Report (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 17th Report from the Constitution Committee
2: Before Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“Referendum about Scottish independence: further provision
(1) Any referendum held in pursuance of the provisions of section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 shall not take place until nine months after every Secretary of State has laid before both Houses of Parliament a paper prepared by their department setting out the implications of an independent Scotland—
(a) to that department and its executive agencies,(b) for that department’s policies, and(c) for that department’s planned expenditure.(2) Any referendum held in pursuance of the provisions of section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 shall be administered by the Electoral Commission with a single question relating to the future position of Scotland in the United Kingdom.”
My Lords, this amendment relates to the—
My Lords, I remind colleagues to leave the Chamber peacefully and quietly on this last day of sitting so that my noble friend Lord Forsyth may move his amendment.
My Lords, I am surprised that there is not more interest in this important piece of legislation. This amendment is very straightforward. If my noble and learned friend is not able to accept it, I hope that at least he will be able to give an undertaking that the substance of it will be adopted by the Government.
It is perfectly apparent that the Government do not intend to use the Scotland Bill to provide for the forthcoming referendum on independence. As my noble and learned friend has made clear, the preferred procedure is to use a Section 30 order, but subject to the important conditions that such a referendum taken forward by the Scottish Parliament would be regulated and run by the Electoral Commission, and that there should be a single question.
This amendment is concerned with what happens in the run-up to the referendum. I take it that if my noble and learned friend is not successful in persuading the Scottish Government of the need to move forward on a Section 30 basis, they will bring forward a Bill in the next Session of Parliament to provide for a referendum. No doubt the date of that referendum would be decided at that point.
It is important that we have an informed debate within the United Kingdom as a whole and Scotland in particular. So far the debate has all been about process, about who is going to set the question and what the question should be. This is an important question. It concerns the future of the United Kingdom as a whole, and will have an immense impact on people in ways that many people, including myself, have not even thought of.
This amendment asks the Government for a clear undertaking that every single government department will set out in a Green Paper, in objective—not political—terms, what the consequences of independence would be and what issues would need to be addressed. There are large-scale issues that are obvious, such as what would happen to our nuclear deterrent given that the Scottish Government are opposed to nuclear material being on Scottish soil, and the costs and employment consequences of that. There are also issues about public sector pensions as Scotland, because of its long tradition of public service, has a disproportionately large number of people involved in public service.
In the field of banking and finance, the Treasury should indicate what would happen to organisations like the Royal Bank of Scotland; for example, how could it possibly meet its requirements for raising capital in an independent Scotland? What would happen on the currency? What would happen on the role of the Bank of England? How would we avoid a Greece-like situation?
In the Department of Energy and Climate Change, what would happen in respect of the interconnectors and how would the so-called green policy of being entirely dependent on renewables work in an independent Scotland? It might be cheaper for England to buy its electricity from France, which is generated by nuclear, than from Scotland, where the whole business model for the Scottish Government’s green agenda depends on being able to add to the bills of English, Welsh and Northern Irish consumers.
Those are some examples; I could go on but I have no desire to spin out the debate today because I know people are anxious that we should conclude these proceedings as speedily as possible. But if we leave it to campaigners and politicians to exchange perhaps not entirely well informed arguments, the public will tire and the very serious consequences of the disintegration of the United Kingdom, of the balkanisation of Britain, will be lost sight of.
If I were in my noble and learned friend’s place, I would say, “I am not sure that it is necessary to put this in the Bill”. I accept that, but we should have an undertaking that every government department and its executive agencies will set out the implications for their policies and planned expenditure, so that people go into this with their eyes wide open, and the separatists who advocate breaking up Britain have to explain how they would address these issues. At the moment, people are going round saying that it is up to us to make a positive case for the United Kingdom. I reject that. It is up to those who propose change to explain how they will maintain the benefits that we all enjoy as part of the United Kingdom, wherever we live and whatever our political convictions.
Does my noble friend agree that this is absolutely crucial for those who are not Scottish as well as for the Scottish? Many in England feel that they need to understand exactly what the consequences are and unfortunately up to now they have had no such opportunity, which is why his amendment is so important.
I am most grateful to my noble friend for that intervention. I look at this from a Scottish perspective and I should have given more emphasis to that. He is absolutely right. This will have huge implications for people in England as well as Scotland. I find it very difficult to see how we could keep our role and influence in the United Nations, for example, if the United Kingdom was broken up. I think our country would be seen to be greatly diminished internationally. I do not quite know how it would work, given that the Scottish nationalists are opposed to our membership of NATO. Most countries are queuing up to try to get in to NATO, but this lot want to leave NATO. What is the position of our armed services, whose dedication fills everyone in the country with admiration?
Of course, my noble friend Lord Deben is more enthusiastic about the European Union than I have been and he is right from a sedentary position to ask, “What about the EU?”. Would Scotland as an independent nation be able to join the EU? If it was not able to join the EU, what would the consequences be? If it was able to join, presumably it would not benefit from the opt-out which we enjoy on the euro. Therefore, what would happen in terms of the implications for our currency, for cross-border movement and the rest? These issues are hugely important. This is not a dodgy dossier exercise or about getting government departments to make political statements one way or the other. It is simply about listing the issues which would arise so that those involved, on whichever side of the debate, can address the issues instead of being involved in a kind of Brigadoon debate which is characterised north of the border.
Does the noble Lord wish to move his amendment?
I am moving my amendment.
My Lords, perhaps I may gently suggest that my noble friend Lord Forsyth finishes his words of wisdom before anyone else interrupts because it interrupts the flow of what he is saying.
I am most grateful that I have a fan here, although the interventions that have been made were very pertinent. I beg to move.
I intervene briefly to suggest that the perceived impartiality of such a series of reports might be improved if it was handled by the equivalent of a Calman 2 commission, preferably of economists of sufficient stature that they would put their own reputation for impartiality above any party advantage. Ideally—I hope that I am not being unduly starry-eyed about this—if the membership of such a committee could be agreed with the Scottish Government, there would be no come-back. I agree that that looks pie in the sky, but there are economists, including economists of a nationalist tendency, who would not put their own reputations on the line by being seen patently to lie about the consequences of certain things. I simply suggest that the equivalent of Calman 2 might be a useful prerequisite for any debate on any amendment. I wonder whether the noble Lord agrees with that.
I think that the noble Lord intervened before I sat down. I do agree with that. The next inquiry of the Economic Affairs Committee of this House, of which I am a member, as the noble Lord will be aware, will be into the economic impact of independence on the United Kingdom as a whole. I agree that many economists can contribute to that in an informed and objective way. I think that the committee will produce some very interesting material as a result.
