HC Deb 11 February 1999 vol 325 cc543-65 5.42 pm
The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr. Henry McLeish)

I beg to move, That the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Finance) Order 1999, which was laid before this House on 4th February, be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following motion: That the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Appropriations) Order 1999, which was laid before this House on 4th February, be approved.

Mr. McLeish

For convenience, I shall refer to the orders as the finance order and appropriations order respectively.

It is challenging and exciting to realise that this is the last time that the House will be called upon to consider the detailed public spending plans for Scotland. We are now just 12 weeks away from the elections to the Scottish Parliament and 19 weeks away from that Parliament assuming its full powers. From then on, the House will be required only to agree the size of grant to be paid annually into the Scottish Consolidated Fund. It will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine how its overall budget should be decided and spent. So this is truly an historic occasion.

Of course, the management and control of public spending in Scotland will not be passed into a void: it will properly be a matter for the Parliament to decide upon its own financial procedures. Meanwhile, a great deal of work has already been done to prepare the ground. In particular, the cross-party consultative steering group has signed off a report from the financial issues advisory group that makes detailed proposals for all the necessary budgeting, monitoring, accounting and audit arrangements. I do not, of course, wish to pre-empt the decisions of the Parliament in any way, but I believe that the template provided for it by RAG is of the highest quality. It reflects enormous credit upon the expertise of the group's members who gave freely of their time and knowledge. With your permission, Madam Speaker, I place on record our thanks for all their work.

However, FIAG's report provides only a template for the future. Our more immediate task is to get from where we are now—a Westminster-based public expenditure system—to whatever new system is adopted by the Scottish Parliament. We must do so with the minimum of disruption to public services and the minimum of inherited constraint placed upon the Parliament. Meanwhile, we must also maintain the highest possible standards of public expenditure and control throughout the process.

That is what the orders we are discussing today are all about. As their titles strongly suggest, they are transitory and transitional. They are specifically designed to deal only with the financial year 1999–2000 and to get us across during that year from a Westminster public expenditure regime to one that is determined by, and is the responsibility of, the Holyrood Parliament, and to do so in the context of a financial year when spending responsibility will fall to the Secretary of State for Scotland in the first part of the year and, from 1 July, to the Scottish Executive.

Our basic strategy is simple. We have already made arrangements to bring into being on 1 April the Scottish Consolidated Fund. The next step is to set out a financial framework for the transitional year. That the finance order does. However, without actual funds to spend, such a framework will be worthless, so we must give authority to allow expenditure actually to take place. That is why we require an appropriation order that will convert the theory set out in the finance order into the reality of spending on front-line services.

I shall move briefly to the key points of the finance order. In essence, it puts in place for the transitional year, arrangements governing the spending of, and accounting for, money paid out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund. There are similar provisions in a host of Acts of this Parliament, ranging from the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866 to the National Audit Act 1983.

The order sets down the conditions under which sums may be paid out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund during the transitional year. It puts in place arrangements to ensure that any payments from the fund relate to functions that are, or will be, devolved and that they have the necessary legislative authority.

The next main provision transfers spending authority for balances unspent at the date of devolution from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to Scottish Ministers and, in certain cases, to the Parliamentary Corporation. This is important because it will enable funding for public services to be approved for the entire transitional year and allocations to move seamlessly from my right hon. Friend to the control of Scottish Ministers without further approval.

While those provisions concentrate on the spending of public money, others ensure that funds are properly accounted for. The finance order specifies accounting arrangements for the transitional year in some detail. It requires the Secretary of State to prepare accounts for transactions that take place prior to devolution and places an identical obligation on Scottish Ministers for the period after that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Have any arrangements been made for a contingency fund or for what should happen in case of contingencies?

Mr. McLeish

That will be dealt with, but proper arrangements are in place for a contingency fund, which, as my hon. Friend suggests, is crucial. We operate that, within our financial arrangements. It is being, and will be, taken care of.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Organisations in receipt of public funding will be anxious to ensure that the transitional period flows as smoothly as possible. I cite the example of the Caledonian McBrayne ferry company, which hopes soon to place a contract for the construction of a large vessel. It is important that those negotiations continue. My hon. Friend will not be surprised that I expect that contract to be placed with Ferguson's at Port Glasgow.

Mr. McLeish

I shall resist commenting on my hon. Friend's latter point, but a seamless transition to the new, Parliament is vital. It would be devastating if local authorities, health boards, trusts and other organizations felt that things could be disrupted. As I shall outline later, when the newly-elected Parliament is established, it will be able to examine the finances of the new office of the Scottish Executive. All political parties must accept that continuity is essential.

The Secretary of State will be required to prepare accounts for transactions that take place prior to devolution, and an identical obligation is placed on Scottish Ministers for the period after. Both sets of accounts are to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. They will then be laid before this House and the Scottish Parliament respectively.

Subsequently, the Scottish Parliament will be required to legislate on the accounting arrangements—building, no doubt, on the financial issues advisory group's recommendations. However, we must set down accounting arrangements at this stage to ensure that accountability is guaranteed for the transitional phase. It is simply an added safeguard that if we have continuity of funding, we must also have continuity of accounting and proper auditing.

Mr. Dalyell

Both my hon. Friend the Minister and I have, at various times, been members of the Public Accounts Committee. What is the role of the CAG? Is it correct to say that he has oversight over all funds during this period?

Mr. McLeish

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In an earlier debate in the House on what became the Scotland Act 1998, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis), made an excellent contribution and we adopted the points he made. There is unanimity in the House that the CAG must deal with the transitional year to allow continuity of purpose.

Because we are determined that public services should be accountable at all times, we have tasked the CAG with the audit of Scottish spending bodies until the Holyrood Parliament is in a position to implement effective arrangements of its own. Similar considerations apply to the examination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. The CAG will retain responsibility for that task throughout the transitional year. In addition, the order enables him, if necessary, to complete those studies initiated during the transitional year that he has not finished at year end.

