Debates between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Offord of Garvel during the 2019 Parliament

Scotland Act 1998: Section 35 Power

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Offord of Garvel
Wednesday 18th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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On one level, we are just in the legal mechanics at this point, because concerns were raised by the UK Government—and by many other credible groups—with the Scottish Government, and those were not taken care of in the passing of the Bill. That now moves into a four-week legal process under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 for us to reject the Bill and for it not to go to Royal Assent. It now goes back to the Scottish Parliament on that basis, and the channels are very open and clear that we are prepared to have a conversation about it. We want to move this forward, but we need to do it on a basis that satisfies the whole of the United Kingdom.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I do not recall every individual discussion we had in Cabinet during my time as First Minister, but I do recall this discussion in 2004 in great detail. It was quite possibly the most complex discussion we ever had on a single piece of legislation, and that decision to go for a legislative consent Motion and legislate consistently across the UK was not taken lightly at the time. It was taken primarily to protect the interests of transgender people—not to protect the state or the union, but to protect the interests of individuals who had to live and work across the whole of the United Kingdom. So, this issue needs to be taken very seriously and from a point of principle.

The Scotland Act was designed to make sure that we also did not have conflicting legislation that caused difficulties across the UK; therefore, this does need to be looked at in the detail outlined by the Secretary of State. Will the Government guarantee to have constructive discussions with the Scottish Government about finding a way through the difficulties that have been outlined? Will they publish the minutes of the meetings that took place between the Ministers, because there are conflicting claims about those meetings? If there is an agreement reached that allows this legislation to work across the whole of the UK, will the Government withdraw the Section 35 order in the spirit of unity that this would then mean?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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A number of these matters lie fundamentally in another place and in another department. Right now, the Scotland Office is in a situation where, under the architecture, it is pressing the button on Section 35. The Bill now goes back to the Scottish Government, and discussions need to be had with the relevant UK department on this matter. That will require discussion with the UK Minister for Women and Equalities. My understanding is that these channels are open and that a discussion will be had. As to whether minutes are published, et cetera, I cannot comment on that. I guess that if that is the normal procedure, it will be done. There is no attempt to be anything other than fully transparent on this matter. The Scottish Government are within competency in matters of gender. This issue has come to this House and the other place because there is a knock-on effect on the rest of the United Kingdom in relation to the Equality Act.