Eleanor Laing says it is vital that we know how much taxpayers’ money is being spent in Scotland
Speaking during a debate on the Scotland Bill, which devolves further fiscal powers to Scotland, Eleanor Laing backs a Lords amendment which requires an annual report to both Parliaments bringing greater transparency and scrutiny to the economic fiscal affairs of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Mrs Laing: I rise to speak to Lords amendment 18, which I thoroughly support, like everyone else who has spoken. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), who is something of an expert in these matters, for his measured and helpful approach, to my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for all her work on these matters in the Select Committee, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), whose impassioned speech has, I am sure, left its mark on the House, as it should have done. Unsurprisingly, however, I take issue with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) over his patronising remarks about the indulgence of Members speaking in the debate whose seats are not in Scotland—[ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman has just indicated that he was being pleasant in his remarks. If that was the case, I thank him for them.
Fiona Bruce: If my hon. Friend was referring to a comment made following my speech, I must tell her that I took it in good part.
Mrs Laing: Perhaps I am being cynical about the hon. Gentleman’s motives; I have listened to him speaking in the House over many years.
Pete Wishart: I am very disappointed that the hon. Lady should interpret my kind and pleasant comments in such a way. The people of Scotland are always on tenterhooks waiting to hear what she has to say on the great Scottish issues.
Mrs Laing: It is a matter of fact that, since the sad passing of my mother, nobody in Scotland listens to me at all any more, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I hope that he will forgive me for misinterpreting what he said.
The fact is that this is the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the matters that are discussed and examined here affect the whole of the United Kingdom. That is why Lords amendment 18 is so important. Just as the people of Epping Forest have no particular interest in what happens in Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Hull, Cornwall or Belfast, those events affect all of us none the less. We live together on this small island, and any artificially created divisions cannot hide the fact that we are interdependent and that our economy is the economy of the whole of the British isles. Those things that affect one of us affect all of us, and that is why Lords amendment 18 is so important.
The amendment clearly highlights the equal partnership, particularly in regard to taxation and economic welfare, between this Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. I wonder why anyone would wish to go further and create an unnecessary and damaging artificial separation. Amendment 18 and the others pertaining to this part of the Bill relate to an enormous transfer of power and accountability from this Parliament to the Scottish Parliament. So it should be. As a result of the transparency introduced by the Bill, as a result of Lords amendment 18, both Parliaments will be required to examine the economic fiscal affairs of each part of the United Kingdom. I hope that those matters will therefore be clearly seen as the years go on. If separation were to take place, we would lose all the strength that has been built up over a long time. I hope, however, that it will become apparent, with more transparency and a greater ability on the part of each of our legislative Houses to examine these matters, that the interdependence of the United Kingdom brings benefits to all of the United Kingdom.