The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, I beg to move than an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen, to congratulate Her Majesty on the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, and that the Address be presented by the whole House on Tuesday 20 March in Westminster Hall.
This is a formal occasion for paying tribute to our head of state, but what I know will be evident in our national celebrations is the respect and admiration for the Queen personally felt by so many in this nation. She is not simply owed our respect as head of state, but she inspires our respect as an individual.
The Queen fulfils her role as head of state with grace and with firmness of purpose. At the core of that role is her enduring right to be consulted, to advise and to warn the Government, whether that Government is led by her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, or David Cameron, now her 12th Prime Minister.
The Queen has been careful to stand above politics at every turn. We take it for granted that we have no idea what our head of state personally thinks of any of the measures in the Queen's Speech. Her discretion and impartiality when dealing with the Government are impeccable, and we should pay tribute to them.
The Queen is the fount of authority in this realm. She is the head of the Armed Forces, the judiciary, the Civil Service, the supreme governor of the Church of England. It is she, as monarch and an individual, who holds our state together. As well as that assurance of political independence and neutrality, the Queen provides each of those institutions with a valuable focus for loyalty which endures well beyond the reach of any election campaign. That focus for loyalty has been especially valuable for the Armed Forces in recent years, as they have seen more active service than in previous decades.
The same is true of the union itself. The Queen has been rightly careful not to be an English Queen. Indeed, dare I presume that if the Queen were to have a favourite place, the highlands might be that place? The Queen has regularly visited Northern Ireland
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The heart of the Queen's role as head of state is her role in Parliament. It is the monarch who provides the daily authority for our sittings. Without the Mace on the Woolsack, we would not be the House of Lords but a collection of individuals. It is why we bow to the Cloth of Estate behind the Throne and to the Mace as it passes us in procession.
When the Queen is present in person, we have no need of the Mace. Next Tuesday, as the Queen arrives in Westminster Hall, a cloth will gracefully be pulled over the silver gilt of the Mace. Last week, the Queen gave Royal Assent to half a dozen Acts of Parliament-yes, a ceremonial formality, but a public assurance of due process and authority. In a few weeks' time, the Queen will sit on the Throne in this Parliament Chamber and announce the Government's new programme of legislation for the 58th time. If anyone has cause to complain about the relentless tide of legislation, it is she.
The scene at State Opening will be readily identifiable, with the Tudor depiction of the same ceremony embossed on one of our Christmas cards last year. That is part of the point. The Queen provides the nation with a reassuring symbol of continuity and stability that many of us value. Political parties and financial markets go up and down; fashions and celebrity wax and wane; but the crowds for royal weddings over the decades and the centuries have been constant.
One of the Queen's greatest qualities is that she has appeared unchanging while changing very much indeed. The Queen has quite simply kept in touch with our national life throughout her reign. The United Kingdom in 2012 is a world apart from that of 1952, let alone the imperial court in which Her Majesty was raised. It is an achievement of some skill that the Queen remains quite so relevant to our national life and in touch with her subjects. Those of us, and there are a few of us in this House, who are privileged enough to have been Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster know from our personal experience the keen interest that the Queen takes in hearing in detail about the Duchy's affairs, and the pleasure that she gets from it.
The Queen is not simply owed our respect as head of state; she inspires it as an individual. It is a privilege to lead these tributes today, and I am confident that they mark the start of a deservedly happy jubilee. I know that the Lord Speaker will speak eloquently on our behalf next Tuesday. I beg to move this Motion for an humble Address.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is an enormous privilege for me from the Benches of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in your Lordships' House to support the Motion and add our congratulations to those already offered to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The Leader of the House has concentrated on the Queen's role as head of state, her constitutional role and her role in Parliament, and I concur, of course, with all that he has said.
All those things are central to the monarchy, but equally central is Britain's relationship with its monarchy and in particular with its Queen. Twenty years ago this year, the Queen had what she herself termed her "annus horribilis". Twenty years on from that low point, her standing with the people of this country could not be higher.
Republics and republicanism are now dominant around the world, but not here in Britain. Polls show that three-quarters of the British people support the monarch. More than half believe that the Queen is one of Britain's greatest monarchs. More than half again believe that Britain will still have the monarchy in 50 years' time. Two-thirds of people across our country believe that in the 60 years of the Queen's reign the quality of life in Britain has got better.
That support means that, regardless of the political affiliation of the Government in power, the Queen can and does speak for Britain and the British people, as she did so wonderfully last year in her first ever visit to the Republic of Ireland. She is able to carry out that role because she is in touch with all the details of our national life. Every year, the Queen meets tens of thousands of people of this country and touches their lives. Every year, the Queen and her family undertake more than 3,000 engagements across the UK and many others overseas. Every year, the Queen entertains more than 50,000 people at receptions and garden parties. Every year, the Queen gets through a mountain of red boxes, seeing all important government papers, including the minutes of every Cabinet meeting. That has given her a unique and unmatchable perspective on British government, politics and society over a 60-year period-real service, real connection and a real relationship between the Queen and her country.
A constitutional monarchy is one in which the monarch is in name the ruler but does not rule. A constitutional monarch is not the servant of the people but does serve the people, and the Queen's service, with the loyal and steadfast support of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been extraordinary. We in this House are used to long service, but 60 years on the Throne, 60 years of unstinting and unswerving service, is an astounding achievement. It is one that this House and the whole country recognise, respect and value, and one for which we are all grateful.
Perhaps I may record a personal point. When I was Leader of your Lordships' House and Lord President of the Council, I was one of the Ministers who was privileged to meet the Queen regularly. Occasionally the meetings took place in Windsor Castle, where she always gave the impression of being at home. She was unfailingly courteous, knowledgeable and professional, and personally kind to me, for which I am particularly grateful. When my noble friend Lord Mandelson took over that particular privilege, I became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. One of my treasured memories is of hosting a dinner for the Queen and all former Chancellors of the Duchy who were still living, many of whom are in their places today. It was a very jolly occasion with much laughter. A similar dinner had taken place 10 years before and a photograph had been taken to commemorate the occasion. Naturally, the Queen was in the middle of the front row. Sadly,
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The public's view of the Queen is clear: the longer she reigns the better. The Queen is already the United Kingdom's second longest serving monarch and we look forward to September 2015 when she will, we all hope, outdistance even Queen Victoria. Jubilees such as we are about to see this year are a big punctuation mark in our national life. They give the country the opportunity to pause and to reflect and they tend to prove the naysayers wrong. The Silver Jubilee in 1977 was predicted to be a flop; it was instead a huge success. So was the Golden Jubilee in 2002; and the Diamond Jubilee will also be a triumph. Britain will celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the Throne and celebrate, too, the sense of community and pride in our country which the Diamond Jubilee will foster. Even in times of austerity the jubilee will bring the country together.
We, on these Benches and across the whole House, look forward to that and to Her Majesty's address next week to both Houses of Parliament. It is wholly appropriate that the Queen should choose for the formal launch of her jubilee celebrations the Parliament of the people. Rightly, the jubilee will lead to many tributes to the Queen and to many conclusions being promulgated about the state of the nation at this moment. For our part, we will stand by the judgment given by the BBC's Andrew Marr in his book to mark the Diamond Jubilee, in which he says of the Queen,
The Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition have spoken about the Queen's role as head of state, her service to this country and the immense changes seen in Britain over the past 60 years. It is not only in Britain that we have seen change. When the Queen came to the Throne she still reigned over an empire. The peaceful transition from colonies to a commonwealth of free nations is a legacy in which she has played no small part. From that spine-tingling dedication of self to service by the young Princess Elizabeth in Africa over 60 years ago, to a message to the Commonwealth earlier this week in Westminster Abbey, the Queen has been the inspiration and the personification of the Commonwealth which, in her words this week in the Abbey, can,
One aspect of Her Majesty's work of which everyone is aware is the constant round of making and receiving visits. Anyone who has ever done a school prize-giving knows how much time and effort goes into making the day special for those you are meeting and greeting. The ready smile, the handshake, the interested question look all so easy and yet require care and preparation to ensure that those on the receiving end are left with lifetime memories of "the day I met the Queen".
There is one passion that the Queen shares with me and millions of others. Anyone who has ever seen a photograph of her at a horserace meeting knows that she loves the horses. Last year, the Sun reported with absolute precision that the Queen was going to bet £10 on Carlton House, her horse in the Derby. How they could be so sure of the fact, one can only speculate.
In 2001, we in this House made the faux pas of holding the State Opening of Parliament in Ascot week. Only the fact that the Irish stagecoach broke the speed limit returning down the Mall allowed Her Majesty to be in Ascot in time for the 2.30. This time there is no such clash, and we know that on 2 June she will be at Epsom for the Jubilee Derby. After last year's disappointment with Carlton House, which came third, I do not think Her Majesty has a runner this year. For the romantics among us, I suggest Imperial Monarch-but I think my noble friend Lord Sassoon should put the Treasury's money on Camelot.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, any tribute to the Queen should also be associated with Prince Philip, who has been by her side throughout this period. I also say, as a son of the red rose county, what a pleasure it is that both the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition recall their time as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. My tribute is not only to the Queen but to "the Queen, the Duke of Lancaster", and I am proud to make it.
Lord Laming: My Lords, the House will know that members of the Cross-Bench group seldom, if ever, speak with one voice. Indeed, they often remind me of their individual independence. However, today is different, because for once, I am in no doubt that each member of the Cross-Bench group is delighted to be associated- in every respect-with the tributes already paid and with the Motion of an humble Address. The citizens of this country, and indeed people throughout the Commonwealth, are most fortunate in having such a remarkable woman as our head of state and head of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty the Queen is rightly held in great affection and she has our deep gratitude, always, for the immense workload she carries on behalf of us all.
The members of the Cross-Bench group bring to this House a wide range of experience and expertise. They have spent many years in the key public services, in industry, the law, the arts, commerce and of course in leading charities. However, in addition, the group includes former Lord Chamberlains and Private Secretaries to Her Majesty. Those officeholders have, more than most, an even clearer appreciation of the volume of work and the range of activities undertaken by the Queen and members of her family, week in and week out-in her case for more than 60 years.
Her Majesty's workload includes frequent visits to cities and counties throughout the United Kingdom. Many Members of this House will have had direct experience of witnessing the excitement and regard generated during these events. Her Majesty always takes the opportunity to recognise the contributions to society made by individuals and organisations. This is deeply appreciated and of enduring benefit. For example, the media reports of the recent Diamond
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The House will know that the Queen is the patron of more than 600 charities. Her husband, of course, founded the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme for young people and the Prince of Wales's Prince's Trust gives purpose and promotes self-respect to hundreds of disadvantaged young people each year. This is just a mere snapshot of the many activities in support of charities undertaken by members of the Royal Family. We must neither underestimate, nor take for granted, the work and importance of the Queen and her family in enriching the quality of life in our society.
