Skip to main content

Scotland Bill

Volume 598: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2015

5. If he will make it his policy to table substantive Government amendments to the Scotland Bill in the House of Commons rather than in the House of Lords. (900935)

The Secretary of State knows that not a single amendment from the Opposition parties—not even amendments backed by 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs—has been accepted by his Government. Does he understand the anger people will feel if changes are brought through in the House of Lords rather than here in the Commons where they can be fully scrutinised by democratically elected Members? Will the Secretary of State make a commitment today to bring forward substantive changes to the Bill on Report to deliver on the Smith commission in full and implement the additional powers people voted for in the election?

What I know angers people in Scotland are stunts, soundbites and press releases aimed solely at taking opportunistic positions on issues. The Scotland Bill is a matter of substance, which will transfer significant powers to the Scottish Parliament, and it should be treated seriously. Some of the amendments, not least those for full fiscal autonomy, have not been serious. I am looking at all the amendments, sorting the wheat from the chaff, and will bring forward Government amendments on Report.

In welcoming my right hon. Friend’s statement, may I ask him how much notice he is going to ensure will be given of these forthcoming amendments?

I have already said to the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee in the Scottish Parliament that I will share our amendments with it—and I will, of course, share them with Members here and encourage a full debate. However, I want a debate on substance; I do not want stunts, soundbites and press releases. I want the best for the people of Scotland.

That will not do, Secretary of State. You have been asked a very straight and clear question: will you now rule out bringing significant and substantial changes to the Scotland Bill in the unelected House of Lords? The House of Lords has never been held in such contempt by the Scottish people, who see it as nothing but a repository for the cronies of, and donors, to the UK parties. Will you rule out making significant changes through the House of Lords and do it in front of the elected Members of the House of Commons?

Order. I say very gently to the hon. Gentleman that I will rule out nothing, but I will leave it to the Secretary of State to do so. The debate runs through the Chair, and the hon. Gentleman, who is an experienced denizen of this House, should know that.

The hon. Gentleman does not listen. It was made clear repeatedly during the Committee stage of the Bill that amendments would come forward on Report and be debated in this House. The hon. Gentleman has been rumbled. He does not want to participate in a proper debate about the issues of concern to the people of Scotland; he is interested in press releases and stunts.

My party has submitted more than 80 amendments to the Scotland Bill, more than all the other parties in the House combined. The Secretary of State has said today that he will listen, and will return to the House with amendments to the Bill. May I ask which of Labour’s amendments he will be accepting?

I will be reflecting on the amendments that Labour has tabled. Some were tabled in a constructive way, while others were obviously tabled in a partisan way. I will reflect on amendments to the Bill that are in the interests of the people of Scotland.

New research conducted by the House of Commons Library, which I am releasing today, shows that the average family in Scotland working full time on the so-called national living wage will be more than £1,800 a year worse off after the Budget. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has said that the Budget has

“the potential to be just as damaging as the ‘bedroom tax’.”

Will the Government therefore accept Labour’s amendment to the Scotland Bill that would give the Scottish Government the power to design a welfare system fit for the Scottish people?

I believe that the substantial welfare powers in the Bill, which constitute responsibilities worth £2.5 billion, will give the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament a significant say in welfare arrangements in Scotland. What we need to hear from the SNP is exactly what sort of welfare system it intends to introduce, and, most important, who is going to pay for it.