The question of accountability clearly does not end with the specification of suitable financial accounting and value-for-money arrangements. We also need to make more general provisions to ensure that Ministers and officials remain accountable until the Scottish Parliament has put its own arrangements in place. Therefore, the order requires the appointment of accounting officers for both pre-devolution and post-devolution periods.

Although much of the order rightly concentrates on matters associated with the use and management of the Scottish Consolidated Fund, it also makes arrangements to continue the payment of certain designated receipts into the UK Consolidated Fund. Those receipts mostly relate to fines and interest payments, and are currently paid into the UK Consolidated Fund. They do not form part of the Scottish Office budget. The order ensures that those arrangements continue. The majority of receipts are not subject to those special considerations and the order provides for those, in so far as they relate to functions that are or will be devolved, to be paid into the Scottish Consolidated Fund or, where necessary, appropriated in aid.

The final main provisions of the order are of a relatively technical nature. The order allows the continuation of the Registers of Scotland Trading Fund for the remainder of the transitional year. Thereafter, it will be for the Parliament to decide on the financial and control arrangements for that body. In addition, the order allows the payment of a salary to the Auditor General for Scotland, thus allowing the Parliament to fill the post quickly—I cannot emphasise the importance of that too strongly—so that the incumbent can get on with the necessary planning work and be in a position to take up his full duties on 1 April 2000.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

The statutory instrument entitled Constitutional Law Devolution, Scotland refers to certain financial arrangements regarding national health service trusts. Under the current Administration, there appears to be some reluctance, on spurious grounds of commercial confidentiality, to reveal the receipts coming in from the sale of NHS buildings. Will the Scottish Administration, accountable to the Scottish Parliament, be able to divulge such important information to Members of the Scottish Parliament, or will there still be control exerted from Westminster on the spurious grounds of commercial confidentiality?

Mr. McLeish

My hon. Friend raises two issues, the first of which is commercial confidentiality; that is unaffected by the provisions of the order for the auditing, accounting or the work of the Scottish Parliament and the new Executive. The second issue is that of control in Scotland. We are transferring to Scotland, as a devolved responsibility, the health service in Scotland. In the transitional year, the CAG will be involved, as he is at present; however, after April 2000, it will be fully a matter for the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Executive and the people of Scotland in their entirety.

The order caters for the possibility that it may be necessary to make contingency payments from the fund during the transitional year—a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). Here, too, the order builds on existing procedures and the effect is broadly similar to that of the Contingencies Fund Act 1974. As a result, there will be clear limits to payments that may be made by Scottish Ministers. Hon. Members may wish to note that the requirements for reporting any contingency spending during the transitional year to the Scottish Parliament are particularly rigorous.

The appropriation order is, in effect, the main estimate for the programmes which will, until 1 July, be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and which will thereafter fall to the Scottish Executive. The order provides a statutory basis for spending money. Without it, no spending could take place in 1999–2000–at least until the Scottish Parliament legislated to permit the appropriation of resources from the Scottish Consolidated Fund.

Traditionally, of course, the estimates of the Scottish Office have been considered by this House as part of the United Kingdom's main estimates. We have had to take a different approach this year because, in order to ensure continuity and a seamless transition of responsibility, all Scottish appropriations in 1999–2000–both pre-devolution and post devolution—will be made from the Scottish, rather than the UK, Consolidated Fund. As part of this overall process, the Scottish Consolidated Fund will be established with effect from 1 April. In most other respects, however, the procedure adopted for this year is similar to that followed in the past.

The appropriation order sets out the ambit of each of the Scottish votes and the aggregate amount of spending permitted under each vote. The separate estimates booklet, which has been available to hon. Members since last week, sets out in more detail the spending plans in respect of each vote. The votes largely replicate existing Scottish Office votes. However, hon. Members will wish to note that, in anticipation of devolution, a number of additional votes have been included, specifically covering the Forestry Commission, which is Scotland vote 10, and the Scottish Parliament, vote 12.

As I have said, one of our primary objectives has been to avoid constraining the Parliament's ability to allocate resources as it wishes. In practice, many resources must be committed from the start of the year in order to allow organisations such as local authorities, health trusts, and so on, to establish their annual budget. Subject to those constraints, it will remain open to the Scottish Parliament, if it wishes, to revisit the allocations in the order later in the year, and to approve further supplementary appropriation orders as necessary.

I acknowledge that there is a difficult balance to be struck between maintaining continuity and appropriate forward planning on one hand, and allowing the Parliament freedom to make its own decisions on the other. I think that the process that we have adopted is reasonable, and succeeds in meeting the main objectives that I have described. It has allowed local authorities, and the like, to draw up their budgets for 1999–2000, and it allows the Scottish Parliament to revisit the proposed allocations later in the year, but above all, it provides a springboard for full and effective financial devolution for the future. These orders are an integral and critical part of the transition to the devolved Scottish Parliament, and I commend them to the House.

5.58 pm
Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)

We on the Conservative Benches obviously have no objection to the idea of an order which provides for continuity. That is inevitable. Indeed, I ought to add a slight note of thanks and congratulations because we are at least debating these orders on the Floor of the House, as is proper. I hope that the Minister will see fit to recommend to his colleagues in the Welsh Office that similar debates—possibly line-by-line debates—should be held for orders on the transfer of functions to the Welsh Assembly, which many in the House, including some on the Government Benches, would welcome.

The first order is not unique; it is not even one of a few that the House considers in a year. These days, we consider about 3,000 statutory instruments a year. It is at least helpful to look at some of them in some detail. I want to remark particularly on what the order, unobjectionable as it is in its content and substance, teaches us about constitutional law and our constitution.

The order is remarkable in various respects. In the first place, it transfers certain authorities and obligations from one set of people to another. Given that we are discussing the creation of a Scottish Parliament by an Act of this Parliament, it might have been thought that the two sets of people involved would be the Members of the two Parliaments, but of course that is not so. The order transfers certain authorities and obligations from one set of Ministers to another set of Ministers. That is not because a mistake has been made; on the contrary, it is because the order is correctly drafted and accurately reflects the current status of our constitution.