On behalf of the Cross-Bench group, I join the rest of the House in supporting this Motion and wishing Her Majesty a splendid Diamond Jubilee. It is a great honour to make this contribution to the remarkable achievements of the Queen and, together, we offer Her Majesty our warmest congratulations and very good wishes.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, we often hear questions these days as to what gives this nation its identity. We rightly point to our history, our language and, not least, our long and deep commitment to the rule of law. But as we become more visibly diverse, as we take on board more dimensions of our history, more languages spoken in our schools, more complex discussions of equality before the law, one feature of our national life remains centrally significant. We treasure the fact that, above the shrill debates of our public life, we have in Her Majesty the Queen a personal focus for the loyalty and commitment we know we must feel towards each other as fellow citizens.
Sometimes loyalty to a nation can be a blind prejudice of race; sometimes it can be a dry and rather distant habit of reliance on the rights and privileges that the law guarantees for us. But Her Majesty the Queen has reminded us that it may also be grounded in something like a feeling of plain friendship and relationship within the national community, a feeling that is generated by the example, at the heart of our society, of someone who by her attentive and sympathetic presence in so many diverse settings, here and abroad, creates that sense of friendship. We sometimes joke about how many people appear to have dreams about meeting the Queen. But it is not simply a joke. We imagine ourselves in the neighbourhood of the monarch because we have a deeply ingrained sense of belonging with her as a neighbour, as someone who helps to keep alive the hope that the nation itself might be a neighbourhood.
So in your Lordships' House, in the judiciary, in the Armed Forces, in the Church of England, and in many other contexts, we promise our allegiance to a person. In so doing we recognise all that Her Majesty has done and continues to do in personalising our loyalty and recalling us to the need constantly to work for that neighbourliness, that directness of relation to each other, that is the lifeblood of a genuinely united society, uniting and knitting together the hearts of this people, as our prayer reminds us daily. A person-and
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We give thanks to God for this unique ministry over six decades, praying that Her Majesty will long be spared to go on drawing us into this spirit of neighbourly attention and support for one another that makes us still, for all the challenges we face, a lively and a hospitable society.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I hope I may be permitted to add a very small point of tribute. The Leader of the House referred to the Civil Service as one of those organisations of which the Queen is supreme governor. I hope I might be permitted to add Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service, of which I had the privilege to be head for five years and in which I had the immense privilege of very frequent meetings with Her Majesty when I accompanied heads of diplomatic missions to present their credentials to her.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Government are already amending the Freedom of Information Act through the Protection of Freedoms Bill, including provisions to extend the Act to more than 100 extra bodies and to introduce new rights in relation to data sets. These are part of a much wider set of measures to enhance transparency. The Freedom of Information Act is also currently the subject of post-legislative scrutiny by the Justice Select Committee.
Lord Wills: My Lords, I very much welcome that Answer from the Minister, and that commitment to transparency. He will be aware of a report in the Guardian last month that civil servants are calling for higher fees for users of that Act in order to discourage them from using it. I am sure he will recall that at one point the previous Government also looked at increasing charges for users of the Act, but they dropped that proposal when they realised the damage that it would do to transparency. Will the Minister now rule out increasing charges for users of the Act?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I like to take pride in having played this by the book, in that I referred the Freedom of Information Act to post-legislative scrutiny, and it is entirely proper that Sir Alan Beith and his committee should look at a whole range of issues and proposals, including that of charging, which other jurisdictions such as Ireland have brought in. However, it is a matter that we will look at when we have heard what the post-legislative scrutiny deliberations bring forward.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, clearly much more information is routinely being published and the culture is changing. To be sure that the system works as well as possible for users, and there must be a number of specific categories that can be identified, will the Government consider undertaking research into the changes that users might welcome to make the system more effective, if that is not covered by the Justice Select Committee?
Lord McNally: My Lords, when this House and the other place considered the original Act, they specifically made applications applicant and motive-blind, and for very good reason. We believe that it benefits the public by providing access to information in the public interest, without targeting specific individuals who are asking those questions. The Ministry of Justice publishes quarterly and annual statistics on the volume, timeliness and outcome of information, but I would still be reluctant to move from the principle of it being applicant and motive-blind.
Lord Maxton: My Lords, given that the BBC is an entirely publicly funded body and a very important part of our democratic system, and that it quite rightly suggests that we should all be accountable publicly and openly, is it not right that all aspects of the BBC should now be covered by the Freedom of Information Act?
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Will the changes proposed cover such things as leaseholders being quite unable to get information or transparency? There are over 2 million leaseholders, and they are unable to discover whether the insurance company to which they are paying great money is giving a kickback to the superior landlord. Will that sort of thing be covered, or will it require other types of housing or accountancy legislation?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I know that the Minister shares my frustration that the post-legislative scrutiny on this important Act is being undertaken only in the House of Commons, but I would be grateful if he could tell me two things. First, how can we ensure that the committee in the House of Commons takes into consideration the many views, expertise and
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Lord McNally: I am interested in this question about the risk register. Risk registers are protected under the Freedom of Information Act, and the relevant clauses were enthusiastically used by the previous Government. Their enthusiasm for moving away from the protections of the Act seems to have occurred only after May 2010. They may like to tweet that that is true.
On the other matter, I know that there are strong opinions and great expertise in this House on freedom of information. I regret that there was no Joint Committee but, under the rules and arrangements between the two Houses, Sir Alan's committee had first pick and chose to do it alone. However, I urge all noble Lords to write to the committee with their opinions and to offer to appear before it if Sir Alan so deems.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, has my noble friend drawn to Sir Alan's attention the excellent debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, some weeks ago and some of the very real concerns and important points raised during that debate?
Lord McNally: My Lords, yes, I have. It was an extremely useful debate and a number of former public servants expressed their point of view on how the Freedom of Information Act works in their experience. As I said at the time, I do not share all their fears. I am extremely proud that we, as a party, supported the Freedom of Information Act. It has made our system of government much healthier. Frankly, when politicians, the press and the police have all shown that they have something to hide, this is not the time to start pulling down the shutters of secrecy again.
Lord Kinnock: Can the Minister tell us of any measure of the dimensions of the Health and Social Care Bill, with such direct effect on the organisation of a life-and-death service, that has been protected by any Government's evasion of the responsibility to publish risk registers? This is not a matter of political persuasion but of the fundamental well-being of the people of this country.
Lord McNally: As the noble Lord knows, the risk registers are protected by the Freedom of Information Act. Every piece of legislation passed by the previous Government enjoyed the same privileges. The Opposition changed their opinion only when they went into opposition.
Since there is no time to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, on her concerns about academic freedoms, I draw the attention of the House to the response of my noble friend Lord Henley. I have also passed that response to Sir Alan Beith for his consideration.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, overall, level crossing safety performance is currently high and an industry safety framework exists to manage risks. The legal duties for safety at level crossings lie with Network Rail as the safety duty holder, while their monitoring and enforcement are the responsibility of the Office of Rail Regulation. We welcome Network Rail's continuous efforts to reduce risks and improve level crossing safety.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I take it that the Minister accepts that rail travel is now safer than it has ever been, and that the greatest risk on the railway now comes from user-worked crossings and from motorists and other road users running red lights or weaving around barriers. British Transport Police advises us that last year there were 2,637 cases of people failing to obey traffic signals at level crossings. Can the Minister assure us that shortage of funds will not stop Network Rail installing the latest technology at the 600 riskiest user-worked crossings? Secondly, what are the Government doing to support the trialling and introduction of red light enforcement cameras? Is he aware that the Home Office is taking up to 24 months to test and approve a product for railway level crossings that is already in widespread use on A roads and motorways?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Lord has asked quite a few questions. User-worked crossings are indeed very hazardous. There are 2,500 of them and they are often used as farm crossings. He also asked about their financing. It can be very difficult to build a good business case because of the low risk of an accident occurring at each individual crossing. He also asked me about the trialling of cameras. I am aware of this problem. Similar problems arise in respect of roadside drug-testing equipment. It is important to recognise that approval of this equipment is an important component of our legal system. I understand that the British Transport Police has not yet submitted a formal application. For my sins I am the Home Office spokesman and I will draw this matter to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
Lord Bradshaw: I am sure my noble friend will agree that level crossings represent the largest risk of a serious rail accident occurring. Will he please give the House an assurance that the Government will look at the procedures for closing level crossings? Such closures are usually opposed by highway authorities down to the Ramblers' Association and with 100 organisations in between, and yet many could be closed without serious detriment to public convenience. If he would do that I would be very much obliged.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention to this serious risk, which is why Network Rail pays so much attention to it. It is important to understand that we have far and away the best record on this matter in Europe, with the exception of Ireland, which is only slightly better. In this control period Network Rail will close around 556 crossings. I imagine that many of these are footpath or farm crossings. However, providing just a footbridge costs £750,000. It is very hard to construct a robust business case given the very low chance of an accident occurring at any particular crossing. Network Rail is trying to reduce the cost of these bridges. It is important to understand that where the risk is known to be higher, a crossing system with increased protection will already have been installed.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, after the court judgment against Network Rail in February over deaths that occurred on a level crossing, the executives donated their bonuses to a charity to promote level crossing safety. Is the safety of our railways to be dependent on such quixotic gestures, or should the people responsible for the safety of the railways make sure they do a proper job?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the biggest problem with level crossing safety is the behaviour of pedestrians, particularly when they get distracted. All four fatalities that occurred last year were behaviour-related and almost exclusively involved a distraction problem. The best thing that Network Rail can do is to educate people, so that sounds like rather a good strategy on its part.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the noble Viscount's question links in very well with that of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. It is of course a very serious motoring offence to zigzag around the barriers, but you need to have the evidence to prosecute. The noble Viscount makes a good point, and that is what we are working on.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I need to declare an interest: I am the former chairman of SEMTA, previously the Engineering Training Authority.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, reforms to school performance tables are intended to raise the status of qualifications and not downgrade them. We want a simpler system where qualifications have an equal value and are selected because of their benefit to pupils, rather than their league-table weighting. We are encouraging engineering employers to work with awarding organisations to develop successor qualifications to the diploma. Engineering is extremely important for the future of the British economy. That, of course, is one reason why we are expanding university technical colleges and engineering apprenticeships.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, while I understand the arguments put by my noble friend, is he aware that the proposition on the engineering diploma has received the condemnation of providers, regulators and employers alike, and now of the Business Secretary himself? Will the noble Lord therefore please reconsider?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I am aware that this matter has given rise to some strong opinions among those who are committed to the engineering industry. I am afraid that I am not able to give the noble Lord the commitment that he would like, because the overriding objective of trying to simplify the qualifications is to have a consistent approach across different subjects and areas, and the benefit that we think we will derive from simplification is worth striving for. I recognise that there are strong concerns. I am glad that engineering employers are talking to the awarding organisations that want to carry on offering the principal learning element of the engineering diploma, and I hope that that will continue. I urge the noble Lord, with his experience, to help us in those conversations.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, does the Minister agree that whether one GCSE equivalent or more is required to qualify, there is an even greater need to increase the number of girls who apply for this career and make it much more attractive to them, because their skills will clearly be needed much more than in the past?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the importance of that, and I know that it is one of the issues that the university technical colleges are grappling with because they are keen to encourage that kind of take-up. The noble Baroness is right to remind us of that, and I hope that we will see the figures increasing.
Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, are crucial? The Government aim to involve more women in science, technology, engineering
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Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, there are two separate issues. So far as the diploma generally is concerned, the reason that the Government have taken their decision is that we do not want to favour a particular kind of qualification that then receives additional funding to support its take-up over other qualifications. We want qualifications to be driven by the interests of the children and the awarding organisations. I completely agree with the points made about the importance of making sure that employers are involved with the development of qualifications, and it is my hope and belief that employers will work with the awarding organisations on the replacement of the principal learning element of the engineering diploma, which is the core issue at stake here, and that we will have well regarded and rigorous qualifications that will encourage the take-up of engineering, other technical subjects and vocational qualifications. The route to having more people taking these subjects is to make sure that they are properly valued by employers and everyone else.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the quality of teaching of engineering and other science and technology subjects is important? Perhaps he will he join me in condemning the following practice. A survey was sent out to assess the demand for a 16 to 19 STEM free school, which offered an iPad as a prize for completion, and gave only one option on the question as to whether the school would be the person's first choice. That answer was yes. What is his department doing to identify such exaggerated demand, and will he specifically ban the offering of incentives and the use of unbalanced questions?
Lord Hill of Oareford: On the first point about the importance of STEM subjects and making sure that there are teachers able to teach them, as my noble friend will know, we are working hard to encourage the supply of those well qualified teachers. On her second point about the free school application, I am grateful to her for bringing it to my attention. It is the first time I have heard of it. I will refer it to the officials who will be carrying out the first sift of the applications, because the important test of evidence of demand must be genuine evidence of demand for a particular school.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, does the Minister share my concern that in the latest unemployment figures, 22 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds are unemployed -the highest percentage since records began? Does that not indicate the great importance of what he said, which is that the curriculum needs to attract and interest children of all kinds, so that they stay in
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Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Earl. One encouraging point is the increase in the number of young people doing engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships, for example, which has risen by 30 per cent in the past year or so. The work we are doing with studio schools and with UTCs to encourage the take-up of vocational courses is all part of that, but I agree with the noble Earl's fundamental point that one wants qualifications and courses for children of all ranges of interest, practical or academic. They should have parity of esteem, and the way to have that is through rigorous qualifications, not pumped-up ones.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, given that the engineering diploma takes approximately 20 hours a week to teach, whereas a traditional GCSE subject takes up to five hours a week, how are teachers expected to persuade young people to take the engineering diploma in future when it is valued at only one GCSE? It takes 20 hours, but all you get is one GCSE. Surely young people who take it will never have the opportunity to accumulate enough GCSEs to go on to higher education. The Government are effectively killing it on the vine by downgrading it.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I do not think that that is true. Without being too technical about it over the Dispatch Box, the particular element at issue is the principal learning element. The diploma is an overall wrapper with a number of elements which add up to seven GCSEs. Those elements are perfectly free to continue. The principal learning element is the one that awarding organisations will discuss with employers to work out how best to continue to develop qualifications. The ultimate point is that, given the support that there is for engineering qualifications from employers, when young people see that there is a chance of progression to a good job with an engineering employer, that will be one of the strongest incentives for them to study engineering and pursue those courses.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what alternative employment they expect to be available for the disabled Remploy workers who face losing their jobs as a result of the decision to reduce the subsidy to Remploy.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Government are totally committed to increasing the number of disabled people in work. We have made £8 million available to establish a comprehensive support package to support every disabled employee displaced from a Remploy
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Lord Touhig: My Lords, the Welsh Government have said that if the Remploy budget for Wales is handed over to them for the next three years, they will aim to restructure the company, maintain jobs and protect its future. Why have the Government rejected the opportunity to keep disabled people in work, earning wages and paying taxes rather than being unemployed and living on benefits? Will the Government think again on that Welsh government offer?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I say, first, that I absolutely understand why the noble Lord is raising this Question. The threat of redundancy is deeply concerning for anyone, and most of all, I am sure, for disabled people. This matter is not devolved to Wales and the funding will not be devolved. Remploy's employment services have a good record of placing disabled and disadvantaged people in work in Wales, with more than 2,300 people having been helped in the past year, and there are a large number of notified job vacancies-in fact, 110,000-in the local authority areas where the nine Welsh factories are located. Therefore, although I understand the concerns, I think that there are reasons to be optimistic about the prospects of the individuals who will receive tailored individual support.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I express particular concern about the proposed closure of the Remploy factory in Spennymoor, County Durham, where I attended the grammar school. This is already an area of high unemployment, with a number of other factories having closed. What employment opportunities for disabled individuals have the Government been able to identify in that area, if and when this factory closes?
Lord De Mauley: I am grateful to the noble Lord for that point. I cannot answer specific questions about geographies but I can say that we are absolutely committed to supporting Remploy employees. I have mentioned the £8 million comprehensive personalised package of support for all those who are affected by these proposals. Any disabled member of staff who is made redundant will receive an offer of individualised support for up to 18 months to help with the transition from government-funded sheltered employment into mainstream employment. This will include access to a personal budget to aid that transition. As I have said, we will also be working with employers and the Employers' Forum on Disability with a view to offering targeted work opportunities.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, does the Minister accept that the responsibilities of the National Assembly for Wales include both disability and aspects of
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Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, I am sure the House recognises that the decision to reduce segregated employment for the disabled is difficult but inevitable. Given the importance of support and transitional arrangements for those affected, can the Minister tell us what lessons the Government learnt from the 28 Remploy factories closed under the last Labour Government?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, quite a lot of lessons, and those lessons have very much been taken into account. As I have said, the Government are absolutely committed to supporting Remploy employees who may be affected by the changes.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we support the Access to Work programme-indeed, we developed it -and we support helping disabled people into mainstream employment. Therefore, we support the focus on these programmes. However, why is this being done at the cost of putting 1,500 disabled people out of work at a time when the Government's own statistics show that disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in the labour market and when we heard just yesterday that unemployment is at its highest rate since 1995?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I do not think it is a question of favouring one group over another; it is a matter of targeting the resources better at the whole disabled population. Remploy takes up one-fifth of the entire budget of employment support for disabled people. We feel, and indeed are advised by the Sayce review and the disabled lobby, that this is a more appropriate way to target the resources.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, the difficulty with the car park arrangements are well known to Members of your Lordships' House. I have spoken about them before and have no need to dwell on them, but the House will know that we have never had an opportunity either to debate or to decide on these car park arrangements.
When I raised the issue with the Chairman of Committees, I was told that it was a matter of security. Security? We have had a Black Rod since 1361 and it is very insulting to all of them to be told that they have left us in danger of possible terrorist attacks. The plain fact is that a terrorist would have to be an idiot not to know about the arrangements for coming in and leaving this House. To give "security" as a simple answer is simply not good enough. Black Rod himself has now slightly amended the rules. We did not know about that and we have still not had an opportunity to discuss the issue at any stage. I gather that at long last these new arrangements were put in place yesterday. They are a slight improvement but it still means that disabled Members of your Lordships' House will be put in huge difficulty.
I said that I would not speak for long and I do not intend to, but the plain fact is that it was done without this House having an opportunity to debate the issue at all. That is why I tabled the Motion on the Order Paper. Members should decide for themselves what they want to do. In those circumstances, I beg to move.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, following the comments that we have just heard, it might be helpful if I were to say a few words. Following his remarks on 16 February, I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, laying out all the details of the decision-making process on the trial in the Peers' car park and the ways in which this had been communicated to the House. I also pointed out that the Floor of the House is not the appropriate place to discuss matters of security and I therefore regret that this matter has been raised again on the Floor of the House, especially at such short notice.
However, I would like to take a few moments to explain to the House why the Administration and Works Committee has reached the conclusions that it has on this matter. The committee first considered the new arrangements for the Peers' car park on 29 November 2011 and concluded that they were necessary on the grounds of security. Following that meeting, I made a Written Statement to the House on 8 December, and before the Christmas Recess a display was erected in the Peers' cloakroom with details about the new arrangements, along with a diagram. Following concerns from Members about the new arrangements in the new year, I made a brief Oral Statement on 16 January,
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I understand, of course, that some Members have found the new arrangements problematic, but I am grateful to those who have put forward constructive suggestions for improvements. The committee recognised that there were some practical difficulties with the new arrangements and therefore agreed that further permanent changes should be made to improve the Peers' car park in the future. These changes will include: creating a specially designated lay-by for taxis, which will allow taxis to drop off and pick up passengers without impeding pedestrian access and without causing congestion; locating the lay-by directly opposite the Peers' entrance to shorten the distance between the taxi drop-off point and the Peers' entrance; altering the exit arrangements for leaving the Peers' car park to speed up exit times; rearranging the street furniture to remove the short section of contraflow traffic; and providing a clearly delineated walkway for pedestrians. It is expected that these changes will be completed by the end of the Summer Recess. I hope that they will address the points which noble Lords have raised.
Following the committee's agreement to those changes on 7 February, I made a Written Statement on 9 February outlining our conclusions, not yesterday as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said. A diagram of the proposed changes is now on display in the Peers' cloakroom. I would like to point out that the Administration and Works Committee contains representatives of all the major parties and the Cross-Bench Peers, including the Whips and the Convenor, and is the route by which Members of the House are consulted about such matters. My Statement made it clear that both Black Rod and members of the committee were willing to discuss this matter further with other Members in person. I therefore maintain that the committee has conducted its business in a completely open and transparent manner. Furthermore, I believe that the members of the committee have done as much as possible to ensure that Members have been kept informed of the changes to the Peers' car park, that Members' feedback has been acted on and that future changes have been communicated to the House.
The changes to the Peers' car park have been considered in great detail and agreed for good reasons. The parking of cars in the Peers' car park without a prior vehicle security search has been identified clearly in successive reviews of the security of the parliamentary estate as a significant vulnerability to the Palace of Westminster and to those who work and visit within. The Joint Committee on Security has understood and accepted this.
