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Scotland Bill (Programme) (No.2)

Volume 602: debated on Monday 9 November 2015

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Order of 8 June 2015 (Scotland Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (5) and (6) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

(3) The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and new Schedules relating to Parts 1 and 2, amendments to clauses 1 to 18 and Schedule 1

Three hours from the commencement of

proceedings on the motion for this order

Remaining new Clauses and new Schedules, amendments to the remaining Clauses of the Bill,

amendments to Schedule 2 and remaining proceedings on Consideration

Five hours from the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order

(4) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.—(David Mundell.)

I do wish to take the opportunity to orate because we are profoundly disappointed with the time available to discuss significant and important issues, including amendments to the Scotland Bill, which is a critical piece of legislation for our nation. More than 100 amendments have been selected for debate this afternoon, and that follows the 76-page document that listed amendments tabled by right hon. and hon. Members across the House. We now have something like two and a half hours to debate critical amendments on tax powers and the constitution. After that, we will probably have less than two hours to discuss the equally significant welfare powers in the rest of the Bill.

We know how this place works. There will be Divisions, and 20 minutes will be taken up with the 18th-century arcane practice of wandering through a Lobby to be counted. When will this House start to enter the 21st century and leave the 18th century so that Divisions do not eat into our time-limited debates? How can it possibly be right that we have so little time? Realistically, we will have something like four hours, perhaps three and a half hours, which is little more than an hon. Member would get—[Interruption.] Hon. Members are chuntering. Do they not know that this 45-minute debate is time reserved? Even this is eating into time—they cannot even bother looking at their Order Papers.

Scotland is watching these proceedings, and people just will not understand the gross disrespect shown to our nation’s debate and business. It will feel as if Scotland has been given an almighty slap in the face and told just to get on with it in whatever time this House deems fit to provide to our nation—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making extremely important points. He says that he needs to be heard, and he needs to be heard not just outside the Chamber but inside it. Members will be quiet while he speaks.

Scotland is watching. People are observing these proceedings and cannot believe that we have been given such a limited amount of time to debate such critical and significant amendments. The Bill had four days in Committee. We were surprised and delighted that we got all that time, but what a supreme waste of time those four days were, with a Government who were only semi-engaged in that debate. The Government accepted not one amendment from the hundreds that were tabled, and they provided nothing, with no significant amendments of their own. The Secretary of State said that the Committee was a listening and reflecting stage. He was more reflective than a high street mirror shop this summer, but the one thing he did not do was engage properly in the Committee of this House. It was all about listening. If Committee stage of a Bill is about listening, we may as well go round to see the Secretary of State and have a little chitchat over a cup of tea, or perhaps even write to him.

A Committee stage of this House should be the place where amendments are properly debated and considered, with a Government who are engaged in the process. It is not good enough to table hundreds of amendments on Report and have a time-limited debate to consider them. That shows great disrespect to the House, and it is not the way to do business. If this is how we will do business in the House in future, and if the Committee of the whole House is nothing but a listening exercise, we must recalibrate how we do business in this House. It is not good enough that we spent all that time merely being listened to, and then we are given five hours today to discuss serious, significant and important amendments that our nation needs to make its business.

We now have hundreds of amendments since the Government decided to engage with this process. They told us that they were all unnecessary and that we did not need them because the Smith Commission was delivered in full, yet today, all of a sudden and in the limited time available, hundreds of Government amendments are on the Order Paper. We will not have the opportunity to scrutinise properly the proposals that the Government have put before the House today.

We still do not believe that the Smith commission has been delivered in full. We have tabled amendments to ensure that it is delivered in full, but even if those are accepted, the Bill is still significantly behind where the Scottish people are and what they want from the constitutional arrangements for our nation. This is only the start of a catch-up process.

I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to complain about how terribly Scotland has been treated, fuel grievances and wind up the Scots, but instead of whingeing about the process and wasting time, why does he not sit down and allow the debate to take place?

