§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 9 September be approved [29th Report from the Joint Committee].
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to the Scotland Act 1998 (Modifications of Schedule 5) Order 2004 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2004.
§ Noble Lords will be aware that the orders are made under three different Scotland Act powers: Sections 30(2), 30(3) and 104. Many of us are, by now, familiar with those sections of the Scotland Act, but I hope that it will be helpful if I briefly outline what the powers allow us to do and the background to each order.
§ Section 30(2) orders have the purpose and effect of altering the legislative boundaries of Scotland's devolution settlement. They do so by either increasing or reducing the list of matters reserved by Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act. The order makes full use of the power by adding one reservation, removing aspects of another and making a small technical amendment to an existing reservation. Orders made under Section 30(3) allow functions—for example, in an Act—to be classed as "in or as regards" Scotland so they can be exercised by the Scottish Ministers. The Scotland Act requires that orders made under Sections 30(2) and 30(3) are subject to affirmative procedure in both the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
§ Section 104 orders are used when changes are required to the law of England and Wales and, in some cases. Northern Ireland, or when modifications of reserved law are needed, all as a consequence of legislation in the Scottish Parliament. Such changes would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, which is why Section 104 orders are considered only by the UK Parliament.
§ The subjects of the three orders that we are considering today are quite different. However, it is normal practice for orders under the Scotland Act to be considered by Parliament at the same time. This House and the other place have done that on numerous occasions. It simply means that we can ensure the optimum use of parliamentary time.
§ I shall deal first with the Section 30(2) order, which is the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Modifications of Schedule 5) Order 2004. Article 2, which concerns elections, is entirely technical. It is a tidying-up provision that is consequential on a defect in the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002. Briefly, the 2002 Act consolidated the legislation on European parliamentary elections and in doing so amended Section B3 of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act. Unfortunately, it neglected to make a necessary consequential to disapply the interpretation provision in paragraph 5 of Part 3 of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act. This was an oversight and, while it has no practical effect, the Government believe that it makes sense to take this opportunity to reinforce the coherence of the statute hook by making this change.830
§ The second element to this order concerns the reservation of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the AHRC, and its funding. The purpose of this modification is to add the AHRC to the current reservation in Section C12 of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act relating to "research councils". I have no formal interest to declare on this matter, but noble Lords will wish to be aware that I was one of the original board members of the Arts and Humanities Research Board, which is being replaced by the AHRC.
§ This part of the order will complete a package of legislation that was agreed by Ministers in all the UK administrations in January 2003. This was to create a UK-wide, statutory AHRC which will take over the role of the existing UK-wide Arts and Humanities Research Board, the AHRB. It places the AHRC and its funding on a similar basis to the seven existing UK science research councils, recognising the increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary and collaborative working within the research sector and acknowledging the contribution of arts and humanities to the economy.
§ The proposed conversion has received widespread support among the academic community across the UK. It was also welcomed throughout the passage of the Higher Education Bill through both Houses of Parliament to Royal Assent this summer.
§ The final element of this order amends the reservation in Section E2 of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act. In doing so, it extends the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. Section E2 has previously been amended by two other orders. They are SI2000/3252 and SI2002/1629. Parliament: agreed the need for both statutory instruments during the passage of the Scotland Act.
§ Among other things, SI2000/3252 enables the Scottish Parliament to legislate to transfer to certain Scottish public authorities the same rail responsibilities exercised by a passenger transport authority or executive. It also enables the allocation of functions among such new public authorities. This exception to the reservation cannot include a transfer of rail functions directly to the Scottish Ministers. This is because the Scottish Ministers do not fall within the definition of a body set up wholly or mainly to exercise functions in relation to transport.
§ Article 4 of the Section 30(2) order before us today amends the exception to the reservation introduced by SI2000/3252. This will allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate in forthcoming Scottish transport legislation proposed by the Scottish Executive to transfer the rail functions presently exercised by Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) to the Scottish Ministers.
§ Noble Lords will be aware that there have been a series of Parliamentary Questions in this and the other place on this part of the order. They have asked what consultation has taken place with SPT, whether the economic costs of transferring functions from SPT have been assessed and why no regulatory impact assessment has been prepared for this order. We believe that the first two questions put the cart before the horse. If agreed, the order before us, which has 831 been agreed by the Local Government and Transport Committee of the Scottish Parliament, will simply extend the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament on these issues. It will then be for the Scottish Parliament to decide, should such a measure be put before it, whether and how to exercise its new power to transfer the rail responsibilities of SPT to the Scottish Ministers.