While there is nothing in our rules to prevent security matters being debated, it is a long-standing convention that security is not discussed in the Chamber, and it is common sense that it would clearly be unhelpful if any discussion of security, which might well expose weaknesses in the House's security arrangements, was conducted in public. While there can, of course, be a discussion about the detail of the measures that are in place to
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Lord Peston: My Lords, I rise reluctantly because everything the Chairman of Committees has said is wrong, and I intend to make that very clear. First, I thank my noble friend Lord Barnett for persisting in his demand that we discuss this matter. In my 25 years here, I have never known any attempt compared with that of the powers that be at present to stop a Member of this House airing his views on a subject of major importance. What the powers that be have been up to is an absolute disgrace, and I would like to hear at least one of them apologise to my noble friend and thank him for bringing this to our attention rather than the contrary.
In connection with that, there is no rule that we cannot discuss security, and there never has been. There is no convention, and there never has been. I say that in terms in case Members have believed what they have just been told. It is not the case. If the powers that be thought that there ought to be such a rule, the proper procedure would be to propose a Motion to this House saying that and saying that in their view that is how we ought to proceed, and then we could discuss whether we want that rule and agree it one way or another. They chose not to do that, which is why I am speaking in such strong and angry terms. I do not know what noble Lords would say if such a Motion were put before them, but how could I know if no one puts that Motion before us?
Let me say in addition that it is my view that what is being proposed does not remotely make your Lordships' House or, more importantly, the people who come here, including those who work here, more secure; in my judgment, it makes them less secure. I sit on the Joint Committee on Security. Indeed, I am the longest serving member of it. My favourite joke is that when I was first put on it, I was told, "Of course, this is a complete formality. The committee will never meet". That is what happened for a great many years, but then suddenly it seemed to meet regularly.
The committee met on Monday and these proposals were discussed. I went on record as opposing them. I hasten to add that I was the only person on the committee to do so. I do not mind being a lone voice. As noble Lords know, I am fairly frequently a lone voice in this House on matters of the economy. On this occasion I was rather puzzled because at least two other members of the committee were present who had spoken at earlier meetings and whose very important interventions had very strongly influenced my view about what was being proposed. However, on that occasion they decided to keep their mouths shut.
Let us use a little common sense. There is nothing secret about the new parking arrangements. When they were first proposed, vast numbers of bits of paper were left lying around telling us what they were. Those documents were available to all. Even a terrorist of below-average intelligence could see that we had new ways of going in and out of the car park. The idea that, if we discussed it here, that would be the first time any of these potential terrorists had heard about it is preposterous. I keep using strong language because we are being offered the most ridiculous arguments by the Chairman of Committees.
If these potential terrorists walk by, they can see the cars being searched. It is not news to them that they had better not arrive in a car because it might be searched-they can see them being searched and they know that. That seems to have escaped everyone's notice, but have the Chairman of Committees and others noticed that large numbers of tourists come to the Palace of Westminster? They all have state-of-the-art cameras. They photograph the Victoria Tower and its environs, including the area in which we park our cars. Even if none of them is a terrorist, I would have thought that your average terrorist might approach them and say, "Can I have a printout of what you have just been filming?".
The idea that our taking part in any of this discussion is of help to the terrorists is simply absurd. Indeed, the way to deter the terrorists is to let them know that we know what is going on, we know what the threat is, and we are determined to do something about it-not to let it drift along.
Let me give an example-I can give many others, but I do not want to go into detail-of why I believe we are in more danger with this new system than we were with the old. Before, we simply drove in, we wore our badges, we were waved in and we parked our cars. When we were ready to depart, we simply drove out. At no point were we standing still, waiting to get in or out, other than showing our badges for a brief moment. Under the present system-and this is particularly true of our leaving-because of the taxis all appearing just at the exit, very frequently I am sitting in my car for quite a while. When I complained about this, the poor old policeman, who had enough troubles without me moaning at him, said, "Black Rod has told us that we must give taxis priority and you have to wait". So I wait and I become a target.
When this first came up, I pointed out that in my judgment we were not getting the true story of what is driving it. None of this has been demanded by your Lordships. Sitting as I do on the Joint Committee on Security, at the start the chairman said that the Commons is doing this sort of thing and is demanding that we do. It is not us driving this issue but the other place.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I do not think that we should prolong this debate, but I am sure that it is not proper to discuss security issues in relation to this House on the Floor of this House. I also believe that Black Rod has a duty to ensure the security of this House and that we as a House have a duty of safety to our staff as well as to its Members. However, I understand the concerns expressed by my noble
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I regret that the Statement made by the Lord Chairman on 9 February was a Written Statement and not an Oral Statement. I also regret that, having taken into consideration the views of Members of this House such as my noble friend and others on the new arrangements, changes have been made but Members of this House have not properly been made aware of the necessary changes. I do not know why that has taken so long. I certainly accept that it will take some time to implement the new changes. I pay tribute to my noble friend for raising this issue but, as I have said, I do not think that it is proper to discuss security issues on the Floor of the House.
Lord Laming: My Lords, I am a member of the Administration and Works Committee. I hope very much indeed that the House will reject this Motion. The committee has gone into this matter in greater and greater length. As a member of that committee, as well as the Joint Committee on Security-the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has referred to other committees as well-when it met recently, I was not one of the members who remained silent. I pay tribute to the chairman of the Administration and Works Committee and to Black Rod for the thought that has been given to this issue.
In simple terms, if the committee receives a security report which we take seriously, we can do nothing; we could close the Peers' car park and rob the House of important car parking space; or we could take some action to reduce the risk. This is an iconic building that has appeared on the lists of many apprehended terrorists. It would have been irresponsible of the committee not to have taken action. For very good reasons, it wants to keep the car park and therefore some other arrangement had to be made.
These plans were shown all around the building. The reasons for them have been adequately explained. The arrangements will be improved. There has already been an indication of the way in which they will be improved over the summer. I agree that we have discussed this at enormous length and I hope that the House will reject this Motion.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I, too, am a member of the committee that made these recommendations. The committee was unanimous and it is important that noble Lords hear a brief contribution from each of the Benches. The committee came to its view only after the most careful deliberation and the very clearest security advice. I, too, regret that this is being taken on the Floor of the House where the advice we were given simply cannot or, at least in my view, should not be discussed.
The committee listened very carefully to the concerns raised by Members of your Lordships' House. We will continue to do so and will try to be responsive to need, but I believe that we have to be driven by very real security considerations. To provide any support for this Motion would be foolish and culpable in the extreme.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I am also a member of the committee and I oppose the Motion moved by my noble friend. I have one very brief thing to say. Like my noble friend on the Front Bench, I have a regret, and my regret is quite simple. It is that my noble friend Lord Barnett, who is a distinguished privy counsellor, was not told on Privy Council terms the real reason why we have introduced the changes. My belief is that if he had been informed on Privy Council terms, he would not be moving the Motion today.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I think that someone should say something from this side of the House. As one of the disabled people who has been inconvenienced by these arrangements and who, to be honest, was initially very stroppy about them, I have two things to say. The first is addressed to the noble Lord, Lord Peston. It is not a question of whether we are banned from talking about security: the plain fact is that you can talk about security only if you talk about risks, and not just the risk which might have been headed off with this action but also a lot of other risks which might not have been headed off. By doing that you alert people to all your anxieties-which is one of the general points about risk registers overall, but I will not go down that path. The second point is that after some initially rather tetchy conversations with senior people in Black Rod's office, I found myself persuaded by the information that was conveyed to me privately. That rather picks up the point that has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will not press the Motion. I have a deep affection for him, but I could not vote for him.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, I think that it is absolutely clear that Members of this House would be able to discuss any matter if they wished. On the other hand I believe that Members of this House exercise a wise discretion in not having a public discussion about matters of security, and that the arrangement by which these matters are left to a committee has worked well in the past. It is obviously necessary when making arrangements that seek to eliminate security risks as far as possible to take the convenience of Members of the House into account. Therefore, I think that it was very necessary that the consideration of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and the difficulties that he and others faced with the new arrangement should be taken into account. As I understand it these have now been taken into account; whether that has been done to the noble Lord's complete satisfaction, I am not absolutely certain. Anyway, I hope that that can be done.
These are lessons to be learnt in the way in which the committee may be administered. However, I do not believe that it is at all wise for us to discuss these matters on the Floor of the House, not because we cannot do so but because it is just unwise for us to do so. I hope that all of us may subscribe to that. I have every confidence in the committee and in Black Rod and in those who advise the committee on security matters. However, I do not believe that it would be at all advisable for us discuss these matters here. I hope
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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, this intervention will be very brief indeed. I speak as a member of the committee and I endorse totally the view, particularly of the right reverend Prelate, that it would not be appropriate for us to describe here the sort of threat that was described to the committee and which led to this decision being taken. It is important that Members of this House should understand, as others have said, that the committee's decision was taken unanimously by the Chief Whips of all the three political parties, who were present, by the Convenor of the Cross Benches, by the right reverend Prelate and by the other Back-Bench Members such as my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and myself.
I want to refer briefly to one issue that was raised in the committee but which has not been properly referred to today. The committee received representations from staff working in the west front of the building who were concerned about their security. They do not have a voice in this House unless someone here articulates that view for them. However, that point of view is one that we need to take into account as well. I certainly hope that my noble friend will not press his Motion but if he does I shall vote against it.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful for the short debate that has taken place, and I shall attempt to deal with some of the questions that have been raised. I am very grateful to other members of the Administration and Works Committee: the noble Lord, Lord Laming, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell-Savours and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for their support. As they have all said, it was a unanimous decision, taken after a great deal of consideration by the committee, that this was the way forward.
I am afraid that I cannot say that I agree with very much of what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said. First of all, I already addressed in my opening remarks the issue that it was not against the rules to talk about security. There was no rule against it, but it was undesirable to do so-and unwise to do so, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the noble Lord, Lord Newton of Braintree, have said. I could not follow, I am afraid, the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, about it being no secret that the cars are now searched at Black Rod's Garden entrance. They are, and anybody can see that. We have no worry with the fact that anybody can see it. The whole point of this is that they were not searched at all before when they came into the car park.
The Chairman of Committees: I think that we have already dealt with that problem about the desirability. As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, it really is not a good idea to talk about detailed security matters.
I take the point that the noble Baroness made about whether I should have made an Oral Statement on 9 February. Maybe I should have done, but I did give these details in the Written Statement. Although I know that we have only produced the new plan within the last day or two, the plan only reflects the details that I announced on 9 February. I really think that they will make an improvement to the situation. The taxi drop-off and collection lay-by will be much closer to the front door of your Lordships' House. In fact, I am told that the distance from the new drop-off point will be almost exactly the same distance as going down one of the Division Lobbies. I noticed yesterday that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, voted several times in the Division Lobbies; the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has no doubt done so as well. It has been no worse than that.
