§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [13th December], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Speaker
As the House will recollect, on Tuesday of this week I said that I proposed to defer an announcement on any selection of amendments to the Question for Second Reading until today. My reason for so doing was to enable me to study the course of the debate and come to a final decision in the light of the arguments which had been put forward. I have listened carefully to all these arguments which, together with the amendments on the Paper, reflect a diversity of opinion which can scarcely before have been equalled.
I have now reached the firm conclusion that it is my duty to put the Question for Second Reading of this Bill without selecting any amendment. As the House knows, it has not been the general practice of myself or my predecessors to give reasons for the exercise of the Speaker's powers of selection, and I do not propose to do so on this occasion.
At this stage, however, I believe that I can best serve the House by using my power of selection in such a way as to assist it to take an unequivocal preliminary decision based on its balanced judgment of the total merits or demerits of the Bill itself.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I in no way seek to challenge your right not to give reasons for your decision. However, may I invite you, for the benefit of the House and the Principality, which you understand so well, to make sufficient comment so that it may be understood how 150 Back Benchers can put their names to a reasoned amendment and there can be no opportunity for that homogeneous view, so clearly expressed, to be debated? May I also ask, so that it is understood in the Principality, whether you will give reasons why, since ordinary people are bound to be extraordinarily bewildered, with such a wide expression of opinion, which reflects what has been said in every opinion poll in 1736 Wales, this great Chamber is unable to debate this central issue?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is quite wrong in his latter statement. The House is quite free to debate this issue. It has debated it during the week and it will do so today. I am well aware of the strength of support for the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). If I had selected it and it had been carried, it would have had the effect of defeating the Bill, but without the House ever having voted upon the Bill.
If any hon. Members are of the opinion that the considerations raised by the amendments have an overwhelming importance which should be given priority over the contents of the Bill as it stands, having regard to the possibility of future amendments, they can achieve the same purpose by their vote on the Question for the Second Reading as they would have achieved by voting for the amendment.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you to spell out to us precisely why to carry the amendment would have defeated the Bill? There are some misunderstandings about this issue.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)
I think that in view of the general interest in the matter I should start with the question of referenda.
The Government have given careful thought to the question of referenda on devolution. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promised the House when he opened this debate on Monday that it would he given a full and early opportunity to consider this important issue in the light of clear proposals by the Government. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated to the House during Question Time today, the Cabinet has considered the matter further, and I am authorised to say that these proposals will be based upon the acceptance of the principle that referenda should be held in Scotland and Wales before the respective schemes can be put into effect. 1737 We shall bring forward new clauses accordingly, at Committee stage, for the consideration of the House.
At that stage the House will need to discuss carefully the detailed features of referenda. We shall have to address such issues as the precise question or questions to be put, the arrangements for counting, and other aspects, such as those the House will recall from our discussions on the referendum on the European Community renegotiation. These are complex matters, which cannot safely be decided now. The Government will cover them in thoroughly-worked-out proposals at Committee stage.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Abse
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving way to me. It is important for hon. Members, particularly Labour Members, to be told clearly that nothing will be decided on the new clauses except by a free vote. Labour Members, including Ministers, must know that on this important issue the House can express a view without the Whips being used.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
Does what the Minister has said mean that the electorate in England will have no say in the referendum?
§ Mr. Smith
These are matters that can be discussed when we come to the detailed proposals in Committee. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) calling for referenda for Scotland and Wales attracted a great deal of support on the Conservative Benches.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
I thank my hon. Friend and the 1738 Government for what has just been said. I was so nonplussed at receiving an affirmative answer to a question of mine that I was not able to thank them earlier. I think that the formula so far is right. We shall look carefully at the form of the questions in the referendum.
§ Sir John Hall (Wycombe)
Is the House to understand that we may go through all the stages of the Bill up to the time it becomes an Act, spending many months in discussion, and then find that as a result of referenda in Scotland and Wales the Bill becomes null and void and will not be implemented?
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There are more hon. Members on their feet than at Business Question Time. We must have orderly debate. This is not a question-and-answer session. It is up to the Minister whether he gives way.
§ Mr. Smith rose——
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before asking this question, may I make it clear that the Labour Party in Scotland has been very tolerant to me? But should there not be from my right hon. Friend the Lord President or the Government as a whole a statement on the issue of Whipping? If there is to be a referendum, how can we be Whipped?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the hon. Gentleman has the record for interventions in this debate over the four days. That was not a point of order but an intervention.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has made a new announcement of Government policy. 1739 Should it not be in the form of a ministerial statement, enabling questions to be asked and answers to be given? Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask a question? Is it the Government's intention to have the form of the questions in a referendum more comprehensive than a simple choice, than a matter of take it or leave it?
§ Mr. Smith
I have given a clear commitment on what the proposals will be. The hon. Gentleman's point is a matter of detail which can be discussed in Committee, in time which the Government have already guaranteed, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in opening the debate.
Perhaps the House will allow me now to move on to the substance of the Bill.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a genuine misunderstanding here. If the Bill completes its passage through the House and then Wales says "No" to devolution in a referendum and Scotland says "Yes", the Bill will have to return to the House for further consideration. That will completely upset the timetable. Will the Minister at least answer that question?
§ Mr. Speaker
Only I can answer a point of order, and it would take me a long time to find out what that one was.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said just now that what the hon. Gentleman had said was not a ministerial statement but the hon. Gentleman indicated thereafter that he was making a ministerial statement. In the wholly unusual circumstances, would it not be appropriate for the House to spend five or 10 minutes on the matter as if it had been a ministerial statement?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not within my powers, as I understand them, to allow that. The debate has begun. The Minister is making a major statement on behalf of the Government. It is not the first time I have heard surprise statements early in a speech. The Minister must be 1740 allowed to make his statement, and the debate can then follow.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
On a point of order. I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, because I have an interest to declare, in that mine is the first name in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills and I had intended to produce one on a referendum if the Government did not provide what I thought to be satisfactory. Would it be possible to evince, through my addressing my question to you, Mr. Speaker, what action the Government would propose to take on the result of the referendum and whether they would consider it to be binding, as they did in the case of the EEC?
§ Mr. Speaker
The first part of the hon. Gentleman's point of order was in order. Then he strayed, because it is not right to use points of order to ask questions of Ministers. Points of order are to ask questions of me.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East) rose——
§ Mr. Smith
I have given way sufficiently on this point.
I should like to turn to the substance of the Bill. Our concept of devolution is the delegation of practical power from the centre to new instruments of political control and democratic supervision in component parts of the United Kingdom, in this case Scotland and Wales. The power we want to move outwards and downwards from the overburdened institutions of Whitehall and Westminster is of considerable range and depth. This transfer of power is at the centre of the Bill.
Our aim is to achieve more responsive, democratic Government, making in Scotland Scottish legislation—not just Scottish editions of English legislation—and setting in Scotland and Wales Scottish and Welsh priorities—not just Scottish and Welsh variations upon Westminster priorities. That is what our devolution 1741 policy and our Bill are about. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) spoke earlier in the debate with conviction, wisdom and practical experience on that point.
Of course, we wish this transfer of responsibility to be set firmly within the framework of the United Kingdom. I wish there to be no doubt of the Government's unshakeable conviction in the maintenance of the Union. Like many other hon. Members from Scottish constituencies, I have listened throughout the debate to some who claim to speak for Scotland whose object is to sunder the Union. I can think of no more spectacular folly.
Not for one moment do I believe that it is the wish of the Scottish people to acquire a separate Navy, Army and Air Force, or the privilege of sitting at the United Nations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal. I say that not just because tests of opinion taken in Scotland indicate an aversion to separatism. I say it as a Scot myself, representing a Scottish constituency, born and brought up in Scotland, living and wishing to continue to live in Scotland, a member of a Scots profession, with children at Scottish schools, and having roots too deep in Scotland ever to wish to sever them—[Interruption.]—and a Scots wife as well.
I believe that I am as entitled as any separatist to speak for my fellow countrymen. While they certainly wish to see a Scottish dimension in government and wish a full recognition to be made of Scotland's past, present and future contribution to the Union, they even more wish to be and to remain British. For every separatist there are four or five Scots less stridently but in my view just as passionately committed to the unity of the United Kingdom.
So, given the twin objectives of achieving devolution and maintaining—indeed, enhancing—the nature of the Union, the Bill proposes certain constitutional mechanisms to delineate the areas of devolution and to define the relationship in a practical way between Government and Parliament on the one hand and the devolved administration and Assemblies on the other.
The most important point I wish to make is that in normal circumstances the 1742 relationship will certainly and rightly be above all a political rather than a statutory or a legal relationship, and its day-to-day characteristics are not something that the Bill lays down or could hope to lay down. What statute can do is to draw the outer boundaries within which the prime relationship operates, and also to provide certain reserve mechanisms for dealing with difficulties at the margin.
Once that is done, and if it is done right—that will be one of the tasks of the House in the debates to come—the mechanisms which will be used most, and which will matter most, are not statutory mechanisms. They are principally communication and consultation. The skills that they will most need are those of the elected politician and the administrator rather than those of the lawyer. What the Government want and what we are determined for our part to strive for and to build is a relationship of co-operation, as we stressed in the White Papers and as I stress again now.
That said, let me turn to various of the Bill's provisions which bear in one way or another upon statutory relationships. If I seem from time to time to get to a level of detail which might be regarded as more appropriate to the Committee stage, that is the level to which the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition directed our attention in the opening Opposition speech.
The most fundamental thing the Bill has to say about the relationship between the central United Kingdom power and the devolved administration comes right at the beginning, in Clause 1. The right hon. Lady said that this meant that the devolved legislative powers were concurrent and not exclusive. Quite right. That is another way of saying that what we are engaged upon is devolution, not federalism. There is a similar provision in Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which operated for over half a century, and it seems to have worked so satisfactorily that the previous Government reproduced it in substance in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. In neither case was it judged necessary to add by statute to the perfectly adequate rules of construction used by the courts when statutes clash, and it is equally unnecessary to do anything novel in the present Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. 1743 Fowler) lucidly explained on Monday, if Parliament in a particular case wants to ensure that its legislation prevails, it can easily do so.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The Minister of State will also recall that the same clause virtually was Section 2 of the Government of Ireland Act 1914.
§ Mr. Smith
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that Act never came into operation so it was not tested. I was referring to statutes that have been tested.
The next main clause bearing on elationships—about which the right hon. Lady had a grumble—is Clause 20. It is about the Government's right, if it is worried about the vires of an Assembly Bill to refer it to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the Government's power to block a Bill that contravenes the United Kingdom's international obligations. In Committee we can, and no doubt we shall, debate whether the exact forms and procedures in the Bill are the best available. But it is a little odd to suggest that Bills should become law unhindered, whether or not they are ultra vires, and whether or not they are compatible with the United Kingdom's international obligations. I remind the House that if those obligations were breached the people in the dock in the European Court or the International Court would be not the Scottish Assembly but the United Kingdom Government.
The right hon. Lady also referred to the exercise of prerogative powers on behalf of Her Majesty. She was worried that no other statute delegated the prerogative on the scale proposed in the Bill. She acknowledged that her advisers had not been through all the statutes. I rather wonder which ones they had been through, because the obvious ones to turn to are surely the 1920 and 1973 Acts about Northern Ireland. In those she will readily and simply find the parallels she fears to be non-existent.
I can give references easily as we proceed in Committee. What these provisions did then and what the provisions in the present Bill will do is simply to transfer powers exercised on behalf of the Crown from one set of people—the United Kingdom Ministers—to another set of people—the devolved administrations. 1744 There is nothing whatever in this that diminishes the Crown.
I come now to Clause 25, which in many ways is the hinge of the statutory relationship, because it is above all Clause 1 and the long Schedules 6 and 7 depending upon it which delineate the boundaries of the subject areas within which the new Scottish and Welsh administrations are to operate. The schedules are long—44 pages in all—and their structure and detail are formidably complex. But the House should understand that this is the price of precision. In a complex modern society the business of government does not come handily in a few separate boxes with simple labels attached to them. Anyone who asks for simplicity and brevity is asking for vagueness and uncertainty. In our January debates on the White Paper many hon. Members on both sides pressed for exact delineation of the devolved powers, to keep argument and uncertainty to a minimum. The right hon. Lady herself called for a legal basis and effective boundaries. That, I am sure, is the right objective.
The United Kingdom is a complex, highly-developed, highly-integrated modern society, and public activity and law range over it in a host of ways—[Interruption.] There are some who are old-fashioned. They should not so obviously draw attention to themselves.
If I may use a geographic analogy, the administrative map of our country shows a mass of varied topographical detail, not a vast expanse of featureless prairie. If one tries to divide it up with a few sweeping lines, like a renaissance Pope assigning the West to Spain and the East to Portugal, one will produce not simplicity but shambles—anomaly, absurdity, vagueness and a permanent field-day for litigation.
