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Calman Commission

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2010

3. What recent discussions he has had on taking forward the recommendations of the Calman commission; and if he will make a statement. (317403)

The Government are committed to strengthening the Scottish Parliament and making it more accountable to the public in Scotland. We will bring forward a Bill early in the next Session of Parliament.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Has his commitment to implementing the Calman recommendations diminished in any way following the discussions on them?

As I said, it is important that the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be increased, and that there should be an increased sense of accountability to the public in Scotland. There is a weakness in the way in which the architecture of devolution has been designed, in that the Scottish Parliament is largely responsible for spending money but does not take decisions about how large its budget should be or how the money should be raised. That is why it is an important part of the Calman recommendations—the vast majority of which we accept—that a patriotic Parliament should be given not only additional powers but, importantly, new accountability.

Only last weekend, we learned of another tragic incident in which a three-year-old boy was shot with an airgun. How many more incidents like that do we have to see before the Secretary of State takes immediate action? The Scottish Government are ready to go, and it is his prevarication that has led to this situation. Will he now get his finger out?

It is pretty cheap and nasty—of course, unusually so for the hon. Gentleman—to try to make politics out of an accident involving an airgun. We are determined to act on this under the Calman recommendations, in great contrast to the Scottish National party’s plans for a rigged referendum. A decade after legislating to ban foreign donors in British politics, the SNP’s referendum would allow money to flow in from all over the world, in a system that is now found only in the Borda counting systems in Nauru and Kiribati. The SNP’s plans for a rigged referendum are absolutely and utterly Kiribati.

The Secretary of State is aware of my view that the present White Paper procedure is unnecessary and that we could have a Bill before the House now. However, since we have this period of delay, will he use the time to ensure that when he brings the Bill forward, it will include a provision to end the practice of double jobbing, whereby people can sit in this Parliament and in the Scottish Parliament, taking two salaries for doing only one job? Surely that has to end.

This is an important issue and we are keen to phase it out. The Government are committed to taking a UK approach to this matter, as it affects Northern Ireland and the Welsh Assembly as well as the Scottish Parliament. I am not that keen to get into the politics of it all, but the issue of whether politicians should have two salaries is important. The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. The Government are committed—towards 2011, I think—to phasing out this system of a double mandate and two jobs.

We can guess why the Secretary of State does not want to get into the politics of it since both Margaret Curran and Cathy Jamieson are seeking to come here as Labour MPs on a dual mandate. When he says that a UK approach should be taken, he ignores the fact that the other place has already decided to deal with this problem for Northern Ireland. Surely that is the example that we should follow, and double jobbing should end now, not at some future date of his choosing.

I do not agree. I think everyone in Scotland knows that there is only one prominent person who is currently double jobbing, but I do not want to make a party political issue of it—[Interruption.] Of course, it is the First Minister. The two people whom the hon. Gentleman alludes to are phenomenal campaigners and powerful women who I hope will be elected to the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats suggest that that is a foregone conclusion, and the hon. Gentleman’s lack of confidence might encourage me to be arrogant, but I am not going to do that.