This Briefing Paper gives an update on the Scotland Bill 2015-16 after Committee stage. No opposition amendments were made at Committee stage. The Government has produced substantive amendments of its own for Report.Jump to full report >>
Update: Government amendments November 2015
The Government published New Clauses and a large number of amendments to the Bill on 2 November 2015, in preparation for Report Stage which will take place on 9 November 2015. New Clause 12 will strengthen the permanence of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government, by requiring a referendum to abolish these institutions. New Clause 14 devolves responsibility for welfare foods and New Clause 15 for abortion policy to the Scottish Parliament. New Clause 13 makes provision for various functions on the conduct of elections to be exercised by Scottish Ministers. New Clause 17 will give enabling powers on retention of fines imposed by courts and tribunals to Scotland. Other amendments will allow the Scottish Parliament to vary assistance to some benefit recipients. New Clause 34, tabled on 4 November, creates new powers to create new benefits in devolved areas, charged to the Scottish consolidated fund.
A full text of the Government amendments and new clauses is available here.
The Written Statement on these amendments made by the Secretary of State on 2 November 2015 is available here.
The Scotland Bill 2015-16 had its second reading on 8 June 2015, starting at HC Deb c916.
Commons Briefing Paper 7205, Scotland Bill 2015-16, 4 June 2015, gives an account of the Bill as introduced. It includes links to other supporting documents such as the Smith Commission report.
The Committee stage lasted for four days, a day each on Parts 1 - 3, and a day on the remainder. As a constitutional bill, this stage was taken on the floor of the House, in a Committee of the Whole House.
The Government tabled various technical amendments; these were all made, and no other amendments were made. The Government intends to introduce substantive amendments at the Report stage, the date of which has not been announced as of 22 October 2015.
The fate of the various amendments and new clauses can be seen in the Proceedings of the Committee of the Whole House published for each day:
A version of the Bill showing the changes made in Committee is available here.
What was discussed?
The first day in Committee took place on 15 June 2015, starting at HC Deb c24. It covered Part 1 of the Bill, clauses 1 - 11. These deal with constitutional arrangements such as the permanency of the Scottish Parliament and Government, elections to the Scottish Parliament, and the use of a "super-majority" provision for changes to the franchise, electoral system or composition of the Parliament.
Notable amendments included:
In addition, some new clauses were voted on, but none was added. New Clause 2 provided for a Constitutional Convention to consider a range of matters concerning governance of the UK. New Clause 3 would have devolved everything other than the constitution, foreign affairs, public service, defence and treason. Treasury consent would have been needed for certain changes in pensions. New Clause 5 provided that the Human Rights Act could not be repealed in respect of Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. New Clause 10 took a different approach to that in clause 2 of the Bill to putting the Sewel Convention on a statutory footing.
The second day took place on 29 June 2015, starting at HC c1231.
It covered Part 2 of the Bill, clauses 12-18. These clauses provide for the devolution of further income tax powers (specifically, to set the rates and thresholds of tax paid by Scottish taxpayers, excepting income taxpayers receive from savings and dividends), the devolution of air passenger duty and aggregates levy, and the assignment of one part of Scottish VAT revenues. These clauses were agreed without amendment and without a division. On this occasion the Secretary of State, David Mundell, observed, "the clauses on income tax ... are often overlooked, meriting only a few lines in the comments received on the Bill ... because, as has been said, they command widespread support as delivering the central aspect of the Smith agreement in full" (c1247).
Four new clauses, tabled by Labour and by the SNP, were debated, and voted on; all four were negatived:
Details of the vote on each of these new clauses is set out in the Votes & Proceedings for this day's debate.
The third day took place on 30 June 2015, starting at HC c1339. It covered Part 3 of the Bill, clauses 19-30. These clauses provide for the devolution of some aspects of welfare policy and delivery in Scotland.
SNP amendment 118 sought to remove the requirement from clause 24 (Universal Credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation) for the Scottish Government to obtain consent from a UK Secretary of State before exercising powers under this clause (this requirement has been referred to by the SNP as a 'veto'). The amendment was considered alongside:
The Committee divided on amendment 118 (negatived by 313 votes to 261) and on New Clause 28 (negatived by 317 votes to 259).
The fourth day took place on 6 July 2015, starting at HC Deb c62. It covered all other aspects of the Bill, prompting a large number of amendments and new clauses on a range of subjects.
The debate covered, among other things:
There were divisions on three amendments.
Government amendments: more to come
A number of Government technical amendments were made throughout the Committee stage.
The Government did not accept any opposition amendments, although it did acknowledge that discussions were ongoing with the Scottish Government, and that opposition amendments would be reflected upon. The SNP called for assurances that any changes would be subject to debate in the House of Commons, and that the Bill would not be amended substantively in the House of Lords. David Mundell said that "it is my intention to make substantive amendments in the House of Commons when the Bill comes back on Report" (HC Deb 15 July 2015, c877).
On 14 October 2015 Mr Mundell told the Scottish Affairs Committee that the Government would table an amendment at Report stage to devolve abortion law to the Scottish Parliament.
Commons Library Briefing Papers
CBP 7205, Scotland Bill 2015-16 (Bill 3), 4 June 2015, prepared for Second Reading
CBP 7207, Scotland Bill: Welfare & Employment Support (Bill 3 of 2015-16), 4 June 2015
CBP 7707, Devolution of financial powers to the Scottish Parliament: recent developments, 11 June 2015
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7233
Authors: Paul Bowers; Antony Seely; Wendy Wilson; Edward White; Steven Kennedy; Isobel White; Elena Ares; Aliyah Dar; Sarah Barber; Philip Ward; John Woodhouse; Lorraine Conway; Louise Butcher