§ I hope noble Lords will find it helpful to note, however, that the Scottish Executive have advised that they are enjoying constructive discussions with SPT on this issue and they have signalled their wish and desire to build on the strengths of SPT in delivering better transport services, not only in the West of Scotland, but across the whole of Scotland.
§ The order before us makes no change to the status or functions of SPT. The decision not to provide a regulatory impact assessment, then, is in accordance with the guidance Better Policy Making: A Guide to Regulatory Impact Assessment issued by the Cabinet Office. The draft order varies the competence of the Scottish Parliament. It does not in itself have a direct or indirect impact, whether benefit or cost, on business, charities or the voluntary sector. It would not therefore have any regulatory impact.
§ I turn to the Section 30(3) order, which is the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Functions Exercisable in or as Regards Scotland) Order 2004. As the explanatory material notes, the order will make a technical provision in relation to a new CAP reform council regulation, which comes into effect on 1 January 2005.
§ There are farmers who come within the ambit of the CAP reforms who farm both in Scotland and in other parts of the United Kingdom. This order will make clear that the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Ministers, in relation to those farmers, are exercisable "in or as regards" Scotland. Noble Lords may wish to note that there is a long-standing protocol in place between the agricultural departments as to who administers a claim in a cross-border situation. The administration in charge is usually the one where the majority of the holding lies. All administrations turn-around previous land declarations to their producers so that for existing claimants there is a well established relationship.
§ The final point to make about this order is that it will be complemented by a further order made under Section 106 of the Scotland Act. This is another technical measure and concerns functions that provide for quantitative obligations in relation to such holdings to be exercisable in or as regards Scotland. The Section 106 order is subject to negative procedure in the UK Parliament. It is our intention to make it later this Session.
§ The last order before us today is the draft Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2004. The order, which is again technical in nature, is being brought forward in time for the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act coming into force on 1 January 2005. It covers three areas, making amendments to or extending UK Acts 832 in relation to the Scottish FoI regime. These amendments are being made in this order as they are outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
§ The first amendment is an extension to data held by Scottish public authorities, which are subject to the FoI Scotland Act 2002, of provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998. This amendment will simply ensure that we continue to have a single data protection regime in the United Kingdom and that the same rights of access enjoyed by individuals will apply to personal information held by UK and Scottish public authorities.
§ The second amendment relates to information sharing and facilitates the work of the Scottish Information Commissioner. The order inserts a new Section 76A in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to provide for the passing of information by the UK Information Commissioner to the Scottish Information Commissioner. Section 63 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 allows the Scottish Information Commissioner to pass certain information to the UK Information Commissioner. The new Section 76A makes reciprocal provision for the disclosure of information by the UK Information Commissioner to the Scottish Information Commissioner. This ensures a consistent regime across the UK. It could not have been achieved on the face of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 since, at that time, the office of Scottish Information Commissioner did not exist.
§ The final element of the instrument concerns copyright, which is a reserved matter. The order extends the protection of provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Copyright and Rights in Database Regulations 1997 to allow disclosure of materials supplied under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. That will ensure that copyright and database protection rules will not hamper disclosure of information by Scottish public authorities, which is otherwise permitted under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Again, that will ensure a regime which is consistent with that in the rest of the UK.
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 9 September be approved [29th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)
§ 8 p.m.
§ The Duke of Montrose
My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for the trouble that he has taken to inform me and others in advance of the arguments that the Government were likely to make with regard to each of these statutory instruments. Whatever complaints any noble Lords might have about the involvement of Scots in the legislative process after the setting up of the Scottish Parliament, it can hardly be about the way in which we deal with statutory instruments.
833 It would appear that the Government have been able to work seven different subjects into the various aspects of these three statutory instruments. There is a hope that we will get through the whole business in 45 minutes. I shall skip any comments about the EU elections legislation.
As the Minister has declared that he is likely to know a great deal more about the Arts and Humanities Research Council than most of us, perhaps I may ask him if he can tell the House whether the purpose will be primarily to allocate funding to various higher education bodies which propose to undertake appropriate research in those fields. If that is so, will that preclude those bodies from looking for further grants from their local administrations? Otherwise, will it gather its own body of experts to carry out the research directly in its own name?
