fund forecast the UK to have had the largest budget deficit in the G20 that year. Between 2010 and 2016, the UK is forecast to have reduced its headline deficit at the second fastest rate in the G7—it is second only to the United States. The IMF forecasts that the UK will reduce its net debt as a share of GDP by more than any other G7 country between 2015 and 2020. If the hon. Gentleman believes that the problem is that we are borrowing too much money, perhaps he could explain why, time and again, the Labour party has opposed every measure we have taken to reduce the deficit.

We have had a lively debate, and I hope the House will support and approve the motion.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 241, Noes 180.

Division No. 232]

[

7.26 pm

AYES

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baldwin, Harriett

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bradley, Karen

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Elliott, Tom

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heappey, James

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Perry, Claire

Philp, Chris

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tugendhat, Tom

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Guy Opperman

and

Jackie Doyle-Price

NOES

Abrahams, Debbie

Ali, Rushanara

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Baker, Mr Steve

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Bone, Mr Peter

Boswell, Philip

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Butler, Dawn

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Cash, Sir William

Chapman, Douglas

Coaker, Vernon

Cooper, rh Yvette

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

De Piero, Gloria

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Eagle, Maria

Evans, Chris

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glass, Pat

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hamilton, Fabian

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hollern, Kate

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Jarvis, Dan

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Long Bailey, Rebecca

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCaig, Callum

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGovern, Alison

Mearns, Ian

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

Nuttall, Mr David

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Phillips, Jess

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, rh Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Siddiq, Tulip

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thomson, Michelle

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Noes:

Sue Hayman

and

Jeff Smith

Question accordingly agreed to.

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1711

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1712

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1713

Resolved,

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1714

That this House approves, for the purposes of Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government’s assessment as set out in the Budget Report and Autumn Statement, combined with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook and Fiscal Sustainability Report, which forms the basis of the United Kingdom’s Convergence Programme.

Royal Assent

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Riot Compensation Act 2016

Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Act 2016

NHS (Charitable Trusts Etc) Act 2016

Scotland Act 2016.

Business without Debate

Opposition Parties (Financial Assistance)

Ordered,

That, in the opinion of this House, the following provisions shall apply in respect of financial assistance to opposition parties:

1. The Resolution of 26 May 1999 relating to financial assistance for opposition parties, as codified and modified by the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 152D(3) (as set out in section 2 of Annex 2 of that Committee’s report to the House of March 2015 (HC 1132)), is amended as follows with effect from the beginning of 1 April 2016—

(1) In paragraph 2.2, after sub-paragraph (b) insert—

“This is subject to paragraphs 2.5A to 2.5C in the case of parties with no more than five Members of the House.”

(2) In paragraph 2.3—

(a) for “£16,956” substitute “£16,938”, and

(b) for “£33.86” substitute “£33.83”.

(3) In paragraph 2.4, for “the Retail Prices Index” (in both places) substitute “the Consumer Prices Index”.

(4) In paragraph 2.5, for “this provision” substitute “the provision set out at paragraph 2.1 above”.

(5) After paragraph 2.5 insert—

“2.5A Paragraphs 2.5B and 2.5C apply in the case of an opposition party where there are no more than five Members of the House who—

(a) are members of the party, and

(b) were elected at the previous General Election after contesting it as candidates for the party.

2.5B If the amount found under paragraph 2.2 above exceeds the amount corresponding to 150% of the relevant IPSA staffing budget for the period (“the maximum amount”), the amount of financial assistance given to the party under paragraph 2.1 in relation to that period must not exceed the maximum amount.

2.5C If the amount found under paragraph 2.2 above is less than the amount corresponding to 50% of the relevant IPSA staffing budget for the period (“the minimum amount”), the amount of financial assistance which may be given to the party under paragraph 2.1 above in respect of the expenses incurred by the party in that period shall instead be the minimum amount.

2.5D For the purposes of paragraphs 2.5B and 2.5C, “the relevant IPSA staffing budget” for a period is the standard annual staffing expenditure budget provided in relation to the period for a non-London area Member by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.”

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1715

(6) In paragraph 2.9—

(a) for “2015” substitute “2016”, and

(b) for “£186,269” substitute “£186,073”.

