The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Ms Nadine Dorries
† Alexander, Heidi (Lewisham East) (Lab)
† Bacon, Mr Richard (South Norfolk) (Con)
† Chapman, Douglas (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)
Coffey, Ann (Stockport) (Lab)
† Costa, Alberto (South Leicestershire) (Con)
† Creasy, Stella (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)
† Ellis, Michael (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons)
† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)
† Laird, Lesley (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Lab)
† Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)
Robinson, Mr Geoffrey (Coventry North West) (Lab)
† Seely, Mr Bob (Isle of Wight) (Con)
† Shapps, Grant (Welwyn Hatfield) (Con)
Smith, Angela (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab)
† Soames, Sir Nicholas (Mid Sussex) (Con)
† Whittaker, Craig (Calder Valley) (Con)
† Wragg, Mr William (Hazel Grove) (Con)
Joanna Welham, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):
Jack, Mr Alister (Dumfries and Galloway) (Con)
Smyth, Karin (Bristol South) (Lab)
First Delegated Legislation Committee
Tuesday 12 December 2017
[Ms Nadine Dorries in the Chair]
Draft Scotland Act 1998 (Specification of Devolved Tax) (Wild Fisheries) Order 2017
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Specification of Devolved Tax) (Wild Fisheries) Order 2017.
The purpose of the draft order is to provide the Scottish Government with a limited and specific power to raise a levy on wild freshwater fisheries for the purposes of the management, conservation and sustainable development of those fisheries. The order stems from reforms being undertaken by Scottish Ministers to ensure that effective measures are in place to manage and conserve wild fisheries in Scotland.
An independent review of wild fisheries in Scotland was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2014. Among the recommendations of the review was that the Scottish Government should have the power to adopt appropriate management tools, including the flexibility to change the way in which income is raised for fisheries management, which is currently done through a fisheries assessment levy applied to salmon fisheries at a local level.
The draft order will give Scottish Ministers the power to make regulations imposing a levy on the owners, occupiers or users of wild fisheries, or the owners or occupiers of the right to fish in wild fisheries. The Scottish Government intend to use the power by introducing provisions related to their wild fisheries (Scotland) Bill, which will provide Scottish Ministers with the flexibility to set, collect and retain fishery assessment levies in circumstances where they do not approve the fishery management plan developed at a local level.
The levies in question are considered by Her Majesty’s Treasury to be taxes, and therefore outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. In order to introduce a Bill into the Scottish Parliament with provisions on tax, the Scottish Government require an amendment to be made to part 4A of the Scotland Act 1998. An Order in Council under section 80B of the Act is the mechanism through which Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend part 4A so as to specify an additional devolved tax.
Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom have agreed to the devolution of the power to raise a levy on the basis that it will only be applied to a levy in respect of the conservation and management of freshwater fisheries. The devolution of such levy powers to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers is not thought to have a significant impact on businesses in other parts of the United Kingdom, but is considered to be conducive to the United Kingdom Government meeting their international conservation commitments.
I therefore commend the draft order to the Committee.
I rise briefly only to ask the Minister this detail: have the Government assessed whether the new tax is likely to improve the situation of the conservation and management of salmon fisheries?
The matter has been considered carefully and the levy is considered to be conducive to the conservation and management of freshwater fisheries, yes.
How does the draft order fall into place with the Tweed Act and cross-border levy collection?
As far as the River Tweed is concerned, where it crosses over the border into England, this order will not apply; it will apply to the River Tweed in Scotland. Where the river crosses the border will be the demarcation point for the order.
The order before us today is required to help enable the Scottish Government to implement their plans to modernise the management framework of Scotland’s salmon and freshwater fisheries. Recently, the Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of wild fisheries in Scotland, which concluded in 2014. One of the review’s recommendations was that the Scottish Government should be afforded the power to adopt appropriate management tools. Any such power would include the flexibility to change the way in which income is raised for fisheries management; it is currently raised through a fisheries assessment levy.
The draft order will give the Scottish Parliament legislative competence to allow Scottish Ministers the power to make regulations imposing a tax on the owners or occupiers of wild, freshwater fisheries of any species, or owners or occupiers of the right to fish for Atlantic salmon in Atlantic salmon fisheries. The Scottish Government have indicated that it is their intention to use that power by introducing provisions to their wild fisheries Bill that will allow Scottish Ministers to set, collect and retain fishery assessment levies in circumstances in which Scottish Ministers do not approve a district salmon fishery board fishery management plan.
The levies proposed by the wild fisheries review on both businesses and individual anglers are considered by HM Treasury to be taxes and so outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. In order to introduce a wild fisheries Bill with tax provisions into the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government require an amendment to be made to part 4A of the 1998 Act. The amendment will deliver funding flexibility in Scotland and enable the Scottish Government to address changing and potentially unforeseen pressures in the future. For that reason, the Labour party will support the order.
Scottish National party Members certainly welcome the changes and the return of powers to the Scottish Parliament. I know that this matter has been negotiated and long discussed between the various Governments.
Stewardship of all resources is taken very seriously by the Scottish Government, and in no area more so than fisheries. As other talks continue, we obviously also want to see the repatriation of, for example, North sea fishing stocks and the Seafish levy, and we want a phased discard scheme to be introduced. However, those issues are for another day. Will the Minister comment on when he thinks the powers will in fact be transferred?
I have two questions. First, I thought the Tweed Act was reserved to Westminster. Secondly, I would ask the Minister whether the Border Esk, which rises in Scotland but flows into the sea in England, will receive the same treatment as is proposed for the Tweed.
Does anyone else wish to speak before I call the Minister to respond?
On the first point, I of course welcome the position of the Scottish National party in welcoming this order. The order will come into force the day after Her Majesty approves it in Council. It can only go before Her Majesty in Council when it has gone through the legislative processes of this House, so a date has not been fixed for that, but it is not anticipated to be particularly far in the future. The activation of the order would be the day after Her Majesty approved it in Council, should Her Majesty do so.
On the exact legal ramifications relating to the River Tweed, I have said that the levies attracted by the Scottish Government will of course only apply within the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government. I can say no more than that at this point, but if there are any questions in particular about the exact specifics, we can certainly write to my hon. Friend.
Does that also apply to the Border Esk?
As I have said, I am happy to write to my hon. Friend with more detail about that matter, but that is all the information I have on this order at the moment.
Question put and agreed to.