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Smith Commission

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 26 November 2014

1. If he will give guidance to the Smith commission on ensuring that its proposals do not hamper cross-border trade with the north of England. (906203)

At the outset of this process, Lord Smith set out a number of guiding principles underpinning cross-party talks. They included the principle that the proposals should strengthen Scottish devolution and the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom, and that they should not cause detriment to the UK as a whole or to any of its constituent parts.

My constituents campaigned very strongly so that we remained “better together”, and whether that related to farmers, business, trade or joint air passenger duty, it continues. Does the Minister welcome the borderlands initiative between local authorities on either side of the border?

I very much welcome the borderlands initiative, which is an excellent example of cross-border working. Councils are working together across the Scottish and English borders to maximise economic and cultural opportunities.

I understand that the Smith commission has written to a number of companies asking for their views on the question of what should be devolved. Companies in my constituency are telling me that if Scotland were to be given some of the powers that are being considered, they would leave Scotland. Is that good or bad?

The Smith commission has engaged in a widespread consultation with all aspects of Scottish society. I understand that there were some 14,000 submissions, and the commission will obviously look closely at all of them.

What everyone wants, in Scotland and in England, is the certainty of knowing how we are to move forward. My party is committed to including a Scotland Bill in the Queen’s Speech when we win the general election next May. Will the Minister’s party make the same commitment?

I do not share the hon. Lady’s arrogance, but what I do share is the commitment to delivering the Smith commission’s proposals. We have made it absolutely clear that draft legislation will be produced by 25 January next year, and there will be a commitment to enact that legislation in the next Parliament.

A wide range of proposals have been submitted to the Smith commission which would foster economic growth, job-creating powers, and the ability to tackle social inequality. Is the Minister confident that the commission will recommend the devolution of corporation tax, job-creating powers and the setting of a minimum wage?

I am not going to prejudge the Smith commission. All that I know in relation to the hon. Gentleman’s proposals is that his party had an opportunity to select him as one of its commissioners so that he could argue for those measures, and, as far as I am aware, it did not do so.

Following the independence referendum, survey evidence in Scotland showed that 71% of Scottish respondents wanted the Scottish Parliament to control all taxation raised in Scotland, 66% wanted devo-max—that is, the devolution of all areas of Government policy except defence and foreign affairs—and 75% wanted control of the welfare and benefits system to be devolved. Is the Minister confident that the Smith commission will recommend the devolution of those powers?

The Smith commission includes two representatives of the Scottish National party, and is seeking to reach cross-party agreement. What we all know is that 55% of people in Scotland—more than 2 million—voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The Smith commission will report tomorrow. Its report will lay the foundations for greater devolution for Scotland and, hopefully, the devolution of powers from Edinburgh, at the centre, to a more local level. The Minister referred to a closer working relationship between the borderland areas in the north of England and the south of Scotland. Will he guarantee that whatever the Smith commission delivers will add up fiscally, to ensure that it does not work to the detriment of the people of Scotland?

That is one of the principles guiding the Smith commission’s work. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise that, notwithstanding the commission’s recommendations on powers for the Scottish Parliament and more devolution in Scotland, in the south of Scotland we need to continue to work with our friends and neighbours in the north of England.