Parliaments are not much involved, before or after the order takes effect, in the details of appropriations. This Parliament considers the bulk of taxation of Scotland and will continue to do so. We do that in great detail in considering Finance Bills. We also have elaborate mechanisms for dealing with efficiency and value for money. We are grateful to the Minister for correctly pointing out that the Government have acceded to the reasoned request of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that there should be Comptroller and Auditor General oversight in the transitional period.

I hope that the Minister will change his mind and take the opportunity to do what the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), has repeatedly refused to do and seek to instate PAC, National Audit Office or CAG oversight for expenditure in Scotland that is borne, and will continue for the foreseeable future to be borne, at least in part, by moneys raised from English taxpayers. Otherwise, as my hon. Friends and I have repeatedly said, another form of the West Lothian question will be unconsciously and improperly generated.

Dr. Godman

Although the hon. Gentleman and I were not present at the time, I think that I am right in saying that the House did not seek to scrutinise expenditure in the Northern Ireland Assembly when Stormont was set up. Is that not the case?

Mr. Letwin

I do not know whether the House sought to do that, but I have checked whether it did, and the hon. Gentleman is right to imply that it did not. However, the mistakes of the past do not justify those of the present. I earnestly beg Ministers to consider whether it would not be to the advantage of the whole Union—Scotland, as well as England and Wales—if there were oversight of efficiency.

Mr. McLeish

I may be in danger of confusing two issues. If the debate is whether devolution leaves taxation at Westminster, that is accepted and is part of the settlement.

The second point is that we are dealing in this debate with the transition year. I could have spoken at length about what will happen in Scotland in the run-up to April 2000 and beyond in relation to the auditor general for Scotland, who will have to be appointed, the equivalent of the Public Accounts Committee, which will be established within the Parliament, and all the detailed accounting procedures. The hon. Gentleman will remember that, in a previous debate, I said that my aspiration was that we should improve on the position at Westminster so that every pound that is spent in Scotland is subjected to the most robust and rigorous examination.

Mr. Letwin

Yes, I am aware of that. The Minister is right to say that huge steps have been taken to ensure that there are proper accounting procedures in the Scottish Parliament, and I have no doubt that they will be proper. Unfortunately, he is too busy to read Hansard's report of minor debates between his colleagues and ourselves. However, the Under-Secretary will verify, if the Minister asks him, that we have already specifically made the point that the existence of good accounting procedures in the Scottish Parliament and the fact that, during the transition period, those procedures will be available through the CAG and other agencies here—as the order properly states—does not prevent the problem of there being English and Welsh taxpayers who are, in part, funding expenditure under the Scottish Parliament. They will find themselves without a means in this Parliament of exerting any scrutiny over the best value of that expenditure.

The critical point is that although the Scottish Parliament will have accounting procedures, it may be believed, however erroneously, by taxpayers in the UK, not to have the incentive sufficiently to engage in that scrutiny because it is not raising the tax. I am asserting not that that will be the case, but that there is a danger of such a perception. It would be in the interests of the whole Union, Scotland included, if that were put to rest.

Dr. Godman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy. Do he and his colleagues hold identical reservations in relation to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the departments that will be created there?

Mr. Letwin


Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Has the hon. Gentleman read the "Declaration of Hamden" in which the Scottish Conservatives said recently that they were more autonomous than other political parties in Scotland, and accused the Labour party of being control freaks from London? Has the control freakery being displayed by the hon. Gentleman been cleared with Mr. David McLetchie, as it seems to ca' the feet from the "Declaration of Hamden"?

Mr. Letwin

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, as always, for teaching me lessons about politics, particularly Conservative politics. This is not a point about control freakery or, in the end, a point about Scotland. This is a point about the possible reaction of English electors. It has been the constant pursuit of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who used to be the hon. Member for West Lothian, to ensure that our arrangements do not unnecessarily precipitate tensions in the Union. I beg the Minister to attend to that matter.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)


Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) rose

Mr. Letwin

No, I will not take further interventions, as I want to move on to my main point. Very well, I give way.

Mr. Connarty

I do not understand how the hon. Gentleman can say that he does not want any measure to be enacted by Parliament that would generate tensions, when he is clearly attempting from the Dispatch Box to drive wedges, not just between the people of England and of Scotland, but between the Conservative party in the House and the Conservative party in Scotland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds to that, may I remind him and the House that we are discussing the transitional arrangements. Remarks ought to be confined to that.

Mr. Letwin

I am amazed at your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and at the fact that you have not reminded us of that before. I was trying to move on to my main point, but I thought that I should give way to the hon. Gentleman—perhaps mistakenly.

I am by no means trying to stoke up tensions. As a profound Unionist, I genuinely believe that there is much to be gained from trying to placate those feelings. I shall leave it at that.

What is revealed in this set of orders—in particular in what the Minister calls the finance order, but perhaps more clearly in the appropriations order—is the extraordinary state of our constitution. That is no fault of the Minister or his Government. It has been the case for years.

Betwixt the two extremes—tax, which we vet seriously, and efficiency and value for money, which we vet seriously through the CAG and PAC, notwithstanding my remarks about the Scottish Parliament—lie appropriations. In some Parliaments or the equivalent—for example, in the United States—appropriations are taken seriously. There are appropriations committees which look seriously into what is being appropriated and what the money is to be spent on. They debate the measures arduously, line by line, over many weeks. The equivalent of our Ministers pay great attention to that. The Government agencies spend an enormous amount of time trying to find out whether their proposed expenditure will be approved by Senate and House committees.

If we inspect the appropriations order, which follows the traditional pattern, we find vast sums described in the most general terms, as is traditional in our practice. The sums are staggering. In total, we are dealing with some £14 billion worth, as I think the Minister will confirm.