In addition to economic and legal aspects—many different opinions have been expressed publicly by members of the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government—I wonder whether the noble Lord has considered legal matters such as the right of Scotland or the ability of Scotland, if independent, to join the European Union or to retain the pound and matters of that kind. Does he think it is advisable that, in addition to a committee of experts such as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, has mentioned, there should be from this House a committee including lawyers and experts who can offer independent advice on such questions?
My Lords, I assume that my noble friend had serious reservations about the terms of Section 30 being agreed with the First Minister. After all, in recent press comments, the First Minister has said, “Will you please leave this all to us in Scotland and we will organise the referendum as we want it?”. I send good wishes to those from the Government who will carry out these vital negotiations but the questions that have to be settled are so important. I support my noble friend in saying that, if we do not get what we want on the question or any of the other important issues, we must have a chance to deal with it at Westminster.
I know that my noble and learned friend when he comes to reply will say, “Oh, but this amendment is not for the face of the Bill”, which I accept. But I believe that he has to give us some sort of undertaking that the very matters which my noble friend Lord Forsyth has raised in this amendment are dealt with and that we will get full and frank discussion of what is involved in this whole exercise.
My Lords, I should like to expand slightly on what the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, and my noble friend Lord Gordon have said. I am greatly reassured to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that the Economic Affairs Committee of this House will consider the issues around the economics of independence. I have one suggestion to make for the Green Paper proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and that is to look at the impact on employment of the proposal for an independent Scotland—in other words, that Scotland should secede from the union.
In the 1970s, a very effective campaign was run in Scotland led by the Scottish TUC, the CBI and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry for the dispersal of Civil Service jobs. A few weeks ago I tabled a Question for Written Answer asking how many Civil Service jobs in Scotland relate to reserved departments—in other words, United Kingdom departments as distinct from Scottish departments. There are 31,000 jobs in reserved departments. There is no question that these jobs will disappear. No sovereign state offshores significant Civil Service jobs. We do not have any British Civil Service jobs in the Republic of Ireland, in Jersey or in any of the other realms and areas close to our shores. It is inconceivable that we would have a situation where these Civil Service jobs would remain in Scotland.
If I was a Member of Parliament for places such as the north or the south-west of England and I saw the prospect of these Civil Service jobs becoming available, I would be crying out for them. There are jobs at every level, from limited skill at entry level to real leadership jobs with real salaries. Even on a random guesstimate of the multiplier of these jobs, on a multiplier of three, in the wider economy we are talking about something approaching 100,000 jobs directly consequential on the cessation of Scotland from the United Kingdom.
Some jobs will carry a higher multiplier because they are, for example, in science and technology; in the Ministry of Defence, both uniform and civilian; or they have a long supply chain in Scotland. We need to know what the outcome of that is likely to be for the Scottish economy. Like other noble Lords, I do not expect the noble and learned Lord to accept that this amendment should go in the Bill but I hope that there is already within government at least a Cabinet committee looking at these issues. The economic issue is perhaps the simplest. Once we go on to welfare matters, we are into a degree of complexity that will give us sore heads for a long time.
I urge the noble and learned Lord when he replies to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, to take into account the crying need for dispassionate information about the true consequences. Let us take a decision based on fact and not on rhetoric.
My Lords, I support the objective of my noble friend Lord Forsyth. I believe that the Scottish people need to be presented with much more detailed information about the consequences of separation than are likely to be provided by the popular press or the media. The reality is that the last time we had a referendum on constitutional reform, on AV, the media noticed the issue for no more than two weeks before the vote took place. Although the issue of voting systems is nothing like as significant as that with which we are now faced, which could lead to the break-up of Britain, I do not have any expectation that the depth of analysis that would be available to most people in the popular media would be anything like sufficient to assist the formation of a carefully cast vote. Although it may not be appropriate to put this directly into the Bill, it seems to me that the Government are best placed to analyse the consequences for government departments. Although there is an issue of whether that is the most independent way, the factual description of what would flow can be done. I would go further and say that there is a need for independence not only for a factual explanation of what is feasibly anticipated for Scotland, but the required consideration of alternatives for the whole of the United Kingdom.
That process would require considerable, objective debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, said. I am not certain that the alternative would best be discussed or presented by the Government at this stage. To have that debate, properly informed, is imperative if we are not going to blunder into a constitutional catastrophe, not just for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom.
I support what my noble friend Lord Forsyth has said about information. In the United Kingdom we are woefully short on information as to the consequences of this potentially tragic leap that we are encouraged to take. I was disappointed in Committee by the lack of response from my noble and learned friend on these matters. I raised some of them, such as the UK’s membership of Europe and what Scotland’s position would be, and what the position of our seat as a permanent representative on the Security Council of the United Nations would be. What currency will Scotland use? It cannot be allowed to use a single currency with the rest of the United Kingdom because single currencies without a single Government do not work. Will Scotland accede to or be refined as an existing member of the EU? The EU is clear on that: if you are a new member, you have to have the euro. Does that mean that, in Scotland, they will have to have the euro? Without this sort of information, we are not going to be able to have a sensible debate on this.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, raised the legal point. In Committee, I reminded Members of the number of treaties and obligations that had to be renegotiated with the break-up of Czechoslovakia. That ran into tens of thousands. A huge number of commitments will have to be renegotiated or adjusted. We need to know what they are going to be.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden on his scepticism over the Section 30 order. We cannot alter this Bill. It has been agreed behind closed doors and is subject to a legislative consent Motion. My noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness was very clear about this when I raised it on the first day of Report, when I asked what happens if we have an amendment at Third Reading. He said, “Well, Holyrood will have something to say about that”. So we will not be able to alter the Bill, and we will not be able to alter a Section 30 notice. Again, it will be agreed behind closed doors and presented as a fait accompli.
In addition to giving support to my noble friend Lord Forsyth, I ask my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace two questions. In the Section 30 notice, does he envisage that the referendum would have to take place by a set date? If the Section 30 notice allows for a referendum but there is no fixed date by which it must be held, we will go into limbo. If it is not held by that fixed date, the United Kingdom Government will have to legislate for a referendum to settle this matter.