Article 4 of the order seems to have stirred up rather more contention. The Government proposals for the devolution of rail services in Scotland were set out, they tell us, in the White Paper entitled, The Future of Rail. Judging from the Government's Answers to Written Questions in another place, they consider that it will be necessary to have a railways Bill to give primary legislative power to some of the proposals that are contained in it. Is the Minister conscious of any reasons that the Scottish Executive felt it necessary to pre-empt that proposal with their own White Paper entitled, Scotland's Transport Future? Has that been drawn up in co-ordination with the Government's proposals? Would it not have been better to have all the primary legislation in place first or do the two not coincide at all?
Perhaps I may further inquire of the noble Lord, if the Scottish Ministers are given the Strathclyde Passenger Transport functions, they will presumably have to devolve these to several regional transport authorities. Have the Government been given any view on what the role of the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority will be? As the noble Lord pointed out, it has been having talks with the Executive. But I gather that, as yet, it has not really grasped what it might be asked to do.
As regards the order concerning functions in or as regards Scotland, I must declare my own interest as a farmer in Scotland. I find it rather puzzling that the Minister's statement says that the powers that the order is conveying to the Scottish Parliament is,in relation to farmers that are exercisable in or as regards Scotland".Yet the Explanatory Notes state that it is all to do with farmers whose holdings are situated wholly or partly in Scotland.
I am told that that is regarded as an issue of cross-border farmers. I can only say to your Lordships that until it is all resolved and made absolutely clear, it is an issue that will produce some very cross Border farmers. Can the Minister tell the House how many of those farmers there are north and south of the Border?
At this point, Scottish farmers who do not have those complications have been given a very clear idea of what payments they can expect under the single 834 farm payment, whereas the cross-border farmers have had nothing. Of course, we all understand that the basis of the single farm payment is different in different parts of the United Kingdom. So I can see that there are complications in that it would appear that entitlements at least for arable land will be calculated under the part of the United Kingdom in which the land lies.
But it will be rather more difficult when dealing with entitlement based on the historical basis of the livestock grants where the animals concerned may have spent part of the year in one part of the United Kingdom and part in another. I am told that within holdings in Scotland some system for resolving that by a method known as "stacking" and "consolidation" has been evolved. But that is bound to be more difficult when it occurs between different areas of the United Kingdom. Can the Minister say whether all this will mean that those holdings will have to apply for their single farm payment separately to the different government departments or is it envisaged, for instance, that the Scottish Environment and Rural Affairs Department will have to receive instruction from Defra as to what is the appropriate payment in regard to the English element of the claim and then pay it all in the one cheque?
The final order covers three elements of the Freedom of Information Act. It is of course a good thing that that legislation will ensure that legislation in England and Scotland will apply equally to both. I hope that it will be to everyone's mutual advantage.
§ Lord Steel of Aikwood
My Lords, I do not wish my appearance on this Front Bench to be misunderstood. I have not received any sudden, unexpected or undeserved promotion. I simply have a watching brief on these highly controversial orders. They are not controversial at all of course. They all have the effect of making the administration of the law both north and south of the Border more sensible. They are tidying-up orders; nothing more and nothing less. Therefore, because they are broadly devolutionary in effect, of course I give them a warm welcome.
It is eminently sensible that, for example, the freedom commissioner should feel free to exchange information without falling foul of the Data Protection Act. As one who represented cross Border farmers for many years, as well as very agreeable Border farmers, I take note of what the noble Duke has said about improving the administration of payments for those who own or farm territory both sides of the Border.
However, I want to say something about the order dealing with railway matters and the transfer of responsibility to Scottish Ministers. That of course is consistent with the intended abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority in Scotland. In my view, that cannot come too soon.
The current Minister for Transport in Scotland, Mr Nicol Stephen, is an old friend of mine. That does not necessarily mean that he will get everything right, but he certainly cannot do any worse than the Strategic Rail Authority. The other day, one of its major spokesmen, when referring to the proposed reopening of the Border 835 railway line that is under consideration in a Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament, suggested that that was a waste of time and that it would be better for people to go by bus. For a spokesman for a rail authority, that seems a very odd view. But it is consistent with the views of the rail authorities over many years.
