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Commission on Scottish Devolution

Volume 514: debated on Wednesday 21 July 2010

4. What recent assessment he has made of the recommendations of the final report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution. (8914)

5. What the proposed timetable is for implementation of the Calman commission’s recommendations. (8915)

As I outlined in response to questions from hon. Members on 16 June, I have asked officials to work for the autumn introduction of a Bill to take forward legislative proposals, with non-legislative recommendations taken forward under a similar time scale.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. He knows, or at least I hope he does, that one of the considerations in moving to a Scottish income tax, as proposed in a recommendation by the Calman commission, was whether Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs systems would be able to collect it. They currently cannot; how does that fact correspond with the comments that the Chancellor made yesterday about tax simplification?

As I have set out, we intend to engage fully with the different sectors in Scotland that will be affected by the changes. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are heavily engaged with the Treasury and HMRC to work our way through the changes that will come as a consequence of Calman, which I believe his party still supports.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament, Tavish Scott, when he says:

“Politicians should not be able to take easy spending decisions without the responsibility of accounting for this money. Blaming Westminster should not be a get-out clause”?

Does the Secretary of State agree that the devolution settlement in Scotland depends on having free and fair elections to the Scottish Parliament? Does he not see that the integrity of those elections is in danger of being undermined by the Government’s deciding to hold a referendum on the alternative vote on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament?

I regret having to disagree with my hon. Friend. We propose a referendum on the change to the voting system for this place on the same day as an election to the Scottish Parliament. We believe that that is entirely sensible. It will reduce cost, it will be more practical and it is on the same way of voting as in elections to the Scottish Parliament, so we will be able to cope with that without too much difficulty.