Secondly, my noble and learned friend likened the United Kingdom to a club. If a member wants to leave, they should be allowed to leave the club without any of the others having any say in the matter. My amendment on the rest of the UK having a say in what Scotland decided was not acceptable to him. Will he therefore confirm that, in the Section 30 notice, he will allow parts of Scotland also to leave the proposed club of an independent Scotland? It comes back to my point about Orkney and Shetland, but it might be the Western Isles or somewhere else. There cannot be one rule for the United Kingdom and another for those in Scotland.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Forsyth has done the House a service in raising this issue this morning, but I am deeply pleased that he is not going to press the amendment, because it is seriously defective. The idea that we should wait until nine months after the last government department has produced a Green Paper on this subject fills me with dread. I am in favour of a referendum as soon as possible. This would have the effect of delaying it indefinitely—indeed, possibly beyond the date that even Mr Salmond hopes to achieve. I know that the noble Lord is not going to press it, so I will not—
The point of the nine months was that I would like this information to be brought forward as soon as possible. Nine months seemed a reasonable period in which people could have an informed campaign. The Green Papers might be published, but you then need that information to be used as part of the campaign and for people to absorb it. It requires some time.
I do not dispute that. I am querying the length of time that it would take for each UK government department to produce its Green Paper. That is my point.
Oh, I see.
The nine months starts after that. I hope that my noble friend is not going to press his amendment.
In the second section, it is of course the case that the single question should relate to the future of Scotland in, or out of, the United Kingdom. You cannot assume that it would be in the United Kingdom.
Leaving that to one side, the kind of information that we would need is what the effect would be, to take one example, on the financial situation in Scotland if it were independent. There seem to be three options: Scotland is in the eurozone, which used to be SNP policy; or it is dependent on the Bank of England, in which case it is not proper independence; or else we have a Scottish currency like the old Irish punt. These options need to be spelt out. That is the kind of information for which my noble friend is pressing, and I hope that when my noble and learned friend comes to reply he will be able to give us some indication of the kind of work that is going on on these issues.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the general thrust of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in so far as it encourages the preparation and dissemination of objective and credible information about the effects of separation on all aspects of public policy and, by implication, the benefits of the union to the people of Scotland. I resist the temptation to add to the growing list of areas of public policy for which this momentous decision will have potentially detrimental implications. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, listed a significant and impressive number of them, which were then augmented by the intervention of my noble and learned friend Lord McCluskey and, indeed, by my noble friend Lady Liddell.
My own view is that there is hardly any area of public policy in Scotland that will not be affected in some way by the decision, should the people of Scotland decide to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, which I am confident—and certainly sincerely hope— they will not. It is inarguable that this is the most important decision that the people of Scotland will ever, collectively, have to make. It cannot be made unless it is informed by facts: not assertions, not massaged statistics, but facts. On the analogy that if you want to leave a club you can leave it but, if you want to stay and change the rules, then everyone who is still a member of the club has a view, the rest of the people of the United Kingdom are also entitled to know what the facts are.
I agree with the general thrust of the debate and the implication of the noble Lord’s opening remarks that the Bill is not the appropriate place for this debate. Whether or not the points that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, made in relation to delay and the wording are correct, I do not think we will try to impose this amendment into the Bill. That is the right thing to do. If there is to be no statutory obligation on Secretaries of State to provide the necessary information to inform this debate then, at the very least, there needs to be a clear undertaking from the Government that they will place an obligation on Secretaries of State to put that information in the public domain. They should draw on the broader debate that is taking place here about what mechanism or mechanisms should be deployed or created in order to disseminate this information and to give it the stamp of credibility and objectivity that will be necessary to inform the debate.
I would be concerned if there were to be a proliferation of initiatives. I accept that it is entirely appropriate and correct that the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, of which the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is a member, should address its attention to this important decision. It is at the heart of political life in the United Kingdom at the moment and there would be no better work for the committee to do. I expect that in the other place the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will carry out similar work and that other organisations, such as academic institutions, will wish to address themselves to this work in the coming period.
In Scotland, a well resourced institution which can bring together this work and give it a genuine stamp of credible objectivity is necessary. Many people in the professions in Scotland—including the legal profession, academics, economists, people who have served in the Armed Forces, people who understand and have made significant contributions to international affairs over the years, many of whom sit in this House—could make a contribution to the debate.
Those of us who are trying to put together the infrastructure that will inform the debate in Scotland ought to apply our minds to the creation of a genuinely credible and independent institution operating out of Scotland—perhaps an academic institution—which could be a receptacle in which all the information could be deposited, verified independently and disseminated. We should clearly invite the nationalists to contribute to that discussion so that what comes out of it has that stamp of credibility and objectivity, and not the taint of a political objective.
My Lords, I welcome the debate and the amendment moved by my noble friend. Although he has indicated that the amendment might not be appropriate for the Bill, the way in which he has moved it and the issues he has raised have clearly won widespread support across the House. I certainly recognise the spirit in which he moved it and I endorse the points that he has made. He said that it is time to get on with the informed debate rather than debate the process, and I warm to that because there is a host of important issues that need to be analysed.
It is worth bearing in mind that the Scottish National Party has been pushing for a referendum to be held for many years, and it has repeatedly been asked to set out what it means by an independent Scotland. As my noble friend said, the onus is on it to set out what it means by independence. Individuals, businesses and civic Scotland have been calling for urgent clarification of what independence would mean for their livelihoods, for their workplace and for their families.
In September last year my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland asked the Scottish Government just six of the many questions that need answering, and these have been echoed in your Lordships’ House today. How would membership of international organisations, including the European Union, be assured? What will Scotland’s defence posture and the configuration of Scotland’s Armed Forces be? How many billions would Scotland inherit in pension liabilities? Who would pay for future pensions? What regulation would be applied to Scottish banks and financial services and who would enforce it? Which currency would Scotland adopt, and how could entry and influence be guaranteed? Lastly, how much would independence cost—what is the bottom line?
Noble Lords also raised other questions. The noble Lord, Lord McCluskey, asked about the legal implications of independence. The noble Baroness, Lady Liddell of Coatdyke, in raising an important point, reminded us of the number of UK civil servants working for UK departments in Scotland—there are considerably more than the number working for the Scottish Government—and asked what their position would be in an independent Scotland. These questions clearly need answering. There is an obligation on the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party to provide answers.
Although it is accepted that a statutory obligation on, for example, the Department for Education, the Ministry of Justice or an executive agency to come forward with a Green Paper may not be the way forward, I say to my noble friend and the House that I am confident that all departments will be engaged in setting out the positive case for the union and, by implication, what the other side of the coin would be. We are seized of these important issues.