The description in article 2 on page 3 shows expenditure by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Ministers on market support, agriculture in special areas including crofting, structural measures, compensation to sheep producers and animal health, agricultural education, advisory, research and development services, botanical and scientific services—I shall not bore the House by reading the whole list.

It is an enormous, amorphous collection—all, undoubtedly, marvellous stuff—but no one in the House has the slightest idea what the money is going on. Nor is it intended that we should have such an idea, because this is a set of appropriations that follows the grand tradition of very broad, very general approvals.

Mr. McLeish

There are always two arguments about any particular point. In a sense, that confirms the need, and the reason, for a devolved settlement for Scotland, for Wales and for Northern Ireland and for a voice for London. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: appropriations are crucial, because it is someone else's money that we are spending.

No one in the Chamber is responsible for the fact that we have little time for the debate, but that confirms that a Scottish Parliament with powerful appropriations and control procedures will be taken seriously on the question of budgeting and finance. There will be a powerful role for the Parliament vis-á-vis the new Executive. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that that is a reason for devolution, not for holding it back?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not want the debate to widen any further. That is what it is starting to do, so will the hon. Gentleman please confine his remarks to the matter before us?

Mr. Letwin

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I shall respond briefly to the Minister.

This is not a question about devolution, either way. I welcome, of course, the Minister's remarks about the way that the Scottish Parliament, following the transitional orders, will go about the business of appropriation. If the Parliament establishes such procedures, that will be a constitutional advance. I am arguing that, as the order shows us clearly, we in this House also need to adopt such procedures.

We do not currently have such procedures. The order is one of the most remarkable and unusual testimonies to that, because we do not frequently consider such orders. We do not have to consider them, because we do not normally have the need, which has been occasioned by the creation of the Scottish Parliament. The annual estimates that come before us fulfil exactly no purpose whatever, as everyone knows perfectly well what will be the outcome and no one does any serious investigation.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is marvellous how the Scottish Parliament, even before it has been established, is already teaching lessons to this place, about how it should go about conducting its business?

Mr. Letwin

The hon. Gentleman deserves a lollipop for an ingenious point. I very much hope that he is right. We shall see, but if the Scottish Parliament is teaching us lessons, let us learn them.

I want to make a particular point in respect of paragraph 2 of the finance order. Paragraph 2(2) on page 4 contains a remarkable constitutional point. I do not know whether I have correctly understood it. I have asked someone learned in the law about it, and I have received a not entirely clear answer. I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up this matter in his closing remarks. Paragraph 2(2) states: If any question arises…as to whether or to what extent a function of the Secretary of State is a relevant function for the purposes of this Order that question shall"— this is the bit that I am concerned with— be determined by the Secretary of State, and his determination shall be final and conclusive.

In other words, the order tells us that the question "whether" something should be done by the Secretary of State will be determined by the Secretary of State, and he will be the final arbiter. That strikes me as an odd provision, constitutionally speaking. I do not know whether the provision has good precedent; it probably has, or it would not appear in the order. If it has, perhaps we should be examining that precedent. It seems odd that such a judgment could be made and not be open to any kind of scrutiny or appeal.

I refer to paragraph 3, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that you will give me due credit for being precisely on the topic of the order. In sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) of paragraph 3 there is what appears to be an extraordinary outcome. In sub-paragraph (2) we are told: A provision of any enactment which requires or authorises the payment of any sum into the Consolidated Fund shall have effect in relation to any relevant function as if it required or authorised that sum to be paid into the Fund instead. In sub-paragraph (3) we are told: Paragraph (2) … is subject to any other provision made by or under this Order, or any other subordinate legislation under a certain section.

The combined effect of those two sub-paragraphs appears to be that the direction of moneys—which, before one looks at the order, seems to be determined by the order—will be subject to being redetermined by "any other subordinate legislation", under a certain section. That is extraordinary, is it not? It may be normal, but we do not know.

The situation in Scotland has again occasioned a provision that is not normal. It is strange if it is a feature of our constitutional arrangements that it is perfectly proper and appropriate for the House to consider an order that directs matters in a certain way, and for that order to provide that in other orders those adjudications can automatically be reversed. I should be grateful if the Minister could illuminate that point.

That is all the Opposition want to say about this subject. We accept that the order is needed, and that it does its job. We regret that it is in a constitutional context that gives rise to some real problems. The Minister may not be able to address all this today, but I hope that he will give us some earnest of the Government's intention to do so. I hope that he will clarify these detailed points.

6.16 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

I promise to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The criticisms offered by the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) are shaped by his deep distaste for the process of political devolution. These measures are necessary and inevitable for the restructuring of the United Kingdom—or what my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) would call the unravelling of the United Kingdom. Identical measures are being dealt with for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It is essential that the transitional period is as smooth as possible. Public authorities are involved in the transitional period, but various voluntary organisations are also, to some extent, financed by the Scottish Office. Concerns have been expressed about the Executive working alongside Ministers during the transitional period. Incidentally, I have never liked the title "First Minister": I think it should be "Premier of Scotland" and "Premier of Northern Ireland", but that is another story.

Voluntary organisations are concerned about their place in the scheme of things. I look to my hon. Friend the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office to offer them, on the record, a reassurance that they have not been overlooked. The documents refer to local authorities and other public bodies. Voluntary organisations receive a trifling sum from the Scottish Office. For example, the Scottish Refugee Council is assisted by the Scottish Office and local authorities. I am anxious that the Minister should deal with that point.

Similarly, a number of public bodies are coming together to develop an integrated public transport system, and if negotiations are taking place in the transitional period, fears may be voiced and we may be told that it is necessary to hold off and delay things until the Ministers at Holyrood are able to make decisions.

I do not want to sound parochial, but we hope that the waterfront development in Gourock will take place.[Interruption.] I shall not comment on the unavoidable absence of the hon. Member for West Dorset, because he was away for only 30 seconds. Developments are being discussed and decisions will have to be taken in the next 12 months, so it is important to have these assurances.

