Consideration of Lords amendments
I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.
This is a truly significant day for Scotland. If this Bill completes its parliamentary progress, it will add to the already extensive responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament a range of important new powers. It provides even greater opportunities for the Scottish Government to tailor and deliver Scottish solutions to Scottish issues. The Scottish Parliament that returns in May will be a powerhouse Parliament that has come of age. Crucially, it will be much more accountable to the people who elect it, which is the hallmark of a mature democratic institution.
I am pleased to say that Lord Smith of Kelvin has confirmed that the Bill puts into law the agreement that the five main political parties in Scotland reached, and that the fiscal framework that was agreed means that the recommendations of his commission have been delivered in full.
Last week, the Scottish Parliament debated the motion on whether to grant legislative consent to the Bill before us today, and the agreement was unanimous. Deputy First Minister John Swinney remarked:
“The Smith process delivered an agreement for additional powers that—if they are used in the right way—can benefit the people of Scotland.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report, 16 March 2016; c. 3.]
I agree with him wholeheartedly on that.
The debate last week demonstrated the consensus among all parties in Scotland that these new powers present a tremendous opportunity for Scotland. That was clear in their unanimous vote to grant legislative consent to this Bill. This process goes to show that both of Scotland’s Governments and both of Scotland’s Parliaments can work effectively together in the interest of the people in Scotland and right across our United Kingdom.
No individual or party held a monopoly of wisdom on how the Smith agreement might best be translated into legislation. Many people, both inside and outside this Chamber, have contributed to the Bill as it stands before us today. I thank hon. Members and noble Lords for their contributions as the Bill passed through this House and the other place.
My right hon. Friend has asked that question before. This legislation has been debated on the Floor of this House and on the Floor of the other place. Extensive scrutiny of the Bill has taken place. Indeed, there has been the opportunity to scrutinise the fiscal framework as well, so extensive scrutiny has been delivered in relation to this legislation for the people of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The Bill has been strengthened by the scrutiny it has received, and I am pleased that the amendments that I will cover shortly are a positive and constructive culmination of that process.
Going back to the previous intervention, it was obvious from the voices on the Scottish National party Benches that all the other Ministers, especially those from the Treasury, spoke for interests other than those of Scotland. Is it not time to move away from this form of devolution, whereby we effectively get the crumbs from the table at Westminster, to a model that Copenhagen shares with the Faroe Islands and Greenland, in which the larder is always open and they get to choose their own powers. Instead of taking the crumbs from Westminster, we should be able to take the powers that we want from Westminster when we want them.
The hon. Gentleman’s colleagues may agree with him, but I do not think that the people of Scotland do. The people of Scotland made it very clear in September 2014 that they wanted to remain part of our United Kingdom, but they wanted a Scottish Parliament with enhanced powers, which is what this Government are delivering. The hon. Gentleman strikes a rather sour note, given the consensus within the Scottish Parliament and among his colleagues in the Scottish Government—a consensus that recognises the importance of the powers that will be delivered by this Bill if it completes its passage today.
I also acknowledge the work of the Committees of both the Scottish and the UK Parliaments, including those chaired by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) in this place, by the noble Lords, Lord Lang, Baroness Fookes and Lord Hollick, in the other place and by Bruce Crawford in the Scottish Parliament. The broad range of evidence and expertise they marshalled in the Bill’s scrutiny has improved it materially.
I also wish to thank the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, and Scottish Government officials for their always courteous engagement in this process. Scotland gets the best outcome when its two Governments work together.
I am truly grateful to all my officials at the Scotland Office and the officials from the 10 other Whitehall Departments whose hard work has got us to this stage. My noble Friends Lord Dunlop and Lord Keen of Elie have played an essential role in the Bill’s passage through the other place; I also commend Lord McAvoy and Lord Wallace of Tankerness in particular for their work. The origin of the Bill is the Smith agreement, and I once again pay tribute to Lord Smith of Kelvin and the representatives of all five of Scotland's main political parties for reaching an agreement that redefined the devolution settlement.