On a previous occasion my noble friend Lord Forsyth raised the issue—as a number of noble Lords did today—of an independent body to examine some of these matters, and in the other place the right honourable Jack Straw has put forward a similar idea. The proposal has its attractions, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, indicated. I suspect that the proposal would not pass the test if it came from the Government as it might be seen as not being objective. The noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, suggested that a Calman Part 2-type body might be appropriate. Although I can see the attraction of that, I would remind your Lordships that the Scottish National Party did not engage with Calman Part 1. As the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, for us to have the status of providing objectivity we would have to bring in all the parties. It might not be a matter for the Government, but it might be a matter for those of us who wish to see an informed debate outside government to consider how this might be done in an effective way.
My noble friend made the point that the Scottish Government have an obligation to bring forward their proposals for independence. They have had months to answer the questions put by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and yet they still delay in telling the Scottish people what their proposals for independence are. It is important that they should be straight about the implications of independence and what it would cost.
If a Section 30 order were used to give the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for a referendum on independence, my noble friend’s amendment would have the effect of requiring that it should be solely on the question of independence and be administered by the Electoral Commission. As set out in our consultation, and as emphasised during the debate on the subject in Committee, it is our view that any referendum should have a single, straightforward question on independence and should be overseen by the Electoral Commission.
Section 10 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allows the Electoral Commission to give assistance to various bodies, including the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. This means that the Electoral Commission could provide advice and assistance to the Scottish Government now about the independence referendum should they so request. However, the Government do not want to rely on this general duty. It is important that the Electoral Commission should be required to consider and report on any referendum question about independence. It is not necessary to make an amendment to the Bill to achieve that. A Section 30 order devolving the power to the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum could clarify this power by requiring that the referendum was on a single question, held in accordance with the PPERA framework and overseen by the Electoral Commission.
My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about the date. The consultation paper that the United Kingdom Government issued back in January has a draft of a possible Section 30 order in which there is provision for a referendum to take place by a certain date. The date is left blank, and clearly that would be a matter for negotiation. He also asked about the position in respect of places that are very close to me, such as Orkney and Shetland. This was discussed in Committee in an amendment that my noble friend facilitated, and he raised important points about implications. I am not going to repeat arguments from Committee, but there are clearly many issues that would have to be considered about the implications for independence. However, I do not think that a Section 30 order would lend itself to dealing specifically with different parts of Scotland should they vote in different ways.
Your Lordships’ House has made very clear what it wishes to see in these matters, and the importance of people—
My noble and learned friend has indicated his firm view, which I am sure is shared by the House, that the Scottish Government should answer some of the questions that have been raised in this debate. Does he also accept—I presume that he does—that it is for the Government of the United Kingdom to put forward their views about what are the issues at risk? It is not necessary to answer all the questions, but they should at least make that clear. We cannot have any confidence that the Scottish Government will do that.
The very fact that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State posed these questions shows that the UK Government are seized of what the key questions are, as raised by your Lordships in debate. I will certainly ensure that colleagues right across the Government are aware of the kind of issues that have been raised in this debate. There is no doubt that the United Kingdom Government want to keep the United Kingdom together. We believe that this is the best option not only for Scotland but for the United Kingdom. It goes without saying that we want to ensure that there is a debate that is as informed as possible and that the case for Scotland continuing to be a part of the United Kingdom is made as forcefully as possible. Points raised by your Lordships today will certainly inform the arguments that are put forward in the referendum debate. I share the view of my noble friend that the sooner we get on with the substance of the debate and move on from process the better it will be.
My Lords, can my noble and learned friend inform the House whether he has had an invitation from the Scottish Government to give evidence to the committee that they have set up to look at the economic consequences of independence?
My Lords, I have not.
My Lords, further to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, I would say that the debate in Scotland is currently at a high temperature and needs to be lowered so that people can digest the information. If one looks at the Calman report, as I have done, and at the reports of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons—which has had a plethora of witnesses—one will find many profound issues raised which have not yet reached the public level. It is important, and incumbent on the UK Government, to ensure that that information is put out to the public, for example in the form of a consultation paper. The UK Government need to engage. There cannot be a passive stance to this. I would leave the Minister with those thoughts as he progresses with the Bill.
My Lords, I do not think that the United Kingdom Government will be passive on an issue as important and fundamental as this one; I can assure the noble Lord of that. I share his view—I would say this, wouldn’t I?—on the Calman commission, and not only in regard to specific recommendations on devolved and reserved boundaries and financial powers. Both in the interim report published in December 2008 and in the final report, parts of which were referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Boyd, on Second Reading, there are some very good arguments about the importance of our economic, social and political union. I commend these reports to Members of the House. They make a very good case for our union.
My Lords, I may have missed it, but I did not hear the noble and learned Lord, in his list of areas that will need dispassionate and honest analysis, mention a share of the national debt, much of which, of course, has been caused by expenditure in Scotland.
My Lords, I did not mention that, but it is a pertinent point. Some academic bodies have produced reviews on it.
My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate. I know that my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury has waited patiently to move his amendment and I am sure that he would appreciate it if I did not say very much. So I will not, other than to make one point to my noble and learned friend.
I thank my noble and learned friend for the response, which is very encouraging. However, for once he was a little more aggressive than I am, when he said that he wanted government departments to make the positive case for the union. That is not what this amendment is about—I do not want government departments to make the positive case for the union, I want them to set out, objectively, what issues should be tackled. I do want Secretaries of State and Ministers to make the positive case for the union and hope that my noble and learned friend might ensure that the Prime Minister—who has said that he will fight to defend the United Kingdom to the last breath of his body, I think—is aware of the strength of feeling in this House that government departments should do this. This is not something that can wait until after the Summer Recess. They should be doing it now. One by one, these departments should be setting out what the issues are. It would be completely disastrous, and actually quite wrong, if we were to allow government departments to step into the area where they were involved in advocacy as opposed to providing information. That would undermine the whole nature of the debate. There are plenty of advocates for the union—what we need are the facts. The First Minister is very fond of quoting Burns:
“But Facts are chiels that winna ding”.
I beg to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Clause 11 : Air weapons
3: Clause 11, page 9, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) If a system of Visitors Permits is introduced, holders of a firearm certificate or a shot gun certificate issued elsewhere in the UK shall not be required to obtain a Scottish Visitors Permit in respect of air weapons.”
My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to highlight some of the complications and probable costs that will arise if the Scottish Government insist on visitors permits for air guns.
