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Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 27 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from public authorities in Scotland suggesting that an Assembly should have revenue-raising powers and representation on EEC institutions.

Since the publication of the White Paper in November 1975 five Scottish local authorities and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have expressed views in support of revenue-raising powers for the Scottish Assembly. No public authority has argued that Scotland should have separate representation on EEC institutions.

Is the Secretary of State aware that last month the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) made a speech advocating that the Assembly should have powers which incorporated the major amount of taxation and that Scotland should be directly represented in Europe? Is he aware, further, that the Prime Minister told the House last week that the Government's credibility on the issue of devolution had been enhanced as a result of the arrangement with the Liberal Party? May we therefore conclude that the Assembly now proposed will have more power than that envisaged in the Scotland and Wales Bill?

As for representation on the EEC institutions, the position has been made clear on many occasions. Only if Scotland went completely separate and independent would any question of formal representation at the Community institutions arise. There is no doubt about that. What informal arrangements might be made in the post-Assembly situation to take account of the views of the Assembly Executive on matters which were of concern to it would be arranged in that situation. Again, there has been no change from that point of view. On the specific question of the Liberals' views on this matter, I do not recollect that the recent document submitted to us dealt directly with the question of representation at Brussels.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are pleased that he has made it so clear that the argument for separate Scottish representation in the EEC is a dishonest and back-door method of arguing the case for separatism? Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind that it is not only local authorities or even the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who have argued the case for revenue-raising powers? An Assembly without such powers would not be a totally responsible Assembly.

This argument is still open. The Government have never said in principle that they are against independent revenue raising. They have simply said that the practicalities of working out an acceptable system are very difficult and that we have not so far found a satisfactory solution. But these are matters which are relevant to the current situation in which the Government are discussing the future of the Scotland and Wales Bill with the Liberal Party and with other parties in the House.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government published yesterday a Brown Book on oil resources showing that over the next seven years about £5½ billion will go into the London Treasury as a result of oil revenues gleaned from the Scottish sector of the North Sea? Does he accept that these revenues would be useful for the financing of the Scottish Assembly? What proportion of those revenues will go to Scotland?

I have made clear on numerous occasions that revenue from North Sea oil is a United Kingdom resource. As is only right, Scotland already gains disproportionately from North Sea oil development, for example, in terms of jobs, most of which would be put at risk if we were ever foolish enough to accept the SNP policy.

Does the Secretary of State accept that revenue-raising powers are, in part, a question for the Assembly when it is set up? Although the House might well consider that such powers are impracticable, should not the Assembly be left to judge whether it chooses to exercise such powers?

Such a proposition would be difficult to get through the House. It would not be right to give revenue powers in the Bill and to allow the Assembly to determine whether it wants to use those powers. These are matters that must be settled in the House in the context of the Bill.

Is the Secretary of State saying that a Scottish Assembly will impose an additional level of taxation on the Scottish people over and above United Kingdom taxes?

I did not say that. I do not see how anybody could take what I said as meaning that.

Leaving aside any relationship between the Scottish Assembly and the EEC, would it not be in the interests of Scotland if such non-political bodies as the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) kept some relation ship in Brussels, in Standing Committees, for instance, and with people over there?

All types of bodies maintain relationships in Brussels. When I was in Luxembourg yesterday taking part in discussions on fishing, a fishery representative from Scotland was present. How ever, that is different from formal Government representation on EEC institutions. That is a matter which rests with the United Kingdom Government.