That remark took me back to an episode at the time when the original Border Union Railway was under threat of closure. I went to see the head of the then British Rail Scotland at his office in Glasgow to look at the alleged costs and losses being built up over the running of the railway on the Waverley route, as it was known then, from Carlisle to Edinburgh. We looked at the figures, and he showed me among them the sum of £25,000—quite a lot of money in the late 1960s—which was the allocated share of the cost of the upkeep of Waverley station. I said, "If you cut the Border railway line, you will not save that £25,000. It will be shifted somewhere else". He took out a pencil and drew a line through that item on the sheet of paper. It is that kind of casual attitude on the part of the railway authorities over the years which has bedevilled life in the Borders.
I am all in favour of transferring this power to Scottish Ministers. However, anyone who suggests taking the bus on the A7 has never, as I have, travelled by that means on the road. More important, they have never followed a bus on the A7, which is a road on which it is almost impossible to overtake between Galashiels and Edinburgh, particularly if traffic happens to be coming the other way.
I give this order, as part of the series before us, my support as a means of ensuring that in the future Ministers have greater control over policy. I hope very much that we will see the reopening of the Waverley line and I hope that there will be a faster and more imaginative service than the one currently being considered in the Bill before the Scottish Parliament. I know that my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie may want to say something about the aspects of this order which affect the Strathclyde passenger authority, but in general I am in favour of Ministers taking responsibility to the Scottish Parliament for the future pattern of railway life in Scotland.
§ Lord Faulkner of Worcester
My Lords, I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and to agree with him in his comments about the reopening of the Waverley route. It was one of the very important railway lines in Britain which should not have been closed under the provisions of the Beeching report and it is scandalous that it has taken this long for the reopening to take place.
I do not dissent from anything that has already been said by noble Lords and I want to say only a few words about Strathclyde Passenger Transport. This is an opportunity to draw attention to the very substantial contribution made by SPT to the provision of rail services in the west of Scotland at a time when other passenger transport authorities and local authorities have been finding it difficult to support railway services. The record of SPT in maintaining a very high 836 level of service at fares which the majority of residents can afford, along with the programme of reopening and refurbishing stations, is one for which it deserves enormous credit. I hope very much that what my noble friend on the Front Bench said about future co-operation between the Executive and SPT will indeed come to pass, because it would be most unfortunate if the advances achieved by SPT with rail services in its area are not continued and further improvements made.
My noble friend Lord Elder, who cannot be in his place this evening, has asked me to say to noble Lords that he relies heavily on SPT for his transport around Glasgow. He is fortunate enough to live in a suburb of Glasgow which is served by no fewer than 16 trains an hour into the city centre. His life would be impossible if SPT was not able to maintain the level of service it currently offers from Hyndland.
With these words I want to emphasise that SPT's contribution should be recognised and a continuation of co-operation must be assured.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I am so glad that the noble Lord has just talked about SPT, which covers the part of these orders that I have found most difficult to understand. I have not been involved in the railway scene and I am glad that the noble Lord has been able to use his knowledge to make those remarks, as did the noble Lord, Lord Steel. Until recently the noble Lord was a Member of the Scots Parliament, since its inception as its Presiding Officer, and it is excellent that he has been able to take part in this debate.
I thank the Minister for supplying in advance of our discussion background material on the three orders. I am glad he did so because I found his speech quite convoluted. I am sure that everything is there, but if I had to understand the orders only from his remarks, that would not be easy because these are complicated matters.
I shall speak to the orders as they appear on the Order Paper. The first relates to the payment of agricultural subsidies. I think that I understand the effect of the order, but I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that I am correct in thinking that its effect is quite simple. I hope that I am right. The European regulation altering the arrangements for subsidy for farmers is drafted with the usual CAP definition of a farmer being a person having a holding within the Community. Here in the United Kingdom, as the my noble friend the Duke of Montrose made clear, we have decided, as we are permitted to do, to allocate the subsidy in different ways north and south of the Border. In England the allocation is based on output over previous years, while in Scotland it is based on hectares farmed.
That differentiation is easily achieved, as both agriculture and the environment are matters devolved to Scotland. The only problem lies with those farmers who have holdings in Scotland and south of the Border. They must be able to receive the subsidy by way of Scottish Ministers and the Scottish regime for 837 their Scottish holdings, and by way of Westminster and Defra for their English holdings. Can the Minister confirm that that is precisely the effect of the order and that it will enable that to happen?
My noble friend on the Front Bench asked why there were two separate references, one to Scottish farmers and one to cross-Border farmers. It will be interesting to hear the Minister's answer. I think the effect is quite simple, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that.