Clause 11 seeks to devolve to the Scottish Parliament the power to control low-powered air guns, while leaving control of other classes of firearm—including the more powerful air guns—with the Westminster Parliament. Even at this late stage there is no clear idea on what form of control, if any, the Scottish Government will seek to impose, except that some form of licensing for air guns features in much of the comment. I declare my interest as I have done in numerous debates before.
I have no intention to revisit the areas covered during earlier debates on this clause, but there are matters that your Lordships might consider before approval is given to the clause. The question of cost-effectiveness is one of the more important. There are currently some half a million air gun owners in Scotland, although it seems unlikely that every one of them will apply for a licence. Some will decide that they will no longer follow the various forms of sport that now involve air guns, while some will simply keep the air guns they have, taking advantage of the fact that the authorities have no way of identifying those who currently own them. It seems safe to assume that those who misuse air guns will fall into the latter category.
The Gun Trade Association calculates that about 300,000 people will take up licences in the first instance. It is also conservatively estimated that the simplest form of licence would involve not less than two hours of police time. One learns from the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales that the total cost of a firearms licensing officer, including overheads, is £27.40 per hour, so that the total cost of licensing in the first year will be about £16.4 million, based on the simplest possible system. Any added complexities to the licensing system will increase that large sum of money.
There will also be considerable set-up costs, including the adoption of new computer systems or the modification of existing systems, other back-office necessities, equipment to test the muzzle energy of air guns and more. There will be a need for consultation between Ministers and officials representing several government departments including the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, the two chief police officers’ organisations and police at practical levels to ensure that differing systems can work side by side. The costs will be very considerable.
The fee charged for the licence will reduce the cost to the public purse, but ACPO has calculated that, presently, fees recover only 27 per cent of the cost of running the firearms department. The fees for firearm and shot-gun certificates are under review, but will still fall short of the cost to the licensing authority. Any attempt to treat air gun licences differently in the matter of fees might create an actionable bias by discrimination against air gun users as distinct from users of other firearms. Enforcement costs, though difficult to establish at this time, will be substantial. At least three hours of an inquiry officer’s time will be required to produce the initial report with statements, and the cost of that will be about £82. An expert witness will be required to establish that the air gun has a muzzle energy in excess of 1 joule, about 0.74 foot pounds, but not in excess of 12 foot pounds for an air gun or air rifle or 6 foot pounds for an air pistol, et cetera, which will also cost about £82.
Reference to a senior police officer or a prosecutor may result in offering the defendant some form of warning. If the defendant agrees to accept the warning and surrender his air gun there will still be a cost of disposing of the case and of the air gun. The cost of that process must double the charges already calculated, resulting in a very rough estimate of total costs of about £400 in a case where no prosecution is involved. If the matter is brought to trial, the costs of a court will be very high, probably in the order of £1,000 when all costs, including overheads, are calculated. I assume that defence costs might run to a similar figure.
There is a further cost that cannot be calculated in that any legislation will create additional criminals, in this case mostly young men whose offence is mere possession but who will carry a conviction for a firearms offence for a number of years in most cases, and for the rest of their lives in matters such as obtaining firearm or shot-gun certificates. Costs will also fall elsewhere. Police in England and Wales may well incur substantial costs in making inquiries for a Scottish force that has received an application for a visitor’s air gun licence, for a visitor’s licence scheme must inevitably be provided. Those many shooters from England who visit Scotland each year and contribute much to the economy often take their families with them and may well wish to provide air guns for the younger members to shoot under supervision. When receiving an application for a visitor’s permit, Scottish police may ask English police in the applicant’s home area to undertake some inquiries. There is a cost involved there but, with the information available, this element cannot be costed. There also seems likely to be added costs for dealers outside Scotland who may supply air guns to those in Scotland and could be required to notify transactions. Once again, this element cannot be costed with the information available.
In Scotland, the number of recorded offences involving air guns has fallen significantly, by 42 per cent over the last decade. In England and Wales, over the same period and with the same legislation, air gun offences fell 66 per cent. The vast majority of air gun offences are concerned with criminal damage, usually in public places and primarily involving young people. The Westminster Parliament has been far from idle in this area. Section 19 of the Firearms Act 1968, still the principal Act on firearms, created various restrictions which were easily evaded by the ill disposed and were often very difficult for the police to enforce. Following more recent changes to the legislation, the law now provides a simple and easily understood offence. Air gun owners can understand the law and the police find it easy to enforce. The police have a power of arrest and may seize the air gun. All the evidence suggests that the massive reduction in air gun offences is attributable in large measure to this simple, enforceable legislation.
Further measures were imposed by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, under which sales or transfers of air guns by way of trade or business were restricted to persons registered as firearm dealers, who must now keep records of transactions. It also provided that sales must be face to face and not by direct mail. The age at which air guns or air gun ammunition may be purchased or acquired has been raised to 18 years so that a single age is applied to all firearms following an EU directive on firearms using combustible propellants.
Finally, the Crime and Security Act 2010 amended the 1968 Act to make it an offence to keep an air gun in a manner that will allow a person under 18 to have access to it. Home Office advice about the levels of security required to meet this duty has been proportionate and reasonable.
I list these measures so that your Lordships can be sure that the UK Government keep the problem of air gun misuse under constant review and seek to improve on the already quite remarkable reduction of air gun misuse throughout Great Britain. In doing so the UK Government have tried to impose restrictions that are effective but proportionate and which take account of the legitimate activities of at least 4 million legitimate air gun users in Great Britain—I believe that the figure is closer to 6 million. It is the view of interested parties, researchers and the Gun Trade Association that these measures have not unduly impinged on legitimate air gun users but have made a very significant impact on rates of air gun misuse. There is no evidence to suggest that a costly licensing system will have a significant effect on air gun misuse, but it seems clear that vigorous enforcement of much simplified laws can have a marked effect.
In conclusion, for a British firearm or shotgun certificate holder, it is already established that he or she is fit person to possess firearms, including air weapons. Therefore no further authority is currently required to travel with an air gun in Great Britain. For a citizen of another EU member state, the application to the police for a British visitors permit currently includes the requirement to present a copy of their European firearms pass, showing the firearms that they wish to bring into Great Britain. Should the Scots require an EU visitor to apply for an air gun visitors permit, the EU citizen will not be able to comply. The EFP does not list air guns owned and new EU legislation would be required to change the EFP. If new EU legislation was introduced, new legislation would also be required in the UK.
