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Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, before my noble and learned friend concludes--I have restrained myself for two days now--is he aware that if he were winding up tonight at the end of a two-day debate in the other place, he would be speaking largely to himself? Here in your Lordships' House he is speaking to well over 70 noble Lords. Is not that a strong case for at least a paving clause for the creation of a second chamber in relation to the Scottish parliament?
Lord Hardie: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that intervention. I do not know whether my noble friend was in the Chamber when my noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale dealt fully with the merits of a unicameral system. I do not accept therefore that it is desirable to have a second chamber.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord was good enough to give assurances about the taxes that may be raised by the parliament. Is he able to say anything about local tax in that respect? Some people fear a tourist tax and other taxes raised at a local level. Is the noble and learned Lord able to say anything about that?
Lord Hardie: My Lords, questions have been raised about the Scottish parliament and its tax-raising powers. I have answered those. As for the power of local authorities to raise local taxes, that would be a matter which would be regulated by their legislative competence and, in turn, the Scottish parliament would regulate the legislative competence of Scottish local authorities.
In conclusion, I would simply repeat my offer to noble Lords whose points I have not dealt with or dealt with as fully as I ought to have done. I am conscious that I have not dealt with many points. If noble Lords wish to speak to me or to write to me, I am quite happy and content to accommodate them at their convenience.
The Scotland Bill will be good for Scotland and its people, but it will also be good for democracy in the whole of these islands. We believe that the establishment of a Scottish parliament, together with Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, will enhance and modernise democracy and, as a result, strengthen the United Kingdom itself. The experience of other countries throughout the developed world is that a strong regional government is complementary to and not incompatible with loyalty to a larger nation state. The backing of the people is vital. That is why we legislated for a referendum in Scotland. Now that the electorate have spoken so decisively in favour of a parliament with law-making and tax-varying powers, the onus is on us all to ensure that we deliver the best possible piece of legislation, based firmly on the proposals which were endorsed in the referendum.
Clearly, there are differences of view between noble Lords in this House, but that should not hinder the process of constructive scrutiny which we hope will take place in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Monro of Langholm, suggested that my pained expression on occasions did not augur well for Opposition amendments. I was unaware of having such an expression on any occasion, but I can assure the noble Lord and the House that the Government are certainly prepared to consider sensible amendments on points of detail which do not cut across the White Paper principles. I am confident that the debate in Committee will be conducted in this spirit. In that regard, I was reassured by indications from noble Lords opposite that they would be constructive, but not obstructive, at later stages of the Bill.
The Scotland Bill is the start of a new chapter in the history of Scotland, but it is only the start. It is up to the people of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom to make devolution work. I am confident that we shall do so and that we shall all reap the benefits of diversity within the Union. I commend the Bill to the House.
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