I take up the point that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, made. He is absolutely right, as I hinted in my opening remarks, that we have a responsibility to protect not only ourselves but everybody else working on and visiting the parliamentary estate. The remarks made by Members about the new arrangements have not gone unnoticed by staff of the House, who are understandably concerned about this matter. In fact, I understand that when the Lord Speaker attended an all-staff meeting on 13 January, two days after this issue was first raised on the Floor of the House, the very first question she was asked was whether, in light of those comments, the safety of the staff of the House was a priority. I think that from today's debate we can confirm to the staff that it is indeed a priority. I really do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will feel able to withdraw his Motion.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, if there is one thing that this whole debate has told us, it is the ridiculous way in which this whole thing has been handled. Not a single word has been said in reply to the detailed comments made by my noble friend Lord Peston; we are just told that we should not discuss it, as the right reverend Prelate and others have said. However, nobody has answered in detail the points made by my noble friend Lord Peston. Of course we can discuss it. The idea that terrorists are idiots and think that you can get in only by taxi is so absurd that it does not bear contemplation for a moment. On 7 February, when the committee met and reviewed this as I had previously asked, the Chairman of Committees eventually told me that he had answered the point. How did he do it? It had been done in a Written Statement, deliberately to prevent us discussing it. That is why this House has never had an opportunity to debate this issue. We are told now, once again, briefly, that we should not discuss security. Yet nobody has said why we should not discuss security.
I am glad that I have opened this discussion and I hope that the matter will be handled in future rather better than it has been so far. An answer has never been given to us. When I am told that all the Chief Whips agree I immediately want to disagree. If they all agree then I know that something is wrong. They also do it secretly. When I described it as a secret I upset the Chairman of Committees-but what else was it? We were not told what they had discussed. I have never known a committee report to be answered by Written Statement. Eventually he had to tell me that the answer was there in a Written Statement. That is how it was done.
I am delighted to have had the opportunity of, I hope, eventually changing this whole process, and I hope that the matter is handled rather better in future. As I say, we have had a Black Rod in this House one way or the other since 1361. None of them felt it necessary to do what has been done today. They have put the fear of God into the committee-not into me but into the committee. I hope that no Member of this House thinks for a moment that they will not be affected by what the Chairman of Committees has said. However, I thank noble Lords who have spoken. With their permission, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, before continuing the Committee stage of the Bill, I should like to ask my noble and learned friend for some information about the progress that has been made on securing the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.
I should also like once again to complain about the fact that this Scotland Bill is being considered on a Thursday, when Members of this House who live in Scotland generally travel north. This matter has been raised previously. When I have raised it with my colleagues, I have been told that the Opposition have requested it. It is deeply inconvenient. I know that a number of colleagues have been unable to participate as a result.
I should also like to complain also about the time which has been made available for consideration of the amendments. All the amendments that I have tabled, and I have quite a number, relate to matters which were not considered in the House of Commons. All of them raise relatively serious points. I read on the groupings list that we will sit until the business is completed. I have plenty of stamina, but I would suggest that debating these matters relating to Scotland-we will
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I return to the main point on which I feel the Committee should be advised, which is where we have got to on the question of the legislative consent Motion from the Scottish Parliament. This is important. Throughout the proceedings in relation to the introduction of new taxes in Scotland, my honourable friend David Gauke, the Treasury Minister, rested on the fact that a legislative consent Motion for the Bill had been passed by the Scottish Parliament, saying that,
There was a legislative consent Motion passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2001. That is the legislative consent Motion which was noted on the Bill's formal entry to this House. Indeed, the Explanatory Notes to the Bill state at paragraph 8:
That referred to amendments to the Bill after consent by the Scottish Parliament. Since then, there has been an election in Scotland and there is a new Administration led by Mr Salmond. The committee of the Scottish Parliament, meeting on 13 December 2011, which was a year and one month after the First Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, was unable to recommend that the Parliament pass a legislative consent Motion on the Bill until the Bill had been amended in line with the committee's recommendations. It is of course for Mr Alex Salmond to table a Motion for legislative consent, which he has consistently refused to do.
I think I am entitled to ask my noble and learned friend what is going on here. The other place considers the Bill on the basis of a legislative consent Motion which no longer applies, with a Minister saying that we could not do this without the consent of the Scottish Parliament; at an earlier stage of the Bill, we were assured that negotiations were continuing with the Scottish Parliament and that Ministers had every confidence that they would have legislative consent; and now, today, we are about to embark on considering bringing in revolutionary tax powers for the Scottish Parliament and we still do not know whether we have a legislative consent Motion. What is the status of this and what is the Government's position? Is the Government's position as David Gauke told the other place, that any future devolution must happen with the wholehearted consent of the Scottish Parliament, and why are we taking so much time, with the House apparently being prepared to sit until the early hours of the morning if necessary, to deal with a Bill which may not meet the requirements of Alex Salmond and the Scottish Parliament?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. We are speaking on a Motion to go into Committee. Unless the noble Lord has a very different point to make from that of my noble friend, who put it very well, why do we not allow the Minister to respond to that, and then put the Question, go into Committee and deal with the amendments in the normal way? I got the impression from the noble Lord's first sentence that he was not making a new point but simply supporting my noble friend.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock:If the noble Lord waited a little longer, he might find out exactly what I was going to say. It is always a good idea to sit and listen, rather than anticipate what someone is going to say and jump up. I used to represent the Leader of the House. I looked after his interests. I made sure that, as a resident of Mauchline, he was well looked after. I hope that he will give me some respect for having looked after his interests for 26 years, a not inconsiderable period of time, and allow me to speak.
I want to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has said. I agree with him in relation to sitting on a Thursday, which is another mischief that seems to have been done. I also want to raise something which the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, did not raise; that is, the lack of time between Committee stage and Report stage. We have only one weekend between the two. How are we going to be able properly to formulate amendments between Committee stage and Report stage? I am also concerned about the fact that the second day of the Report stage is 28 March. This time, instead of choosing a Thursday, the Government have chosen the day before we go into Recess. It is rather like after the Lord Mayor's procession when the dust cart comes along to clean up-we are being treated as an afterthought.
The most serious issue concerns the sequence of events for dealing with this legislation as between here and the Scottish Parliament. We are rushing it through and dealing with it quickly in Committee-we shall deal with it even more speedily on Report-and yet the Scotland Bill Committee reported on 13 December 2011 and that report has not even appeared on the agenda of the Scottish Parliament. When will it appear? I have been led to believe that the Government may have had some indication that there will be a legislative consent Motion. The Minister should tell us whether that legislative consent Motion is going to be tabled. If the Government know about it, if they have been given any informal indication that it is going to be tabled, we need to know that. It is ridiculous that we should be left in the dark. My noble friend Lord Barnett was left in the dark on a whole range of issues earlier and I have complete sympathy with him. This seems to happen an awful lot.
I hope the Leader of the House will give the House a little more information and allow it an opportunity and a little more time to discuss matters instead of things being done by a little clique behind the scenes.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has raised the issue of the legislative consent Motion and my noble friend Lord Foulkes has raised the issue of the timetable. We have also had within the process a consultation which concluded at the end of last week. At Second Reading we were told that one of the reasons for the truncated consultation process was to allow amendments to be brought forward at Report stage. However, there is a very short period of time between the Committee stage and the Report stage. I echo the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and my noble friend Lord Foulkes about this debate taking place on a Thursday and the final day of the Report stage taking place on the Wednesday before the Easter Recess
The whole process is in a muddle, and that is not the way to deal with a serious constitutional issue. I have the greatest respect for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and I know that he would wish to be as straightforward with the House as he can be. I hope, too, that the Leader of the House, as the leader of the whole House, will not see this as some source of mischief but as an attempt to get to the bottom of what is happening.
Lord Browne of Ladyton: My Lords, it is with some reluctance that I rise to speak but I think that my contribution will substantially meet the criteria that the Leader of the House has laid down for this debate.
I addressed the House at some length on the first day in Committee setting out the reasons why I thought it was important that we should conclude our scrutiny of the Bill and present it back to the other place ready to become legislation. That was on 26 January and I do not intend to repeat all the points I made on that occasion. Those who are interested can read for themselves that 45 minute contribution in the Official Report. However, I do wish to make one or two important points.
First, I rebut the suggestion that we are meeting on this Thursday to discuss this part of the Bill at the request of this part of the Opposition. I cannot speak for all of the Opposition, of course, but I have been privy to many conversations, getting uncomfortably close to the usual channels in your Lordships' House, and never at any time in these discussions did I ask, or was I party to a request from the Opposition, that we should meet on a Thursday.
Noble Lords ought to remind themselves of the somewhat chequered history of the management of the Committee stage in this House. It was the great plan that this day would be devoted to a debate about referendums. It was broadly agreed because the consultation would be over and it was expected that the Government would be able to come to the Dispatch Box and indicate what their response to the consultation would be. There was a degree of consensus that went beyond the Front Benches that it was appropriate to handle the matter in that fashion. However, as has consistently happened with the Committee days of the Bill, we have been subject to other items of business being imposed on them. We have just had the same thing today. In fact, we lost a whole Committee day for this Bill because it was seized from us for ping- pong on the Welfare Reform Bill. I was assured that
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There was an attempt, to which I was a party, by those who want to see this matter proceed appropriately to manage the business in such a way that we would conclude it within the appropriate time. However, there was no agreement that we would sit on Thursdays. A lot of what has happened has been imposed on me and other Members of the House by the circumstances of the business of the House. I understand that it has to be managed and I do not want to be part of that process, but any suggestion that the Opposition requested Thursdays is not correct to my knowledge.
Lord Browne of Ladyton: I shall savour that apology. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his gracious apology. I shall bank it away because we may get to a point during the course of today when I will need it in order to bargain for others.
I am as interested as any Member of the House in where the discussions between the Government and the Scottish Government are in relation to the legislative consent Motion. However, I have been consistently of the opinion that the Scottish Parliament will pass a legislative consent Motion in relation to this Bill. I am also consistently of the view that we have promised the Scottish people that we will deliver the Bill in such a way that it can be enacted by a legislative consent Motion effectively and that we should keep our word to the Scottish people and to the Scottish political classes.
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Lords, picking up on the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, there was a commitment in the manifestos of all three parties-the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats-at the last general election that we would seek to implement the Calman commission proposals, which this Bill substantially seeks to do.
On the issue of sitting days, I readily recognise the concerns. Indeed, I was told that the House would sit to debate the Scotland Bill on a Thursday and I have turned up today with my noble friend Lord Sassoon to respond to the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, indicated some of the issues that we have had to address. There was one day-Tuesday, 14 February-when, because of the time taken by the Welfare Reform Bill, we did not manage to debate anything. The decision was taken late in the day that it would not be proper to start our debates after 9.30 pm, and there was general agreement that that was the right decision. Our previous debate in Committee was on a Tuesday. Next week we will be in Committee on Wednesday.
