Skip to main content

Scotland Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 21 June 2011

I beg to move,

That the Order of 27 January 2011 (Scotland Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after the moment of interruption on that day, or one hour after they are commenced, whichever is the earlier.

I wish to speak briefly to the programme motion, so as to allow Report to begin. As Members will see, the Government are amending the programme order to allow Report stage to run until 10 pm and Third Reading to conclude one hour after that. Members will be aware that the Health and Social Care Bill was recommitted today, and that one hour was agreed to for that debate. That has resulted in a shift in today’s business. The Government believe that it is important that the Scotland Bill receives an appropriate amount of time for debate on Report, which is why we are allowing for proceedings on Report to continue until 10 pm, and for Third Reading to conclude at 11 pm.

I am aware that the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) raised concerns in the Chamber yesterday about the amount of time available to debate the remaining stages of the Bill. The programme motion will extend time for debate on the Bill, and I hope that it will allay his concerns. I look forward to consideration of amendments on Report, and to the debate that the Bill will receive on Third Reading.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Scotland Bill yet again. For many of us it has been a long process since the formation of the Calman commission in late 2007, and there has been detailed consideration of a number of the measures in the Bill.

However, as I am sure the Minister would acknowledge, the Government have tabled significant and important new clauses that were not part of the Calman process and were not available to us in Committee. As I recall, they were not ready by the time of our debates in Committee. A number of amendments have also been tabled by the Opposition Front Benchers and by other Members on both sides of the House, including nationalist Members, and we are keen to have them debated this evening.

I understand the Minister’s point about the additional hour that is being provided to compensate for the debate on the recommittal of the Health and Social Care Bill, but there was an hour’s debate on that motion plus the time for the vote. It followed the Government’s customary U-turn statement, which today was on sentencing. I note that that lasted almost exactly 90 minutes, and although I am sure the Justice Secretary enjoyed those 90 minutes of his time, it means that there is less time for us to debate important aspects of this constitutional Bill. The Minister and his colleague the Secretary of State have made great play of the significance of the Bill, for instance in the fiscal changes that it encompasses, the additional powers that it devolves to the Scottish Parliament and the reassignment of powers at UK level.

I understand, of course, that by speaking to the programme motion I am effectively reducing the time available for debate on the substance of the Bill, but I wish to register the point that we are aware that significant parts of the Bill have yet to be debated in any meaningful way. They include issues that we did not reach in Committee, which are back on the agenda today. As the Minister said, it is important that we have the appropriate amount of time to debate them this evening. Given the time that we have left, I am not sure that will be the case.

I am sure the Minister would like us to deal with the Bill properly, given the amount of further scrutiny that there will be in the Scottish Parliament, and that he wants us to have the appropriate time to debate the issues in question. I am not sure we will have enough time this evening, although we will endeavour to get through as much as possible. It is important that some of the amendments are dealt with in depth and detail, and I am not sure that the motion affords us that opportunity.

I do not know what planet the Minister is living on if he thinks that three hours is enough to discuss the remaining stages of a Bill that he has described as the most significant transfer of powers since the onset of the Scottish Parliament. It is totally unsatisfactory. We have something like 26 amendments and 11 new clauses to discuss, on issues as important as the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament, corporation tax, excise duty, the devolution of legal powers and authorities and the composition of the Scottish Parliament. Each of those deserves a full day’s debate, yet we must try to shoehorn all that into approximately three hours. We have heard a lot about the respect agenda, which is a much abused and misused term, but surely it is the height of disrespect to try to shoehorn all those important matters into such a short time.

If the House does not care about Scotland, it will be no surprise if Scotland does not care about the House. There is a lack of time for debate. I will not divide the House because I want to get on in the time available to try to discuss the important measures. I simply register our deep unhappiness and dissatisfaction about the lack of time that we have been left to debate an important Bill.

Question put and agreed to.