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Viscount Thurso: I have listened attentively to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I find it persuasive in some respects. I am certainly sympathetic to the thrust of what he is trying to do. The core of the matter is in the principle of what we allow the Scottish parliament to do and what we do not. The litmus test must be that whatever we oblige it to do from this Parliament, it is clearly something where we believe that there is a danger in some form so that we must oblige it to have the committee.
It is important that we have considerable trust in the Scottish parliament and the people in it. Therefore, we should allow them to make the decisions. Having weighed up the balance of the two arguments, I come down on the side of allowing the Scottish parliament to make up its own mind. Having listened to the Minister's response to my last question, which greatly reassured me, I feel certain that that is the correct way forward.
Lord Sewel: I do not believe that there is any difference at all between us as to where we want to get to on this matter. I suppose a difference is whether we want to provide a framework that enables the parliament to make its own decisions and accept responsibility for its own affairs or whether we want to provide a nanny Bill which tries to cross every "t" and dot every "i". I have made it clear that the approach we have tried to adopt all the way through is to give as much decision-making power in its internal affairs to the parliament itself.
As I said, the Bill requires that, but how the parliament achieves it in its committee structure is for the parliament itself to decide. I make it clear that there is absolutely nothing to stop it having the equivalent of the PAC and adopting the Westminster model. That may not necessarily be the case. I appreciate the words of my honourable friend in another place, Mr. McLeish, on how much value he puts on the PAC model. I offer the thought that that might not be the only model that the parliament wishes to consider. It may consider that another approach may be more effective; for example, subject committees, which might also play a role in the scrutiny of value for money. That would give real responsibility for investigating performance as well as policy in particular areas.
Under that regime any audit committee might then concentrate on regulatory and propriety matters. The difficulty with the amendment as phrased is that it makes that kind of arrangement impossible. It is very tightly and deliberately drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. It reads,
So it is actually forcing consideration very much into the relative straitjacket of the PAC-type model. It does not allow for the degree of flexibility which would, on the one hand, allow for the audit committee but, on the other, allow some of the probing on consideration of accounts, and particularly in relation to the value-for-money area, to be carried out by subject committees. In that capacity one would have thought that the specialist knowledge that the subject committees built up might play a useful and helpful part in the considerations.
As I say, there is nothing between us in terms of the degree of importance that we attach to making sure that the parliament puts in place the appropriate mechanisms to enable proper audit and the consideration of financial reports and accounts. That is covered and envisaged in the Bill as it stands in Clause 66(3). I imagine that that is going to be one of the first matters that the parliament will set its mind to; namely, how to bring that to reality. We have been making sure that the parliament and the executive are given the best possible advice on the matter. The consultative steering group and the financial issues advisory group have been charged, as the noble Lord indicated, and they are beginning to come to conclusions about the best way forward. Because there is a general recognition of the need to have robust mechanisms in place, the actual details are best left to the parliament itself.
It is not simply that the Scottish parliament chooses the first way of running various things, but it is its ability to alter in the light of experience and circumstances which is important. For that reason we believe devolution means no more than placing a framework around the structures and organisations of the Scottish parliament and of the national assembly in Wales and leaving it to those bodies which will be elected to use their common sense in order to produce the right solutions to meet the problems that they have to face.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I suppose that I should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for adopting his usual position and coming to the defence of the Government. It may be that I should welcome the Scottish Bill. I suspect that the noble Lord is here to wreak vengeance on the Scots for my appearance from time to time on the Welsh Bill. Perhaps I should apologise to the Committee for taking that point of view.
I have listened to the Minister with care and his reply half satisfies me. I listened to the words used. There is no difference between us as to where we want to go. However, I want to make sure that we get there. The Minister is content to leave it to the parliament or the advisory committee. However, the committee, unless it is misnamed, is only advisory and the parliament need not accept its advice. I fully understand that we do not want a Bill which appears to nanny the Scottish parliament into existence. There are already many provisions in this Bill that deserve that description and are less important than a properly constituted public accounts-type committee to monitor how the executive spends its money.
I do not believe that subject committees are a substitute. Like local authorities where subject committees as opposed to finance committees are keener on spending money than controlling it, the subject committees of the Scottish parliament will be in the same vein. I prefer to have a committee whose exclusive purpose is the control and monitoring of the way that the executive spends its money.
While I am pleased to hear the assurances of the noble Lord, as my colleague was pleased to hear the assurances of Mr. McLeish, they do not go far enough. I do not know who will be successful in the elections to the Scottish parliament. When I look at the lists of the parties I see a fair clutch of councillors. When I look at Scottish councils, North Lanarkshire and East Ayrshire do not spring to mind as role models for financial probity. As this Parliament is to send a considerable amount of money to the Scottish parliament, I believe
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.