There is no substitute for taking a detailed map and working out a careful line on the ground. What is more, wherever the line is drawn it will cut across a variety of existing statutes, since the contents of the present statute book were not framed with a future division of jurisdiction in mind; and if one wants, as we do, to produce a practical working system and not just an essay in an academic textbook, one has to say what is to happen to the various existing powers in the statutes which lie across 1745 the line, or close to it. Sooner or later this has to be done; there is no escape from it.
The question is whether we do that now in Parliament or leave it to an unending series of uncertain haggles in court or out of it over the years. We intend to do the job in the proper way, at the proper time, and that means in the Bill. Even so, in this imperfect world new problems may arise.
New problems will occur on questions which we do not manage to foresee even though we shall have the collective wisdom of the House of Commons as it goes through the Bill in Committee. If that happens, the proper way of resolving problems over devolved jurisdiction will be by consultation between the Government and the Scottish or Welsh administrations.
If difficulties persist, the courts can come into play in two ways. First, if the Scottish Assembly passes a Bill which the Government think may exceed its legislative competence, the Government have no power to turn it down on that count. All that they can do is to refer it to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which will settle the matter. If the Privy Council says that the Bill is intra vires, the Government have no option but to swallow their doubts. This is all in Clause 20, to which I have referred briefly already.
Secondly, if an Assembly Bill has passed into law, on this as on any other action of devolved administration, anyone, any individual, citizen, or body, or the Government themselves, will be at liberty to raise the issue of vires before the courts. The Bill achieves this simply by silence, that is, by doing nothing to confer special privilege or exemption on devolved actions.
It will be desirable to make detailed and ancillary provisions about procedure for vires challenge. The Bill does not contain such provisions. The details have been complex and we shall make proposals to the House later by way of Government amendments.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
In the circumstances which the Minister has mentioned about restrictions on vires, what would happen if the Scottish Assembly, in exercise of the sovereign 1746 will of the Scottish people, refused to accept either the decision of the Privy Council, over which it had no control, or any decision from Westminster?
§ Mr. Smith
It is very difficult to answer a question like that which has such absurd assumptions in it as the sovereign will of the Scottish people. The Scottish Assembly will be operating with detailed powers conferred on it by this sovereign Parliament at Westminster. If the hon. Gentleman is indicating in advance that his party would not be willing to accept the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, he would be betraying his responsibility to the Assembly which he was elected to carry out.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Does my hon. Friend agree that that is precisely what the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) is doing? He is saying in advance that the SNP is going to wreck the Assembly, it does not believe in it and it wants to break away from the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who has listened to a lot of the debate, recognises that members the SNP say two things: first, that they are reasonable and would not contemplate causing difficulty to anybody—that is their normal stance in the House of Commons—but they are totally different at Press conferences in Glasgow and other places and now and again it slips out that they have a wrecking objective. The most important thing is to make clear now and to make clear repeatedly during the passage of the Bill, before the Assembly comes into operation, that that is the real intention of the Scottish National Party so that the Scottish electorate can see it clearly and fully before it votes at elections for the Assembly.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Does not the Minister appreciate that the intervention from the Scottish National Party shows precisely the danger of this legislation? That is the point which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made but which the Minister did not meet.
§ Mr. Smith
I am just as good a judge of the political maturity and wisdom of 1747 the Scottish people as is the hon. Member. I think that, given the opportunity, they will reject the Scottish National Party and vote for whatever political philosophies are represented by parties determined to maintain the Union.
I have spoken so far on the question of legal competence and whether the devolved administrations have acted within the powers conferred by Parliament. There are also, as I am sure the House knows, various reserve powers whereby the Government can intervene or where Government consent is needed, even where the administrations are operating basically within their legal competence. I emphasise that the existence of the main reserve powers on a narrower basis than was originally proposed was clearly set out in our August statement, and the Bill follows that precisely. Commentators who have claimed to the contrary have misunderstood the position.
Many hon. Members I am sure would like powers of this kind to be unnecessary. in a sense so would the Government, but the need is forced upon us by reality. We live in a complex and closely integrated society. Wherever we draw the lines of devolved competence, side effects are bound to spill across it. We intend in the normal course to manage these side effects by consultation, but the Government and Parliament, which is relevant to Members here, cannot discard their responsibilities. They must have powers available, with reasonable flexibility, to protect interests which have not been devolved of people living in other parts of the United Kingdom. That is the price of our unity and a corollary of Parliament's continuing sovereignty.
I shall not go into the detail of the reserve controls which the Bill provides. I shall be happy to explain and to defend them during the detailed scrutiny in Committee.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Is my hon. Friend saying that the Government would not interfere with decisions taken by the Assembly on devolved matters?
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Before Members on the Opposition Front Bench again come to the wrong conclusion, they might ponder what my hon. Friend said. He asked me whether, in the devolved areas, the Scot- 1748 tish Assembly would be free to operate its policies. It will be. In the devolved areas it will be the responsibility of the Assembly to make the decisions on its priorities.
Clause 45 makes it clear that the reserve powers operate only where an Assembly provision affects a matter with respect to which only Parliament has power to legislate. The United Kingdom Government have to demonstrate that the exercise of devolved responsibility impinges on non-devolved responsibility before they can bring the matter before the House. The Secretary of State would be required to make a statement showing how it affected our retained responsibilities.
My first point about Clauses 45, 46 and 47 is that these powers will be controlled specifically by Parliament. The Government will have to come to Parliament every time their use is proposed. The Government must satisfy Parliament on two counts. First, there is the test of public interest and, secondly, there is the test of repercussions on matters not devolved. Both tests, not just one or the other, must be satisfied. In Clause 45(1) they are connected by "and" and not "or".
The Government will not be able to use these powers—this underlines the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey)—as a matter of political dogma or preference, or a dislike of the policy of the devolved administration, for example, on secondary education or the Health Service. The Government will have to satisfy the House that there are damaging side effects on matters that have not been devolved. In all this the Bill faithfully reflects the policy contained in our August statement.
Clause 45 is another of the matters on which the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition took us to task on Monday. I commend to her paragraphs 765 and 766 of the Kilbrandon majority report, which reaches precisely the conclusion that underlies the clause. If no such clause existed, the implication is that Assembly Bills would go forward whatever damaging effect they had on the United Kingdom interests that have not been devolved. I find that a surprising view for the right hon. Lady to take.
1749 My final point about these reserve powers is that they make it possible to achieve wider devolution than would otherwise be feasible. If there were no such powers, we should have had to try to foresee every possible harmful repercussion and deal with it as a matter of vires, that is, by making further exceptions or conditions on devolved matters.
Schedules 6 and 7 would be twice their present length and half their present real scope. I shall give an example: Group 23 in Part I of Schedule 6 devolves Scots private law. The subjects in the first paragraph of that group includes several which potentially overlap or interact with the general framework of commerce and trade throughout the United Kingdom. Bankruptcy and property are such examples. It is in everyone's interest that a common or at least compatible commercial framework should be maintained throughout our country.
If we had had to block by specific exception or prohibition in advance every respect in which new legislation in the field of private law could conceivably impinge adversely on that United Kingdom framework the devolution of Scots private law would have had to be made subject to many complex and sweeping derogations, making it almost impossible for the Assembly to develop the system as a coherent whole.
The House has not done too well in the past in developing Scots law as a coherent whole. Once we have the Scottish Assembly in being, we shall have a legal Assembly according to the traditions and expectations of the people whom it represents.
Clause 45, however, by giving the Government and this House a flexible reserve power for use, if exceptionally, consultation does not resolve difficulties, makes it possible to devolve Scots private law entirely. This is just one example of how the availability of reserve powers in the background is in practice an aid to devolution, not an obstacle or a subtraction from it. I do not think that that point has been sufficiently understood in the debate so far, but I hone that in Committee, as we see how we have defined the complex matters involved in the Bill, that point will be appreciated as one of real substance.
1750 Before I turn to more detailed themes I should like to deal with some of the points raised in detail on the Bill, some by the right hon. Lady which I must in courtesy to the House attempt to answer.
That brings me to the question asked by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North. The right hon. Lady said—and I think that this was echoed in a leading article in The Times—that there would be grave difficulties if there were to be referenda and the Scottish scheme were approved and the Welsh scheme rejected. I do not think that that proposition is at all likely. I think that the people of Scotland and Wales will both approve their schemes, but if we were in the unlikely and hypothetical situation to which the right hon. Lady referred, let us see what would happen.
I suspect that the difficulty perceived by the right hon. Lady is imaginary. I do not even need to appeal to the Government of Ireland Act 1920, on which Stormont ran for half a century despite the fact that parts of the Bill were about Southern Ireland and thus defunct and never brought into operation.
The position with our present Bill is quite simple. Clause 114 provides for commencement orders, which can be wholly flexible as between different provisions and different purposes. That is made clear in subsection (2). All that need happen if Scotland says "Yes" and Wales says "No" is that commencement orders are made for Scotland and not for Wales. Any added provisions for referenda could if necessary spell that out. They could also provide for rapid subsequent tidying up of the Act by consolidation procedures so that the inactive provisions did not remain untidily on the statute book. I do not think that there is any real problem about that.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that in the event of Wales rejecting the Bill at a referendum the statute should still hold a threat over the people of Wales of a future order being introduced by the Government and a future referendum being held? Is the question being held in abeyance for the future?
§ Mr. Smith
Not at all. The decision of the people will be final. If the hon. Gentleman has any doubts about that he 1751 can scrutinise the provisions of the Bill with care, because the referendum provisions will be embodied as an amendment to the Bill rather than as separate legislation. The hon. Gentleman will be able to consider that with care.
§ Mr. Henderson
If in the referendum the Scottish people vote for independence will the hon. Gentleman be prepared to accept that?
§ Mr. Smith
If the people of Scotland rejected independence, would the hon. Gentleman accept that and stop campaigning for independence? Members of the SNP are interested in obtaining the views of the people of Scotland provided that their views support the party's line but reject them on other occasions. We can return to the precise question when we debate the matter in Committee.
My next point is about Clause 107. I should like to deal with this in a little more detail and then I shall conclude my speech fairly quickly. The right hon. Lady detected in this clause sinister unicameral implications. All that it provides is that the House of Lords can make the Commons think again about using Clause 45, but that thereafter the Commons can insist on having its way. The alternative would presumably be that after the elected Commons had taken the view—which would never be lightly arrived at—that an Assembly Bill seriously damaged United Kingdom interests, the hereditary majority in another place should be able to insist that the Bill should nevertheless pass into law. I suppose I should have expected that that would seem a good thing to the Tory Party, but Conservative Members must not be surprised if we disagree with that proposition.
Finally, the right hon. Lady in her opening speech complained about the way in which the Bill devolves some subjects and then attaches qualifications. I accept that there is a fair amount of that. For instance, we envisage that though control of the Development Agencies will be fully devolved their industrial investment activities should be subject to United Kingdom guidelines. The aim of these would be to prevent unfair competition with other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not imagine that in that situation the right hon. Lady would want 1752 there to be no guidelines. There are other cases where devolved powers are qualified one way or the other and no doubt the House will wish to look at these carefully in Committee, where the Government will of course provide the detailed explanation and background necessary for proper consideration.
I should like now to return from the operation and definition of the constitutional mechanisms in the Bill to the point and purpose of our proposals. I am sorry to have burdened the House with some detail but I felt it was necessary that the level of attack reached was such that it should be answered.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Can the hon. Gentleman say something about the powers of the Assembly to deal with industrial derating? Will it have power to change that?
§ Mr. Smith
If ever I heard a Committee point, that is one. It would be better if the hon. Gentleman would come to the Dispatch Box—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must not treat me as he does members of the Shadow Cabinet. He will be able to pursue that point in Committee but it is clear in the Bill that the general subject of rates will be a matter for the Assembly. We shall, of course, be able to go into that in detail later on.
As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is in an inquiring frame of mind, will he tell the House how he defends the Conservative Party's policy on devolution and what it is? We get tantalising glimpses of Tory policy and Delphic pronouncements from the Opposition Front Bench but no one seems willing to spell out exactly what is the Conservative Party's policy. It was described by the hon. Gentleman the other day as "our new policy". It is his new policy but I suspect that it is his party's old policy.
One of the most remarkable side effects of the Bill is the hon. Gentleman's dramatic conversion after opposing proposals worked out by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and Lord Home in another place. He opposed those proposals at Tory Party Conference after Tory Party Conference and, having sworn to keep faith with the Scottish people, he now says that he sincerely believes in his party's proposals but he clearly does not and it would be more 1753 interesting if he were to get off the nitpicking level of detail and on to the plateau of principle where he ought to abide more often.
What we are seeking to do is to make the conduct of public business more sensitive and more acceptable to the people of Scotland and Wales. We want to move forward from a heavily burdened centralisd system of government to a more broadly based and broadly responsive one. We believe that that will strengthen the United Kingdom and the basis of the Union.
All this is a complex business but parliament should not be deterred from complexity which leads to precision and certainty. I find the venture challenging and exciting and I am personally confident of where it will lead—to better government for Scotland and for Wales within the Union.