The second order adjusts the list of reserved matters in Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 in three unrelated ways, as has already been discussed. Article 2 of the order amends Section B3, which relates to elections. It simply corrects an anomaly because of what turned out to be an error in the European Parliamentary Elections Act. That error should not have been made, of course, but I suggest that the House should not object in any way to its being rectified.
Article 3 adds the new Arts and Humanities Research Council to the list of matters reserved to Westminster in order that it may, together with the other research councils, operate UK-wide and be funded by the Office of Science and Technology. That seems to he absolutely unexceptional and should happen. I was one of those who, during the passing of the Scotland Act and during the discussion of the previous White Paper, asked the Government to ensure that the research councils should operate and be funded at UK level. It is in Scotland's interest. This research council will be handling devolved material, but that does not mean that it should be other than funded at Westminster. After all, the Scots Parliament can fund any research it likes in addition through its own funding in its own universities and elsewhere.
I have some questions about Article 4. The Minister explained that in their White Paper earlier this year Scottish Ministers announced their intention to transfer the role of Strathclyde Passenger Transport to themselves or to bodies set up by them. I have been told that SPT was not consulted at all before the order was laid. There was no discussion, and it wrote to say so.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting
My Lords, it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could tell us who gave her that information.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, it was in a letter from Strathclyde Passenger Transport. However, the Minister said that it is now in discussions. These may have started after the SPT letter was written. However, it is rather surprising.
Strathclyde Passenger Transport wonders what the rush is for; the order is not needed until legislation is brought forward. It wants to know how its role as a regional body looking specifically at the west of Scotland will be carried on. As others have said, it is a success story, and it wants to know how that will be carried on. It will be interesting to hear the Minister's comments on that.
838 Why does the centralisation have to he carried out so quickly and without apparently, until now, much examination of the detail of what the effect will be? I may be going up the wrong street. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, who has been familiar with the matter for a long time, seems to think that the whole thing will probably be all right, but we need to know the justification for doing it in this way at this time. Would not it have been wiser to have waited for the legislation to come forward before going into the detail?
The third order on freedom of information simply amends two Acts to make them compatible with the more recent Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, which was passed subsequent to them.
There will be many occasions when this House is asked to amend the Scotland Act, as only this Parliament can, because of legislation passed by the Scots Parliament. That is in the normal run of things. I am sure that we will all he interested when those orders come through. I would be grateful if the Minister can answer my, I hope, simple questions.
§ The Earl of Mar and Kellie
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am interested in that part of the first order dealing with the devolution of railway powers, and in particular the devolution of the railway interests of the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive—or SPTE. These are very extensive, for the west of Scotland has the most extensive urban passenger rail network in Britain and is arguably the envy of many a transport strategist.
About eight years ago, as the chairman of an inquiry, I prevented those railway interests from being even more extensive, when we turned down a tram scheme for Glasgow. I have spent the past eight years trying to atone for that decision, and I suppose tonight, in trying to talk up SPTE, I am making another attempt. But the Scottish Parliament has legislated for the return of a railway that would pass my home, as encapsulated in the StirlingAlloa-Kincardine Railway and Linked Improvements Act 2004. That proves that railways that have been closed can be returned and that it is not just a pipedream.
What we are being asked to do tonight is to devolve an element of Scottish railway activity, when we all know that there is a much greater devolution of railway powers in the offing, as announced by Alistair Darling in the summer. What is in tonight's first order could well be included in a United Kingdom transport Bill, which will, I hope, be in the gracious Speech later this month. This is a quiet moment, so perhaps the Minister could whisper some confirmation of that.
SPTE has been lobbying noble Lords and Members of the other place to ensure that the Scottish Executive do not dismantle SPTE's extensive railway interests ahead of a full-scale and lasting railway and transport settlement. There is no doubt that this Parliament in general and this House in particular cannot devolve something and then send the subject matter off with tightly drawn instructions and limitations. That would be constitutionally absurd.
What we seek tonight is a limited assurance that this matter is in this order only for reasons of legislative and drafting expediency and is not a harbinger of a two-stage 839 upheaval. I certainly hope that my honourable Scottish friend Nichol Stephen, the Transport Minister, would see it this way.
§ Lord Monro of Langhoim
My Lords, my noble friends asked some of my questions, so I can be brief. First, were these statutory instruments subject to the Sewel convention? The problem of dealing with these statutory instruments is that, as we all know, we cannot amend them. But has enough consideration gone into their preparation, and were they thoroughly discussed in Edinburgh before they were agreed and sent to London under the Sewel convention arrangements? Perhaps the Minister could confirm that.