I was about to give an example from my constituency—the Gourock waterfront development. The Minister was in my constituency recently, and he made an eloquent speech about the introduction of closed-circuit television. I hope that in the near future, he will make an equally crisp statement about the Gourock waterfront development, saying that it is going ahead.

There is an important issue here. A number of authorities and other bodies are getting together to make life much less burdensome for those whom we represent in the House of Commons, and during the transitional period it is essential for there to be no hiccups. Another example is the development—I hope—of the ferry terminal at Port Glasgow. Again, a number of organisations are involved in discussions about the project.

We hope to see, in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh, a smooth handover to the Ministers who will take over.

I promised to be brief. Let me end by saying that I, for one, have full confidence and trust in the candidates for the Holyrood Parliament. I know of one woman councillor who is currently the convener of a social work committee that has some £194 million to disburse. Elected representatives of that kind are as able and competent as any MP when it comes to ensuring that public funds are used in a truly honest, open and honourable way.

6.22 pm
Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West)

We support the orders, which, unlike the orders that we debated earlier, are very welcome.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) raised an important issue. I feel that both the Scottish Parliament and this Parliament should be able to do more probing into the finances of quangos, health boards and other bodies. That part of the state apparatus is not being properly scrutinised.

The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), as usual, raised the temperature of all devolutionary Scots—but, in accordance with your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will not pursue that. For a minute or two, however, intelligence broke through the fog, and the hon. Gentleman seemed to advocate an outbreak of democracy in the House. He seemed to suggest that we might start to scrutinise expenditure much more carefully. That is an admirable suggestion, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to persuade his party of his case.

The Minister tried to describe the necessary balance between freedom for the Scottish Parliament and continuity. What he said was fair. We certainly support the idea of continuity, even if it slightly delays changes that the Scottish Parliament may wish to make. I say that as one who, if fortunate enough to be elected to the Scottish Parliament, is more likely to rock the boat than the Minister is. I think that a proper transition is desirable, and that continuity is important; and I think that is possible under the orders.

As we usually do—and as other hon. Members doubtless do—we passed the orders to intelligent people in the hope that professional nitpickers might find mistakes, but they could not, so I have to assume that the orders are all right. But the suspicious tendency, to which I belong, is slightly worried whenever it sees the word "Treasury". Will the Minister assure me that there is nothing sinister in paragraph 8(4) of the finance order? It states: In the period ending immediately before the principal appointed day, the Secretary of State shall make payments into the Consolidated Fund, at such times and by such methods as the Treasury may from time to time determine". Will the Minister assure me that there is nothing sinister in that, and that the Treasury will not do us down in some way?

The Minister and his team are to be congratulated on what strikes me as an intelligent solution to the problems, and I am happy to support them.

6.25 pm
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I call Mr. Michael Clapham.[Interruption.] Mr. Michael Connarty.

Mr. Connarty

We seem to have that confusion; I have commented on it before. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) is a very astute and thorough representative of the mining communities, I am happy to take his mantle on. I think that he was the person who was behind much of the campaign that won compensation for miners for vibration white finger injury. Therefore, I am happy to be associated with him, although he may not say the same about me.

The reason why I want to speak on the order is that, sadly, it has been treated as a dry subject. The way the order is set out in its first page may seem dry, but, when I went with the British American Parliamentary Group to the induction week for the Congress in 1992, I was struck by the fact that practically the whole week was spent teaching Congress the importance of debating policy in the context of budgets—not as wild gestures and political emotions, but in terms of how we spent other people's money, as the Minister called it, on services. There is no doubt that that approach has led to the budget surpluses and to the turnaround in the United States economy under the Democrat Government.

I hope that the Scottish Parliament will take the debates on the budgets seriously and line by line, and will not send them off to a Committee, where a few Members will become very knowledgeable and most Members will know just about the wild gestures. The order is about a real fund—as was said, £14 billion; in fact, the figure is £14,038,349,000. That is to be allocated to Scotland in the transitional budget for the next year. That is a substantial sum. It is backed with real money.

I had hoped—perhaps I can tempt the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) while I am speaking—to take issue with some of the Opposition figures for the budget, should they ever wrench Scotland away from the safety and security of the partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom. I was fascinated to read in press releases on Professor Kemp's analysis of how much money would come to Scotland from oil that the leader of the Scottish National party, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, had said that the average barrel price would be $18 up to 2003; it is $10 a barrel now. That would give Scotland £11 billion.

The hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) said more realistically that he accepted that the barrel price is not likely to rise to $14 a barrel until about 2001. A total of £6 billion would then come from oil, so there is a £5 billion deficit there—under the figures put forward by two members of the SNP, £5 billion would be missing from any fund available to Scotland. They may have sorted the dispute out since then.

Mr. Salmond

I am considerably tempted. It was actually Professor Kemp who said that he thought $18 a barrel was likely by 2003.

Mr. Connarty


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am treating the hon. Gentleman's remarks as a brief preamble. I assume that he will come to the matter before the House directly.

Mr. Connarty

I take that admonition, but I was attempting to talk about the order, which is real money. We have to get it over to the people of Scotland that, in the transitional arrangements, the Government have set aside real money for Scottish services and those services will benefit by us doing that. That is set out in an order that will go for approval by the House and then be handed, by the arrangements, to the Scottish Parliament to deal with in detail.

When we put to the people the efforts of the Government, we must, with a little leeway from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, compare them with those of others who have put forward other budgets, based on fantasy figures. We have the real figures. It is real money. It is real appropriations of real money for real services. That is what I want to talk about mainly—not the detail of the arrangements, which the Minister set out soundly, but the figures behind those arrangements: the £14 billion; the £2,478 million for education.

I live partly in an educational world. I am a former teacher, I am constantly in touch with members of my former profession and I am married to someone in a senior position in education. A lot of my conversations, if they are not about politics and Parliament, are about education. The money that we are talking about will fund many important schemes for the future of Scottish children.