The Government have a Bill, and a good Bill, despite the ritual incantation to the contrary that serves as a substitute for alternative policies. The Bill rests. admittedly, on an assumption of basic political maturity, wisdom, skill and moderation both in Scotland and Wales and at Westminster, and on an assumption also that Scotland and Wales want the Union.
I hope that I can assure the hon. Gentleman on the matter of political maturity. I have as much faith in the political maturity of Scotland and Wales as I have in that of other parts of the United Kingdom. I hold that view as a matter of belief but I have the advantage over the hon. Gentleman of more experience of how it operates in other parts of the United Kingdom. I confidently make the assumption that people will wish to make it work and to stay in the Union.
We are not proposing a half-hearted or half-baked reversion to the years before 1707. We are pioneering something fresh and new—a new shape of government for the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Our concept of devolution has nothing to do with separatism or independence. We see devolution as something positive—a creative evolution of our constitution that will decentralise powers, increase local democratic accountability, and give the people of Scotland and Wales a much more important say in their own affairs.
1754 It is my profound conviction that it will strengthen the United Kingdom by securing its future by a recognition of its diversity as well as its underlying, profound and enduring sense of unity.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
The Minister of State commenced his speech by announcing Government policy in relation to a referendum. Many hon. Members in all parts of the House will think that that is an extraordinary way for policy to be announced, and it was unfortunate that the House did not have a statement on the matter on which hon. Members could put questions in the normal way. At this stage, one is left with many matters which are very much in the air and in doubt. Very few things are clear, but it is obvious that if we are to have a complicated new clause about a referendum, very much more time will be needed to debate the Bill even than appeared necessary to the Government at the outset.
It is also clear that many important problems remain to be resolved and have not been answered by anything which the Minister said. Our reaction to the proposal for a referendum will depend on the answers which are given to these questions. Will the people of England have an opportunity to vote? What questions will be asked? Will the alternative of separation be included? Will the referendum be binding?
§ Mr. Adley
Does my hon. Friend not agree that the suggestion that the English electorate should be able to pronounce on the future of Scotland and Wales may be dangerous because if the people of Britain are asked to refer again to their decision to join the EEC, it would be unacceptable that the Germans, French and Italians should have a vote in deciding the future of Great Britain?
§ Mr. Brittan
I am not making any such suggestion. I am merely saying that the questions raised by the Minister's statement are at least as many as the questions answered. Until we know what the Government have in mind, it is impossible to express a view upon it one way or the other.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
A very large number of hon. Members on this side who are totally opposed to the Bill 1755 have signed a motion asking for a referendum, yet my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is seeking a three-line Whip to tell me how I am to vote. Is this not completely wrong? Would my hon. Friend not consult the Leader of the Opposition and ask my right hon. Friend who is to wind up this debate to say that our three-line Whip is a Whip to vote one way or the other and not to vote just one way?
§ Mr. Brittan
My hon. Friend will no doubt have noticed that the Whipping arrangements remain the same on both sides. The Government seem quite happy to announce a referendum and to maintain their Whip. My hon. Friend might address his observation to the Government Front Bench as much as to this Front Bench.
After getting off his chest the statement that the Government had to make about a referendum, the Minister of State sought to deal with some of the points made by hon. Members on this side during the debate. I cannot help feeling that, although he talked later about a plateau of principle, his speech illustrated that although the Government have come here with what purports to be a major piece of constitutional legislation, the attack launched on the structure of the Bill has certainly put them on the defensive.
What the Government are saying is that the Bill is cumbersome and complex but that if everyone in Scotland is prepared to show the maximum good will, to put all the bits and pieces together and to avoid quarrels and disputes, it is conceivable that the structure could work. But that is to ignore the realities of the situation.
The Bill has not been produced as a result of complex negotiations of a commercial character such as the Minister of State seemed to have in mind. It has been produced in response to the pressures of nationalism, and the attitude of the nationalist movement has been demonstrated in this debate by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). The Minister of State was blind to it, but the hon. Member showed what pressures, attitudes and good will the Minister will have to meet if the Assembly is ever set up.
1756 The Minister of State is living in a world of unreality. Although I have not had the good fortune to be educated or to live in Scotland, I know that the profession of confidence in the good faith, good will, maturity, moderation and wisdom of the Scottish people is no substitute for opening one's eyes to what is going on among the hon. Members on the SNP Bench.
§ Mr. John Smith
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not doubting the maturity and wisdom of the Scottish people. I was demonstrating the complexity which would be necessary to make the Bill work if it were tested and if good will did not work.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us whether the Conservative Party is still committed to a devolved, directly-elected Assembly in Edinburgh and say what he would do about the mechanisms and problems of designing such a legislature? Most important, does the Conservative Party still have that policy or not?
§ Mr. Brittan
The answer is "Yes". I am glad to say that, and I welcome the opportunity to do so.
It has become clear during the debate that the main objection to the Bill from this side is that it is not a rationally thought out, coherent or practicable solution to the problems and aspirations of the different parts of the United Kingdom. It is a cumbersome and unworkable scheme which is inherently unstable and therefore dangerous, not because the details are wrong but because its fundamental structure is unsound.
For all the lengthy deliberation behind it, the Bill is a panicky response to the growth of nationalism and it neither responds imaginatively to the genuine pressures behind that growth nor succeeds in holding it in check and preventing its further advance.
Over the last few years, as our rôle in the world has changed, many governmental institutions and processes have been challenged and great changes have already taken place, of which our entry in Europe is but one. The challenges to our governmental institutions continue. Many questions are asked. Does the individual have sufficient protection against abuses of State power? Those 1757 who think not argue for the radical reform of administrative law. Are our traditional rights adequately protected? Those who think not argue for a Bill of Rights or even a written constitution. Is Parliament working as it should, or is the widespread public dissatisfaction with its operation something which we ignore at our peril?
These questions and the feelings of frustration which lie behind them reflect profound changes in our society, and the growth of nationalism is only one reponse to some of those changes. To seek to meet the challenges to our system of Government by a short-term response to the political pressures of nationalism alone is to trivialise the problems we face. We shall solve those problems only if we look at them as a whole.
How great would be the pressure of nationalism if we improved the quality and method of government generally? The Government have not even asked that question, let alone answered it. How can we prepare for changes in the government of Scotland and Wales without thinking through the implications for England?
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Since the hon. Gentleman castigates the Government for giving in to what he describes as nationalist pressure and his party, as we heard with great pleasure, is still in favour of a directly-elected Assembly, which conclusion it reached without telling us its view on England, why is it in favour of a directly-elected Assembly? What are the reasons which led to that? The answer to that question would be revealing to the House.
§ Mr. Brittan
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I answer him only in outline form. I know that he would much rather that we were on the other side of the House proposing legislation, but we have to meet this piece of legislation put forward by the Government. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do me credit by admitting that he received a candid answer to a candid question. It is one thing to put forward proposals for an Assembly with a limited rôle and quite another thing to put forward a complex structure of this kind. This is the struc- 1758 ture that we have in the Bill. This is the structure being put forward by the Government.
It is because the Government have adopted a piecemeal, unimaginative and trivial approach that they have produced such a bad Bill. This is no accident of draftsmanship which can be rectified in Committee. It is the inevitable and fundamental consequence of the origins and conceptions of the Bill. It is the creation by frightened politicians of a lunatic legislative nightmare. It is based on no coherent constitutional principles. It does not have the advantage provided by a federal structure of self-contained powers exercised in their sphere. With the absence of clearly articulated principles and lengthy schedules with their inclusions and exclusions and exclusions from inclusions, and saving clauses, it is more like some obscure Private Bill obsessed with its own tedium than a great constitutional document.
There are many supporters of devolution, including many on the Conservative Benches, but there are few friends of the Bill. Mr. Anthony Lester, QC, a distinguished constitutional expert, who was until earlier this year special adviser to the Home Secretary, has described the Bill asamong the worst conceived and executed constitutional measures to have been introduced by any modern British Government ".That is from someone who for two years was one of the Government's advisers.
§ Mr. John Smith
The hon. Member omitted to mention that the conclusion of the article, which he commends to the House, stated that Conservative opposition on points of detail would not cover up for the lack of policy on devolution.
§ Mr. Brittan
No doubt. But the Conservative Opposition certainly condemn the Bill. It is noticeable that Labour Members, faced with the attack on the Bill, want to do everything except consider that attack. They are anxious to deal with any other matters, but not with that. The Bill is, in truth, a Hybrid Bill in the popular sense of the word, and the House has had quite enough of those for one Session.
The fragmentary approach of the Government to our constitutional problems is 1759 nowhere better illustrated than by their failure to have a proper view about the effect of the Bill on the government of the remaining parts of the United Kingdom or on the United Kingdom as a whole. There were frequent references in the debate to the rôle and number of Scottish and Welsh Members in this Parliament after the Bill is passed, if it is passed. There is no doubt that a serious problem will arise about the rôle of those Members and their numbers. We have not heard a word from the Government about how that problem is to be solved. Until we do, the Bill is seriously defective.
I come next to the question of England and the implication of this legislation for England. No one pretends that there are none. How can we legislate for Scotland and Wales without reaching any conclusions about what we are doing about the implications for England? What do the Government say on this question? In the White Paper the Government say:The Government announced their preliminary conclusions for Scotland and Wales in September 1974 but made it clear that it would be premature to reach any conclusions about change in England until further consultations had been carried out. They decided subsequently to defer these further consultations until they could be conducted against a background of firm proposals for Scotland and Wales.What possible justification could there be for deferring those consultations and introducing the Bill now? We have been told about firm changes for Scotland and Wales and about the possible implications and changes that might be required in England as a result, yet no decision has been put before the House. The one possibility that does not seem to have been anticipated is that the changes required in the government of England as a result of these proposals might lead the Government to the conclusion that the Scottish and Welsh proposals were defective and should be changed.
We are presented instead with Scottish and Welsh proposals on a take-it-or-leave-it basis without anything more than an apology for a White Paper for England—and that was produced only four days before this debate began. It is an outrage to put these proposals before the House without reaching any conclusions about the implications for England and to fob off the House with a scanty document 1760 containing proposals which the Government see as alternative reactions to the Scottish and Welsh proposals as far as England is concerned.
The sole purpose of the White Paper dealing with England was to put at rest the fears of many English Members, particularly those from areas such as the North-West and North-East of England, that if the Bill becomes law their regions will lose out to Scotland and Wales. It is quite apparent from the debate that those fears have not been allayed. They have been expressed by Members from such differing regions and diverse areas in the political spectrum as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Sir W. Elliott) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). As a Member for a North-East constituency, I know how strong the feelings in that area are against these proposals.
The hon. Member for Walton pointed out that other parts of the United Kingdom have just as high rates of unemployment and just as many urban problems as have Scotland and Wales. Do people living in those areas have anything to fear from these proposals? The Government seek to answer that and to say that those people have nothing to fear. I wonder whether we can accept those assurances so readily. The Government's main argument is that regional incentives and control of the economy generally remain under the control of the central Government, and the Government will control the size of the block grant to Scotland. That is not the end of the story.
The Government point out that, in terms of regional development, public investment in the infrastructure is already of importance. For some of that investment the Government will remain responsible. The Government also point out in the English White Paper that some investment in the infrastructure will pass over to the newly-elected Governments of Scotland and Wales. That means that, as the block grant permits the devolved Administrations to spend money as they wish, they may wish to spend more money on their industrial and regional infrastructure and less on other matters. Scotland and Wales, as a result of decisions of the devolved Administrations, could easily fare better from this type of 1761 regional policy than could the North-East and North-West of England.
The game is given away by a passage in paragraph 74 of the White Paper on England, which puts the argument against regional Assemblies having a block grant in England. It says:Such block grants would make the Government's task of economic management more difficult. The composition of expenditure is important because different types of expenditure have different effects on important economic aggregates such as the balance of payments, the public sector borrowing requirement and unemployment as well as different effects on the various sectors of the economy ".In other words, the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales will be able to affect unemployment in their areas, and that is bound to have an effect on the non-devolved English regions, such as the North-East and North-West. By operating within the block grants, Scotland and Wales will to some extent be able to operate the equivalent of a different regional policy, at least for the infrastructure.
There is an important further element for regional policy, and it relates to the operation of the National Enterprise Board and the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies. Whatever we may think of those bodies, they exist and their rôle is important in providing effective industrial assistance and exercising power of industrial investment. Whether one thinks that these other bodies or no bodies should be doing that is neither here nor there. They exist for the moment.
Paragraph 35 of the White Paper points out that after devolution the agencies will be financed from the resources available to the devolved Administrations and will be subject to control by them. That means that the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies will be able to spend within the block grant money that the devolved Administration permits them to spend.
The Government say that they will be subject to guidelines, but we have the haziest idea of what those guidelines will be or of their purpose. We have had little indication except that they will be required by the Development Agencies to operate on a commercial basis.