What I have described demonstrates that the Scots have not thoroughly thought through many of the procedures that will be required if a regulation of air weapons passes into law. Nor have the substantial costs which will inevitably fall on the public purse in England and Wales been worked out. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support my noble friend in his amendment and in doing so declare my interest as executive director of the Countryside Alliance. My noble friend has highlighted the complexities and consequent costs if the Scottish Government insisted on visitor permits for air guns from those from other parts of the United Kingdom. This reasonable amendment seeks to protect legitimate users across the country from potentially undue and disproportionate bureaucracy. Should we really be asking the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to spend resources and time in dealing with visitor permits for Scotland? I ask my noble and learned friend to reflect on these matters and I hope that sense will prevail.
I support my noble friend in his amendment, which is very reasonable and quite restrained. I suspect that my noble and learned friend will say that the provision simply provides a power for the Scottish Parliament and that it is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, but that is a less than responsible position to take. We all remember the genesis of this proposal and its inclusion in the Scotland Bill; it arose because of some very tragic events in Scotland. But as is often the case, the conclusion is that something must be done—and this is something being done without the consequences being thought through, which can add enormously to the bureaucracy and difficulties.
My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury has given us a glimpse of the enormous difficulties that could be created for the police in taking them away from their vital duties in pursuit of serious crime. Air guns are not subject to numbering in the way that shotguns and other firearms are, apart from those that are very powerful. One Member of this House, who had an association with the special services, briefed me that they could actually be extremely powerful weapons. But for the vast majority of people using air guns as part of their leisure activity, they are not numbered, and there are very real difficulties with that. It seems a little perverse to argue—if my noble and learned friend is to make this argument—that we are just giving the Scottish Parliament a power and do not need to worry too much about how it is implemented, because that is for the Scottish Parliament, when that will have enormous implications for people in the rest of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the rest of the European Union. I very much hope that my noble and learned friend will at least take this away and think about the very important arguments that have been made, with a view to perhaps coming forward with some practical proposals at a later stage.
My Lords, if I might follow my noble friend Lord Forsyth, he said that the reply that our noble and learned friend was going to give was that all of this would just provide a power for the Scottish Parliament. That is true, but it has cost implications for the police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If my noble and learned friend cannot accept this amendment, would it not therefore be in order for the other police forces that are put to extra cost by the Scottish police, in seeking information about firearms, to charge for the cost of their time?
My Lords, perhaps this would be an opportunity for me to refer to the anomaly—some would call it the absurdity—of the present requirement for a sound moderator, or silencer, to be treated as a separate weapon and be separately registered on a firearms certificate. After all, the silencer is only a tin can which is screwed on the end of the rifle. When the Government are looking into this area in collaboration with the Scottish Government, I suggest that this would be an opportunity to remove that requirement.
First, my Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his great courtesy in writing to me extensively on this issue to introduce the arguments that he intended to make in support of his amendment. I was in the privileged position of having almost all of the points that he made in advance of his addressing your Lordships’ House, so I thank him for that. Unfortunately, despite his great courtesy to me, I cannot find myself being in a position of supporting his amendment. I am sure that he will appreciate why since, in Committee, I argued for even greater devolution of responsibility over air weapons to the Scottish Parliament. It would be entirely perverse and inconsistent for me now to support the restriction on the exercise of the limited devolved powers that the Scottish Parliament is going to receive, having made that consistent and coherent point before.
I do not accept the dismissal by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, of this argument as not being sufficient justification, because to restrict the power that one devolves in this fashion undermines devolution. I do this for two reasons. First, if we agree to devolve this power to the Scottish Parliament, we should trust that Parliament with this power. Secondly, I see no reason to believe that the Scottish Parliament would not be persuaded by the arguments that the noble Earl has made about the potentially unintended consequences of an onerous regulatory process. I am sure that, in consultation, it will be capable of regulating in a way that deals with the issue at the heart of the noble Earl’s amendment, although not at the heart of his broader argument about implications.
I do not propose to repeat all the reasons why the people of Scotland are so exercised about the misuse of air weapons, and why there is a public demand for some form of regulation. I and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, have spoken about those before. I congratulate the noble Earl on giving us, in the official record of our debate, a repository of the success of restrictions imposed on air weapons and the obvious effect that sensible regulation has had on their misuse. It would be utterly ungracious of me to point out that I do not remember the Gun Trade Association arguing for these restrictions, and I remember being persuaded on some occasions by lobbying from that area that these restrictions would not work, and would merely cost a lot of money unnecessarily. However, that does not alter the fact that at some stage these arguments may prove to be true, even if they did not in relation to those restrictions.
I congratulate the noble Earl on at least being honest and willing enough to say, from the perspective and interest that he has, that regulation of this nature can be positive and can have a beneficial effect and that if it perhaps has a cost, and if that cost is saving lives or injuries, then it is a cost that society may be prepared to bear.
For the reasons I have given, I am unable to support the noble Earl’s amendment but I congratulate him on his contribution to the debate today, and on providing a quarry of argument which I am sure will inform the Scottish Parliament’s exercise of the powers that I hope it will be given.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury for again giving the House the opportunity to discuss these matters. His amendment seeks to ensure that if, following devolution of the regulation of air weapons anticipated by this clause, the Scottish Government were to introduce a system of visitor permits for air weapons, holders of firearms or shot-gun certificates issued in other parts of the United Kingdom would not be required to obtain such a permit in order to use air weapons in Scotland. As has been said, in devolving the regulation of air weapons, the Government are acting on a recommendation of the Calman commission, and we believe that the regulation of air weapons is best controlled locally. My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury has made a very well reasoned case and, as has been noted, he indicated that where sensible and proportionate restriction or regulation of air weapons has been used, it has been done so to some effect. Nevertheless, it is our view, as indicated earlier and in the Bill, that this issue is better decided by the Scottish Parliament.
I do not think that this is a small point. I say to my noble friend Lord Forsyth that the nature of devolution is that a power is devolved, and it is then up to the devolved body to determine how it wishes to exercise that power, obviously within the constraints of the law—and, taking into account some of the very pertinent points made by my noble friends Lord Shrewsbury and Lord Gardiner of Kimble, when that body comes to make policy conclusions. Not the least of these is the cost effectiveness. My noble friend has focused on the cost implications of establishing and enforcing a licensing regime, and I recognise the points that he has made so clearly. These will be matters for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to take into account. We hear them regularly talking about the restrictions and restraints on their funding, but the block grant will have to fund any measures that they take. This will obviously be one of the considerations that they have, obliged as they will be to put forward with any accompanying Bill a memorandum on its cost implications.