The first order refers to farming. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose elicited that we are not talking about farmers or farms stretching across the Border, but those who have separate farms in England and Scotland. Those farms that cross the Border must be very few and far between, though there are possibly more at the end of the Border, which is an area the noble Lord, Lord Steel, knows even better than I do. But certainly at the west end of the Border, I doubt that any farms cross the borderline as such.
Could the Minister confirm what my noble friend asked him? Also, will there be any simplification in the application as regards the farmer on either side of the Border? I am a farmer on the Scottish side of the Border, and with farming today the administration and red tape is becoming almost impossible with the amount of information required by not only the Scottish Office and the department, but also by every Tom, Dick and Harry. For instance, on Friday I was subject to a spot check by two officials from the department, who said that they had arrived to check all the ear tags on the farm. For one of my staff to handle many hundreds of cattle and bring them in is simply impossible. Of course, they were back on Monday to have another shot. Look at the time it takes to do all that, and whether it is of any practical importance. Many of us begin to wonder.
I shall move on to the rail order. The letter that I have from the director-general of Strathclyde Passenger Transport is dated 3 November, which is only last week. He is very disappointed at the amount of consideration that the Government have given to the position of SPT. It feels that there should have been much more consultation with an effective decision made at the end, rather than finding that the decisions have all been made for it without its approval. That is quite a serious issue. SPT does not stretch quite to my old constituency, but it covers Ayrshire and Lanarkshire and does a good job. Under the order, it could be handed over either to the railway authority, whatever it may be, or to other public bodies. It is important that we should have further consultation in Scotland before a final decision is made.
I was very nearly born on the Waverley line—my mother was hurrying to hospital—so I knew it intimately well all my life until it was closed by Lord Beeching. There is tremendous enthusiasm on the 840 Border to have it rebuilt and reopened, certainly the part from Galashiels to Edinburgh. However, it seems a very difficult decision when we look at the economics of alternatives.
The Minister ended by saying that the last order would have no cost to the public purse. Who is paying for the Scottish Information Commissioner? Surely that will be a substantial cost. Can we know how many staff he or she has and what it is reckoned that the administrative costs will be? They certainly must be far above nothing, which is what the order implies.
I agree with the orders going through. However, whichever House of Parliament one is in, one always feels that statutory instruments are cut and dried before they arrive, and that there is very little one can do to see them improved as they could be if they were discussed in greater detail in committees.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting
My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for what has been a very interesting debate. A considerable number of questions have been asked, and I shall try to answer them as quickly as I can. If I miss any out, I shall write to noble Lords as quickly as possible.
The first question related to AHRB and its funding policy. Its funding is subject to a UK-wide competition rather than being allocated on a strict territorial basis, a move that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, would welcome. That will continue with AHRC, which will distribute funds on the basis of quality, like the other research councils. If a university organisation receives funds, it does not preclude it getting funds elsewhere.
I move on to the questions about railways, which have dominated this discussion. The first question asked by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, was: why now; what is the hurry? The Government do not believe that the order pre-empts any primary legislation that will affect our railways White Paper; nor do we accept that it is unnecessary. The order simply recognises that the current legislative framework does not allow the transfer of a passenger transport executive's rail powers to Scottish Ministers. Therefore, we have agreed with the Scottish Executive that it is appropriate that the Scottish Parliament should be able to legislate on the matter. As a consequence, we are seeking at the earliest opportunity to give the Scottish Parliament that competence.
There is also nervousness and concern about the effect of passing the powers to the Scottish Executive. The order does not, in itself, give any powers to the Scottish Executive or to Scottish Ministers. It gives the Scottish Parliament the legislative competence to allow the transfer of rail functions from Strathclyde Passenger Transport to Scottish Ministers, should the Scottish Parliament wish to do so. Of course, the Government recognise that there has been nervousness in the SPT, but we are confident that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers will, as always, respect the intention and spirit of the order before us. They already recognise, 841 as do the Government, the huge contribution that SPT has made to the development of rail services in the west of Scotland.
I was asked why the provision was necessary. A change in EC law means that the orders now require that we do something to ensure that correct references to Community law continue to be effective under devolution.