A number of technical amendments were made in the other place to ensure that the Bill devolves the powers intended effectively and efficiently. There were also substantive amendments related to the fiscal framework and responsible parking.
In line with the Smith Commission agreement, the fiscal framework agreement changes the powers available to the Scottish Government for both resource and capital borrowing. Lords amendments 22 and 58 set out clearly, and consistent with the existing legal framework, new borrowing powers for the Scottish Government. Lords amendments 23 and 59 deal with independent fiscal scrutiny in Scotland and the UK. Those amendments formalise the arrangements around the Office for Budget Responsibility’s access to information from Scottish institutions, notably the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Scottish Government.
A number of minor and technical amendments were made to the welfare provisions in the Bill. Lords amendments 50 to 52 are minor amendments to ensure that powers and procedure for secondary legislation transfer effectively. Lords amendment 24 is technical in nature and ensures that executive competence will be transferred to the Scottish Ministers, so that they can make payments of Sure Start maternity grants, funeral payments, cold weather payments and winter fuel payments when clause 21 is commenced. Lords amendment 28, which proposes a new clause after clause 30, and Lords amendment 29 make it clear that the Social Security Advisory Committee and the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council will advise the Secretary of State only, and Lords amendments 25 to 27 are technical amendments made as a result of that change.
Lords amendments 1 to 20, on elections, are also technical amendments which clarify the provisions and improve the drafting. Lords amendments 17 to 20 in particular amend clause 11 on the supermajority provision in the Bill. The amendments enable a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to pass to Royal Assent if the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament decides that a simple majority is required: the Bill is passed with a simple majority but is referred to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court agrees that only a simple majority was required. Lords amendment 57 provides that clauses 3 to 12 will come into force on such a day as the Secretary of State may appoint by regulations made by statutory instrument. That will allow time for necessary consequential and saving provisions related to elections to be made.
Lords amendments 30 to 36 are technical amendments that would remove an unnecessary reference in clause 35 to the Equality Act 2006.
Amendments to clauses 39 and 40 and schedule 2 align the competence of Scottish Ministers for road signs and speed limits with the competence of the Scottish Parliament. As a result, once the clauses are commenced, Scottish Ministers will have the power to make regulations providing speed limit exemptions or to give general directions in relation to traffic signs and pedestrian crossings to the same extent as the Scottish Parliament has legislative competence. A considerable amount of work has already been done to develop a new set of regulations to prescribe speed limit exemptions. If they are to be truly effective, changes to relevant traffic signs regulations will also be needed. Traffic signs are already being devolved to the Scottish Parliament in other clauses of the Bill. Work on traffic signs regulations has also been part of a long-term project to bring in GB-wide revised regulations.
Those amendments will enable the Secretary of State, with Scottish Ministers’ consent, to make a single set of regulations that are GB-wide in their application and allow vehicles used for various purposes connected with devolved matters to have exemptions from both speed limits and certain road signs and general directions. The aim is to assist stakeholders and avoid duplication of work already carried out by the Department for Transport, benefiting everyone who needs to travel at speed on roads. In addition, these amendments treat amendments to section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 made by the Road Safety Act 2006 as though they were in force when clause 38 comes into force.
In Committee, Labour tabled an amendment on responsible parking. The amendment was also raised in the other place. I have for some time been committed to seeking a solution to this issue. Lords amendments 38 and 46 seek to address the long-standing problem of irresponsible parking, which has a particular impact on people with disabilities, parents with pushchairs and the elderly, especially when vehicles have been badly parked on pavements. We took forward discussions with the Scottish Government on this matter, and, as a result of these discussions, amendments were tabled in the other place that will enable the Scottish Parliament to address this issue. This is a good example of the sort of running repair which from time to time it is prudent to make to the devolution settlement, and demonstrates the collaborative relationship between the two Governments.
Lords amendment 49 revises clause 45(8) on onshore petroleum to ensure that the Secretary of State’s enforcement ability in relation to reserved matters is preserved for licences in respect of onshore Scotland. Amendment 48 removes a redundant reference.