Last week, the Government announced £112 million of funding to give 60 per cent. of three-year-olds in Scotland the chance of a nursery place. Most four-year-olds whose parents want a nursery place for them have one. Early intervention is not just funded, but worked out properly. There will be 5,000 classroom assistants to enable the teachers to teach better and work better with children. That is what the £2.5 billion in the fund is for. It is about delivering real services for Scottish people—not political argument, but backing up our promises with schemes that are worked out well, usually in co-operation and harmony with the teaching profession and the educators, believe it or not. That is not how the issues are whipped up by the press, with stories about conflict, bullying and a big brother approach. We are developing education policies around the table and funding them. I have heard it said, even in the closed circles of the Educational Institute of Scotland, that Scottish education is awash with money. We must realise that that is what the fund means for Scottish education.

The local government aspects of the fund for revenue support grants have been debated in detail, but there are some items worth commenting on. The £5.746 billion for general services includes funding for most of the rail services in Scotland. In the order of merit of delivery of service, Scotrail is at the top of the list for the United Kingdom. That is due not just to the efforts of Scotrail, but the co-operation with the Government and the funding from the Government that allows services to be maintained at a high level.

Urban regeneration initiatives are also mentioned. The millennium canal link is a project close to my heart. The project to open the canal from the Forth to the Clyde is receiving £78 million of lottery funding, but it will also require substantial local authority and Government support to make it one of our prime millennium tasks. That could create thousands of jobs for people in the catering, hotel and hospitality industry. It will be a boon to towns such as Grangemouth and Falkirk, and other places all the way to the Glasgow constituency of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Those projects are what the Consolidated Fund is about.

The health service will also have a substantial input from the fund. There is more than £4 billion of new money to be spent in Scotland over three years. The Consolidated Fund will be the beginning of that.

We should commend the fact that the issues have been set down and hope that others will take them up in the right spirit. They should not nitpick and play with niceties and constitutional issues. The Scottish people are not interested in that any more. They have had constitutional detail thrown at them until they are sick of it. They have voted for devolution. They know that there will be a transitional period. They know that the Government have to put transitional arrangements into operation. Anyone who tries to have a pop at little transitional constitutional matters will not get a hearing from the Scottish people, who want to know what will be delivered, not the mechanisms or the little details. Those are the responsibility of Ministers here and will be the responsibility of the Executive when the Scottish Parliament is up and running. I hope that people will look at the figures and consider what the funds will mean for the national health service and the education service.

It is right that we should put in place a mechanism to ensure that there are no hitches or glitches. The people should be confident that their representatives in the Scottish Parliament will spend the money, and that it will be there when they need to draw on it and will not fall foul of any technical mistakes.

I commend my hon. Friend the Minister for bringing the motions to the Floor of the House. I hope that this is the beginning of many debates in the Scottish Parliament—which I think that the people will want to listen to—on how to spend the money allocated to it, rather than on nitpicking little constitutional issues.

6.34 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I sympathised with the Minister when the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) asked him for an assurance that the Treasury would not try to do us down as, by definition that is what the Treasury is about.

I am gratefulto the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). I have waited 12 years to use the phrase "ca' the feet", and he finally gave me the opportunity by undermining the Hamden declaration of the Scottish Conservatives. Listening to his argument, I became increasingly concerned that, as a Scottish taxpayer, my taxes were not receiving proper scrutiny in the House as he blithely told us that billions of pounds of expenditure went unexamined. I wonder whether we should propose that a Committee of the Scottish Parliament should scrutinise the expenditure of this House. If the hon. Member for West Dorset made that proposal, perhaps he would bring himself back into line with Mr. David McLechie and the arguments that he is making north of the border.

The orders are basically uncontroversial. The first deals with transitional arrangements that nobody would dispute seriously. The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) said that we should look at the reality behind some of the spending figures in the year covered by the transitional arrangements. The order illustrates the extent of the Barnett squeeze on Scottish public spending.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East wanted to talk about health spending. The figures show that the increase in health spending in Scotland will be 3.4 per cent. compared with a real-terms increase of 5.2 per cent. in England. The following year, the increase will be 3.3 per cent. in Scotland and 4.5 per cent. in England. That illustrates the impact of the Barnett formula, which once was benign in respect of Scottish spending.

The changes that were made first by Michael Portillo when he was Chief Secretary and later by the current Secretary of State for Social Security mean that the Barnett formula will squeeze spending in Scotland during the first Scottish Parliament. It is quite clear that the real-terms increase will be much less for all major Departments in Scotland than for the same Departments south of the border. Over the period of the comprehensive spending review the cumulative effect on the health service will be a loss of some £387 million. I hope that satisfies the wish of the hon. Member for Falkirk, East to discuss real money affecting real services, as the new Scottish Parliament will face an immediate real-terms squeeze on spending.

Mr. Connarty

Will the hon. Gentleman's proposals for the Scottish Parliament include using the 3p available in tartan tax? Will the SNP tax the Scottish people?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds to that intervention, I remind him that we are debating the transitional arrangements. He should confine his remarks to that subject.

Mr. Salmond

I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall not be tempted out of order by that intervention. Certainly any hon. Member who could not tell me the excise duty for this year cannot seriously expect me to answer a question relating to the year after next.

I have a question about the second order that I hope the Minister will answer in some detail. The order transfers the receipts of the Scottish Secretary to either the Scottish Consolidated Fund or the UK Consolidated Fund. Articles 3 and 5 set out the basic principles for that.

Moneys being transferred to the Scottish Consolidated Fund include prescription and dental charges amounting to £76 million, tolls and transport receipts worth £24 million and administration receipts worth £8.7 million. However, courts, fines, penalties and forfeitures, which are worth some £23 million, are receipts to the Scottish Ministers which the order states they must transfer to the Scottish Secretary, who then passes them on to the UK Consolidated Fund. Why should those funds be treated differently?