An interesting consoling paragraph appears in the White Paper: 1762The Agencies will have to present annual reports to Parliament, covering the functions which are subject to guidelines. …No doubt these reports will be carefully scrutinised by Members representing other parts of the United Kingdom".No doubt they will. That sentence is followed by a particularly unhappy passage considering the case for an English Development Agency. It points out the advantages of such an agency and then states that such functions could be performed by other organizations. It continues:Furthermore, it is doubtful whether a single English Agency, having to co-ordinate a range of environmental and industrial functions in the differing circumstances of assisted areas which are spread from Cornwall to Northumbria, would be accepted as having the close familiarity with the problems of particular areas which is looked for from the Scottish and welsh Agencies.It is fantastic to suggest that there is a bigger difference between Cornwall and Northumbria than between the Gorbals and Western Ross.
The relevance of all this is to show that the fears that have been expressed in England cannot be allayed readily. My purpose in saying that is not to give effect or expression to any English backlash but merely to show that in this situation it is not just a conflict caused by Scottish nationalism demanding more and more powers or by coming up against the restraints set out in the Bill but also that in the future there is bound to be resentment and suspicion on the English side.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
In view of what the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) has said criticising the White Paper on the English regions—with most of which I agree—does he mean that his party would also favour an elected Assembly for each of the regions of England?
§ Mr. Brittan
It does not mean that, because of the rôle of an elected Assembly for Scotland would not be parallel and therefore the criticisms made in relation to economic matters which I have made would not apply because the directly elected Assembly would not be that proposed in the Bill.
Therefore, the conflict in relation to England is a serious one and has not been given enough attention. The main burden of conflict and instability in the 1763 Bill arises from the fact that the powers and the machinery in the Bill are likely to lead to a feeling in the devolved Scottish and Welsh Administrations that they are hamstrung by the operation of the Bill. There is no doubt that on the economic side the conflict that will arise from the block grant will be substantial.
It is perhaps worth trying to see precisely how that conflict will arise. It is not just a question of our arousing fears that the Scottish or Welsh will continue to demand more. Even given the political maturity and moderation which the Minister believes so optimistically will materialise, conflict will still arise on this matter.
Let us see whether it is a feature which can be altered or one that is central to the whole scheme. On what basis will the block grant be assessed? The principles are set out in paragraph 94 of the November 1975 White Paper which reads:The financial allocation for the devolved services should be in the form of a block grant voted by Parliament, taking account both of local needs and of the desirability of some uniformity of standards and contributions in all parts of the United Kingdom".The English White Paper echoes that.
When the first block grant is negotiated the Treasury will have to engage in a careful analysis of existing standards. God knows that there is plenty of scope for disagreement even on a objective basis.
At least if there is a measure of good will, it is conceivable that some effective analysis of the problems and needs can be made and agreement reached in the first year. But what happens in the next year? Once the Assembly has the right to spend the money as it wishes on the basis of particular needs, it may allocate resources differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. It may decide to spend more on schools and less on roads; more on hospitals and less on law and order. Inevitably, as a result of the exercise of such discretion, in some services standards will be lower after a year or so, and some higher. They will be demonstrably lower before long.
Is it conceivably that next year the people of Scotland will say that although they know that they have better hospitals and schools, and worse police and roads, they will not ask for more money? That is an absurd proposition. They will de- 1764 mand that in those areas where standards are lower as a result of a deliberate choice, money should be provided to increase standards in those areas. The Treasury will be bound to resist that pressure because to succumb to it would be blatantly unfair to England and would amount to a total abdication of any control of the national economy.
The Secretary of State for Wales said that one could not isolate the economies of Wales and Scotland from the economy of the United Kingdom. It is precisely because of that that the system of the block grant is bound to lead to diversity and also, as a result of that diversity, to lead to the most serious clash—even given a degree of good will, which is manifestly missing on the part of the permanent party within the Assembly.
To say that the Bill is bad because it is inherently unstable and then to point out in detail, as I have on the economic side, the means whereby that instability comes to the fore, is not to make pettifogging legal points or to embark prematurely on the Committee stage. The detail merely illustrates the weaknesses of the structure as a whole. The structure is unstable because the conception is so opportunistic. Fear of federalism has led to a misguided attempt to spell out all the minutiae without providing adequate machinery for the resolution of conflicts. What has been provided is a sure-fire mechanism for exacerbating grievances.
The block grant is the central financial illustration of the deficiency of the Bill, but the central political illustration of this inherent instability is Clause 45, which the Minister sought to explain away. He did not seek to read it, because that would have made abundantly clear the sources of conflict to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. It says:If it appears to the Secretary of State—The Minister sought to make light of that and said that Parliament would decide. But that does not remove the problem: it 1765 increases it. It will be a United Kingdom Parliament which will have to decide that a Scottish Assembly has done something which it regards as unacceptable. What greater receipe for conflict could there be?
he may lay the Bill before Parliament together with a statement that in his opinion it ought not to be submitted to Her Majesty in Council.
- (a) that a Bill passed by the Scottish Assembly contains any provision which would or might affect, directly or indirectly, a matter with respect to which only Parliament has power to legislate; and
- (b) that the enactment of that provision would not be in the public interest;
Under the terms of Clause 45, it is the Secretary of State and he alone who will decide whether such a conflict is possible. What is the conflict, what is the provision which might be declared invalid and kept from the statute book by this House? It is if the Scottish Assembly passed a Bill on a matter which would or might, directly or indirectly, affect a matter with respect to which only this Parliament has power to legislate. That means that if the Scottish Assembly does anything which the Secretary of State thinks might even indirectly affect the powers of this Parliament, he may act as prescribed.
The Minister gave a splendid example of erudite Scottish law illustrating the wisdom of and need for such a provision, but with such a provision it would be down to the Secretary of State to say, "Summer time is devolved to the Scottish Assembly, but if the Scottish Assembly chooses to alter the time, that will affect people in England, so although it has been devolved, we shall not allow the Bill to go through because only this Parliament has the power to deal with time in England".
§ Mr. John Smith
First, let me correct the hon. Gentleman on a matter of fact. This is not a question relating to the powers that Parliament has—[Interruption.] That is what the hon. Gentleman said. If he is so careful in reading things out, he had better be accurate. It is a matter on which Parliament alone has power to legislate which is retained. The Secretary of State would have to say that the exercise of devolved power would affect something retained in Parliament. Who else would do it but Parliament in any system of shared power? This must be faced. How would the Conservative Party, if it really means to devolve legislative authority to a Scottish Assembly, deal with this problem?
§ Mr. Brittan
Of course it is a question whether it affects something on which Parliament alone has the power to legis- 1766 late, but my example was absolutely precise. This Parliament has the power to legislate in respect of time for England. That is a power which only this Parliament has. Therefore, if the Scottish Assembly chooses to legislate about time in Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is absurd."] It is an absurd example because it is an absurd power.
The Minister asks who else should be able to do it. The answer is that nobody else should because the whole scheme is inherently unworkable. He has put his finger on the point. As long as we have a scheme of this kind there must be a power of this kind. As long as there is a power of this kind, there will be conflict. The answer is not to find some other way of producing the power but to abandon this form of scheme. That is precisely the argument that we have been trying to put for four days. It is not a peripheral matter.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I must confess that I am in some confusion. A few minutes ago, before he began talking of Clause 45, my hon. Friend was arguing that the power of Parliament should be exercised over the control of the United Kingdom economy, over the block grant, and that it would be wrong if the block grant were used to distort the use of moneys in Scotland different from the way Parliament in the United Kingdom had intended. For example, he mentioned roads as against schools. But now he suggests—unless I am misunderstanding him—that it is wrong to refer something back to Parliament even when Parliament might think that it should be referred back to the United Kingdom to see that there is no distortion.
§ Mr. Brittan
There is no inconsistency. What I am trying to show is that the scheme of the Bill is inherently unstable and that if this type of scheme is adopted, these difficulties will be created. There is no way of avoiding it.
§ Mr. Brittan
The defects in the scheme are not defects which can be removed in Committee. They are not minor and obscure points but absolutely central to this approach to the problem. That is 1767 why we oppose the Bill. That opposition is based on a constitutional conception of these matters which differs radically from that of the Government. We have made no secret of that. That is why one is on the horns of a dilemma. Either way, if this approach is adopted, an unsatisfactory situation arises——
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson rose——
§ Mr. Brittan
No, I will not give way. I must bring my remarks to an end.
In some cases, the conflict between what the Government want to do and the pressures that they will face from the nationalist Bench will be——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat if the hon. Member who is addressing the House does not give way.
§ Mr. Wilson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) referred specifically to this Bench. When such a thing is done——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has been a Member of this House long enough to know that if another Member does not give way, it must be accepted that he does not give way.
§ Mr. Brittan
In some cases, the conflict installed in the Bill is central and in other cases it has been gratuitously added but our main thesis in opposition to the Bill is that conflict is a very feature of it, not something accidental or fortuitous. Occasionally, defects may be removed by amendment, but that is not true of the central defect, the built-in conflict between England and Scotland.
If we believed that the Bill would meet the genuine desires of the people of Scotland and Wales without endangering the unity of the United Kingdom, we should of course support it, but we do not believe that and cannot believe that. If we believed that amendments would make the Bill meet those requirements we should be happy, but we do not believe that and cannot believe that. What we do believe is that the whole unhappy 1768 scheme of the Bill provides nothing more than an unviable, unstable and cumbersome halfway house between the Union and its dissolution.
Some have said that the Bill is our last chance to deal with these matters. The Lord President even used characteristically dangerous and intemperate language about what might happen if the Bill failed. That was the language of blackmail and I do not believe that the House will be blackmailed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) pointed out what nonsense those wild assertions were.
If we defeat this Bill we should first heave a sigh of relief at the departure of a legislative abortion. Then, when the dust has settled, we should take a cool, comprehensive look at the problem of all our governmental institutions, including those of this House. Then, and then only, shall we be able to devise a proper answer to the challenge of nationalism and deal with the real problems to which it is one of many responses. For nationalism is not a unique phenomenon which can be appeased or bought off by intricate legislation but a symptom of a wider malaise in the way in which we run our affairs.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I have been waiting for quite a time during the debate—I include the speeches from the Opposition Front Bench—to hear someone address himself to the real problems and make a speech worthy of this important occasion. I still have not heard such a speech.
I was prepared to be rather tender towards the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs Thatcher), the Leader of the Opposition, when she made her first speech on devolution. Without any doubt, she contrived at that time not to speak on the subject at all. I think that she was afraid to display her ignorance. On this occasion she had more courage and she displayed her ignorance. If we take all the legalistic speeches that have been made, including the speech of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), it is clear that there is no understanding on the Opposition Front Bench of what devolution means.
We are not creating another sovereign Assembly in Waes or in Scotland; we 1769 are devolving. As we are devolving, there must be reserve powers. It is the easiest thing in the world to say that a Bill is bad because of certain words, but the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby must appreciate what his party has been committed to for a long time. I remember the Queen's Speech submitted by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and his Cabinet in 1970. It stated:Proposals will be worked out in full consultation with all concerned for local government reform in England, Scotland and Wales associated with the general devolution of powers from the central Government. At a later stage plans will be laid before you for giving the Scottish people a greater say in their own affairs.The hon. Member for Glasgow, Catchcart (Mr. Taylor) was a member of that Government. I presume that he accepted that statement at the time, although we all know that he was not a member of that Government for very long. He never remains a member of a Government for very long. He is the yo-yo Minister, who comes and goes with unfailing regularity.
The Conservative Government of 1970 also accepted entry to the Common Market. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart accepted office and then he left. At a later stage he returned.
The point is that work was done by the previous Administration. Before the Constitutional Commission was set up there was the Crowther Commission and the Kilbrandon Commission. Another powerful commission was set up by the right hon. Member for Sidcup. That was forgotten yesterday by the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas), the former Secretary of State for Wales, when he recalled the history of this matter.
In 1968, the year before the Constitutional Commission was set up, the right hon. Member for Sidcup established a distinguished commission under the chairmanship of Lord Home. It even included a Scottish judge. He did not remain a member of the commission for very long. He was a former Conservative Minister. There was also an ex-Prime Minister from the Dominions. That commission took the matter seriously. To suggest that there has been a hasty and panicky approach to devolution—that was 1770 the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby—shows how little Opposition Members know of what has been happening.
§ Mr. Ross
And a few other words as well, which were all carefully selected and read out. That was not a word that slipped out.
In Scotland we have been talking about this issue for over 50 years. Over the past decade we have been working out plans. Every party in this House, with the exception of the Labour Party, was committed to an Assembly in 1974. We received the Kilbrandon Commission's Report on 31st October 1973. Taking that into account, at the Labour Party Conference in March 1974 we proceeded to develop plans for devolution and an Assembly.
§ Mr. Ross
I can remember Labour Party conference after conference in Scotland discussing devolution. In 1956 we came to a point of view and an attitude. We said that there should be devolution preceded by a Speaker's Conference and appreciation of the changes necessary within the House. We did not become the Government again until 1964. It was after that return that we set up not a Speaker's Conference but a Constitutional Commission. I held the view all along that we should wait until it had deliberated and made decisions before we approached the issue of Assemblies. I am sure that that was a sensible attitude to take.