Clause 68 confers on the Secretary of State the power to make consequential, transitional and saving provisions by regulations. Lords amendments 53 to 56 amend this provision in response to feedback from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.
The Government made substantial amendments to the Bill on Report in this House. The Lords amendments are largely technical, but nevertheless include important provisions related to the fiscal framework and responsible parking. I am pleased that they were accepted in the other place. I urge the House to accept the Lords amendments.
The Secretary of State’s description of the road traffic changes had me mesmerised. I could have listened to him all evening. We thank him for that.
It is a great pleasure to speak on behalf of the official Opposition. I am not going to pretend that the passage of the Bill has been entirely enjoyable, smooth or stress-free, but we are where we are and it has definitely been worth getting to this place. Every Member of this House and the other place should be incredibly proud of what has been achieved in such a short time. Some will say the Bill does not go far enough, and some will be disappointed that it does not contain what they wanted, but I think today marks a historic day in the devolution journey of our Scottish Parliament.
When this Bill is passed—there is no longer any doubt that it will be passed today—Scotland will have one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world. That is what the Labour party has always wanted from that process. It was the former Prime Minister, the former Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, who devised the vow that promised more powers. Let us pay tribute both to him and to the Daily Record for publishing it at the time. [Interruption.] I knew I would get a reaction to that. If only I had said The National, the response from the SNP Benches might have been different.
That paved the way for the Smith commission, skilfully chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, who managed to negotiate cross-party agreement on the form that those powers should take. That in turn laid the foundations for the Bill before us today. It has now passed through this place and the other place. A revised fiscal framework has been agreed, crucially with the Barnett formula at its heart. As promised, the vow has been delivered, with Barnett protected. That was always a Labour party priority, as we recognise the integral role played by the Barnett formula in maintaining public spending in Scotland. That said, and as the Institute for Fiscal Studies astutely observed, during the fiscal framework negotiations it was, ironically, the SNP Government who insisted upon Barnett as sacrosanct. With the zeal of the convert, they argued vociferously for an approach
“which ensures the ongoing pooling and”
“of some proportion of ‘devolved’ revenues across the UK.”
Of course, as long-standing advocates of the Barnett formula and the principle of pooling and sharing resources that it enshrines, we gave the Scottish Government our full backing in those negotiations. I wonder whether that now means that the Scottish National party has renounced its No. 1 policy priority of full fiscal autonomy—perhaps we will hear this evening.
However, at least for the time being we have an agreement. The irony is that this Bill will wing its way to Her Majesty to receive Royal Assent, hopefully later tonight, on the eve of what would have been separation day in Scotland. It creates one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world, as opposed to the White Paper prospectus promised by the SNP in 2014.
Some of the Lords amendments speak directly to that agreement, delivering, for example, the strengthened borrowing powers and the enhanced fiscal oversight of Scotland’s public finances that this fiscal framework provides for. Now that the last impediment to the Bill has been removed, we must focus on the powers that the Scottish Parliament is receiving. As the Secretary of State has said, the legislative consent motion has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Given that today is the last day of the current Scottish Parliament, it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to all the MSPs, from all parties, who have served since 2011. With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will say a word or two about those MSPs, particularly Labour MSPs, who are retiring from the Scottish Parliament, having done so much in the process of getting this Bill here today. They include Hugh Henry, Duncan McNeil and Richard Simpson, who have served since 1999. There is my old university friend Richard Baker, who was first elected in 2003, and Margaret McDougall, Graeme Pearson and Drew Smith, who were elected in 2011. They all retire with our best wishes, especially Malcolm Chisholm, who was also a long-standing Member of this House. He retires leaving a distinguished record of public service to his constituents. We wish him well. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), who is not in his place. The Scottish Parliament’s loss is this place’s gain. Are we not lucky indeed?
