HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1455-71
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

On 25th May I made a statement on how we proposed to carry forward the Government's plans for devolution to Scotland and Wales. This included various changes in the substance of the schemes, for example, on the Development Agencies, the rôle of the Secretary of State, and general United Kingdom reserve powers. I promised a further statement on outstanding issues before the Summer Recess.

The ground to be covered is too varied and detailed for me to deal with it fully in an oral statement of a length that would be tolerable to the House. The Government are therefore publishing a statement, available now in the Vote Office, bringing together all the changes and additions as compared with the November White Paper—that is, both those announced on 25th May and the new decisions we have taken since then.

It may be convenient if I mention briefly now the main points of the new decisions.

First, we have confirmed that if there is doubt about whether a Bill of the Scottish Assembly goes beyond the Assembly's legislative competence—that is, its vires—the final decision will lie with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In addition, we have decided that after Assembly measures have passed into law the courts should still be free to consider questions about their vires. This was an issue left open in the White Paper.

We received much criticism of the proposal that parliamentary constituencies with very small electorates—that is, mainly rural and island ones—should have only one Assembly seat. We have now decided that all parliamentary constituencies should have at least two. Those with very large electorates will still get three. We have also decided to apply these arrangements from the very first election, though it will still not be possible to divide up the parliamentary constituencies by then into single-Member Assembly seats.

We have decided to drop the proposal that the devolved administrations should have a power to make a surcharge on the rates. We have not identified any satisfactory alternative revenue-raising powers, but we should be prepared to look at the matter again in future if changes in the taxation system were to throw up acceptable new possibilities. We have confirmed that the universities in Scotland and Wales should remain part of the co-ordinated British system and not be devolved, but new arrangements will be made to reflect the interests of the devolved administrations in relation to them.

We have decided to devolve important responsibilities for the Scottish courts system. The appointment of Supreme Court judges and sheriffs and the basic structure of the Supreme and Sheriff courts must remain a United Kingdom responsibility, but a wide range of subjects will be devolved, including, for example, the administration of the whole system; related law on matters like evidence; and virtually all aspects of the district courts.

We have decided that the Scottish Assembly should be able to legislate throughout the field of Scotland's distinctive private law. It remains, of course, essential that these powers should not damage United Kingdom unity in matters like trade, consumer protection and industrial relations. United Kingdom general reserve powers will be available if necessary to ensure this, but the Government wish in practice to rely essentially on close and systematic two-way consultation and co-operation.

For Wales, we recognise that the advent of the Assembly will produce a new situation in relation to other levels of government. We shall therefore ask the Assembly, when it is in being, to report specially on the structure of local government in Wales. Any legislation on this would remain a matter for Parliament. We have decided also to strengthen the powers of the Welsh Assembly over non-elected public bodies operating in devolved matters. These further improvements in our plans, which are set out more exactly in the full statement, will be reflected in the Bill to be introduced at the beginning of next Session.

Mr. Whitelaw

Will the Lord President take it that his limited statement is helpful at least in that it shows to the House many of the grave difficulties which the Government face in preparing their devolution Bill? Does he realise also that the opportunity for conflict and the inevitable increase in bureaucracy entailed in the Government's original proposals remain and are still as objectionable as ever? As regards the individual decisions, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some are welcome in themselves, but they are frequently so qualified—presumably to meet conflicting views within the Government—that they are in many cases of very limited value?

Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the very brief reference in the original statement to devolution to the English regions and its complete omission from what he has had to say today means that that insane proposal is now being decently buried? If that is so, will he take it that many people fed up with increasing bureaucracy will at least be thankful for small mercies?

Mr. Foot

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman's comments on what we are proposing will be more valuable when he has had a chance to study in detail what we suggest. I must tell him that, far from proposing an increase in bureaucracy, what we are proposing is an increase in democracy, and that is one of the main reasons for the whole programme of devolution, which has been strongly supported in Scotland and in Wales. It is to make the whole system of government in those countries more democratic that we are putting these proposals forward. As for the proposals regarding England, as I mentioned before, we suggest that the best way to proceed will be to publish a document on that subject roughly at the same time as we introduce the Bill.