We have been shown gross disrespect today, and for the hon. Gentleman to say that Scotland should just put up and shut up as usual—

I am not giving way to the silly hon. Gentleman again.

What a sham of a process this has proven to be—

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a disgrace for the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) to accuse people of attacking Scotland, when all they are doing is commenting on his ludicrous tactics—him personally, not the people of Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman knows well that that is not a point of order for the Chair: it is part of the debate. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire has pointed out that there is only a short time available for this debate. I hope that we can soon come to the debate itself and that he will also curtail his remarks.

I do not want to take up time, but I want the House to understand the rage that my hon. Friends and I feel about the limited amount of time that we have been given today.

I also want to reassure the House that we are not looking to have the Bill certified as English only, even though the Government consider the Scotland Bill to be an English-only Bill. We do not even want it to be certified as Scotland only, even though every single bit of the Bill applies exclusively to Scotland. I just hope that in the few short hours we have for debate that English Members will remember that when they make their contributions and vote. I hope that they listen to the voices of Scottish Members of Parliament on the Bill. It is not good enough to turn up and decide to have their say on Scottish business in this new age of English votes for English laws, but we will not have the Bill certified today.

We want the Bill to be discussed and debated properly, although it is way behind what the Scottish people require. We will not press the programme motion to a Division, even though the House knows how angry we feel about the limited time, because that would take further time from the debate.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the real irony is that after today’s truncated debate, the Bill will move to the House of Lords for weeks, possibly even months, of scrutiny with no democratic mandate from any voter in Scotland?

That is exactly what will happen. The minute the Bill leaves this House it goes to the unelected Chamber of donors and cronies who will seek to impose their views on the business of Scotland. It is an utter disgrace.

If the Secretary of State thinks that the Bill puts a line under the ambition of the people of Scotland, he is gravely mistaken. Scotland has a fuller vision for itself now. Scotland is a more confident, assertive nation and it will never stop asking for more responsibility. The Scottish people know that it is better that they are in charge of their nation’s affairs, instead of a Conservative Government that we did not vote for, with a solitary Scottish Member of Parliament.

I do not want to detain the House either, but I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart)—I hope that he does not turn to dust as a result—not on his content, but on the tone with which he has started this debate. It is worth putting on record that the Government, Opposition and SNP Whips—the usual channels—spent an inordinate amount of time on this, and I understand that there was broad agreement on how today’s proceedings would operate.

We would very much like some more time in the Chamber, but unfortunately that will not happen on Report and Third Reading. Given that the Government have accepted most of our amendments on the permanency of the Scottish Parliament, that the Scottish Parliament can now design its own social security system, and that the Government have moved towards the removal of the perceived vetoes—and, indeed, given the equalities section—we think the vow has been delivered. We agree with some of the Government amendments. The Government have come forward with amendments that agree with some of ours. I think we should get on with the debate this afternoon and start to discuss some of these issues. If the Scottish National party press this to a vote, we will see whether the House agrees.

The kernel of the argument is about having enough time to debate effectively all the detail in this very comprehensive Bill. There must have been some sort of deal done between those on the Front Benches. I hope that in future, particularly with regard to English devolution when we return to the local government Bill—and thereafter, as there may be other devolution Bills pertaining to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland—there will be a mixture of time. We should use the Floor of the House, so that we are open and transparent and allow all Members to get involved. We should also ensure that there is a period of time in Committee, so that the detail—particularly in relation to a second or third English devolution Bill—can be considered to every Member’s satisfaction.

I will not detain the House, because I do not want to eat into the time available to debate the Bill. I acknowledge the anger of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). He is always angry at something. Each time we have dealt with the Bill, we have had this sort of stunt. In the newspapers in Scotland at the weekend, the hon. Gentleman called on other Members of the House of Commons to be nicer to him. We will try, but he does make it a bit difficult.

It is clear to me that the hon. Gentleman’s anger is not directed at me or at this House, but directed at the people of Scotland because they voted decisively to remain in the United Kingdom, and that is something he just cannot accept.

Question put and agreed to.