With the passing of this Bill and the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament, we can today lay the old arguments of the referendum to rest, alongside any doubt that the vow has not been delivered. The conversation must now move on to how these powers are used—or not used in some cases. It is worth briefly reminding ourselves what those powers are, because they are considerable, and their Lordships looked at them in great detail, for which we thank them. The Scottish Parliament has power over rates and bands of tax on all non-savings and non-dividend income. That means it can put taxes up or bring them down; it can increase or reduce the thresholds at which the different rates are paid; or it can choose to do nothing and keep things pretty much as they are, short of affording a tax break to higher earners—champions of the status quo perhaps—even if, in so doing, some people are abandoning a manifesto pledge to reintroduce the 50p rate for those earning over £150,000. That is what some have chosen to do, but that is not what we would do
I wonder how commentators have looked on that process. Owen Jones, who is often quoted by the SNP Members now beside me, called it
“a huge blow to their credentials”.
What does the Scottish Trades Union Congress think of the Scottish Government’s grand plans for devolved taxation in Scotland? It calls them
“a disappointingly timid approach to tax policy…Breaking the consensus on increasing the additional rate is difficult to fathom.”
It said it was an approach that is
“difficult to reconcile with the Scottish Government’s”
“social and economic objectives.”
For the past five years, many people had the mantra “more power for Scotland.” Today, when the Bill is passed, we will have a powerful Scottish Parliament—power not as a point of principle, but power to be used for positive, progressive change. I can tell the House, in no uncertain terms, that the Scottish Labour party will not settle for power for power’s sake. We will not settle for the political choice of austerity. This Bill goes straight to the heart of how we would do that. We will oppose austerity in the UK and we will oppose it in Scotland, and when we get into government we will reverse it. We will build a better and fairer Scotland for all, and taxation will not be our sole tool for doing so.
Lords amendment 22 strengthens the borrowing powers available to the Scottish Government, as agreed in the fiscal framework, allowing them to invest more in capital infrastructure or to smooth out fluctuations in devolved taxes.
In short, with those amendments and powers, the Scottish Parliament will have the power radically to reshape the social and political landscape in Scotland. As we all know, if we are to have the excellent public services and high standards of living enjoyed by countries in other parts of the world, we must have the revenues to pay for them, and that means making bold decisions.
Scottish Labour has already begun to set out how it would use the new powers that are coming to Scotland, along with those that Scotland already has, to maintain and increase levels of investment in education and public services. A Scottish Labour Government will depart from the discredited political doctrine of austerity and increase public spending over the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament. We will be bold, and we will be radical, because that is the only way to really change people’s lives. We understand that having power is pointless if we are not prepared to use it. It is a shame that others—the Conservative Government and the SNP Scottish Government—will go into this election with a powerful Parliament offering a pale imitation of the status quo. After the blood, sweat and tears of getting this Bill on to the statute book, that is unfortunate. Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on with the SNP’s cuts to schools, Labour will use those powers.
In the course of our consideration of the Bill, the Labour party has focused on securing practical, progressive changes to it. Where we felt it fell short of the Smith commission, we have sought to improve it. Where there has been disagreement, we have not declaimed noisily from the rafters, but sought to reach compromise. In adopting that approach, we have won valuable concessions from the Government—changes to the Bill that will make a real, practical difference to Scotland.
In this place, we secured the power to create new benefits in devolved areas, and we elicited welcome clarity on the application and extent of the provisions to top up existing benefits. That will allow the Scottish Parliament, effectively, to design a new social security system to suit the needs of Scotland. Given last week’s Budget, thank goodness it has that power.
In the other place, we campaigned successfully, as the Secretary of State said, for an amendment to the Bill to devolve competence over pavement parking to the Scottish Parliament. If hon. Members remember, it was the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) who mentioned the issue on Second Reading in this place. The amendment marked the culmination of a lengthy process that started with a private Member’s Bill introduced by the former Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, several years ago. I would point those who think that the amendment is a minor measure to the many charities—most prominently, Living Streets and Guide Dogs UK—that campaigned hard and long to secure it. I thank them today for their unstinting efforts.
Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, especially people with sight loss, parents with pushchairs, and wheelchair users and other disabled people. By securing the amendment, we have cleared the way for the Scottish Parliament to take legislative measures to protect those people and to increase the safety of our streets.
The Government’s other amendments in the Lords are merely technical and tidying-up provisions, and we do not, of course, oppose any of them.