Mr. David Steel

I welcome the improvements which the Government have made in their devolution proposals as outlined in the right hon. Gentleman's statement, especially those for which we asked, that is, for removing what we called the "governor-general" powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland. But does the Lord President recognise that the psychology of the Government's approach is still wrong when they use titles such as "Chief Executive" and "Assistant" for what ought to be Scotland's team of Ministers?

Since the Lord President proposes to transfer responsibility for financing the Scottish Development Agency from the Exchequer here to the Scottish Assembly, yet without giving the Assembly any taxation powers, has he studied the divisions of oil revenue taxation as between the Federal States and the Central Exchequer in both America and Canada? Surely, there is potential there. Further, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the plan for three Members for certain constituencies in Scotland has nothing to do with the coincidence that most of those constituencies happen to be held by the Labour Party? Finally, what has happened to the previous Prime Minister's commitment that the consultation document on England would be published last February?

Mr. Foot

I have already referred to the document on England in reply to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). Perhaps I may take the hon. Gentleman's other questions roughly in reverse order. I think that he has got the position the wrong way round regarding representation from the various areas in Scotland. Certainly no consideration such as he suggested entered our thoughts or even crossed our minds in dealing with these matters. As I have already said, many of the most outlying areas are those which would have advantage from what we suggest, and I hope that that will be properly appreciated in Shetland and the Orkneys and further to the West. I hope, therefore, that that proposal also will be welcomed.

As for the nomenclature of the various persons or bodies which are to operate, obviously these are matters which can be dealt with as the Bill passes through the House. If there are better suggestions and improvements in this respect, we shall listen to them as carefully as we have listened to the many other suggestions which have come, some from the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends and some from others. That was the whole purpose of the general consultations which we have had, and I believe that, when the House has had the chance to study in detail how we have improved upon our original proposals, right hon. and hon. Members will recognise that we have made a serious effort to take into account the representations which have come from many quarters, and they will recognise also how determined we are to carry this project through to success in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.

Mr. Gourlay

Will my right hon. Friend take it that the Government's proposals will be generally welcomed in Scotland, and will he confirm that devolution to the Scottish Assembly will not be subject to the veto in areas of its powers which are devolved? Further, will my right hon. Friend accept that the future unity of the United Kingdom is entirely based on the successful passing of the Bill through the House in the next Session of Parliament?

Mr. Foot

As was indicated by the Leader of the Liberal Party, we have altered the alleged veto powers which existed, or were supposed to exist, in the previous proposition. Perhaps I could take this opportunity to deal with one of the other questions which the hon. Gentleman raised but with which I did not deal in my previous reply to him—that is, the question of oil revenues. We certainly do not think that it would be a sensible arrangement to do what he suggested regarding oil revenues. We believe that the oil belongs to the whole United Kingdom and has to be dealt with on that basis.

I fully agree with what my hon. Friend said in his closing remarks. Successful democratic government in Scotland and in Wales and the maintenance of the unity of the United Kingdom depend, in our view, on the successful carrying through of our legislation, and that is why we are determined to do it.

Mr. Powell

Have the Government given further thought to the problem of the high level of representation of Scotland in this House, bearing in mind that many matters which at present are debated and decided in this House would be transferred elsewhere under the Government's proposals?

Mr. Foot

I fully recognise the importance of the subject which the right hon. Gentleman raises, although it is in no sense dealt with in the supplementary White Paper in the Vote Office. It is a matter which will have to be debated when the whole Bill comes before the House.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it not a basic truth that any Assembly which is not responsible for raising its own money is fiscally irresponsible and a focus of discontent? Is it not true also that every grievance, real or imagined—every hospital which is not modernised, every school which is not built, every road which is not repaired—will be ascribed to the insufficient size of the block grant and the parsimony of the English Treasury, and is this not a recipe for break-up?