We have given a tremendous amount of thought to a complex subject. I remember that after the 1974 election my hon. Friend the Member for West 1771 Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who has been interrupting every speech, told me that a Bill had to be introduced in that Session. I had a tremendous amount of trouble with him and others in explaining that we were dealing with one of the most complicated issues that Parliament had ever undertaken. I explained the consultation, preparation and detailed work that had to be undertaken to ensure that everything was right before a Bill passed through the House. Time and time again, the timetable slipped. It was expected that the Bill would be complicated and that it would have to be put right.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
As the right hon. Gentleman is looking back on his longterm attachment to the devolution principle, will he read into the record what he said to his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) at the Labour Party Conference in 1968?
§ Mr. Ross
If the hon. Gentleman had given notice of that question, I would have brought the notes of my speech. I can remember many speeches on many occasions.
The point is that we are dealing with a problem that concerned the House way back in 1918. The problem has become worse since the development, for example, of the Council of Europe and the EEC. There is not the slightest doubt that Members do not adequately cover the amount of work that should be done in the Chamber. We know that time in the House is at a premium. There are many matters that demand our attention. For instance, we are still not able to deal with legislation consequent upon the Conservative Government's local government reform. That is because we cannot find time. I refer to the old byelaws and the burghs and local authorities in Scotland that have been affected by reorganisation. There are about 160, if not 200, clauses, yet time cannot be found for that essential Scottish matter.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) is not here. There was a problem relating to divorce in Scotland and the hon. Gentleman, exercising his powers, by his single vote Friday after Friday, blocked that measure. How did that look to those in Scotland who were concerned about this question?
1772 There was a Private Member's Bill concerning an important development in Ross and Cromarty. I can remember my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, in alliance with two Tory Members, helping to prevent the passage of the Bill. It could never happen in that way in an Assembly in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In alliance also, among others, with the relevant section of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
§ Mr. Ross
My hon. Friend should appreciate that he has to be concerned with a very much wider aspect than just one section when he is dealing with these matters. The future of a considerable part of Scotland was at stake in that matter, which had the support of the whole of the Scottish TUC, including the Transport and General Workers' Union.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
On that point, will the right hon. Gentleman accept the view of a former Secretary of State that the Cromarty Petroleum Order Confirmation Bill would have been a matter entirely for the Scottish Assembly, in which Westminster would not have a say?
§ Mr. Ross
We were concerned there only with the right to purchase land. Two Tory Members supported the landowner, who wanted more money and eventually got it. Do not hon. Members appreciate the frustrations in Scotland in respect of that kind of thing?
Many Members from English constituencies, including the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby, do not seem to know how Scotland is governed at the present time. The hon. Gentleman was worried whether, under the block grant system, the Assembly would be able to spend more on roads and less on hospitals. Does he not realise that the Secretary of State for Scotland has this power at the present time? It is happening now.
§ Mr. Brittan
It is not that that is what is happening now but that it will happen if the Bill is enacted. Whereas at the moment the Secretary of State for Scotland has the say, if the Bill is enacted there will be an Assembly, which will have differing references and which, in the following year, will have to face the United Kingdom in negotiation. That is a completely different arrangement altogether. The right hon. Gentleman must know that.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman knows that different Secretaries of State have different priorities. He knows, equally, that from year to year a Secretary of State is concerned with the Treasury. We are giving the Assembly the same power that the Secretary of State has at present. What is wrong with that?
§ Mr. Brittan
Since the right hon. Gentleman appears to be asking a question, I will answer it. There is all the difference in the world between a Secretary of State's conducting a negotiation in a Government of which he is a Member, and an Assembly at arm's length negotiating with a Government whose members may be of a different party altogether.
§ Mr. Ross
I had covered the point about the 71 Scottish Members of Parliament. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there have been 17 years of Tory rule since the war, since I have been a Member here? For most of these years, Labour Members for Scotland have been in the majority, and yet we were in the minority in the Scottish Grand Committee and in the Scottish Standing Committee. Did we try to block legislation in a way that made a nonsense of it? [Interruption.] Not in any unconstitutional way. We used the powers that were there, in accordance with the Hailsham diktat that Oppositions are entitled to oppose as long as they can within the constitution. It is as simple as that. But there was nothing unconstitutional. There was frustration, of course. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that we have always been in the minority here?
One of the most important pieces of legislation passed in the last year of the Tory Administration related to local government reform. The hon. Gentleman appreciates that the most important part, which worried everybody, concerned the size of Strathclyde—a region which con- 1774 tains half the population of Scotland. We fought and voted against that in Committee and in the House. We were defeated by 500 English Members. The majority of Scottish Members were against it. When it was taken to the House of Lords, the other place, for once in a generation, defeated the Government and threw out Strathclyde. The Bill came back to this House and the majority of Scottish Members voted in favour of the House of Lords' amendment. But the Government had their majority, including the 500 English Members, and therefore Scotland was done down.
Now people complain, after what we have been through all these years, that there will be 71 Scottish Members who will have a right to vote on some English Bill. To my mind, the people who have the right to object and to be concerned about numbers of Members are the Northern Ireland Members. They have a grievance in that respect.
As far as I can see, the fears raised by some of my colleagues about what might happen in respect of devolution and what might happen in the Assembly are not entirely justified. If there is the kind of behaviour that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) seemed to be leading up to, the people who will deal with him will be the Scottish people. If the Scottish people accept this piece of devolution, with all its limitations, they will not put up with people who wish to destroy it. We have to accept the limitations in order to get from this House the right to act in spheres in which at present the Secretary of State has the responsibility.
It is not a new tier of government. The administration is already there. It is a new set of legislators. The administration, instead of being responsible to this House, will be responsible to an Assembly, but it is not a new tier of government. [Interruption.] Of course it can be done, because the civil servants are already there in Scotland.
As for the cost of the Assembly, I did not hear any hon. Members raise a voice of protest when the underground car park was constructed here—and that cost as much as the Assembly will cost. The benefit of having an Assembly in Scotland is that the Government will be closer to the people in Scotland, and, 1775 being closer, they will be much more sensitive to the needs of the people of Scotland.
I am surprised that there has not been another resignation from the Tory Front Bench today. There may well be before the day is out. In a moment of weakness, the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby declared that Conservative policy stands where it did, wherever that was. We know that what was envisaged was a directly-elected Assembly. Certainly the hon. Member for Cathcart should not be on the Tory Front Bench, because he opposed that proposition time and again, to the embarrassment of his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Ross
But I was not committed to it; the hon. Gentleman was. The fact that there has been a change in the attitude of the Tory Shadow Cabinet, and the imposition of a three-line Whip on the subject of devolution, is one of the greatest breaches of faith with the Scottish people and Scottish Conservatives that I have known. The credibility of the Tory Party in respect of the government of Scotland has gone. I hope that the party will count the cost of that in the country. It may have appeased the hon. Member for Cathcart but, from my knowledge of the people of Scotland, there was more respect for the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) who left the Shadow Cabinet than for the one who took his place on the Front Bench. I want to congratulate the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns on his speech. He believed in what he was saying over a period of 10 years and stood by it. That is one of the troubles of the Tory Party on this Bill. Tory spokesmen have preached this concept for 10 years, but they are now saying "We do not mean it."
This Bill is necessary in Scotland. It will benefit Scotland. It is not a question of the slippery slope; it is a question of taking the right step to the right point where we can make an improvement in Scottish legislation and the way in which we handle it, and in Scottish government. Do not let anybody think that we can stand still and do nothing, because the problem will not just go away. 1776 The SNP Bench will not disappear. They are not all chauvinist, but all their propaganda is. It is a disgrace to Scotland, but I leave the people of Scotland to sort it out.
I am satisfied that if we pass the Bill, Parliament in the United Kingdom will continue to sort out the imbalance that has been traditional, not just in Scotland but throughout the country. With sensible regional policies on a United Kingdom basis, we can have diversity, a devolved Assembly and a United Kingdom Parliament that will lead to prosperity for Scotland and for the United Kingdom as a whole.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Sidcup)
When the House debated the Government White Paper on devolution on 19th January I set out as clearly as I could my view that Scotland and Wales should have devolution, although possibly of different kinds to suit their own characteristics. I went on to say that my purpose was to maintain the Union, and that still remains my purpose. The reason I support devolution for Scotland and for Wales is that I remain convinced that it is the best way of maintaining the Union. I have heard nothing that leads me to alter my view.
I do not want to deal with these matters in detail. I pointed out in that speech that the economic history of Scotland, and in part Wales, over the last 50 years, the decline in the major industries, such as shipbuilding, ship repairing, coal mining and the mechanisation of agriculture, the consequent level of unemployment—always higher there than in the rest of the United Kingdom—has led people in those countries to believe, rightly or wrongly, that, given the opportunity, they could run their own affairs better. Of that I still remain convinced.
I recognise that there are some who think that if devolution is granted it will lead to separation. That is not my view, because I am convinced that neither the people of Scotland nor the people of Wales want separation. I do not believe that they will move in that direction, provided that they get meaningful and viable devolution.
If the Scottish National Party is determined to break up the Assembly to obtain separation and gets the support of 1777 the people of Scotland in so doing nothing will prevent the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom. If, on the other hand, the SNP tries to break it up and loses the support of the people of Scotland, as I believe it would, Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom. That is why my faith in the people of Scotland remains absolutely undiminished.
I also stressed at that time, and I do so today, the urgency of this matter. In my belief the Union is in danger, as is this Parliament. If devolution is not completed in the course of this Parliament the people of Scotland will become so frustrated that they may turn to the party that seeks separation, to the extent possibly of giving it a majority of Scottish seats, in which case it would be difficult to counter the argument that the Scots want separation. If they arrive in this House in the next Parliament with a considerably increased strength, it may well prove to be impossible for either major party to govern effectively the United Kingdom as a whole. I do not say these words lightly, but after giving them considerable thought, and especially after having studied the present balance of parties and what will happen after the next General Election if devolution is not carried through.
I believe that this matter is not only vitally important, but urgent. Therefore, naturally, I was glad that the Government introduced this Bill. I have some reservations about the manner of handling the Bill, and I wish to make one suggestion.
At the end of my speech on 19th January I said that it was desirable that we should try to reach a corpus of agreement in this House about the nature of devolution and that we should use our institutions, which had been used before in committee form, to try to obtain agreement. If that suggestion had been followed by all in this House, wherever they sit, who wanted a form of devolution, these matters could be thrashed out in terms of what would have been broadly acceptable by all. We would then have been in a position of having before us a Bill which those in favour of devolution could support and those against could honestly oppose. That is not the situation, and I regret it; but I must accept it as it is.
I wish, too, that Bills has been introduced separately for Scotland and for 1778 Wales, but I understand the Government's reasons for introducing devolution in the form of one Bill. Since I have said that the matter is urgent, I must acknowledge that to handle the matter in this way probably gives the measure a better chance of reaching the statute book than would two separate Bills. However, I see nothing that prevents the Government, after a referendum, if Scotland or Wales should say that it does not wish to take advantage of these provisions, from removing Wales or Scotland from the Bill.
The Minister of State said rightly that part of the Bill need not be implemented. The question was asked whether that was a satisfactory guarantee. In that case a one-clause Bill could be put through Parliament removing Wales or Scotland from the Bill, thus giving satisfactory guarantees. I see no difficulty about that aspect of the Bill.
If we had been able to reach a corpus of agreement, it could have been put to both countries in the form of a referendum. That would have avoided discussion in Parliament for 30 or 35 days. We could certainly have avoided debate that may become abortive in respect of Wales. We cannot now have a referendum before the Bill. I was glad that the Minister made clear that clauses will be introduced providing for referenda in Scotland and Wales.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is there any possible chance of a "corpus of agreement"? Let me put this as politely as I can. If the right hon. Gentleman had been here for the first three days of this debate he would have heard from Scottish National Party Members that there is just no possibility of a "corpus of agreement". Those of us who have been contesting the SNP as our main opponents, not for two or three years but for 14 years, know that it is a delusion to suppose there is any possibility of a "corpus of agreement". The SNP aims at a separate Scottish State.
§ Mr. Heath
I am sorry. I do not agree. There is the possibility of a corpus of agreement, and I believe that the House will see it as the Committee stage proceeds. The hon. Gentleman may not like it, but it will be there.
As for the referendum, it was the Conservative Government in 1973 who 1779 had the referendum in Northern Ireland. We did it on the border. What is more, later on, when we had elections in Northern Ireland following that, they were conducted on the basis of proportional representation. From the point of view of our party, therefore, there is a clear precedent for having a referendum.
Let me make this point, because I do not think that it is understood outside this House. The reason why we did it was that there was no institution existing in Northern Ireland to speak for the people of Northern Ireland. Stormont had been suspended. There was no means in Northern Ireland at that time of having the referendum on the border.