I would like to close by thanking those who have brought us to this juncture. The former Prime Minister deserves our thanks—it was his vow, which was itself a product of his passion for Scotland, that paved the way for the process that created the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) also deserves our thanks for pushing forward with the vow and making sure we secured the new powers for Scotland in the legislative programme. In this place, I would also like to thank the Secretary of State and his team. He has always been an affable adversary and has shown a willingness to work constructively to improve the Bill. In particular, his staff deserve great credit for the way in which they have helped us navigate the Bill.
I thank Labour’s shadow Scotland team, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David), who is not in his place today, due to illness. He has been invaluable in his willingness to step into the breach, even when the debate was at its fiercest. I give special thanks to the Clerks in the House of Commons Public Bill Office for their support and, more importantly, their patience, and to the impartial experts in the House of Commons Library. In the other place, I thank my right hon. Friend Lord McAvoy for leading on the Bill for the Opposition in such an energetic manner. I also thank my right hon. Friends Lord McFall and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock for their learned advice and support.
I would like to mention the Law Society of Scotland, which I worked with on a number of amendments, and which was always ready with an expert and impartial perspective. Michael Clancy of the Law Society—this is an interesting diversion and something we have not experienced before now—has sat under the Gallery in both this and the other place for every single Scotland Bill sitting since 1997, but he had to leave to catch his flight this evening so he has been unable to watch these proceedings and has missed the very last sitting. [Hon. Members: “It’s not the last!”] It is certainly the last sitting on this Bill; I am sure that everyone can agree with that. We wish him well and thank him for his advice. I also thank Lord Smith of Kelvin and the commissioners of all parties who played an integral role in the process.
It may not feel like it, but this is a historic day for Scotland that will fundamentally change its social and political landscape. All we have to do now is make use of these substantial powers. We take up that challenge. It is now up to others to do the same.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray). It is a calumny that he has been described as negative. He spent much of his time at the Dispatch Box trying to be positive about the Scotland Bill. Parts of his speech were positive and we welcome that, and we also welcome the Secretary of State’s positive comments.
The Scotland Bill is an important step in extending the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and in Scotland’s journey towards greater self-government. That journey has quickened in pace since the Scottish National party was first returned to power in 2007. The Bill follows progress including the Scotland Act 2012, the independence referendum and the Smith commission itself. As Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said, the Bill delivers additional powers that can benefit the people of Scotland, including extended powers over tax, new powers over welfare, and responsibilities for the Crown Estate, tribunals and the licensing of onshore oil and gas activity.
The agreement on a fiscal framework published on 25 February increases the Scottish Parliament’s financial responsibility, is consistent with the Smith principles of no detriment, and is fair to the people of Scotland. As the Bill, including the amendments under discussion, provides useful powers and has moved towards delivering more of the recommendations made by the Smith commission reports, and as the agreement on the fiscal framework would be a fair basis for future funding consistent with the principles agreed by the Smith commission, the Scottish Government recommended that the Scottish Parliament should consent to the Bill. On 11 March 2016, the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee published its report on the Scotland Bill and the fiscal framework. Although it makes recommendations on specific policy areas, its overall conclusion is that the Scottish Parliament should consent to the Bill. That is what is before us. On 16 March, the Scottish Parliament consented to the legislative consent motion for the Bill.
The SNP has, of course, governed in Scotland for nine years, and every indication is that the people of Scotland have been delighted with the governance of Scotland under the SNP. I join the Labour party spokesman in paying tribute, as I did earlier today, to every outgoing Member of the Scottish Parliament—not least my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond)—of all political parties, who have worked hard to achieve the best governance that decision-making closer to home can bring.
The outgoing Scottish Government have already acted with pace and creativity, in consultation with others, to be ready to use the limited powers—there are, of course, limits on the powers that are being devolved. That includes introducing a social security Bill within the first year of the new Scottish Parliament, to support the transfer and administration of Scotland’s new, devolved social security benefits. It also includes enhancing opportunities for employment and inclusive economic growth by improving support for people to move into employment through reform of the Work programme and linking employment programmes with training and education.