Mr. Foot

That is not a basic truth at all. It is the basic prejudice of my hon. Friend, and that is the reason why his opinion is so little shared, for example, among trade unionists in Scotland, who have approved in almost every particular the kind of proposals which we are putting forward. I therefore repudiate entirely what my hon. Friend says in that respect. Moreover, far from believing that when these Assemblies are established in Scotland and in Wales—[HON. MEMBERS: "If."] Far from thinking that, when they are established in Scotland and in Wales, they will lead to the kind of conflicts which my hon. Friend envisages, I am confident that when those Assemblies see the real powers which they will have to exercise in the interests of the people of Scotland and Wales, they will wish to use them to the full in the interests of their people, and I believe that a quite different prospect can open before us. Moreover, I believe that, if we were to follow my hon. Friend's advice, the wrecking of the United Kingdom would then be a certainty.

Mr. Reid

The last two questions from the Government side indicate the hopeless Catch 22 situation of the Minister. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that half of both the Unionist parties are crying "Forward, forward" for otherwise will mean independence for Scotland, and the other half are crying "Back, back" for otherwise there will be independence for Scotland? The reality is that where the process stops will be decided not by this House but by the people of Scotland.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not the time for debating the issue. Would the hon. Gentleman ask his question?

Mr. Reid

What is required in Scotland is access to its own natural resources so that in Scotland we can follow policies dovetailed to the needs of the people in fiscal areas in trade and in industry.

Mr. Foot

I understand why the hon. Gentleman does not like our proposals. What he wants is separatism, and there is no element of separatism in our proposals. What the hon. Gentleman wants is something quite different from what we are aiming at, from what we promised at the last two elections, and from what we are going to carry into operation.

Mr. Moonman

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one would have to be a supreme optimist to welcome this statement because of the enormous gaps that still exist in basic information? Will my right hon. Friend indicate at what point we are likely to get the figures and the cost of the Assembly which are not in this statement? Does my right hon. Friend feel that he has a responsibility to make information available so that the public have a better understanding of the statement's implications?

Mr. Foot

There is no variation from the cost of the proposals made in the original White Paper. My hon. Friend said that we had failed to provide information and the proper means of discussion. He cannot have been taking the trouble to follow what happened following the publication of our White Paper. There has been extensive discussion, not only in Scotland and Wales—naturally they are the places principally interested—but throughout this country. A statement has been issued, for example, by the General Council of the TUC fully welcoming our proposals, and those views were reached after considerable discussion.

I quite agree that there should be further discussions and there will be the opportunity for them. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that the Government have made up their minds about the issue and are determined to present this legislation to the House as we have promised.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the Lord President agree that the absence from the Treasury Bench today of many of his hon. Friends from the Welsh Office indicates that there is nothing of substantial development in this statement as far as Wales is concerned? For example, does he agree that the subject of local authorities is an issue that the Assembly will debate anyway? There is no provision for clear financial powers for the Assembly, for economic planning powers, or for powers of legislation defining the thorny area of secondary versus primary education, an area which the Government are avoiding.

Mr. Foot

The reason for the absence of some of my hon. Friends is well known. They are performing their Welsh duty and pleasure at the Eisteddfod. I am sure that even the hon. Gentleman would be prepared to excuse them on those grounds.

I do not accept that the powers of the Welsh Assembly are as restricted as the hon. Gentleman has said. They are different from those proposed for the Scottish Assembly for reasons which we have discussed and shall no doubt discuss again. However, they are extremely extensive powers. As I indicated in my statement—I think this will be greatly welcomed in Wales—there is an extension of what we are proposing for control over nominated bodies and what should happen to local government. One of the many reasons why the proposal for a Welsh Assembly will be welcomed in Wales is precisely that it will provide the opportunity for making proposals for the drastic changes in local authorities which since the last changes have become so necessary in Wales.

Mr. Anderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be seen as a clarifying and tidying operation? However, it is still academic in the worst sense since he is building constitutional castles in the air, because there is no support in the House for his measures unless and until the people of Wales and Scotland are given a chance to express their views by a referendum.

Mr. Foot

All my hon. Friends who were elected to this House—I know this does not apply to my hon. Friend who came a little later—in the General Election of 1974 fought in Wales on a manifesto in which it was made quite clear that we were going to carry through our proposals on devolution. The people of Wales had every opportunity to consider the matter then and have had frequent opportunities of considering it since. There was a recent Labour Party conference in Wales. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend was present, but he will know how overwhelming the vote was in support of our proposals. He will also know how strong has been the support for these proposals from the Welsh TUC.