As I know my noble friend is aware, the Scottish Government have set up a Scottish firearms consultative panel, and I understand that the director of the Gun Trade Association, an organisation of which my noble friend is the honorary president, sits on that panel. The panel is currently considering, if there is to be devolution of this power, how best to implement any proposals for regulating air weapons. The panel will consider cross-border issues. Indeed, I understand that there was a meeting on Monday at which cross-border were on the agenda. If this amendment were included in the Bill, it would fetter the Scottish Government’s and Scottish Parliament’s discretion as to how they might go about the task of regulating air weapons following devolution and would second guess the ongoing work of the Scottish firearms consultative panel. However, as I have indicated, the arguments put forward by my noble friend are very persuasively articulated. I am sure that the Scottish Government will be open to representations made to them when they are shaping any legislative proposals.
My noble friend Lord Caithness raised the possible costs that would feed through into other parts of the United Kingdom. Those will of course depend on the actual nature of the policy that is put in place. I see the noble Lord, Lord Empey, in his place. He will no doubt correct me if I get this wrong, but perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that, as I understand it, air weapons are controlled in Northern Ireland and any person wishing to go there from Great Britain with an air weapon must apply for a certificate of approval. There is a special form available on the website, which needs to be submitted via a sponsor about six weeks in advance of any visit, but there is no fee. However, a visitor to Northern Ireland from outwith Great Britain requires a visitor’s permit, the point being that air weapons are already devolved to Northern Ireland. I have always believed that one of the strengths of devolution ought to be a willingness to look at experience in other parts of the United Kingdom where policies have been taken forward. Indeed, there is a policy already in place regarding the regulation of air weapons. I hope that what happens in Northern Ireland will be looked at by the consultative panel.
The point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, goes beyond this amendment and indeed the Bill, but I will ensure that it is passed on to the relevant part of the Home Office. I think he will accept that we are not devolving silencers, although some might think that that is an idea.
As I indicated in Committee, the Scottish Government must consult appropriately before they propose any new legislation on this matter and they must make available their estimate of the costs. While the Scottish Parliament will be the final arbiter of matters relating to the regulation of air weapons following devolution, I am sure that in bringing forward proposals the Scottish Government would benefit from listening to the arguments raised by interested parties. The ongoing work of the Scottish firearms consultative panel is evidence that this engagement is already underway.
I thank my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury for allowing us to examine the arguments surrounding this issue, but I nevertheless urge him to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all those who have taken part in this short debate and especially to my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace. I listened carefully to what he said, I know exactly where he is coming from and I could have written his speech for him last night. All I know is that the whole issue of devolving legislative power on air weapons to the Scottish Parliament is fraught with problems, as I have explained. The problems are both of an operational aspect and with regard to the potential substantial costs involved. Those issues will take a lot of answering. The whole thing is unworkable, it will take an awful lot of working out and it will probably not be. I reserve the right to stand here in a few years’ time and do a wonderful and famous “I told you so”. I shall have to be extremely careful next time I go across the border to go fishing in Scotland because I think I am a marked man. In the light of my noble and learned friend’s comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Clause 12 : Insolvency
4: Clause 12, leave out Clause 12
Amendment 4 agreed.
Schedule 2 : Insolvency
5: Schedule 2, leave out Schedule 2
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendment 6 had been retabled as Amendment 24A.
Clause 13 : Regulation of the health professions
7: Clause 13, leave out Clause 13
Amendment 7 agreed.
Amendment 8 had been retabled as Amendment 1A.
Clause 21 : Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner
9: Clause 21, page 14, line 8, leave out “Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner” and insert “Crown Estate Commissioner with special responsibility for Scotland”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 10, which is almost identical. Noble Lords will no doubt remember that in Committee we had considerable discussion about the phrase “Scottish Crown Commissioner”. There was a little problem. If he were called the Scottish Crown Commissioner, he would not have been able to take part in anything concerning England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This was not thought desirable. We discussed the matter for a bit and then I had an idea—I suggested the phrase “Commissioner with special responsibility for Scotland”. To my amazement, this appeared to find favour with the noble and learned Lord, so I put it down as an amendment for Report stage. I beg to move.
My Lords, we have been singularly unsuccessful in getting my noble and learned friend to accept any amendments so far in the long consideration of the Bill, but here is one that he cannot possibly refuse to accept. He is surely not going to argue on the basis of syntax that he could not accept the noble Lady’s very sensible common-sense amendment, which I have great pleasure in supporting.
My Lords, it is not merely a matter of syntax—it is what the Crown Estate Commissioners represent. They represent a single body with jurisdiction over the Crown Estate in each of the four constituents of the United Kingdom. It is clear that the amendment would cure the problem and recognise that responsibility. I therefore have no hesitation in supporting it.
My Lords, noble Lords will remember that in Committee I spoke to an amendment in my name and in the names of my noble and learned friends proposing the amendment of the title in the Bill to the simple title of “Crown Estate Commissioner for Scotland”. That did not find favour with the Government—particularly, as I recollect, with the Advocate-General for Scotland—but in the course of the debate it became clear that the Committee was of one view: the least attractive title for the Crown Estate Commissioner was the one that was in the Bill.
The noble Lady, as she has told the House, spontaneously came up with this proposal in the course of the debate, and it appeared to find favour with the government Benches—at least, they were more inclined to respond positively to it than they were to the proposal that had emanated from the opposition Benches. My own view is that there is a distinction between the proposal that I put forward and the one that the noble Lady put forward, but it is in the category of a distinction with little difference. But I understand why the Government may be more inclined to respond positively to something that comes from the Cross Benches. In those circumstances, as Members of the House will see, my noble and learned friends and I have appended our names to the noble Lady’s amendment. I support it for all the reasons that she articulated then and which have been debated at some length. Therefore, I do not think that we need to go into them again.
I was not convinced by the noble and learned Lord’s defence of the title “Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner” but I was convinced by his defence of the process of selection that I had also sought to amend. I have repeated that amendment by laying Amendment 11, but for the purposes of forward planning I advise that when it comes to the appropriate time I will not be moving it.
My Lords, Amendments 9 and 10, tabled by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernathy, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and his colleagues, would change the name of the Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner to the Crown Estate Commissioner with special responsibility for Scotland. As the noble Lady indicated in moving her amendments, she made that suggestion in the Committee stage debate. I indicated at the time that I found the suggestion helpful and committed to reflecting further on the proposal.