The outgoing Scottish Government have also committed to abolishing fees for employment tribunals, to reduce the burden of air passenger duty by 50%, and to promote equalities by taking early action on gender balance on public boards. They have also set out longer-term intentions for further income powers, are committed to a progressive taxation policy and have applied that to the decision on existing tax powers. Commencement of most of the new powers will take place in 2016, but new arrangements for the use of major new powers on matters including tax and welfare will not be in place before April 2017 following scrutiny of the proposals by the Scottish Parliament.
On 11 March 2016, the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee published its final report and gave its unanimous recommendation that legislative consent be given to the Scotland Bill. That was described as
“a significant milestone in a remarkable political process”
by Committee convener Bruce Crawford MSP. I pay tribute to him and his colleagues on the Committee, as I do to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, for their work. Although the Scotland Bill and the Smith commission could have delivered more effective and coherent powers to the Scottish Parliament, the Bill provides useful additional powers in important areas such as taxation and social security.
The UK Government amended the Bill to reflect some of the comments of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and its Committees. With an agreed fiscal framework that increases the Scottish Parliament’s responsibility and protects the Barnett formula, the Scottish Government recommended that the Scottish Parliament consent to the Scotland Bill. The final report of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee also had some important things to say:
“There are still some areas where we feel that the Scotland Bill continues to fall short of the spirit and substance of Smith…Nevertheless, the Bill has been improved during its passage through our detailed scrutiny and we welcome the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland has been prepared to listen to the evidence we have presented and improve the Bill in other areas…in our view, on the basis of the information provided to date by both governments, we are prepared to endorse the fiscal framework underpinning the powers to be devolved to Scotland as part of this Bill. Therefore, on balance, we recommend that the Scottish Parliament gives its legislative consent to the Scotland Bill.”
UK Government amendments that implement more of the Smith report, including the permanence of the Scottish Parliament, are welcome. However, it needs to be said that the Scotland Bill continues to fall short of the spirit and the substance of Smith in some areas, including the devolution of employment programmes and the future operation of the legislative consent provision. It is important to understand that the UK Government can still effectively veto the exercise of devolved powers over universal credit by inserting their own date for the changes to commence. The social security provisions on discretionary payments and assistance are still subject to restrictions, notably for those who are under sanctions. The Smith report was clear that the Scottish Parliament should have complete autonomy over devolved benefits. The Scotland Bill is many things, but it is not federalism or near-federalism. Anybody who understands the powers of the German or Austrian Länder knows that to be true. It is an improvement, and it is progress.
We in the SNP thank all in the Scottish Government who have been involved, especially John Swinney. We also thank those on the UK Government side, even though—this is an important rider—I see that there is a Minister from the Treasury on the Treasury Bench, and we all know that the Treasury wanted a fiscal framework that would have made Scotland worse off by £7 billion. Thank goodness for the efforts of John Swinney and colleagues in the Scottish Government. I would like to take the opportunity to thank my SNP MP colleagues, who have worked so hard on the Bill throughout the parliamentary process. In fairness, it is also right to place on record the fact that Members in the other place spent a lot of time on the Bill.
Most importantly, I thank all those in Scotland who have believed in more powers. They did not draw lines in the sand or say, “This far, and no further”, as others have done, even in the recent past. Thanks to all those yes voters and all those SNP voters, Westminster has had to take note. This is just the latest stage on Scotland’s journey, and there will be many more. We agree with the amendments, and we wish the Bill to proceed. That is exactly what will happen today.
I will not detain the House for long, but I want to respond briefly to some of the points that have been made.
I add my best wishes to all Members of the Scottish Parliament who are leaving at this election, particularly my colleagues and others who were elected to the Scottish Parliament alongside me back in 1999. A number of people who have served in Parliament throughout that period are leaving, and others who are standing in the election will be leaving, although not necessarily of their own accord. We should wish them well.
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) and the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) for what they said about Scotland Office officials. They will both recognise that the Scotland Office is a small team, and bringing the Bill together, along with 10 other Whitehall Departments, has been a very significant undertaking for the Scotland Office. I pay particular tribute to the Bill team, who have navigated us to this point.