On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, it was not on Second Reading but when we moved into Committee in January that the Government announced, as a result of representations they had
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It is perfectly reasonable for my noble friend to ask where we have got to with the legislative consent Motion. A Motion was passed in the Scottish Parliament in March last year, which I suspect is the one that our honourable friend Mr Gauke was talking about. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, voted for it, as he was still a Member of the Scottish Parliament at the time. It is also worth pointing out that on the final vote, Mr Alex Salmond voted for it, too, as did many people who are currently members of the Scottish Government. That legislative consent Motion stands until any subsequent Motion is tabled that updates it.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My noble and learned friend says that the legislative consent Motion stands. However, will he deal with the view of the committee-which is the latest consideration by the new Parliament, where there is now an SNP majority rather than a minority-that it was unable to recommend that the Parliament pass a further legislative consent Motion on the Bill until it had been amended in line with the committee's recommendations? As we discussed before, there are 45 recommendations, which effectively deliver devo-max.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: That is perfectly fair and I will come on to address that. I was simply making the observation that there is, currently, an outstanding legislative consent Motion, which was actually supported by many members of the current Scottish Government. It is certainly our intention that we should have a legislative consent Motion from the Scottish Parliament in favour of the Scotland Bill, and I and my ministerial colleagues have been working very hard to secure the support of the Scottish Parliament for such a Motion. I am sure the Scottish Government would acknowledge the same.
We have been working together to consider and to assess the request for amendments to the Bill. It would be wrong to speculate on the outcome of the work being undertaken with the Scottish Government, but the key point is that I can assure the House that we are working hard to ensure that the Scottish Parliament will vote in favour of a legislative consent Motion for the Bill. It would not be appropriate to get ahead of discussions between Ministers-as noble Lords have
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The Sewel convention is about respecting the devolved areas for which the Scottish Parliament is accountable. It provides that the United Kingdom Parliament will not normally legislate on devolved matters without the Scottish Parliament's consent. I believe we have gone further than with any other Bill in considering and taking on board the view of the Scottish Government and Parliament, and we will continue to work to reach agreement. The Secretary of State has made clear, in letters, phone calls and meetings with Scottish Government Ministers, that we will properly consider all their requests for changes to the Bill. I understand and readily recognise that noble Lords are keen to hear the outcome of the discussions with the Government, but I urge noble Lords to continue with their thorough scrutiny of the Bill, alongside our work to agree a legislative consent Motion. I hope that by the time we come to Report, it will have been possible to update your Lordships on the intergovernmental discussion.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: It would be helpful to be updated at that stage and to set a target, in our plan, for an update to take place on the ministerial discussions. Given the upcoming recesses and the fact that the Bill will have to have Royal Assent before the final Dissolution of Parliament ahead of the Queen's Speech, we do not have much time. It is important to plan the sequence of events. Can the Minister indicate what his target date is for the legislative consent Motion to go to the Scottish Parliament? Is it between Report and Third Reading, which would seem to be the logical time?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I agree with much of what the noble Lord says. He is right to point out that prorogation is sooner rather than later and that it is necessary to get Royal Assent before that. As has been acknowledged, it is not for United Kingdom government Ministers to table the legislative consent Motion, but the Scottish Government are well aware of the proposed timings and of the stages when any amendments would have to be laid so that your Lordships' House would have adequate opportunity to discuss them.
Before I gave way to the noble Lord, I was about to indicate that I hoped it would be possible to update your Lordships before Report on intergovernmental discussions. It would not be helpful-and no doubt many of your Lordships present have engaged in such negotiations-for negotiations to take place by telegraphing from one parliamentary Chamber to another. That would be counterproductive. However, I reassure your Lordships that serious efforts are being made to reach agreement. Given the point made by my noble friend Lord Forsyth about the important issues we have to debate today, I hope we can agree to move into Committee so that we can get on and debate them.
Lord Grocott: Perhaps I may ask about a matter of significance to this Parliament. Will the Minister clarify whether there will be just five or six days between Committee and Report on the Bill? The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is in his place, and he will know that the Leader's report, which he commissioned, recommended very strongly that the minimum intervals between stages of Bills should be respected. As the House will remember, they were abused at the time of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, and I would be troubled-as the House should be-if they are being abused again now.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, that this is not an abuse. The matter was agreed because we were meeting a legitimate concern and expectation, expressed by a number of your Lordships across the House, that we should defer some sittings of the Committee until such time as the United Kingdom Government's consultation had concluded. That was welcomed at the time; and because of that, the timescales inevitably had to be short.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: With respect to the Minister, all that was agreed was that the discussion of the referendum should be taken in Committee. There was never any discussion about Report across the Floor of the House.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: There was an expectation across the Floor of the House that we should defer Committee discussion until the end of the consultation. It was agreed between the usual channels that if we did that, it would necessitate a shortened period between Committee and Report-if only for the obvious reason of being able to get to Royal Assent, as the noble Lord pointed out.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I very respectfully remind my noble and learned friend that the Bill is before Parliament. In his remarks about legislative consent, he indicated that the Government might have to bring forward some amendments as a result of the negotiations that are being carried out by Ministers. Ministers cannot just presume the consent of Parliament. It strikes me as extremely odd that we should be half way through the Committee stage on a Bill that was introduced more than a year ago, and these negotiations are still continuing. I do not know if my noble friend is a fisherman. I am. If you want to land a salmon, you play it for a long time. In this case, the Salmond seems to be playing the Minister. He is deciding the timetable and what amendments may be put before us. We are being told that we can only consider them at the last minute, against a deadline. This is a ridiculous position for us to be in.
I have two specific questions for the Minister. Is he saying that, in the absence of a legislative consent Motion, the Bill will not go ahead? Or is he saying that he is in negotiation and will bring forward reasonable amendments, but that the Bill will go ahead? That is the crucial thing that he needs to tell the House now.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, there are a number of possible options if the legislative consent Motion is not forthcoming, but every effort is being made to achieve it. Obviously, my noble friend is absolutely right that anything in any amendment that is brought forward will be subject to Parliament. As we well know, it is quite proper and consistent with our procedures for your Lordships to vote on anything they wish to. It will be for Parliament to decide the final shape of the Bill.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My noble and learned friend said that Parliament will decide the final shape of the Bill, but there is a thing called a timetable. We know that the House will get up for the Queen's Speech. We are against a time constraint, and if negotiations are continuing as the Bill proceeds, the opportunity for the House to do that will be limited. When my noble and learned friend says that a number of options are open to the Government in the absence of a legislative consent Motion, could he share them with the House? We are entitled to know whether the Bill that we are discussing will go ahead if we do not have a legislative consent Motion. That is a perfectly reasonable question, and the Minister cannot respond by saying that there are a number of options. There is only one option-yes or no.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: That is two options, for a start, and a third option could be to pass it and park it. We are seeking to reach agreement, and my noble friend has repeated the truism that it will be for Parliament to determine the final shape of the Bill. If Parliament does not wish to agree, that may determine the reaction of the Scottish Parliament to a legislative consent Motion. But I emphasise that, as things stand, much effort is being made and considerable progress is also being made with regard to achieving a satisfactory outcome. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, we hope that we will be able to update your Lordships before the House considers the Bill on Report.
The Earl of Caithness: I apologise to my noble and learned friend for not being here when the debate started, but I was in a committee upstairs and may therefore have missed this point. If there are amendments as a result of further negotiations, will the House go back into Committee so that we can speak more than once on them?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: The convention and the devolution guidance notes that update it state that we seek a legislative consent Motion before the last opportunity for amending. In your Lordships' House, that would be Third Reading. Therefore, it was always anticipated that it would not be necessary to go back into Committee. I hope that after discussing the important point made by my noble friend Lord Forsyth we can go ahead and debate the important issues around the financial provisions in the Bill.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, this is an important amendment, which provides for a referendum if the sections of the Bill that introduce for the first time a Scottish income tax are enacted by the Scottish Parliament in such a way that Scottish taxpayers end up paying a higher rate of income tax than people in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I should point out that the order of consideration of amendments that has been circulated to the Members of the House is not actually the order that I have in front of me now. I do not know whether it is possible for further documentation to be provided so that we are all on the same page, as my amendments are now grouped with those from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes.
The original provisions in the Scotland Act, which provided for a Scottish variable rate of income tax, gave the Scottish Parliament the power to raise income tax by 3p in the £1 on the basic rate alone. It did not apply to either of the other rates of income tax and was limited to 3p. As Secretary of State I well remember campaigning long and hard on the tartan tax, which is a much better name than the Scottish variable rate. The Bill seeks to abolish the 3p variable rate, although it was something that the Scottish Parliament voted for in a referendum. It was something that people campaigned for and against; it was subject to argument.
It seems extraordinary to get rid of something done by referendum without having a referendum to endorse that. I am no fan of the Scottish variable rate; I thought that having the power to set a higher rate of income tax in Scotland would result in great disadvantage to Scotland if it was ever used-and I am delighted to say that it never was used. Many people enjoy jobs and prosperity they would not otherwise have enjoyed had those powers been used, so I welcome the fact that the Bill abolishes the tartan tax and gets rid of the variable rate. This is great progress, but unfortunately it goes on to create a new power for the Scottish Parliament not just to set the basic rate of tax within a limit of 3p but to set any rate of tax that it chooses that will affect the basic and higher rates of income tax. That is a huge change, way beyond anything that was set out in the Scotland Act and way beyond what was put to the Scottish people in a referendum.
The amendment would give the Scottish people the right to decide whether these sweeping powers, which will inevitably make Scotland the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom, are appropriate and desirable. In our consideration of the Bill at earlier stages, it has become apparent that in respect of many of the tax powers there is perhaps not widespread knowledge of this in this House or the other place. The extent to which people in Scotland are aware of the potential impact of the power is limited. I simply cite evidence the recent discussions in Scotland about more powers
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It is important, too, that this provision should be subject to a referendum not just on the principle that the previous Labour Administration, who took office in 1997, thought it appropriate to have a referendum but because so many of the details about the operation and implementation of the tax, and its extent and the scope, are not actually provided in the Bill. For example, as the Bill stands, people with income from savings or dividends will not pay the Scottish income tax, but people with income from pensions will. Why is that? How is that going to distort the relative desirability of pension and savings investments of a more conventional kind? The Bill does not give the Scottish Parliament the ability to change the thresholds for income tax purposes or the ability to increase the rates by differential amounts, so it would be impossible for the Scottish Parliament to set a higher rate of tax while keeping the basic rate at the same level. Why is that? Should those matters not be subject to debate and consideration?
The effect of implementing this power in the Bill would be that any higher income tax in Scotland would be a disproportionately heavy burden on the lowest paid compared with the highest paid, which strikes me as a rather extraordinary thing to do. Of course, in the Bill the amount of grant that is being reduced is the equivalent to 10p on income tax, which is a curious position. Why not have all the revenue from the income tax? Why have the 10p? These matters are being debated in Scotland now.
