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Smith Commission

Volume 601: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2015

3. What assessment he has made of progress in meeting the recommendations of the Smith commission; and if he will make a statement. (901899)

The Scotland Bill delivers the Smith commission agreement in full. I have tabled amendments that strengthen the Bill and look forward to it returning to the House for debate next week. It represents another milestone in making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world.

The Smith commission identified that Scotland’s budget should be no larger or smaller simply as a result of the initial transfer of new powers and recommended that the Scottish and UK Governments work together to agree a fiscal and funding framework for Scotland. Will the Secretary of State reassure my constituents that that framework will be in place to accompany the devolution of further powers so that Scotland’s funding is not adversely affected?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, rather than relying on subsidies from London, the Scottish Government should use their tax-raising powers to pay for the services provided to the people of Scotland?

I do not recognise my hon. Friend’s description of the Barnett formula, which of course will remain in place. The Scottish Parliament will now have significant powers over tax and welfare, and it is about time the SNP told us what it will do with them.

It is interesting that the Secretary of State did not take the opportunity to condemn the views of his Conservative colleagues who believe that Scotland is subsidised.

Only 9% of people in Scotland believe that the vow has been delivered, so unsurprisingly the Government are belatedly having to accept amendments. The financial framework underpinning the Bill is crucial. The Secretary of State could only give a one-word answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), so will he elaborate and tell us exactly when the UK Government will update this Parliament on the progress made on the fiscal framework?

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not read my written statement on Monday, which updated the House on the progress of the fiscal framework. What I recognise in the right hon. Gentleman’s comments are these words from the editorial of the Daily Record:

“Moan, moan…whinge, whinge. Their response has been as negative as it was predictable. A cynic might argue that the SNP don’t actually want those new powers because it makes them…accountable to the people of Scotland.”

The Secretary of State has now had a second opportunity to condemn the views of his Back Benchers that Scotland is subsidised. I challenge him to come to the Dispatch Box and disassociate himself from the views of his colleagues. His Government are bringing in detrimental measures that will impact on families and individuals—not just in Scotland, but across the length and breadth of the UK. Will he give us some detail on what is going on between the Treasury and the Scottish Government, and give an assurance that there will be no detrimental implications for people in Scotland as part of the fiscal framework?

Not only does the right hon. Gentleman not read written statements; he did not even listen to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman)—perhaps he will read Hansard. The reality is that the powers being delivered to the Scottish Parliament will make it the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. Rather than SNP Members telling us what they will do with those powers, it is grievance and grudge. The Scottish Parliament acknowledges that tax credits can be topped up, so will the SNP top them up—yes or no?

I take the opportunity this Armistice weekend to pay tribute to our armed forces for their sacrifices to this country.

Scottish and UK Ministers have said repeatedly that the fiscal framework negotiations will be concluded this autumn. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House and the country why they have been delayed until January at the earliest?

As I set out in my written statement, the UK Government are proceeding towards the comprehensive spending review, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman accepts is a major task, and shortly thereafter the Scottish Government will proceed with the Scottish draft Budget. When I met the Deputy First Minister John Swinney last week, he gave me confidence in his wanting to reach a fiscal framework agreement. That is certainly the position of the UK Government, which is why I was able to answer the question from the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) in the way that I did.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but Scotland’s First Minister has warned that the SNP Government may reject the Scotland Bill

“if the accompanying fiscal framework”

is not

“fair to Scotland”.

It is clear that they are looking for any excuse for the fiscal framework to delay further powers for Scotland. Will the Secretary of State assure us that the fiscal framework will be agreed before the Scottish Parliament is dissolved in March, and can he explain why both he and the SNP are conspiring to make this agreement the tartan TTIP—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—delivered behind closed doors with no public transparency? That raises the question of what they are trying to hide.

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, a statement has been published after each meeting of the Joint Exchequer Committee. I take John Swinney and the Scottish Government at face value—that they want to reach a fair agreement for Scotland. The United Kingdom Government want to reach a fair agreement for Scotland. That is in all our interests and I am confident that that will be achieved.