Clause 27

Part of Statistics and Registration Service Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 23 Ionawr 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 6:15, 23 Ionawr 2007

Clause 27 gives the Chancellor of the Exchequer powers to direct the board if it has failed to comply with its objectives or perform any of its functions, placing the office at the heart of the process when things go wrong, which hopefully will be very infrequently. Clause 27(2), (3) and (4) appear to give Scottish and Welsh Ministers, and the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel, the same powers but, of  course, it is not quite the same. Paragraph 116 of the explanatory notes states that devolved Administrations will have powers in “a similar manner”, but not exactly the same powers.

The territorial appointments discussed in a previous sitting are not actually made by the devolved Administrations but by the Treasury following consultations. Scottish Ministers cannot offer disclosure of information to or from the board without consent. Clause 27 operates in the same way for the measures dealing with directions when things go wrong. In a case of failure to comply or perform, the express consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not the Treasury, is required before the devolved Administrations can issue directions. I might argue that clause 27 follows a rather sad pattern of Treasury command and control of the size and composition of the board, appointments to the board and so on, but I will not make the case speaking to my amendment. I merely argue that it is completely unnecessary, not least because the direction given by Scottish Ministers in clause 27(2) relates only to Scottish devolved statistics, something in which the Chancellor has, or should have, no locus whatever. My amendments would remove the requirement for the Chancellor’s consent in subsection (2), and subsection (9), which is the catch-all measure that would stop Scottish Ministers exercising the functions of the board in the case of its failure to comply other than with the direct consent of the Chancellor.

I tabled the amendments because the powers given to the Scottish Ministers, even with consent, relate only to devolved statistics, so UK Treasury consent should be wholly unnecessary.

I shall speak briefly to amendments Nos. 9 to 12. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 to clause 45 would remove the requirement for Treasury consent before Scottish Ministers can authorise the disclosure of information to the board. Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 to clause 49 would remove the same requirement before Scottish Ministers can authorise the disclosure by the board. As with amendments Nos. 7 and 8, the proposals are unnecessary as clause 45 applies only to Scottish public authorities under the control of the Executive, and clause 49 allows information to be disclosed only to public authorities.

The clauses allow the Treasury, quite rightly in UK matters, to direct the board where there has been a failure to comply or to perform and the Treasury has the ability to authorise disclosure to and from the board to public bodies. Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Departments have a similar provision, but it still requires the consent of the Treasury. It is a parent-child relationship which many will resent. However, the key point is that the only information being discussed is devolved statistics. In terms of disclosure to and from the board it relates only to Scottish public authorities defined in the legislation.

The power of consent is completely unnecessary and I ask the Financial Secretary to look again at the issue. The Administrations in Wales and Scotland have their own mandate; they are properly elected, functioning Administrations with a Parliament and an Assembly. I hope that one day Ministers in Northern Ireland will take control again, as is specified in the documentation with the Bill.

To require Treasury consent, and in some cases specific consent from the Chancellor in order for Ministers in the devolved Administrations to do their job, is completely unnecessary. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter in a trusting way, acknowledge the mandate of these Administrations and recognise that the power of consent in the clauses is unnecessary.