I hesitate to mention the late lamented poll tax, or community charge, but one of the problems with the poll tax was that it raised a relatively small part of local government revenue. The same was true of the rates, and therefore in order to make an increase in expenditure that fell for its burden upon the poll tax or the rates, you required a disproportionately large increase in the amount. One of the issues here is how this income tax power would operate. The Minister gave figures earlier in our deliberations and, as I understand them, 1p on income tax would raise £420 million. That is a relatively small sum when one thinks that the Scottish Parliament is having to reduce its funding by £3 billion to meet the deficit reduction requirements. Allowing for a reduction in yield, that is the equivalent of allowing for 8p on the basic rate of income tax. On my calculations, that is a 40 per cent increase, whereas 8p on the 50p rate of income tax would be a very much smaller percentage increase.
A number of issues about the operation of this income tax, both in its scope and in the limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament, have not been debated or considered at all in Scotland but ought to be, and almost certainly would be debated or considered if there was a requirement to have a referendum before these powers could be implemented. The most important thing about taxation-the very nature of the other place-is in ensuring that taxes are not levied without consent, and that those raising the taxes are subject to the accountability of the people. This is a huge change.
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The people of Scotland should have an opportunity to have an explanation of what is being suggested, and the chance to give their verdict on it. This amendment attempts to do that, and in doing so it merely reflects the view of all parties when they campaigned for devolution in the first place, which was that there should be a referendum on the tax-raising powers.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I wonder whether everyone in the House is absolutely clear, because I am slightly confused about it, that we have now degrouped from my amendments the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on the referendum on taxation powers, so we are just dealing with Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: It is certainly my understanding, and I think it is the understanding of my noble friend, that the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, Amendments 66 to 69 and Amendments 75, 76, 84 and 86, are now grouped with the amendments to which my noble friend has just spoken. We are at the moment trying to get a fresh piece of paper that sets them out. It is my understanding that they are on much the same subject.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: We are very confused, because I got a draft that said that, but the paper from the government Whips' Office with today's lists for your Lordships' House lists the Questions that were tabled, my noble friend Lord Barnett's Motion and, as the main business, this Bill and the target for today. It then has the grouping for amendments. Everyone picked this up on the way in, and I have assumed that that is the basis on which we are debating.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I have the same problem. I have a revised list that I got from the Whips' Office and it would be really helpful if the revised groupings could be made available. It is of course not for me to give the noble Lord advice. He can insist on degrouping his amendments, but as they are about referenda it would make sense for them to be grouped together.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I specifically asked in an e-mail, which got a response from the clerks' office, for my amendments to be degrouped from those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. It is not that I want to be disassociated from him completely, but because although I have tabled the appropriate amendments to allow a referendum, the basis on which I will argue for that-and I hope to argue for it later, which is why I wanted to clarify this now-is entirely different from the basis on which the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is arguing for it. I actually want the Scottish Parliament to be given full fiscal responsibility and to have all these additional taxation powers, but only if they are approved by the Scottish people in a referendum. That is an entirely different basis of argument, and why I wanted it separated. Can I assume from the list that
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Lord Lyell: My Lords, I was delighted to see my noble friend Lord Attlee here, because I was about to follow some of his grandfather's advice: that a period of silence from me had been welcome until now. Today, however, I shall break my duck regarding income, in strong support of my noble friend Lord Forsyth. This is a preliminary strike about dividend income and pensions income.
I am sure that my noble and learned friend will be able to give advice at an early stage, but on page 25 of the Bill we come to Clause 31, headed, "Income tax for Scottish taxpayers". At lines 34 and 35 in Clause 31(3), new subsection (3C) refers to Section 16, which I presume to be that of the Income Tax Act 2007. It says that it,
As a non-practising member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, but very much as a consumer who takes advice, I seem to recall that until 10 years ago one's income tax was classified as earned and unearned income. Indeed, my colleagues with whom I worked then have confirmed that. However, we now have this completely different concept of savings income, earned income and other income being applied to Scottish taxpayers. It would be different from any other United Kingdom definition of what savings income or other income will be. Perhaps my noble and learned friend will be able to take note of that and cover it at some stage. However, I support most strongly what my noble friend Lord Forsyth has said at this stage. I am happy to let your Lordships know that this will be the first of one or two efforts from the mouse that roared, as I call myself-that is, the accountant in the backwoods of Angus.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Forsyth is suggesting that we need another referendum on the use of tax powers. It is my memory that, 12 years ago, the second question in the referendum was along the lines of, "This Parliament should/should not have tax-varying powers". Do tax-varying powers not strike a lot wider than the Scottish variable rate, which was enacted? Consent has already been given for any form of variation in existing taxes.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I refer to the earlier discussion about groupings. Do I take it that the authoritative groupings list that we are working to is the one that is still being distributed by the Printed Paper Office?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I hope I can be helpful. My understanding is that my noble friend Lord Forsyth has spoken to a grouping of Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57. He indicates that that is right. If there is some
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Lord Browne of Ladyton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, for his amendments and for opening this debate. I also thank him for the opportunity to make a speech that will, I hope, over the hours that we will spend on debating these and related issues, be considered to be multipurpose.
I had expected-and anticipated in preparing my speaking notes-the amendments of my noble friend Lord Foulkes to have been regrouped, for maybe the second time, with those of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. Therefore, I wrote a note to myself to apologise to both noble Lords for giving a generic response, rather than addressing all the subtleties of the individual effects of their amendments. I do so because this is, ultimately, an issue of principle. I do not devalue all the detailed points that underpin the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, put forward about the interesting debates that we could have in Scotland on the referendum and the detail of these specific taxation powers. However, whether we have a referendum on them is an issue of principle, and there are principles that we ought to apply. I will deal with that. I am sure that we will then get to the detail through the revised groupings, or re-revised groupings, of amendments that I have in front of me. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has indicated that the details are exercising him.
My second point is one that I have made before. I deeply regret that timetabling prevented the other place dealing with the detail of these very important issues. The last time that we convened this Committee, we had a very interesting debate on Clause 28- probably for the first time anywhere in the United Kingdom, unfortunately. It is a matter of deep regret that our elected representatives in this Parliament were denied the opportunity for debate by timetabling, thereby denying us a quarry of their position that we could mine to inform our debate. Therefore, when we draw on what we believe is the will of the Scottish people, as expressed by their elected representatives, we draw on information that unfortunately cannot be in the public domain, such as conversations and observations. Some of us have expertise that we have built up over time from watching what is happening in Scotland and knowing, from the conduct of politicians, what the people they represent are telling them. That is deeply unfortunate but it is where we are. There is a bigger issue at stake in the politics of Scotland, but I will come to that strongly later in the debate. We should keep our eye on the prize, which at this time is
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I turn to the principle of referendum. I do not believe that there is any constitutional imperative to hold a referendum on the devolution of financial powers to Scotland, as provided for by Part 3 of the Bill, for the following reasons. First, the conclusion of the Select Committee on the Constitution in its 2010 report, Referendums in the United Kingdom, was:
It is a fascinating publication for the reasons that I am about to explain to your Lordships' House. The committee did not look specifically at the example of the devolution of financial powers, although it could have because it was in the air. Therefore, noble Lords are entitled to look beyond such a conclusion to test whether what has been described by government Ministers as the largest transfer of financial power from London since the creation of the United Kingdom would be a likely candidate for a referendum.
In looking beyond the committee's conclusions, we should look at the evidence that was heard, which is deeply instructive. If noble Lords will excuse me, I will go into this in some detail because it is interesting. Before I rehearse some of the evidence, I am prepared to concede that people who listen to this debate may think, on the basis of the expert testimony to the committee, that there is a legitimate view that that evidence tends towards the view that the devolution of financial powers would commonly be considered a candidate for referendum, given that the definitions posited included the following. I will share a number of them with noble Lords.
All these definitions, which are not mutually consistent, could support the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. However, they must all be considered against the backdrop of historic precedent. As the Constitution Committee noted in its analysis, no definition of principle can be extracted from historic precedent.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I agree that all those definitions could be advanced and are open to argument, but what about something that has been approved by referendum but which you propose to reverse?
Lord Browne of Ladyton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. I think that the somewhat delayed intervention by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on the noble Lord's speech-it occurred long after the noble Lord had stopped speaking, but it was in the nature of an intervention-answered that point, but I will come to that in a moment. I think that I can answer that question.
Although it could be said that matters of significant constitutional change ought to be put to a referendum, many are not. Indeed, there was never a referendum on the Human Rights Act 1998-some people may regret that-the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 or, indeed, if I anticipate the outcome of the debate that is presently taking place, on the future of your Lordships' House. The House of Lords Reform Bill does not anticipate a referendum on that matter in the next Parliament. Therefore, although there appear to be certain broad principles on which academics and others can give evidence, which indicate what is a good candidate for a referendum, ultimately it seems that it comes down to a political judgment. We appear consistently to have exercised this power on the basis of political judgment. It is for this reason that I do not think we can discuss the noble Lord's amendments-I anticipate my noble friend's amendments-in a vacuum from the political environment. We have to defer to the political circumstances that face us during our consideration of this Bill. That is what I invite noble Lords to do.
I suggest that to require a referendum on the devolution of financial powers before the commencement of Part 3 of this Bill would be irrelevant in the present political context. Indeed, I go further-I think it would be irresponsible for the reason that the single fundamental question being posed to the people of Scotland at this time concerns the issue of secession. An additional referendum in this context would only confuse such a debate and distract from the single important question at hand. I understand that the circumstances have changed but we are discussing this matter now and not when we had expected that we would when this Bill was conceived as it emerged out of the Calman commission.
It is important to note that with the exception-it is an impressive exception-of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and his shaky alliance with my noble friend Lord Foulkes, there is no political movement at all for any such referendum. There is no clamour for such a
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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I hope I may interrupt the noble Lord again. His speeches are always carefully crafted and well thought through and I am enjoying listening to him. However, when he says that there is no demand for such a referendum in Scotland-I absolutely agree with him that the key issue is whether or not we are going to break up the United Kingdom-I had the impression that the First Minister, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and every newspaper in Scotland were all campaigning that people should have an opportunity to have a referendum on devo-max. To my mind what is in this Bill is devo-max. Indeed, my noble and learned friend the Minister says that in my mind in some ways it goes beyond that. However, there are within the Bill the powers to deliver devo-max. Therefore, when the noble Lord says there is no demand for this in Scotland, I think there is a demand for a referendum on extra powers which are already being delivered by this Parliament, and which people are completely unaware of.
Lord Browne of Ladyton: I hope the noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that I anticipated this very point about devo-max. I intend to cover it very specifically. However, I am driven in these arguments by the political imperative of concentrating most of my political firepower on the arguments for retaining the union of the United Kingdom. I have tested every contribution that I have made to this debate against whether or not it makes that retention more or less likely. I ask noble Lords to join me in concentrating their minds on that issue, to look at this matter in the context of the political circumstances that face us at the moment and to make priority choices. In other circumstances I might well have supported the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, but in these circumstances I do not. I am trying to lay out the arguments.