I was struck by a comment by the Prime Minister in the Sunday Heraldlast Sunday about civil action that can be taken against drug dealers in Scotland. He said that any such money would not be stolen from the Scottish Exchequer.

The Secretary of State may shake his head, but that is what the Prime Minister said in an interview published last Sunday. If it is the case for civil fines, why should not fines imposed in the Scottish criminal courts come straight to the Scottish Consolidated Fund instead of being routed via the Secretary of State and the UK Consolidated Fund? That is an entirely reasonable question.

Suppose the Scottish Parliament wanted to increase fines for certain criminal offences—perhaps even for certain categories of drug dealers—why should not that decision have an impact on the Scottish Consolidated Fund? I understand that the Minister said that the £23 million involved was a drop in the bucket—according to the press, he suggested that it was a small sum in relation to the overall expenditure—but that amount could reduce primary school class sizes to under 30, abolish tuition fees for each year of the first term of the Parliament, put more policemen on the beat or reduce the backlogs in the courts and procurator fiscal offices.

The Scottish Parliament could take a decision on court penalties that would add to its receipts.

Mr. McLeish

A new tax.

Mr. Salmond

Is it a new tax to take a policy decision to increase the penalties imposed in Scottish courts? Why should such payments be routed through—

Mr. McLeish

Because that is what happens now.

Mr. Salmond

But we are entering a new phase in politics with the brave new Parliament. We must be prepared to look at things anew and try—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We cannot have a debate conducted by hon. Members calling out from a sedentary position.

Mr. Salmond

I know that I should not be tempted by the Minister's sedentary interventions, but if we are moving into a new relationship, he should tell the House why such payments cannot go directly to the Scottish Consolidated Fund, as prescription and dental charges do.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)

What happens to criminal fines imposed in courts in other parts of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Salmond

I have no idea. We are discussing orders that say that such fines should be paid into the Consolidated Fund of the UK Parliament and routed through the Secretary of State, instead of going directly to the Scottish Consolidated Fund. It is for Ministers to say why that is a reasonable position.

Mr. Dewar

I will.

Mr. Salmond

We shall see.

The Parliament will have control of a maximum of about 12 to 13 per cent. of its revenue sources, and the rest will come via the Consolidated Fund in the form of a block grant. That gives small room for fiscal manoeuvre—only slightly more than Scottish local government has now—so it is entirely reasonable to ask why we should not increase that room for manoeuvre if the orders give us the opportunity to do so.

In an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham) late last year, the Home Secretary said that work was in train to identify areas where it might be appropriate to effect a transfer of funds from UK Departments into the programmes of the Scottish Executive. He said that he would make a statement in the Official Report when the work was completed. When will that promised statement be made; and what work is being done to consider how funding could be transferred directly into the Scottish Consolidated Fund for matters that will be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament but are currently dealt with by UK Departments?

Dr. Godman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the period of transition will enable members of voluntary organisations and community groups to familiarise themselves with the lobbying of a Scottish Parliament and to become adept at dealing with its Members? That is one fine consequence of the transitional system.

Mr. Salmond

A transitional period is necessary to give certainty and assurance to the funding in the first year of the Parliament, and voluntary organisations in Scotland are certainly among those who will be looking closely at the transitional period. Voluntary organisations—and the lobbying network for the Scottish Parliament that is proceeding apace across the voluntary sector—will be an important part of the democratic process—almost as important as the new scrutiny of the funding provisions for the Scottish Parliament itself.

The measures are necessary, but it is fair, reasonable and perfectly within my entitlement to ask what I see as a legitimate question. Why are some fines, penalties and fund-raising going through the UK Consolidated Fund, and not through the Scottish Consolidated Fund?

6.46 pm
Mr. Letwin

With leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker: I had anticipated that Labour Members would want to contribute in great numbers to the completion of the debate, but it does not seem to be so.

The debate has been constructive in two respects. First, there was agreement from the Liberal Democrats that there is a deficiency in the way in which this Parliament goes about its inspection of appropriations, and it is altogether admirable that there should be that degree of consensus. I hope that the Minister will tell us that the Government share that view, and that the orders bring to light—through no fault of the Government—a serious problem with our arrangements. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that the Scottish Parliament will put in hand arrangements so that its organs can enable it to inspect in minute detail appropriations, rather than merely looking vaguely at estimates.

If that is the case, the Scottish Parliament will be able to teach us a lesson—as has been mentioned by Labour Members—and we will welcome that. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and others have been determined to portray these remarks about the character of our constitution as if they were, in some bizarre way, an attack on the Scottish Parliament. They are nothing of the kind—they are not intended to be, and they are not in practice. If the Scottish Parliament develops more elaborate and better designed mechanisms than our own, we will welcome it, and we will be happy to learn from it. However, the fact of the Scottish Parliament doing that does not remove the need for us to do so. I hope that the Minister will tell us that he is in favour of that.

Secondly, there has been an interesting exchange between Labour Members and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. We were told—much as in the previous debate on local government finance—that this was a magnificent array of expenditure that would solve every problem, and should be welcomed on that basis. Immediately, the lie was given to that, with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan telling us that the amounts are far too small.

The order should not be taken as a pretext for claiming that things are either better or worse than previously. It has no effect on the amounts of money involved—it merely transfers them from one pocket to another. It would be sensible if the House considered seriously the constitutional points, and did not argue, in the banter of party politics, about whether the amount of money—the very same amount that would have been involved anyway—was a good or bad amount. That is not the substance of the orders.

Mr. Connarty

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to dismiss the change that has come about in the financing of Scottish services since the comprehensive spending review allocated the money that is now contained in this transitional order. I hope that he is not going to try to portray anything that I said as meaning that the order is wonderful and will solve all problems. I hope that he accepts that, for the Scottish people, the damage done by the previous Conservative Government will not be undone except by a decade of such expenditure and effort. That is why there are no hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Letwin

I rather regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman, because he continued the party political dialogue that I was trying to avoid. The previous discussion of the local government finance settlement made it clear that the Government's current plans—their present intentions as well the previous ones—are no more generous to Scottish local government. Neither does this transitional order resolve matters. I agree that the order will not create great riches. It is not a spending measure but a transferring measure.