(7) In paragraph 2.10—

(a) for “2015” substitute “2016”, and

(b) for “£789,979” substitute “£789,146”.

(8) In paragraph 2.11, for “paragraph 2.1” substitute “paragraph 2.10”.

(9) For paragraph 2.13 and 2.14 substitute—

“2.13 As soon as practicable, but no later than two months after 31 March each year, a party claiming financial assistance under the provisions set out at paragraphs 2.1 to 2.11 above shall—

(a) furnish the Accounting Officer of the House with the certificate of an independent professional auditor, in a form determined by the Accounting Officer, to the effect that all expenses in respect of which the party received financial assistance during the period ending with that day were incurred exclusively in relation to the party’s parliamentary business, and

(b) publish accounts in relation to all such expenses, audited by an independent professional auditor, in a form determined by the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee and in accordance with any requirements imposed by that Committee.

2.13A The requirements that may be imposed under paragraph 2.13(b) are such requirements as the Committee considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of enabling proper scrutiny of expenses in respect of which the party has received financial assistance under paragraph 2.1, 2.6 or 2.10 above, which may in particular include requirements for the audited accounts—

(a) to contain details of such expenses during the period to which the report relates (“the reporting period”),

(b) in the case of the Official Opposition—

(i) to state the total remuneration (including benefits in kind) paid in respect of persons employed, or otherwise engaged, to assist the party (“relevant persons”) during the reporting period,(ii) to state each relevant person’s pay band, by reference to the pay bands specified by the Committee,(iii) if a relevant person is appointed to assist a particular Member, to identify that Member, and(iv) to identify each relevant person whose remuneration exceeds an amount specified by the Committee and to state the amount of that remuneration, and

(c) in the case of any other opposition party, to identify the number of persons employed, or otherwise engaged, to assist the party during the reporting period who are within each of the pay bands specified by the Committee.

2.14 If the requirements imposed by paragraph 2.13 above have not been complied with within the time specified, no further financial assistance under the provisions set out at paragraphs 2.1 to 2.11 above shall be paid until those requirements have been complied with.”

2. (1) The Resolution of 8 February 2006 relating to financial support for representative business (as codified and modified by the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 152D(3) (as set out in section 2 of Annex 2 of that Committee’s report to the House of March 2015 (HC 1132))) is amended as follows.

(2) For paragraphs 2.21 and 2.22 substitute—

“2.21 As soon as practicable, but no later than two months after 31 March each year, a party claiming financial assistance under paragraph 2.19 above shall—

23 Mar 2016 : Column 1716

(a) furnish the Accounting Officer of the House with the certificate of an independent professional auditor, in a form determined by the Accounting Officer, to the effect that all expenses in respect of which the party received financial assistance during the period ending with that day were incurred exclusively in accordance with paragraph 2.19 above, and

(b) publish accounts in relation to all such expenses, audited by an independent professional auditor, in a form determined by the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee and in accordance with any requirements imposed by that Committee.

2.21A The requirements that may be imposed under paragraph 2.21(b) are such requirements as the Committee considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of enabling proper scrutiny of expenses in respect of which the party has received financial assistance, and may in particular include requirements for the audited accounts—

(a) to contain details of such expenses during the period to which the report relates, and

(b) to identify the number of persons employed, or otherwise engaged, to assist the party during that period who are within each of the pay bands specified by the Committee.

2.22 If the requirements imposed by paragraph 2.21 above have not been complied with within the time specified, no further financial assistance under paragraph 2.19 shall be paid until those requirements have been complied with.”

3. (1) The House of Commons Members Estimates Committee shall—

(a) consider the provisions of the Resolution of 26 May 1999 in the light of the proposed reduction in the number of Members of this House, and

(b) before the end of the next session, report to the House its views on whether any changes ought to be made to that Resolution in respect of any period after the reduction is expected to take effect.

(2) References in sub-paragraph (1) to the Resolution of 26 May 1999 are to the resolution of that date relating to financial assistance for opposition parties as codified and modified by the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 152D(3) (as set out in section 2 of Annex 2 of that Committee’s report to the House of March 2015 (HC 1132) and as amended by paragraph 1 of this Resolution).—(Chris Grayling.)