HC Deb 19 March 1979 vol 964 cc1263-6


Lords amendment: No. 10, in page 10, line 39, at end insert— ( ) Section 60(1) of the Scotland Act 1978 (modification of enactments authorising payments out of money provided by Parliament etc.) shall have effect as if subsection (1) above were contained in an Act passed before that Act.

Mr. Deakins

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a technical amendment connected with the Scotland Act. I realise that hon. Members will not be slow to remind me that the Government have announced that they are to lay an order to repeal that Act and that in the circumstances they will, like me, find this amendment somewhat puzzling. However, hon. Members will no doubt appreciate that at this moment the House has not made any decision about the repeal of that Act. Consequently, it remains on the statute book and needs to be amended.

By virtue of section 6 of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971, the Secretary of State is the pension authority, and hence responsible for paying increases under that Act, for teachers and National Health Service staff and one or two other categories of people. Although the matter of making orders increasing official pensions under section 59 of the Pensions Act is reserved by the entry in part III of schedule 10 to the Scotland Act 1978, the responsibility for paying increases will, in a case where the Secretary of State is the pension authority, pass to the Scottish Erecutive This being so, the Scotland Act should provide for the increases concerned to be borne by the Scotland Consolidated Fund, and that is the purpose of this amendment. I am advised that no amendment on account of Welsh devolution is necessary.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Having regard to the sequence of events with which we are faced, we were surprised to find that the Government moved this amendment in another place. However, I am not surprised that the Minister has found it necessary to seek the assistance of the Lord Advocate to advise him on this somewhat tricky problem.

Technically the Minister is right. The Scotland Act is now on the statute book and therefore it is in order to pass legislation through this House relating to that Act. What happens when the Scotland Act is repealed? The Social Security Act 1979 will be on the statute book and section 16(2) will refer to section 60(1) of the Scotland Act, which will not exist. Is it envisaged that the order which the Government will lay—we may know this tomorrow or Wednesday—will contain provisions repealing references to the Scotland Act in legislation? Is there yet on the statute book an Act which refers to the Scotland Act and with similar provisions—not necessarily in form—to this one? If so, what will happen to those Acts?

Is it the Government's intention, however long the debate on the Scotland Act repeal order may be delayed, to continue to table clauses in legislation currently going through the House which refer to that Act? It makes a mockery of the process of legislation. It is a truly Gil-bertian situation—" a paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox ". I am not so sure how ingenious it is and I have a feeling that the Government will find themselves up a legislative gum tree. I should like to know what they intend to do about it.

Mr. Deakins

I have been assured by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate that there are a number of Acts with similar provisions relating to the Scotland Act 1978. I have also been assured that the amendment will make no difference. Obviously, all matters will be considered at the time of the repeal of the Act—if that is what the House decides to do. I am advised that the Scotland Act contains provisions for its own repeal by Orders in Council. If it were repeated while there was still time to amend the Bill—which is very unlikely—the Government would table a further amendment to reverse the one that has been already made. However, I hope that we shall be disposing of the Bill tonight.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 11, to 13 agreed to.

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