Finally, I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an answer this evening to the question that I posed earlier. The question is not intended to be an accusation, nor is it an attack on devolution, but will the Government take account of the genuine problems that will arise in England as a result of this House's failure to make arrangements to scrutinise expenditure?

Mr. Savidge

As my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) noted earlier, such a supervision arrangement was not made for Northern Ireland. Moreover, it was never introduced for local government anywhere in the British isles, for which between 80 and 85 per cent. of funding comes from central Government, as was made clear in the previous debate. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that what he is saying conveys an impression of patronising distrust of the Scots?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are now getting very wide of the matter before the House. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman did not respond.

Mr. Letwin

As I am prevented from responding, I shall not do so. I regret having given such an impression: it was not my intention.

I hope that the Minister will answer my earlier question, and also clarify the detailed points that have been raised about the order, including the rather interesting point made by Liberal Democrat Members.

6.52 pm
Mr. McLeish

With the leave of the House, I should like to respond to the debate.

We have made it clear that the Government take very seriously the proper scrutiny, accounting and auditing of money. Our aspiration is that the Scottish Parliament will build on the excellent work of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster, and of the Comptroller and Auditor General. However, we can do better: that is what politics is all about, and that is my response to Opposition questions on that point.

The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said that the appropriation order dealt only in vast sums. I think that he was making a wider political point, but I can tell him that the Estimates booklet that accompanies the great headline information contains more detailed votes, sections and subheads.

The hon. Member for West Dorset also asked about appropriation procedures; the phrase that he used was that Parliaments "don't get a look in". However, it is up to the Parliament to decide how such procedures operate. We want the Scottish Parliament to be given significant powers and resources by the Executive to carry out the scrutiny procedure. There is a built-in assurance, therefore, that the Scottish Parliament will be able to monitor very effectively the sums of money at its disposal.

The big incentive that the Scottish Parliament will have to monitor finance properly is that we will be working on a fixed budget. Every pound spent must matter in every community in Scotland. If there are different priorities for which we want to raise cash, we will have to shift resources within a budget of priorities. Pursuing a public policy of that sort would be an enormous incentive to any serious Parliament.

The hon. Member for West Dorset also asked about the provision, in paragraph 2(2), for determination by the Secretary of State. I can tell him that the provision has force only in the period from 1 April to 30 June, when the Secretary of State is spending money out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund. It does not allow the Secretary of State to spend money that has not been properly appropriated, or for a purpose for which the money has not been appropriated. The Secretary of State will have to account for expenditure, and the accounts will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Secretary of State will, of course, be accountable to the House.

Similarly, in paragraph 3(2), the other subordinate legislation under section 129(1) is indeed the appropriation order. The procedure is similar to that in section 64(4) of the Scotland Act 1998, which will replace paragraph 3(2) after 1 July. It also follows the procedures of the House: money payable into the Consolidated Fund is appropriated in aid of votes under the Public Accounts and Charges Act 1891. I hope that that technical response allays the hon. Gentleman's concerns.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) referred to the Treasury, and to paragraph 8. Its words are the same as those in section 64(6) of the 1998 Act. The provision applies to money that will be surrendered to the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund, and it is right that that should remain in the control of the Treasury. It applies only to the timing and the handing over of receipts that firmly belong in the cash flow through the Scottish Consolidated Fund.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) wanted reassurance about continuity. I can give him that reassurance. It is vital that voluntary organisations, local authorities, trusts and other bodies in Scotland should not be disrupted because of the historic events in Scotland.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) raised points about the Labour Government's injection of help for health and welfare in Scotland. There will be £1.8 billion over the next three years. Even if the hon. Gentleman wants to nitpick, he cannot get away from the fact that that is substantial investment in health care in Scotland. It ill behoves the Scottish Nationalist party to compare matters with those in England, suggesting that the English are always trying to undermine what we do in Scotland. We need mature politics in Scotland, and the SNP has to grow up and to acknowledge the real progress being made.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the whereabouts of fine revenues. At present, fines from England and Scotland go through the UK Consolidated Fund. Why change that? The SNP obviously has not thought the question through. The funds are regarded at present as being similar to tax revenues and television licence revenues. They are pooled centrally, then distributed throughout the UK on the basis of need. Scotland is achieving devolution, not divorce. The settlement must work within the United Kingdom, and the hon. Gentleman would do better to acknowledge that fact.

The real question is whether we want to turn fines levied through the criminal justice system into another tax. It is ludicrous of the SNP to raise that issue when we all want fines to be about punishment within the criminal justice system. In addition to the possibility of a local income tax, changes to the uniform business rate and changes to the use of the Scottish variable tax, another new tax is being put before us tonight, invented by the SNP. It would be a tax on people going through the criminal justice system.

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McLeish

I will not. The hon. Gentleman has already made his points, and they deserve a full response.

The hon. Gentleman referred also to remarks made in Scotland by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about the seizure and confiscation of drugs. Yet the hon. Gentleman's party has not a single policy on law and order, or drugs or any part of the criminal justice system. My right hon. Friend was quite right to say that the Scottish Parliament and United Kingdom Parliament will want to see drug dealers attacked, and their assets confiscated.

The Prime Minister referred also to recycling. If we are given the opportunity to do that in Scotland or at Westminster, we shall take it. Tonight, we heard not an address on that issue from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, but an attempt to make a political mountain of a technical molehill. It is disgraceful of him to seek to hijack an important issue for cheap party political points.

The orders are urgently needed. They will ensure that Scotland will consider finance carefully. I commend them to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Finance) Order 1999, which was laid before this House on 4th February, be approved.

  2. c564
  4. cc564-5
  5. FOOD STANDARDS 29 words