It is very misleading for those who have a minority view, which they are entitled to express, to say that we are not providing the opportunity for discussion. We are carrying through what we said at both elections. I believe that our policy will command the support of the people in Wales in future just as it did on the last two occasions when it was put to them.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman said that the powers of the Scottish Assembly compared with those of Parliament were justiciable, as is any conflict in the exercise of those powers. Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously think that the arrangement will work without any formal Bill of Rights? Does he not think that a formal Bill of Rights is necessary to protect the people of England, quite apart from the rest of the United Kingdom?

Has the right hon. Gentleman any ideas on how he can prevent secession, which some hon. Gentlemen clearly want, being effected under a Scottish Assembly unless a provision is included in a Bill of Rights to protect the rights of the people in Wales, Northern Ireland and England?

Mr. Foot

Issues that will be justiciable will be defined in the Bill and eventually the Act of Parliament when that goes through this House. We do not think that it is right to proceed on the basis of a Bill of Rights, partly because that is not the right way to proceed for the country as a whole. However, there must be some way of deciding whether an Act has been properly carried into effect. The House would be well advised to examine carefully, as we have, the best way of achieving this result. Far from thinking that in the years when the Asemblies are established there will be great conflicts between them and Parliament, we believe that, so long as the Act is sensible, as we are proposing, the powers could well be seen by those who exercise them to offer great democratic opportunities in their countries, and I believe that they will be used in that way.

Mr. English

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some Members support devolution? Is he also aware that amongst English Members he is steadily losing support, because he has constantly postponed his proposals for devolution in England? For example, some English Members think that many things could be run better from Nottingham than from Whitehall, just as from Edinburgh or Cardiff.

Mr. Foot

As I said before, I believe that the most appropriate time for publishing a statement on that subject will be when the Bill is introduced. English Members should have no fears about what we are proposing. We are not proposing to discriminate in economic affairs in favour of either Scotland or Wales. In the establishment and accountability of the Welsh Development Agency and the Scottish Development Agency we made provision to ensure that the proper interests of all parts of the United Kingdom were protected. I believe that the more hon. Members look at these proposals, the more we shall dispel their prejudices, because they will see that we have tried energetically and diligently to reach a proper and fair solution of the problem.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In the event of the Government failing to get a Second Reading for the devolution Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues consider the use of a referendum as many people in Scotland consider that there is no other way of effectively determining the extent of the desire for both devolution within the framework of the United Kingdom and, indeed, independence?

Mr. Foot

That is not the right way to proceed, for the reasons that we have often given. Moreover, if we were to introduce a referendum Bill now to deal with these proposals, we would have as extensive discussions about that as about the measures themselves. Therefore, that is not the right way to proceed. We have already made that plain to the House.

As for not getting the Bill through, I was told only a few weeks ago about other Bills that we would not get through the House, but we are getting them through all right.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Is the Leader of the House aware that many of us differ from my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and believe that the creation of a Scottish Assembly is essential for the unity of Britain? Nevertheless, we share my hon. Friend's disappointment that my right hon. Friend has been unable to propose tax-raising powers. Does he believe that it is wise to set up an elected body that will have the right to spend public money but will not have the discipline or responsibility for raising even part of that expenditure?

Mr. Foot

I appreciate what my hon. Friend said in the first part of his question regarding how we should proceed, but when he sees our statement he will see that we are proposing to drop the rate surcharge that had been the previous proposal. The more we considered it and listened to representations about it, the more we recognised that was not a sensible way to proceed. We have not excluded other ways of dealing with this matter. When my hon. Friend looks at the statement, he will appreciate that. Obviously, we shall have to discuss it. I admit that we have not discovered a satisfactory way of solving the problem, but we have not slammed the door on it.