I also pay tribute to Michael Clancy and his efforts on behalf of the Law Society of Scotland. All Scottish Members, including the new ones at the last election, will have come to see Michael as one of the most dogged pursuers of improved legislation across the gamut of what affects Scotland in this place. I very much welcome his involvement.
My test for the Bill was the views of Lord Smith of Kelvin. He has been absolutely clear that, with the amendments made to the Bill on Report and with the fiscal framework as negotiated, the Bill fully meets the Smith commission recommendations. That is the test—the objective test—that should be applied to the Bill.
I welcome the contribution that all Members have made, particularly in Committee. We have had some lively discussions on the Floor of the House. I very much welcome the work of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee in the Scottish Parliament. I have said in correspondence with Bruce Crawford—I am happy to put this on the record in this Parliament—that its scrutiny of the Bill has been exemplary and has contributed significantly to improving it. We of course recognise the detailed scrutiny of the Bill in the other place.
The Bill is now on the final stage of its journey, so it is appropriate briefly to consider what lies ahead. The co-operation between Scotland’s two Governments and Parliaments that has underpinned the Scotland Bill and fiscal framework will be fundamental to the success of the work that now needs to take place to implement the new powers. Last week, the Deputy First Minister and I discussed the initial plans for the transfer of powers following commencement, and I will continue that dialogue with the Scottish Government immediately after the Holyrood elections.
To date, both Governments have agreed that the full devolution of income tax rates and thresholds for non-savings and non-dividend income will commence in April 2017. Air passenger duty will be devolved in April 2018, and the implementation dates for welfare will be agreed by the joint ministerial working group on welfare. The majority of the remaining provisions will be commenced either on Royal Assent or two months after Royal Assent.
Political discourse in Scotland is already changing as a result of the Bill, moving on from a debate on process to one about how the powers will be used. I am expecting a lively debate during coming weeks about how these powers should be used for the benefit of the people of Scotland. I look forward to working further, after the elections, with the Scottish Government to ensure their smooth and effective transfer. I urge the House to accept the Lords amendments.
Lords amendment 1 agreed to.
Lords amendments 2 to 62 agreed to, with Commons financial privileges waived in respect of Lords amendment 22.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Under section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993—the Maastricht Act of Parliament —there is a requirement on the Government:
“Before submitting the information required in implementing Article 103(3) of the Treaty…to report to Parliament for its approval an assessment of the medium term economic and budgetary position in relation to public investment expenditure”. [Interruption.]
As the Minister knows, that provision concerns convergence criteria, and stability and growth factors. The trouble is that the document we have been given, entitled, “2014-15 Convergence Programme for the United Kingdom: submitted in line with the Stability and Growth pact”, contains in pages 141 to 145 a detailed assessment of the position on welfare caps and other spending, including matters relating to disability benefits and personal independence payments, about which there has been a great deal of controversy over the past few days.
I therefore submit to you, Mr Speaker, that it is impossible for the Government to be able to submit that document, which has now been significantly changed as a result of the controversy of the past few days, and it is therefore inappropriate for them to proceed with this debate. What is your view?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, which I think I will describe as a conscientious effort at derailment of the Government’s intended programme of business. I say that not in a pejorative sense, as it is a perfectly legitimate attempt. I hope that those on the Treasury Bench, and other Government Members, are cognisant of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and that they have followed the logic of his argument and the substance of his thesis. I am not altogether sure that all expressions on ministerial faces have been entirely comprehending of his point, even though it is pretty straightforward, but my advice to the hon. Gentleman is that if at the end of the debate he is dissatisfied he will have to register that with his vote. He is saying that the terms of trade have changed, but that is often the case, and he should seek to catch my eye to develop his arguments more fully in the course of the debate.
It is entirely open to Ministers to do that in the course of the debate. I have no desire to steer the debate as that would be very wrong, but I have a hunch that if the Minister does not provide satisfaction on that front, he might be peppered with attempted interventions from either the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) or the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). We will leave it there for now.