There is no institution at present in Scotland or in Wales which can speak separately for the people of Scotland and for the people of Wales. Therefore, I believe that it is right that there should be referenda in those two countries.
I do not agree, however, with those who say that we must also have a referendum in England. We did not have a referendum in England, Scotland and Wales about the border in Northern Ireland. We said that that was a matter for the people of Northern Ireland. Moreover, I do not see the point, as we have heard so much about conflict, of having possibly a conflict in a referendum about what the people of Scotland want and may be determined to get and what the people of England would prefer.
What grieves me especially is that, despite the time that has elapsed since the debate in January—which was a five-day debate, including Northern Ireland—there seems to have been little growth in apprehension amongst many English people, least of all in the nationally based Press in Fleet Street, about what the real situation in Scotland is and what the feelings of the people of Scotland are.
§ Mr. Heath
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend, and it is extremely relevant to the debate and to the attitude of this House towards the Bill. If the people 1780 of Scotland believe that a majority of English Members have stopped the continuance of this Bill, the bitterness and resentment will be enormous.
The one suggestion that I make to the House, to the Government, and to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is that, although it was not possible to have discussions on a corpus of agreement about the nature of the Bill, could not there now be discussions about the handling of the Bill? It is an intricate Bill. I agree with the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that, if we are going in for a process of devolution which is not federation, it is bound to be an intricate Bill.
It is intolerable that this House should spend 35 days of its time, a large part of it being filibustered, only to see the complicated details rushed through the House under a guillotine. The House has a responsibility to Wales and Scotland to find a way of handling the Bill. After all, 30 to 35 days is an enormous amount of time. We have a responsibility to work out an arrangement to ensure that each of its clauses is properly considered.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)
Did the right hon. Gentleman take that view on the European Communities Bill?
§ Mr. Heath
Yes, I did. Unfortunately, the then Opposition did not.
The Conservative Party has a very honourable record on devolution, and the former Secretary of State for Scotland was kind enough to pay tribute to it. There has now been a decade of consideration of this question in the Conservative Party in Scotland as well as here. It goes back in fact to 1966, and the tribute should go to the grass roots and not to the leadership, because it was from the grass roots that the demand came that we should re-examine the whole of the government of Scotland, not only administrative but legislative. This was a perfectly logical continuation of the administrative devolution for Scotland and Wales which had been carried out since Sir Winston Churchill's Government of 1951. It had been carried on continuously. It seemed to many in Scotland that we had reached the point where no further administrative devolution was likely to take place and, therefore, that we had to examine the question of legislative devolution as well. That we did.
1781 It resulted in the policy group being set up in June 1967 and my declaration at Perth, as it is now known, in May 1968. My declaration at Perth was not some mental aberration after a conference night out in Perth, agreeable as those always are. It was the result of carefully considered papers—papers before the Shadow Cabinet and agreed by the whole Shadow Cabinet—and discussions with the party in the House. Therefore, I made my declaration, which has stood firm ever since 1968.
As the former Secretary of State said, it led to the setting up of the committee under the noble Lord, Lord Home, and it contained Sir Robert Menzies, the former Prime Minister of Australia. It made recommendations which were accepted—and we have adhered to those since—that there should be an Assembly in Scotland, that it should have legislative power, and that it should have directly elected representatives. First, we suggested indirectly, because that would have enabled us to set it up very quickly, and they themselves could then have moved on to direct elections. But we have in our process of talks moved to a directly elected Assembly. When my noble Friend spoke in the Lords shortly after our debate here he made the point, with which I agreed and which I had already tried to make, that as events had moved we had recognised that an Assembly which was just a separate part of the legislative system of Westminster was unlikely to succeed.
The logical conclusion is to move on to a viable and meaningful form of devolution. That, therefore, is my position, and I believe that it is the logical conclusion of the 10 years in which I have been engaged in arguing for devolution in Scotland. So I have a personal commitment to it. I have had it ever since my statement in Perth in 1968. I have not changed. I see no reason to change. Nothing that I have heard in this debate gives me any reason to do so. Nor do I think it necessary to take a further cool and comprehensive look, because I have been doing that for a complete decade.
I turn, then, to the Bill. The vote tonight is about the principle of devolution. That cannot be denied; it is a fact; and, although there may be sub- 1782 tleties inside this House in our voting, what people outside understand is that this is a vote on the principle of devolution.
If the Bill is defeated, can anyone believe that the Government will come along next week or in the first week after the Recess with a Scotland and Wales (No. 2) Bill which is entirely different from this one? That is not a practical possibility. The rejection of the Bill means, therefore, that there will be no opportunity to discuss devolution in the form of a Bill inside this Parliament, and that runs absolutely counter to the urgency in this situation which I have described.
Those who have anxieties have now the assurance of a referendum and a cast-iron guarantee about what will happen if the referendum runs against the decision of Parliament on this Bill. I should have thought that that would be satisfactory to anyone with doubts.
A number of reasons have been put forward for supporting this Bill and one of them was given by the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who said it was very important to lift much of the burden from this House and from the Westminster Parliament. He is right—that is very necessary, and there is evidence of it everywhere. We all know that.
The Bill also provides a more acceptable government for Scotland and Wales. The phrase "better government" has been used. Whether the government will be better, I do not know, but certainly it will be more acceptable, because it is what the majority of people in Scotland want, and, possibly, in Wales. If it is what they want they will accept it more readily.
I do not believe that any of this conflicts with Conservative principles. Indeed, it is the basis of them. That is evident in so many different aspects of this legislation. As a party, we believe in freedom. What is the point of making ringing declarations about freedom if we are not prepared to give Scotland and Wales the greater freedom of self-government? That is the very basis of the doctrine of freedom. We should give responsibility to people at the same time as we give them freedom.
1783 Some hon. Members have doubts about the responsibility of the Scottish people. I have no doubts. In fact, I believe that the responsibilities of the Assembly should be increased in certain aspects. I think that the Government have, in fairness to the House, made considerable improvements since we debated the White Paper, and I thank them for that. Many of our suggestions have been adopted. There is nothing in this Bill which cannot be dealt with by amendments in Committee, and there is no reason why the Bill should be rejected because of certain aspects of it.
Many hon. Members have raised the question of conflict. There is always conflict in government, and what matters is the means of reconciling the differences which cause the conflict. There has been conflict between this House and another place over the last few months. Yet I have heard no voice on this side of the House saying that the House of Lords should not exist. In fact it has been suggested by some of my hon. Friends that greater powers should be given to the House of Lords in order to contribute to the process of reconciliation.
§ Mr. Heffer
But would the right hon. Gentleman agree that if there were permanent conflict, if everything this House did were rejected by the other place, and we never got any legislation through or never made progress, then something would have to be done about the other place? There is a possibility that we will have a Scottish Assembly which is in almost permanent conflict with Westminster, because the seeds are laid down in the Bill in this direction.
§ Mr. Heath
That may be a matter of judgment. I do not believe it is a valid argument. If the hon. Member is worried about it, then let him alter the arrangements by amendments to the parts which he alleges lay down the seeds for conflict.
On the question of interference, I still feel that there is too high a level of interference by Westminster and Whitehall in the Assembly arrangements. Probably Whitehall feels that this is to keep things tidy, but in many cases it would be much better to hand over devolved powers to the Assembly.
I listened with interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) said about finan- 1784 cing, and the block grant. The Conservative Government of 1959 to 1964 introduced a block grant for local government because we thought it was the best way of giving local authorities freedom over their expenditure. At the same time we tried to persuade the Scots to accept the block grant, but they would not do so, because the then Secretary of State for Scotland said that he could wangle more money out of the Treasury by not having a block grant. I do not see any problems about the block grant.
I do think that we should give the Assembly the powers of raising revenue. I do not see any difficulty here. The Prime Minister talked of fairness, but many Scots and Welsh people say, rightly or wrongly, that they have been very unfairly treated in the past. If they want to put a considerable tax on petrol and keep out tourists, why should we not let them do so? If they want to take measures which they believe are in their interests and will suit them better than those operating south of the border, why not allow them to do so? They will learn. It may be painful, but they must elect people who will do the things they want. That is what parliamentary democracy and freedom are all about.
On the question of industry, the Government should have gone further. I hate the idea of guidelines. Under the present arrangements the people who have had the largest share of public expenditure are those in the North-East of England. The second largest share has gone to the central industrial belt of Scotland. The third largest has gone to the North-West of England. That is accepted under the present arrangements. Why should we not accept that if the Scots want to tax themselves more and use the money for industrial grants they should be able to do so? That was because in 1963, when I was Secretary of State for Regional Development, we followed Lord Hailsham's plan that the North-East should have an allocation of resources far above that which was warranted by its population. So did the central belt of Scotland. The rest of the country accepted that, and if the Scots and the Welsh decide to raise more money to help industry I do not see any objection.
When I was President of the Board of Trade I was often depressed that I had to say "No" to good ideas simply 1785 because everybody was not prepared to accept them. If the Scots and the Welsh have new ideas they should be able to go ahead with them, and it is possible that we English could learn from them and do the same ourselves. This is what freedom and self-government are about.
Then, of course, there is the European dimension, which has been left out of this debate. On the question of development for industry we are all limited by the agreement with the Common Market. The Scots cannot do more than the Community has fixed by agreement. To that extent we are all safeguarded. If we say that we want to go to the limit which the Community has fixed, we can do so, and it is up to the Welsh and the Scots to make these decisions for themselves.
The real problem is that in certain aspects this Bill is still an English Bill. The Minister of State has exercised great influence on it, but there is still a lingering feeling that we English want to have control of various aspects. A development of our thinking on devolution is necessary today. This is, perhaps, a South of England Bill—and I say that as a Member coming from the far South-Eastern corner—because the whole organisation of Whitehall militates towards the South of England. We must think ourselves into the position of those who are to operate these incentives.
The question has been raised about over-representation at Westminster. This is a vitally important problem and the Government must be prepared to deal with it.
I turn now to the question of cost. If the situation is as I have described it, I do not believe that cost outweighs all other considerations. In Scotland, and possibly in Wales, it is possible that the existing local government should be changed when the Assembly carries out such functions. It was not practical to put that in the Bill; there is enough in it already, but it is the responsibility of the Assembly to deal with this.
The Government often say that we were spendthrift in local government and wrong in our local government reorganisation. I cannot help recalling that when the Wheatley and Redcliffe-Maud reports came out the then Prime Minister said he would get this done in what I said at the time was an impossibly short time. 1786 I think that the present Government might be a little more considerate in their attitude to the problems of local government.
We did it because there was at that time a demand for the reform of local government. We also said that we would hold off the directly-elected Assembly for Scotland until local government reorganisation was complete. As a former Prime Minister I must say that this was at the request first of Lord Crowther and then of Lord Kilbrandon. They asked me whether I could not arrange our legislative programme so that they could finish their discussions and then make a complete recommendation about devolution. We pressed ahead with local government on that basis.
The other thing which Lord Crowther said to me I should like to mention in connection with the speech by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), which I found of very great interest. It is also tied up with what people have asked about the value of devolution. I asked Lord Crowther whether, even if the main report would take many years, it was not possible to have a report on Northern Ireland. He said that he would consult his colleagues, but that if I liked he would give me his view, since he knew how his colleagues thought. It was that they would much prefer not to bring forward any individual advance reports because they thought they should consider the subject as a whole in the context of the United Kingdom. He added that if I did ask him and his colleagues to agree to a report on Northern Ireland he thought—in fact he knew—that they would say that the Stormont arrangement was highly prized by people in Northern Ireland because of its close relationship with industry, commerce, agriculture and their daily lives. Leaving aside the whole question of police and security, from the point of view of the main domestic preoccupations they had come to the conclusion that Stormont was greatly prized by the people of both the main religious faiths in Northern Ireland.
I was particularly interested when the hon. Member for Antrim, South concluded by saying that he believes that the next advance in Northern Ireland will be through a further administrative development in which, because the parties would 1787 share according to their elected representatives, they could then work together in committees and so on to produce an effective result. All I can say is that the Assembly and the Executive which came from it were attempts to do this, but with legislative power as well. If the hon. Member and his supporters have come to the conclusion that they would like a similar arrangement covering the whole of Northern Ireland, but without legislative powers, I would have thought that that was a major statement and that it was very important in terms of future progress. I hope, therefore, that he will have discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about what I thought was a very important speech which could lead to political progress in Northern Ireland.
I wish, finally, to say a word about the situation tonight. I have set out my commitment to devolution and I have set out the history of it as far as I am concerned. I have stated the importance and the urgency I attach to it now. I do not think that in these circumstances anybody would expect me to vote against the Government's Bill. People know my history. I may be inflexible and very obstinate. On the other hand, it may be that I sustain my beliefs. My beliefs at the moment are that this devolution, to which I have been committed for a decade, is necessary and urgent. My purpose remains to keep the Union of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. I believe that the best way of maintaining this Union is to have devolution. I wish that I were not faced with the particular problem that faces me, especially since I was the leader of my party for 10 years and Prime Minister for nearly four years.