Mr. Sproat

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Bill is a dead duck even before it starts? Is he further aware that the continuing process of appeasement to which we have listened this afternoon lends even greater strength to the argument of Members on both sides of the House and people in Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole who believe that the whole concept of a separate Scottish Parliament is just the start down the slippery slope to separatism?

Mr. Foot

There are some Members in the House who, like the hon. Gentleman, are opposed to any form of devolution, but those who listened to the previous debates when we discussed the White Paper and those who have listened to the debates throughout the country during the intervening months will recognise that what we are proposing, far from being injurious to the United Kingdom, is the only way in which the United Kingdom can effectively be kept together. I thought at one time that other parties were in favour of that approach. I understand that the Liberal Party is still in favour of seeking to protect the United Kingdom in this way. However, the Conservative Party has no policy on this subject. At any rate, it has not declared any policy in public. We declared our policy at both elections and in this House. We shall present the Bill to this House and the other place and carry it through.

Mr. Sillars

Does the absence of any reference in the statement to trade, industry and employment mean that the Government have finally closed their mind to any further progress on those matters? As for the passage of the Bill, is it not abundantly clear from all that has gone before in debates, and particularly from what has happened this afternoon, that the Government will need a guillotine to get the Bill through? Would it not be better for my right hon. Friend to say that now and to start discussing with other opinions in the House a reasonable timetable motion, which will guarantee the passage of the Bill? Will my right hon. Friend also remind Labour Members that no guillotine means no Bill, and that no Bill means no Labour Government?

Mr. Foot

It is not true that my statement made no reference to economic affairs. It referred again to the important question of the accountability of the Scottish Development Agency. My hon. Friend will see that referred to in the White Paper. That was the principal economic question that was raised in many of our discussions, particularly with trade unionists in Scotland, when we were debating the matter.

It is premature to discuss a guillotine. The House knows how reluctant I am to introduce guillotines.

Mr. Amery

As we shall have no opportunity to debate this important statement and the White Paper before the House rises for the Summer Recess, will the right hon. Gentleman pay special heed to the warm response, from both sides of the House, to the intervention of his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)? Does he recognise that there is no conceivable majority for legislation on the basis that he has put forward, or anything remotely similar? Will he take the opportunity of the Summer Recess to change his mind and not waste the time of parliamentary draftsmen during the recess or of this House when we come back?

Mr. Foot

I recommend anyone who accepts the view of the right hon. Gentleman on these matters to read the speech that was delivered from below the Gangway by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). No one reading that speech could believe that there is no support by the Opposition for devolution proposals. What the right hon. Member for Sidcup said on that occasion could be fruitfully studied by many of his right hon. and hon. Friends. Certainly there is to be no abandonment by the Government of this proposal. It was a major proposal in our election manifestos. We are proposing to carry out what we set out in our manifestos. It would be a gross breach of faith if we were to go back on it. We have no intention whatsoever of doing so.

Mr. Tom Ellis

As the proposed Welsh Assembly is to be asked to report on the structure of local government in Wales, and in view of the stark alternatives facing local government in Wales and England, as spelt out in the Layfield Report, will my right hon. Friend tell us what weight the Government will attach to the report when it appears and, in particular, whether they are prepared to act on any recommendations that it contains?

Mr. Foot

We shall pay the closest attention to what is recommended on that subject. I should like to give an illustration of how I believe the establishment of a Welsh Assembly could have been of great assistance to Wales. If there had been a Welsh Assembly in existence a few years ago, the hopeless, rigid, so-called reform of local government that was forced upon us by the then Conservative Government would never have got through. No Welsh Assembly would have allowed such a proposition to go through. Its voice would have been raised so strongly that it would have prevented the whole of the expense and disorganisation that was caused by that measure. That is an illustration of how, if we can invoke democracy in Wales and Scotland more effectively, we can contribute to the effective government of the whole country.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I shall call two more Members to ask questions. Mr. David Crouch.

Mr. Crouch

I, for one, am certainly not against devolution. I welcome the phrase in the White Paper about modernising and strengthening the United Kingdom. However, it is not good enough for the White Paper, in a throw-away line, to refer to what might happen in England. I think that as we go into the holiday it would have been better had the Government given us a better idea of what is intended for England. Are the Government moving in the direction of a federal system?