I was asked how many cross-Border holdings there were. The order provides the legal framework to ensure that Scottish Ministers have the appropriate powers to pay subsidy in the light of the new European regulation. The most recent figures available to us from the Scottish Executive show that 117 Scottish producers have land in England; three Scottish producers have land in Northern Ireland; and one Scottish producer has land in Wales. In answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, the Executive's register of farm businesses shows that two straddle the English/Scottish border. Regional payment agencies in England deal with applications from 107 producers with land in Scotland.
I was asked whether the order meant that a cross-Border producer administered by Scotland would be paid Scottish rates on his English land. CAP reform legislation allows flexibility to implement the single farm payment scheme differently in each administration. A producer would be paid in accordance with the English scheme for his English land and in accordance with the Scottish scheme for his Scottish land. All UK administrations are working towards establishing the eligibility for subsidy of the land within their own borders.
I was asked whether, once the scheme was set up, there would be no problems relating to the movement of cattle without passports. Noble Lords will note that that question bears no relation to the order before us. The order simply provides the legal framework to ensure that Scottish Ministers have the appropriate powers to pay subsidy in the light of the new European regulation. Questions relating to the operation of the scheme would rightly be for Defra or the Environment and Rural Affairs Department of the Scottish Executive.
How does a cross-Border farmer know to whom to apply? A longstanding protocol is in place between the agricultural departments as to who administers a claim in a cross-Border situation. Basically, the administration in charge is the one where the majority of the holding lies. All administrations turn around previous land declarations to their producers so that there is a well established relationship for existing claimants. Producers will receive one combined payment from the managing administration. Having established their eligibility, the administrations will exchange that information in order that a single payment may be made.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, may I have clarification on what the Minister has just said? He spoke of a farmer receiving one payment from the part of the United Kingdom in which he has the most 842 hectares. Does that simply apply to a farmer who has one single farm on both sides of the Border? I may have misunderstood the order.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting
My Lords, I was trying to establish the point that producers will receive one combined payment from the managing administration. So England and Scotland will combine and make one payment; farmers will not receive two payments, one from Scotland and one from England.
I was most grateful for the constructive comments of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, for his very helpful contribution to this debate and particularly for his comments on the rail matter. The Scottish proposals are consistent with a UK rail review. Both are concerned with ensuring that Scottish Ministers have the appropriate statutory power to deal properly with the rail network in Scotland as in England.
A point was made by a number of your Lordships about whether this order pre-empts the outcome of primary legislation that will be needed to effect the Government's railway White Paper. The Government do not believe, as I have said before, that this order pre-empts any primary legislation, nor do we accept that it is unnecessary.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked how the CAP reform schemes will be administered in the light of the new European regulations. Her understanding of this matter is absolutely correct, as I hope I have already explained.
An error was made, and one of the orders corrects it. We agree that the mistake should not have been made. The Scotland Office was only recently made aware of the defect and has sought to correct the error as soon as possible. I can assure the noble Baroness and the House that we shall make every endeavour to ensure that such oversights do not happen in future.
On the consultation, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, asked, neither the Scotland Office nor DIT consulted SPT about the Section 30 order, as the Scottish Executive had already consulted on the policy in its consultation document, Scotland's Transport: Proposals for a new approach to transport in Scotland. That, in turn., led to the Executive's White Paper, Scotland's transport future. The DIT developed The Future of Rail White Paper proposals, having agreed in principle with the Scottish Executive's proposals.
What will happen to the rail services in the west of Scotland as a result of this order? The Scottish Executive is committed to the development, management and monitoring of rail services being undertaken by a new strong regional transport partnership for the west of Scotland. The Executive has confirmed that development means rail enhancement such as the Glasgow cross-rail and a host of other smaller crucial developments to meet the needs of rail passengers in the west of Scotland. Those will continue to be taken forward by the new partnership.
The delivery of rail services such as Glasgow Airport rail links and Larkhall will continue to be delivered by the new partnership for the west of Scotland. The 843 monitoring and managing of the franchise will be undertaken by the Executive with support of the new partnership unlike other transport agencies. This is unique and reflects the high intensity of the rail network in the west of Scotland and especially retains and utilises the skills and experience that exist.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Monro, about whether the orders are subject to the Sewell convention. The answer is no. Sewell relates only to primary legislation. Section 32 and 33 were agreed by the Scottish Parliament.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Monro, asked who pays for the Scottish Information Commissioner and the answer is the Scottish Parliament.
As I said at the beginning I have attempted to answer all the questions asked. If I have failed, my colleagues in the Scotland Office will write letters in the next few days. I commend the order to the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.