The question of Europe was raised just now. When we had the final debate on Europe the question arose of whether there should be a Whip or a free vote. I can tell the House that I wanted a three-line Whip. That was not for a party reason but because I did not believe that those with whom I had been negotiating, the other Heads of Governments, particularly President Pompidou and Chancellor Brandt, would believe that we as a Government were putting our whole weight behind that negotiated agreement unless we had a Whip in Parliament. I was dissuaded from that view by the then 1788 Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), and the then Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). I believe that they were right. They were proved absolutely right because the result was that our strength was greater with those with whom I had been negotiating than it would otherwise have been, since that approach led to 69 Labour Members supporting us in the Lobby and giving us a very large majority for Europe.
So I regret that I find myself in this position. I hope that it will be understood, because I cannot go against my record of the last 10 years. I cannot go against the beliefs I honestly and sincerely hold and which, I believe, are in the interests of the people of Scotland and of the whole of the United Kingdom. I regret that I cannot vote against this Bill tonight.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has given a speech which certainly becomes his temperament. He has nostalgically looked back at history as it has affected him on devolution. In a nostalgic manner he has told the House how in his view a consensus existed and that it was possible and still should be possible to resolve the difficulties by the creation of this consensus view.
The great difficulty with the right hon. Member, of course, is that he always believes that his view is the consensus. He always takes the view that having made a declaration which he regards as reasonable and moderate, it must be the view which all reasonable and moderate men must accept. History has shown that it is precisely because he lacks the sensitivity to recognise that there are other opinions passionately felt and passionately held, with no less consistency than his own, that has led him repeatedly into difficulty and confrontation and has now led him into the position where he is clearly an idiosyncratic element within his own party.
I think that the insouciance with which he dealt with the question of Wales, the insouciance with which he treated Wales, as though it were a mere appendage of Scotland, is an indication of how he can 1789 mislead himself; and by making comments which are incantatory about what Wales wants he can be led into the belief that because it is his predilection it must necessarily be the predilection of the people of Wales.
What he is saying so dogmatically is said with the same breathtaking impertinence in the initial clause in the Bill which is didactic in the sense that it begins by saying that the contents of the Bill will not affect the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Abse
I do not look to the right hon. Member to decide what the people of Wales may desire. I am saying that it is clear that anyone who really understood the opinion of Wales, who truly understood that it did not wish to be dragged along on the hem of a tartan kilt, could not so easily dismiss the view that the two potential Bills should not be telescoped.
If the right hon. Member had a real appreciation of what the people of Wales think he would not be able to treat in so perfunctory a manner the issue which clearly, as has been indicated right through by every opinion poll, is an issue on which the people of Wales feel deeply and with which the majority wish to have nothing whatever to do. He is prepared to embark upon a course of causing the United Kingdom to be broken up, and he does so with an extraordinary detachment.
There can be self-fulfilling prophecies. The Bill contains the inappropriate, propagandist prognosis that the United Kingdom will not be broken up. If one masks the real fear, if dogmatism tries to smother the overcompensated doubt, the doubt will seep through more and more and in the end one will not be able to contain what one most fears.
The Government have said that what they are doing is to give consideration merely to excessive centralisation in Government. 1790 The Bill does not do that. Decentralisation of government is one thing, but yielding to vulgar and aggressive nationalism is another. In each consultative document, White Paper and supplementary paper, the same facile attempt is made to smudge what all of us know to be the truth—that the Bill is an attempt to placate nationalism. That cannot be masked by pleading that its contents are simply an effort to make alterations in the machinery of government, to adapt ourselves to what the White Paper calls "changing circumstances". Those changing circumstances are common to every part of Britain.
§ Mr. Abse
It becomes vulgar and aggressive when it is in the form presented to us by Plaid Cymru and the SNP. The Bill yields to that element when it affects to yield to the need for decentralisation. They are two different matters. The changing circumstances to which the Bill adapts affect every part of the United Kingdom, because of the more interventionist government of the twentieth century. What the Bill is yielding to, not adapting to, is the blackmail of those who, faced with the complexities of contemporary society, are nostalgically looking back to the outmoded, mythological nineteenth-century concept of the nation State. It is astonishing to me that the right hon. Gentleman, who had a European sense, could be so easily tempted or so easily frightened by the surge of nationalism, which has come from Scotland and has bubbled a little in Wales.
It is a grim illusion to think that institutionalising and thus corroborating such spurious national sentiments is the right response to the vast socio-economic changes concomitant with the technical advances that we are witnessing. No one can dispute that such changes bring about feelings of estrangement, of helplessness. I know how it is for my constituents working in a steel factory with 9,000 employees to feel anonymous. But every member of my generation knows the terrible consequences when peoples, feeling rootless, finding reality too offensive and painful and lacking confidence, turn to ancient mythologies and the mumbo-jumbo of primitive nationalism. 1791 When anomie exists, whole peoples turn to myth in that way. Then, as in the psychotic disease of an individual, they can regress, withdraw from reality and affect to remodel social reality in accordance with their own frustrated wishes, and so bring about catastrophe.
Like many other hon. Members, I was born in one world war. My father was then at the front. Also like many other hon. Members I took part in the last war. We were the fortunate ones, in that we came back. When I look at my children I am aware that the next generation could be the last. There have been wars involving Europe and the United States every eighteen and a half years, on average, since the end of the eighteenth century. The next war could be the last.
It is because we should never underestimate the risks that some of us turn with such hostility to a Bill that in my judgment will inflame and encourage—certainly in Wales—the menace of nationalism, which is an irrational, insatiable passion that can never be assuaged. Let no one say that this is an extravagant reaction to nothing more than a tepid piece of regional institutionalising to match some form of regional planning. If regional considerations were really being reviewed, we might be considering in Monmouthshire, Gwent and Glamorgan the possibility of a Severn-side authority linking us with Bristol, and perhaps thinking that Clwyd should not be isolated from Merseyside.
If we are thinking of decentralisation, I can understand that there should be linear economic links, not suprious racial links which would be the binding factors. Where are such linear economic links, between for example, my constituency, the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) and the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes)? I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey has tried to be here, but I know that he is in some difficulty. His constituency illustrates the absurdity of suggesting that the Bill has anything other than a nationalist basis. My constituents and I are not bound by geographical proximity to the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey. On the contrary, South Wales has never been nearer to London and the 1792 Midlands. The motorways and the Inter-City trains have come, making the journey much quicker.
§ Mr. Dalyell
My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) is at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
§ Mr. Abse
I thought that I had indicated that I was aware that there were reasons for my right hon. Friend's absence.
The link between my right hon. Friend's constituency and mine cannot be language, because not 1 per cent. of my constituents speak Welsh, whereas a high proportion of his do. It cannot be an ethnic factors, for half the people of industrial South Wales spring from Englishmen and Irishmen who came there in the nineteenth century. There is an element of Welshness that we in Gwent enjoy, but it finds its expression not in nationalist excrescences but in its rugby teams, at Cardiff Arms Park, and in its choirs. However, that is not a sufficient reason to suggest that we should move to an Assembly at Cardiff, joining Assembly men from Anglesey.
It is cant to deny that the sick dynamic behind the Bill is anything but a wretched nationalism, which approaches racialism. How Nye Bevan, the predecessor of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, would have mocked the Bill! He was the authentic voice of the Labour movement in Wales. He was the benign result of miscegenation, blessed as he was with one English and one Welsh parent. The inspirational book written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale has an index which, in its care, matches the quality of the book. In that dense index neither "Wales" or "Welsh" appears, because Nye Bevan, born as he was out the struggle of the miners of Wales to get integrated with the miners of Britain, and conscious as he was that the great danger to the South Wales miners was the way in which the local coal owners could always play off the miners of Wales against the miners in the English coalfields——
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
My great predecessor in Ebbw Vale had a few strong words to say about the bovine Anglo-Saxons. I 1793 hope that my hon. Friend will take that to heart too.
§ Mr. Abse
Indeed he did. I do not intend to indulge in the racialism implied in that remark. I shall deal later with the attitude of certain Englishmen towards the problems of Wales.
It would need wild horses to bring Nye Bevan to a Welsh Labour Party group of parliamentarians. He never attended a Welsh parliamentary party meeting because he believed, as I believe, that a miner is a miner whether he works in Durham or Glamorgan, that a steelworker is a steelworker whether he works at Ebbw Vale, Llanwern, Scunthorpe or Sheffield and that a fibre worker is a fibre worker whether he works in Pontypool or Harrogate.
I do not wish to be offensive to a man for whom I have great affection, admiration and friendship, but I sometimes wonder whether Englishmen like my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House realise how insulting it is to the people of Wales that, once over the border, these romantics act as if they had entered a land of Celts preserved in a 1,000-year-old reservation.
§ Mr. Abse
The great difficulty with my right hon. Friend is that he seems to believe that something happens when he crosses Offa's Dyke, but Offa's Dyke is in decay and most people want it to remain that way. The Severn Bridge has been explicitly condemned by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans). But Wales and my constituency want more bridges and more motorways to bring the needed industry from the Midlands and the South-East. The people are more concerned about industry and jobs.
I cannot regard the attitude of the Secretary of State for Wales, in looking with equanimity at the issue of nationalism, as one which I can possibly share. Most people in Wales want to be modern Britons and, as every known poll shows, they refuse to be type-cast in some tawdry theatrical production in the Cardiff Exchange building as ancient Britons.
We have all been here before. Nye 1794 Bevan and others in the 1950s resisted the "Parliament for Wales" movement. It would be a foolish man who in a political lifetime never, in the light of his experience, modified some of his youthful enthusiasms. But there is a certain anchorage to our philosophies which, if cynically cut, would leave us drifting like flotsam on the political scene. Some of us have not that habit of mind, and I have no intention in the autumn of my political life to betray those whose vision and imagination shaped the essential internationalism of the Labour movement in Wales.
I concede that I may not possess the same certitude and high confidence that harmonious resonances would be evoked as when in my young days I marched under banners in Wales calling upon the workers of the world to unite. I certainly do not intend, however, at this stage in my political life to spend my time calling on the workers in Scotland, England and Wales to disunite.
Inevitably, a Bill affecting to be an act of courage when it is an act of cowardice is replete with ambivalences and ambiguities, as the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) and the Leader of the Opposition have had full opportunity of demonstrating. I do not want to rehearse arguments that I have rehearsed before and I do not wish to deal with matters that are perhaps more appropriate for the Committee stage. I merely want to end by talking about the referendum which has been wrested by the Back Benchers who have supported me out of the Government. I do not do that in order to gloat. I am glad that the Government, even at this last moment, have recognised that they have never received the signature of approval from the people of Wales to these proposals. When they have said that they have, they reminded me of the cheap hucksters who induce unsuspecting housewives to sign contracts for goods by legerdemain, concealing the small print. The Government, in conceding the referendum, demonstrate that they recognise that they have no mandate and no authority to pass this Bill.
The consequence that flows from that is that it is impossible to grant a referendum to the people of Wales and then tell them how they are to vote. It is impossible for the Labour Government 1795 to say to Labour Members of Parliament that, having been given a referendum, they must vote in the way the Government say they should vote. It is impossible to say to the overwhelming majority of Labour Party constituencies in Wales that, now that the Government have conceded the referendum for which they asked, they must not vote except in the way that the Government say is the policy of the party.
There is a need for a free and open debate on Wales, not in an attitude of antagonism or recrimination, and not arguing about who is more loyal or less loyal to the Labour manifesto or to something that occurred 20 years ago. There is need for an open debate in which can take part the Ministers representing Welsh constituencies who are now silenced and who form such a large proportion of the Government, symbolising yet again the extraordinary political leverage that Wales has always had in Westminster. It is important that every Minister and every Welsh Member of Parliament, constituency party and Labour supporter should realise that he has the freedom to speak, act, help and work when the referendum is held.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is a recent precedent? On the issue of the Common Market there was a division within the party and within the Cabinet. Cabinet Ministers were allowed a dispensation to argue either for or against entry into the Common Market. Would not that be a good precedent for the Government to follow in this case?
§ Mr. Abse
I entirely agree. I should like to give some advice. The Government have belatedly had to give the referendum that we demanded. Let them have the good sense to listen to what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said. Let them conduct a free-voting referendum with grace so that the procedure can be conducted with courtesy and dignity, as we would expect in Wales. We who are still true to the principles of international democratic Socialism will be able to spell out to out voters the necessity not to harden boundaries but to blur them, not to incite xenophobia but to discourage it, and, then, together with all useful people everywhere, we shall help a united Britain to 1796 overcome its present grievous economic and social problems.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
I hope that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will understand if, in the interests of brevity and of the many hon. Members who still wish to speak, I do not follow his interesting arguments. I shall, however, remark on his great achievement in getting accepted a referendum. But if free, open and wide-ranging debate in Wales and Scotland is to be followed only by the sort of referendum which asks the people of Wales and Scotland only whether they want to take or leave the Bill and will give them no other option, in that case the referendum will be something of a catastrophe and will serve only to sour the atmosphere. If a referendum is to mean anything, there must be a range of options open to those who take part in it.
