Skip to main content

Barnett Consequentials: Estimates Process

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 8 December 2016

1. What parliamentary mechanisms are available to hon. Members to scrutinise Barnett consequentials within the estimates process. (907753)

Every Member has an opportunity to vote in the estimates process. The Liaison Committee is the body that has been chosen by the House to represent the interests of the House in selecting topics for debate on estimates days. If Members wish to examine a particular estimate in relation to the effect that it has on the block grant or for one of the devolved Administrations, they are free to make representations to the Committee, and are, in fact, encouraged to do so.

As Members know, the Procedure Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the estimates process, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House recently gave evidence. We look forward to its report, and will examine its recommendations carefully.

The simple fact is that the OECD has previously said that we have some of the worst levels of estimates scrutiny in the developed world. The EVEL process makes it even harder for Scottish Members to participate in decisions that can have Barnett consequentials, and we were promised that the estimates system would be reviewed for that reason. What changes will be introduced, and when?

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. What with oral and written questions, Opposition day debates, Backbench Business day debates, business questions and Select Committees, there are doubtless more opportunities for Members to raise these issues today than there were when Mr Barnett invented Barnett consequentials in the late 1970s. Many avenues are available. As I have said, however, the Procedure Committee is looking into the matter in some detail, and I invite the hon. Gentleman to take part in that inquiry. [Interruption.]

It is good of the Leader of the House to drop into his own questions session. We are immensely grateful.

The floods of 2013 were devastating in Somerset, and my constituency covered half the flooded area. The Somerset Rivers Authority was established to deal with flood resilience, and the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government gave assurances that the authority could be funded through a precept on our council tax bills. May I have an assurance that work on the framework for such an arrangement is under way?

Order. That is absolutely fascinating material, especially in Taunton Deane, but I question whether it has any particular relationship with the issue of Barnett consequentials. I am sure that that is a matter to which the hon. Lady will devote her grey cells in the hours that follow.

A few seconds ago, the Deputy Leader of the House cited this question time as an appropriate mechanism for scrutiny of Barnett consequentials. Will he therefore tell us what the current Barnett consequential is for the health service in Scotland?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the blocks of sums that are allocated to the different Departments in Westminster have no bearing on what the Scottish Government can do in respect of the breakdown for the departmental heads. He is comparing chalk and cheese.

Will the Deputy Leader of the House tell us how many days are allocated to the Scottish National party for Opposition day debates, and will he encourage the SNP to devote its next debate to Barnett consequentials?

More than enough days are allocated to the Scottish National party, but I know that SNP Members have heard what my hon. Friend said.