Mr. Foot

On all occasions in previous statements we have proposed a consultative document to deal with what will be proposed for England. We suggest that the most appropriate time for it to be published is when the Bill is brought forward. I think that that is the best way in which to proceed. I hope that all hon. Members and the country will examine in detail the proposals that we have made and compare them with the original White Paper. If the two documents are taken together, I believe that they propose a a feasible plan of devolution which takes account of all the representations that have been made throughout the country.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the more powers that are given to the Assembly, the less defensible it becomes to have 71 Scottish Members in this House? Secondly, as the legislation is likely to be highly controversial, will he give a categorical assurance now that as he has a general distaste for guillotines he will in no circumstances introduce a guillotine on this Bill?

Mr. Foot

As I said in response to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) at the beginning of these questions, the whole issue of representation from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England is an important matter that must be discussed when the Bill is going through. Certainly it is our intention that representation in this House from Wales and Scotland should be sustained on the present basis. As for my hon. Friend's second question, I have said that it is premature for me to say anything about a guillotine. It would be absurd for anyone who was Leader of the House, many months before a Bill has been introduced and many months before the House has even had an opportunity to see what is in the Bill, to make a statement about guillotines. Therefore, I shall not answer that part of my hon. Friend's question any more than I answered my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), who put the question from a different point of view.

I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. The Government are pledged to introduce this measure and we are determined to carry it through because we believe it is essential to do so in the interests of the United Kingdom itself.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I call for the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) to make his application under Standing Order No. 9.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely those who represent English constituencies should not be excluded from questions on devolution, especially those of us whose interventions in the House are now comparatively rare.

Mr. Ogden

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In case some hon. Members were under the impression that some are more equal than others, or that you might require another pair of spectacles—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman will withdraw any implication that I am unfair, and he will do it at once.

Mr. Ogden

Under your instructions, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw any implication that you are unfair. I repeat that it would be unfortunate if hon. Members were left under any misapprehension about the rules under which you call Members. If you could give some guidance to them now or at some time before the next Session, we might feel a little easier on this matter, which is of concern to so many of us.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the devolution measure will depend for its passage on a majority of English Members, whether Government or Opposition Members, surely English Members should be called on devolution questions.

Mr. McNamara

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to attitudes that have been expressed by those who were fortunate enough to catch your eye from the Government Benches, and the attitude they took to the Government's proposals. I must point out that there are some Labour Members who on occasions support Government policy.

Mr. Alexander Wilson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before you give a ruling on these points of order, I must point out sincerely that every hon. Member sitting on the Government Benches and the Opposition Benches is a British Member of Parliament. I take exception to those who describe themselves as English, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish Members of Parliament. I suggest that when you give your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you point out that it will be the British Government and British Members of Parliament who will make the decisions on devolution.

Mr. Skinner

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that about half an hour ago you were telling the House how important it was to get on to other business. Despite the fact that there were 13 of my hon. Friends standing, as well as four Opposition Members, who wanted to deal with matters concerned with youth unemployment, you felt it necessary to move on. It now appears that you have allowed more time—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Skinner

—on devolution questions—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have told the hon. Gentleman before that he must resume his seat when I stand.

Mr. Skinner

It would help if you told everybody that.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is aware that I have been very patient with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I tell him that if he does that once again I shall ask him to leave the precincts of the House for the rest of this day's sitting. The hon. Gentleman must learn to address the Chair properly.

I answer the points of order by telling the House that if anyone else were in my place he would not find it easy. The House will understand that whoever is in the Chair wishes above all to be fair to every point of view within the House in trying to make a fair selection. I endeavoured this afternoon—I am seeking not to excuse myself but to explain—to ensure that both sides of the argument were able to be pressed, regardless of geographical boundaries, and that was done. It so happens that in the balance we had English Members, Scots Members, Welsh Members, and Ulster Members.

Mr. Alexander Wilson

British Members.

Mr. Speaker

That is right. We had Members from the United Kingdom as a whole.

I call Mr. Kinnock to make his application under Standing Order No. 9.