I confirm that the Government’s original name included in the Bill was taken from the commission’s own proposals and discussed with the Crown Estate. However, the Government are happy to accept the proposal from the noble Lady. As indicated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cameron of Lochbroom, we believe that the revised name—it is not a question of whether it came from the Cross Benches rather than the Opposition—will properly reflect the role that that commissioner will play. That role will not be exclusively for Scotland; indeed, contributions to our debate in Committee from people with experience, such as the noble Lord, Lord Curry, indicated the value of having commissioners who would have responsibilities across the United Kingdom. We are therefore wiling to accept Amendments 9 and 10. As the noble Lord, Lord Browne, has indicated that he does not intend to move Amendment 11, the mode of appointment would seem to be acknowledged and accepted.
My Lords, I have been in this House for 32 years and this is only the second time that I have had an amendment accepted. I am delighted.
Amendment 9 agreed.
10: Clause 21, page 14, line 13, leave out “Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner” and insert “Crown Estate Commissioner with special responsibility for Scotland”
Amendment 10 agreed.
Amendment 11 not moved.
Clause 24 : Speed limits
12: Clause 24, page 16, line 23, after “of” insert “all classes of”
I beg to move Amendment 12 standing in my name. I do not intend to move or speak to Amendment 13. This is a very straightforward amendment. I hope that I have caught the Minister on a roll and that he might feel able to accept my amendment. I am tempted to get my noble friend Lady Saltoun to move all my amendments. She speaks very briefly and the Minister says yes. Perhaps there is much to be learnt from that.
We discussed this issue in Committee and I will not go over all the arguments but essentially the Bill devolves control of speed limits to the Scottish Parliament, so we will have different speed limits north and south of the border, or the prospect of that happening. I think that is absolutely ridiculous, but given that that has been agreed by the Calman commission, and is stated in the report and in the Bill, and given that it was a manifesto commitment to implement the Calman proposals, I will not argue against the principle of the Scottish Parliament having the power to set speed limits. However, if you are going to do something like that, you need to do it properly. The Bill gives the Scottish Parliament the power to decide speed limits for motor cars but not for caravans or HGVs. It is a nonsense to have the Department for Transport responsible for some speed limits in respect of some categories of vehicle while the Scottish Parliament is limited to others. My amendment may not be perfectly drafted but the sense is clear, which is that if we are to have the Scottish Parliament taking responsibility for speed limits, it should do so for every class of vehicle and not for particular classes of vehicle.
I know that my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State have been in discussions with the Department for Transport. I know that it is not always easy to get agreement on these matters but I very much hope that my noble and learned friend’s well known skills in advocacy will enable him to accept this amendment if for no other reason than that it makes for good legislation and for clarity on the statute book, which is very much required. It is rather ironic that I should put forward an amendment which seeks to give more power to the Scottish Parliament. I beg to move.
I am very interested in this issue, on which I spoke in Committee. However, I am still rather puzzled as to what the Scottish Parliament will gain from this aspect of devolution because, as far as I can see, it already has powers to introduce any speed limit that it wishes on any road. As I drive along roads in Glasgow and out in the country, I come across speed limits that are set at 40 miles an hour and 50 miles an hour. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will indicate why this aspect of devolution is required.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord’s amendment. My reading of the Calman commission report is that it made no distinction between the types of vehicles that should be included in this aspect of devolution. I believe that this amendment supports the Calman recommendation and that the power should be devolved in full, as was recommended by that commission. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, that the omission of HGVs would create confusion on Scottish roads, should there be an unnecessary change of speed limits.
When this issue was raised in Committee, I think the Minister said that the distinction arose as a consequence of the development of signage, which was deeply convincing. However, he also wisely indicated that it would be proper for him to take the issue away and reflect on it. Therefore, the signposts are clear. The House’s position is well signposted for the noble and learned Lord. I hope that he has followed the direction of those signposts and has persuaded his colleagues in the Department for Transport that this is a common-sense proposal. I will resist the temptation to speak to Amendment 13, which I would have supported had the noble Lord spoken to it. As he did not, it is not appropriate for me to speak to it.
My Lords, my noble friend tabled amendments on this matter in Committee and I recall some very interesting debates on them. The Government have included powers in the Bill to allow Scottish Ministers to determine the national speed limit on roads in Scotland. I say to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose that the amendment seeks to ensure that the measure applies to motorways and dual carriageways, which have national speed limits at the moment. There is a power to make regulations to specify traffic signs to indicate that limit. The powers currently set out in the Bill are limited to cars, motor cycles and vans under 3.5 tonnes. The Government drafted the provision in this way as there is already a single clear sign that denotes the national speed limit for cars, motor cycles and vans under 3.5 tonnes. The Bill will allow Scottish Ministers to create a new sign and educate people on its meaning for any change to the national speed limit in Scotland.
As I highlighted in Committee, for different vehicles, including HGVs and caravans, either separate signage would be required, or the speed limit for these classes of vehicles would remain unsigned as now, but people would need to be aware that different speed limits could exist across Great Britain for these types of vehicles.
However, we have listened carefully to the arguments presented by my noble friend and by other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Browne, on the Benches opposite. I commend my noble friend and others for pursuing this issue. I think it is fair to say that those of us who served on the Calman commission were not made aware of the distinctions or of the importance of signage. We may consider that my noble friend’s amendment would give fuller substance to what was originally proposed. Together with the case made by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government for the Bill to provide for devolution of the regulation-making powers for setting the national speed limit for all classes of vehicles, we have decided to accept Amendment 12 tabled by my noble friend, so clearly he has managed to get me while I am on a roll. However, in accepting the spirit and the principle of the amendment, I must make it clear that it will require redrafting to ensure that the measure applies to all roads and not just special roads. Therefore, we will bring forward an amendment at Third Reading which addresses the technical issues and gives full substance to the amendment which my noble friend has tabled. I thank him for his persistence in this matter. I hope he welcomes the fact that it has had a positive outcome. I note that he does not intend to move Amendment 13. Therefore, I shall not speak to it.
I thank my noble and learned friend for accepting the amendment. I also thank the Secretary of State for Scotland for doing battle with the Department for Transport and delivering this outcome. I think that The House Magazine has counted the number of words that I have spoken during the passage of this Bill. It is a supreme irony that the only change I have achieved so far is to increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament and to deliver more of what is in the Calman report, but such is the nature of politics. As I say, I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend. I am sure that what is proposed makes sense. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and his colleagues for their support on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 12 withdrawn.
Amendment 13 not moved.
Clause 26 : Implementation of international obligations
14: Clause 26, leave out Clause 26
Amendment 14 agreed.
Consideration on Report adjourned until 1.30 pm.