As I was saying, there is no political movement for such a referendum. There is remarkably complete coherence between the parties in Scotland on the view that there is no necessity to seek a further mandate from the electorate as regards a referendum on these powers. Further, as the Calman commission noted, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, has reminded the House, there is an argument contrary to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that such a mandate has already at least partially been granted by the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution in which 63.5 per cent of the Scottish electorate agreed with the statement,
That was the question, not plus or minus 3p, or what the consequences would be if this power was or was not used-we know the history of that-but whether the Scottish electorate agreed with the statement,
In a recent report on a referendum on Scottish independence, the Select Committee on the Constitution agreed with the UK Government's position-this comes
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These are powers which I have said repeatedly the Scottish people want. There is significant evidence of that. I regret that I am not able to refer noble Lords to detailed debates in the other place to advance that argument but I know from extensive consultation with Scottish parliamentarians and Scottish people that the Scottish people want these powers. Much more importantly, they want these powers now because they want them to address issues which are important to the Scottish people now and were made obvious as a priority to them by yet another performance of the Scottish economy that has reversed the previous trend of devolution over the past few years in that we are now behind the rest of the United Kingdom in unemployment and growth. For almost all the period of devolution in Scotland the opposite situation applied. It is only since the SNP has taken control of government in Scotland that we have got into a situation whereby we are falling behind the rest of the United Kingdom as regards unemployment and comparative growth of GDP. Therefore, these powers are needed now.
The future development of the devolution settlement, be that full fiscal autonomy or whatever-there are all sorts of titles-may well ultimately be a question for a referendum, but it is a question that needs to follow the broader one of Scotland's future membership of the union. In my view it cannot coherently be proposed before that. Consequently, these Benches cannot support the noble Lord's proposed amendment of the Bill. I apologise to my noble friend Lord Foulkes far more in advance than I would normally have to do as we will not support his call for a referendum, no matter what the motivation for it is, when we come to that part of our debate in Committee.
Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: I should like to follow my noble friend and say that I do not support the amendment. I had the privilege of being a neighbour of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, for many years. I have seen him exercise political skill across a broad spectrum, but on many occasions not without a degree of cynicism. I have to say that his amendment today is just a cynical opportunity to attack the principle of taxation. The idea that referenda have anything of any substance to do with this is just a bit of a smokescreen. The fact of the matter is that a referendum agreed that
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Let us not bother about the referendum question. Let us just question whether or not taxation in the form that is being suggested is the most appropriate way of trying to develop a sense of fiscal responsibility in a Scottish Parliament-whether it is separate or devo- maxed, or even with its present fumbling, incompetent and profligate way of expenditure.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, the amendments we are discussing relate to whether there should be a referendum on the provisions contained within the Bill's specific reference to the changes to income tax and Scottish income tax. There will, of course, be opportunities at the next sitting of the Committee to debate amendments relating to an independence referendum. Indeed, later today there will be an opportunity to consider the details of the income tax proposals. I have no doubt that my noble friends Lord Forsyth and Lord Lyell will contribute to that, and my noble friend Lord Sassoon will be very pleased to respond.
I should make a point of clarification to my noble friend Lord Lyell, who raised a question about the Income Tax Act 2007. I can advise him that that Act sets out, as part of the tax law rewrite programme, how an individual's income should be taxed and the distinction between savings and non-savings income. It is right that the Bill follows that approach.
The Government have a clear mandate to implement the Calman commission's conclusions, as we seek to do in the Bill. There were pledges to do that in not only the manifestos of the two coalition parties but in the manifesto of the Official Opposition, the Labour Party. It is fair to say that these proposals were worked out after consultation by the Calman commission. I do not think that anyone can fault the level of consultation. There was considerable public discussion after the publication of that commission's report. There was a White Paper by the previous Labour Government. There was a Command Paper by this Administration. These matters have been pretty well aired and the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said that these are powers that people want. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2010 showed that 57 per cent of people wanted the Scottish Parliament to have powers of taxation and, significantly, only 37 per cent wanted Westminster to have tax powers. There has been considerable discussion of this, and I am not aware, with some respectable and respected noble exceptions, of any great clamour to have a referendum on these matters.
The proposal would be to have a referendum prior to the implementation of the finance provisions. These provisions will give the Scottish Parliament increased powers to take decisions on how to raise money as well
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The noble Lord, Lord Browne, reminded us that the question on tax powers was answered overwhelmingly in the affirmative in the 1997 referendum. In it, the Scottish electorate endorsed the establishment of a Parliament with the ability to exercise tax-varying powers, and therefore have a degree of financial accountability for taxation and spending decisions. As has been pointed out, these powers have not been used, but it is clear that there is demand for increased financial accountability, and that call was regularly made to the Calman commission-the Parliament should be not only responsible for how it spends money but have some greater accountability and responsibility for how it raises money. That has widespread support. It was also within the existing framework of the Scotland Act to vary the powers of the Scottish Parliament and its Ministers by order-making powers, such as those in Sections 30 and 63 of that Act. Here, of course, we are doing that by primary legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne, referred to the Constitution Committee report on referendums. I declare an interest because I was a member of that committee when that report was produced. I could not say what its view would have been of this proposal, but I agree with the noble Lord's analysis that when we looked at past referendums they were very much matters of political judgment. I may have misheard what my noble friend said in his concluding remarks-that the referendum was supported by all parties in 1997. However, if he casts his mind back, he was a busy Secretary of State at the time, and when the Labour Party in opposition proposed a referendum in spring 1996, a considerable furore greeted it.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I hesitate to go back over old ground and reopen old wounds, but as I recall, I was the person who was pressing the Labour Party to have a referendum on the tax-varying powers. The shadow Secretary of State-now the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen-was dead set against a referendum but he was sat upon by Tony Blair, the then leader of the Opposition, and forced to agree to one. I think that I can claim a track record on getting the referendum that was initially opposed by the then Labour Opposition. But quite rightly, and to their credit, they followed through on it.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I am probably going to compound matters by saying that it was opposed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats at that time. It was not right to say that all parties called for a referendum, but we all campaigned in it.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: That absolutely illustrates my view. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, says that people's attitudes to referendums are a matter of political
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Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I did not have any doubt that we would win a referendum, I just did not think it was necessary-and I did take the legislation through on the referendum for the alternative vote. The point, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, is that there is no political movement for a referendum on these measures. He is also absolutely right to say that all of us who share the goal of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom should have our eye fixed on the one referendum, in which we will seek to ensure that Scotland remains a full member and plays a full part in the United Kingdom. Any other referendum in the interim would be a distraction and could undermine the case, because it would obviously take up time and resources when we should in fact be focusing on exposing the weaknesses of the case for independence and proclaiming the case for a Scotland within the United Kingdom. In those circumstances, I very much hope that my noble friend will not press his amendments.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, we have had an interesting debate and I am grateful to everyone who has spoken. I seem to be somewhat isolated on this issue. I worry about the idea that the tax-raising powers in the Bill will increase the accountability of the Scottish Parliament. As I am sure my noble and learned friend will confirm, had those powers been in place and exercised since 1998 when the Scottish Parliament was established, the block grant which the Scottish Parliament had available to it would have been reduced by many billions. The exercise involves substituting a slice of the Barnett funding with funding that comes from the tax base. If public expenditure is growing faster than the tax base, the result is that far less revenue is available.
Tempted as I am to support the proposals because they would have had the effect of squeezing public expenditure in Scotland substantially and, I suggest, avoided considerable waste and the policies which have resisted reform of the public services, the notion that they would increase accountability needs to be looked at very carefully. It will squeeze the resources available to the Scottish Government over time and, in doing so, put pressure on them to use the tax powers, which by the nature of the gearing effect will result inevitably in Scotland becoming the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom. I venture to suggest that at that point, many people will say: "Why weren't we told this? Why didn't we know about it?". If I am still around, I will take great pleasure in saying: "I suggested that there should be a referendum so that people had a chance to consider these arguments and know what they were being committed to".
I entirely accept that the political classes and the political establishment have got together in the worthy cause of stopping the Scottish nationalists getting control of the Scottish Parliament and taking us towards independence, but I have my doubts about how it will increase accountability. I suggest that my noble and learned friend think about this again. If a referendum was held-I assume that those on both Front Benches
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The noble Lord, Lord Browne, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, suggested that a mandate was granted by the referendum on the original Scotland Bill. The noble Lord is quite right to say that the question was:
but those tax-varying powers were defined in the referendum campaign as being limited solely to 3p on the basic rate. This is far more than tax-varying powers. This is the introduction for the first time of a new Scottish rate of income tax. We are not talking about tax-varying powers here, we are talking about the ability to set a new rate of income tax that the Scottish Parliament chooses.
My noble and learned friend talks about opinion polls and surveys. I venture to suggest that if you go out and say, "Do you think the Scottish Parliament should have more powers?", that is a bit like saying, "Do you love your mother?". Of course people are going to say yes, the Scottish Parliament should have more powers. If you ask them, "Do you think that Scotland should be able to be made the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom?", I think they might have a different view. If you ask them, "Do you think that the Scottish Parliament should be able to take money out of your pay packet?", you might get a different answer.
Lord Browne of Ladyton: It is an important part of the noble Lord's argument that there is an inevitability of Scotland becoming the most heavily taxed part of the United Kingdom and that that will be done against the wishes of the Scottish people, who will never be consulted about it. We intend to have general elections in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament. This issue will come to the fore when we get to the next group of amendments, but the issue of the rate of tax will be decided in general elections by the Scottish people through manifestos put before them, just as it is for the rest of the United Kingdom.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I venture to suggest that I cannot think of any way in which any politician of any party, with the setup as it is in respect of the taxation powers and the way that the block grant will be calculated-subject to later review, but even assuming that Barnett survives-and given the levels of public expenditure and the position we are in, would be able honestly to do other than to tell the voters that income tax will have to go up. The numbers simply do not add up.
Let us just take the promises being made by the First Minister. On the whole, if you promise people free health care, free prescriptions, free bus travel, free nursery care and free this, that and the other and you do not have the money to pay for it, whoever comes in will find it very difficult to reverse that. Those are all very expensive requirements. If a Chancellor of the Exchequer gives the First Minister in an election year
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I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we must be careful to focus on the issue of independence. He is absolutely right about that. Where I believe that the Bill is playing into the hands of the nationalists is that they are saying: "Look, you cannot play golf with one club. You cannot run an economy simply by having limited tax-varying powers that relate to one part of the income tax yield. You need corporation tax powers so that you can get growth so that the yield goes up". That argument has a certain degree of logic to it-if not, altogether, a degree of fantasy.
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