The Economic Affairs Committee has published the Government’s response to its report - A Fracturing Union? The Implications of Financial Devolution to Scotland, which was published in November last year.
Publication of the Report
Following publication of the report the Government rescheduled committee stage of the Scotland Bill in the House of Lords to allow the discussion of tax powers to be taken at the end of committee stage. However it is now possible those tax powers will be scheduled for debate by the Government before the February recess, meaning the debate will take place before Peers and the public have had the opportunity to read the full fiscal framework.
In the Government’s response to the Committee report they reassert the Committee publish the fiscal framework before the Scotland Bill completes its progress through the House of Lords, but the Committee point out that committee stage of the Bill is the main opportunity for detailed scrutiny and amendments and the House should not be asked to pass the Scotland Bill through committee stage until the new fiscal framework has been agreed.
Commenting Lord Hollick, Chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said:
“We are pleased that the Government has said it takes the findings of the Committee extremely seriously. We also welcome the Government’s “strong preference” that the House of Lords has chance to consider the fiscal framework before the Scotland Bill completes its passage: it is impossible for Parliament to scrutinise the financial parts of the Bill in a meaningful way without it. This strong preference must be acted upon.
“Committee stage is a crucial step in the passage of a Bill. It is when the details are examined and when Members of the Lords have the best opportunity to make amendments. We continue to believe that the full fiscal framework must be published before the House is asked pass this Bill through committee stage. The Government’s proposed timetable will not permit this detailed scrutiny.
“Whilst we understand that negotiations with the Scottish Government over the fiscal framework are ongoing and so publication of the framework may not yet be possible, we would again suggest that passage of the Scotland Bill could be delayed until Peers are able to have a clear idea on what they are actually voting for.”