It is customary in the House to consider what "Erskine May" calls the "whole principle" of a Bill at Second Reading. But herein lies the dilemma with this Bill because, as my hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party said so rightly in Monday's debate, it is impossible to discern any fundamental principle behind the Bill. There is evidence of this in the Committee stage nature of almost all the Front Bench speechs during this four-day debate so far. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, exploded the idea that devolution, full stop, is the principle of the Bill. He said on Tuesday:One cannot be for or against devolution any more than one can be for or against government or sunlight. There has to be devolution in any country. A country cannot be run without devolution."—[Official Report, 14th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1280.]In the further search for active principles in the Bill, I followed with interest the Prime Minister's opening remarks. He claimed that four principles underlay the Bill:a respect for the diversity and distinctive tradition of Scotland and Wales; political and economic unity of the Kingdom; the sovereignty of Parliament; and fairness to the whole of the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 13th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 982.]Those are admirable sentiments, but they cannot by any standard be described 1797 as active and specific principles which are the motor for a Bill. They are simply the sacred street furniture which the legislative bulldozer is not to knock over in its progress. We cannot be expected to vote, and in this House we do not vote, for a series of maxims. We try to seek a principle on which to decide our vote. How can we do this with a Bill which in yielding to political pressure after years of stubbornness is simply a mishmash of improvisations and expedients? The only way in which the Bill can be presented to show any type of respectable stature is to mount it in comparison with one object only, and that is the White Paper on devolution to England. In comparison to that, the Bill begins to have an inch or two of respectable stature, but in no other way.
As to principle, I need scarcely remind the House that the Liberal Party has for many years urged a federal kingdom and, thank goodness, many other people—distinguished people—have said the same thing. No one is making, from this Bench, the absurd claim that federalism is a uniquely Liberal or necessarily distinctively Liberal Party principle. But it has been the policy of the Liberal Party for many years. Many hon. Members from both sides in this long debate have also urged, in one way or another with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the federal solution.
From both Front Benches, however, the federal solution has been dismissed only by unsupported assertion and has been brushed aside in the same assertive way as Kilbrandon brushed it aside, without arguing the case and without facing up particularly to the manifest success of a federal structure in West Germany—a country which, at any rate today, has a considerable similarity with the United Kingdom in terms of population, its type of industry and the location of both States in Western Europe. The fact that a federal structure was imposed on West Germany by a military Government, who thought that this was a device for keeping Germany weak, simply served to show the fallibility of constitutional experts.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
The hon. Gentleman has attacked several people for not addressing themselves in more detail to the federal argument. 1798 Can he now please reply, as his hon. Friends will not, to the main criticism against federalism, which is the imbalance in a federation having one big unit and other very small units?
§ Mr. Wainwright
I wish that I had the time to answer that. If a regional structure could be devised for England, I firmly believe, and my hon. Friends share my belief, that regional government in England should have some legislative power.
I turn now to the more bread-and-butter issues. The debate has been informed throughout by deep concern about the possibility of considerable unfairness in the distribution of resources in this kingdom being aggravated by various forms of spatchcock devolution. The Prime Minister's bland answer to this widely-held fear from both sides of the House was to say that fairness and equity would be guaranteed by this Parliament. I am sure that the people, of, for instance, various northern parts of England could not accept for a moment the idea of this House behaving with stern, rational, cool impartiality when faced with all the problems to which a democratic assembly is subject. It simply will not do.
I have some figures which were recently published by the Northern Region Strategy Team, an official body massively supported by the Government's statistical service. The figures show what has happened in disparity and unfairness in different parts of this kingdom, even without the particular form of devolution which the Bill proposes. The figures are for the five years up to 1974, showing the average annual expenditure which can be described as regionally relevant. That is about three-quarters of the total public expenditure of this country—that is, leaving out such matters as defence which cannot really be ascribed to the benefit of any particular region. I take the figures of expenditure per head in the North-West of England and in Scotland because they have broadly the same population, both were cradles of the Industrial Revolution and both in recent years have suffered much the same levels of unemployment.
Under the heading for trade, industry, employment, the expenditure in North-West England per head was £24, and in 1799 Scotland £39. For capital for the nationalised industries in the North-West it was £23 per head, and in Scotland £31. In housing in the North-West it was £28 per head, and in Scotland £44. In education, libraries, science and arts, in the North-West it was £60 per head and in Scotland it was £71. In health and personal social services, it was £49 in the North-West and £57 in Scotland. It was interesting to note that parity arose under the heading of law, order and protective services, where both parts of the kingdom had a figure of £12.3 per head. If I had chosen to take the figures for Yorkshire and Humberside, they would have shown up marginally worse than those for the North-West compared with Scotland.
What the enterprising and politically-inspired Scots people can do and have done without a Parliament leads one to wonder where they will get to vis-à-vis the rest of the country, or at any rate the northern regions of England, when once they have this type of Parliament fed by a block grant and without the chance of having to raise much of the revenue itself. So much for the Prime Minister's soothing claim that all this will be guaranteed to be fair by the magnificent impartiality and cool rationality of this Parliament.
The Bill is non-federal, and in some respects it is positively anti-federal. The question, therefore, that exercises us on this Bench is how far it is capable of basic amendment in ways that would open the way towards a federal kingdom. Hon. Members will be ingenious and industrious in Committee, and it is our intention to be no less so than others. Nevertheless, I confess to the gravest doubts, unless I am corrected, that such matters as the representation of Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons—not merely their numbers, which have been a long-standing grievance, but the very fact of those Members being here at all to vote on English issues, as they have had to do during recent contentious Divisions—can be dealt with in the Bill together with any sort of declaration about the extension of devolution to England.
I have the gravest doubts about being able to amend the Bill in respect of the extraordinarily anomalous powers of the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, or of getting into the Bill mean- 1800 ingful taxation powers, not simply marginal powers. On all these matters despair of the House being able satisfactorily to amend the Bill and to turn it in a federal direction.
§ Mr. Ian Grist (Cardiff, North)
In that case, how can the hon. Gentleman support the Bill? Or is he intending to pass it because it is unamendable?
§ Mr. Wainwright
Of course, I was not intending to sit down without indicating in the customary way what action is likely to be taken. The view of my hon. Friends on this Bench, as eloquently put by my colleagues, is that this is a bad Bill and, as I have tried to indicate, we somewhat despair of being able to turn it into a reasonable measure. We cannot see any daylight in trying to create a Bill that we shall be able to support on Third Reading.
In the absence of a principle to be discerned in the Bill, the vote must turn on something additional, and that is, whether in the coming year will the House at last, after far too long a delay, do what it has funked for a generation—that is to say, to face the decrepitude of our machinery of government, to face the deep and rapidly deepening alienation of our people from the organs of government and to deal with the needs of our constituents for a wide-ranging constitutional reform that will be based as far as possible not on preconceptions of political parties but on some kind of consensus in this House.
As the only way open to us of keeping major constitutional reform in the forefront of the agenda of the House during the coming year—and for some of us on this Bench that is the only reason for voting for a Second Reading tonight—I understand that all the Liberal Members, under the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), will, without any degree of commitment for the Third Reading, vote for the Second Reading tonight.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
I speak as a Scot. I cannot speak in any other way. I find it difficult to understand some of the reactions that have been created by that proposition among some of my colleagues, but I can understand it being created because 1801 of the stupidity of the chauvinism of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists who have been saying some hair-raising things in this respect over the past few years. There is no expression of dislike of other people in being aware that one is a Scot. My life has been spent in the political and cultural life of Scotland. To me this is the beginning of a new song rather than the end of an old one, and I welcome the Bill.
I was in the position of being an old-time devolutionist who said that his fear of separation arising particularly from the chauvinist undertones of so much of the leadership of the SNP had to be fought, and that we could not proceed with this devolution experiment till we had smashed that chauvinism. But now we have to fight that attitude, while at the same time proceeding to devolution. The first important point for a politician is to recognise truth when he sees it We lost the initial fight and that is the truth. I support the Bill in principle. but also because of necessity, and that is why we must have the measure.
There are dangers here. What we are proposing is unique. I know of no comparable situation in the world. We are proposing devolution in a form that will give to Scotland powers that will be completely different from those given to Wales. We are giving enormous powers to Scotland compared with the powers available to much larger sections of a single country. There is no comparable situation in the whole world. The nearest thing to it is possibly Czechoslovakia, but there the two nations balance each other in size.
The recognition of nationhood does not necessarily involve the recognition of and necessity for statehood. Following what was said by the leader of the Welsh nationalists, his younger colleague tried to avoid equating nationhood with statehood. The Welsh nationalists are way ahead of the Scots nationalists in many ways but they still do not understand the concept of nationhood.
Basically, what these nationalists want is statehood. They want the trappings of the State. Indeed, in many ways it is no use saying to them that they do not want any of these things such as a border, a Customs post and an army, because they do. Those are precisely 1802 the outward trappings of State that they want for the same kind of psychological motive that gives rise almost unconsciously to the chauvinistic and semi-racialist utterances that we get from them.
There is nothing comparable with what we are doing anywhere in the world. This is the problem raised by hon. Members when they say that they would prefer a federal structure. We cannot have a federal structure—and this remains the single and complete reason—because of the imbalance of population. We cannot have one-tenth of the population in one part of the country and nine-tenths of it in the other and have a balanced federal Government in the ratio of one to one. The federal structure is not on.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright
Does the hon. Gentleman concede that some of our historic regions, such as North-West Yorkshire, and others, have populations and resources at least equal to those of Scotland?
§ Mr. Buchan
Yes, but a federal structure, of necessity, involves giving legislative powers, and there is no indication of that being wanted. If it arises, we can look at the situation. Who other than the hon. Gentleman believes in creating artificially—there is no demand for it in parts of England—this sense of nationhood demanding legislation? It is not there, and it is no use trying to say that it is. There is a case for regional devolution in England to create larger economic planning units, and also to bring a little weight to the power of central Government to avoid some of the problems with which the hon. Gentleman is concerned.
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the federal structure that he extols—he should consider the Canadian structure, for example—he will find that there are powerful forms of veto remaining with the central Government. In some ways I think that technically the Bill is ineffective. In practical terms it will so work out that what is in it will provide as much freedom of action as the states have in the federal structure of Canada. Though there is one big omission, with which I shall deal later, it is not true to say that the Bill does not have the merits which the hon. Gentleman sees in a federal structure, though it does not have the form of a federal structure.
1803 I recognise the fears of my colleagues about the danger they see in polarising two centres of power. They are concerned that, since there are only two centres, all political decisions involving tension and argument will lead to polarisation and a succession of tensions which could result in a split. That is what makes my colleagues fear separation. However, we must understand that where we have structures of administration—which people call bureaucracy—and law operating separately for the people of Scotland, it is right and proper that they should be brought under the open, public and democratic control of the people for whom they operate. That is the basic democratic case for a devolved Assembly.
There is also the nationhood aspect which gives us a sense of belonging and will help to make the body politic healthier because there is that first element of participation, the sense of belonging. The basic argument, however, is the democratic structure.
We have a very limited view of devolution in this House. I want to see not just a horizontal decentralising but the devolution of power from people up there with power to ordinary people down here. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) nods his head. We have a convert indeed in the hon. Gentleman with his Right-wing authoritarian attitudes.
There is also the problem of alienation, but that will not be solved automatically by the creation of an Edinburgh Parliament. The problem of alienation could still arise after the establishment of a devolved Assembly. We have to deal with the Bill now so that we can get on with solving these basic problems of alienation and of devolving power.
Scotland has done nothing but discuss the politics of devolution for years. That is not the fault of politicians alone; to a large extent it is a fault of the vested interests in the media who have found devolution a rather more pleasant subject to discuss than poverty, homelessness and other problems. We have to deal with devolution, or we shall not be able to get on and deal with these other problems.
I should have liked to have said a few words about Wales, though I am hardly qualified to speak on that topic. However, I must say that the concept of 1804 nationalism as expressed by the leader of Plaid Cymru not only showed a fundamental failure to understand the nature of nationhood but was a shallow position in intellectual terms. The hon. Gentleman's equation of nationhood with language, for example, would immediately discount nationhood for the people of Scotland, yet we feel we are a nation; and if people feel that they are a nation, they are. There is a curious and dangerous chauvinism in the statist attitude of the hon. Gentleman, and, of course, he wants the four-fifths of the people of Wales who speak English to be inside his State.
Reference has been made to the commitment of the Labour Party and the Labour movement to devolution. We have had it thrown at us as a kind of insult that people such as Keir Hardie and Jimmy Maxton were in favour of devolution. These men were part of the creation of our history, but it is right now that we should be aware of any possible dangers.
It was easier to enunciate the arguments about Home Rule in those days because economic power in this country was highly decentralised and problems in towns and villages concerned local pits and local factories. Now we have to deal with an intermeshed economy. I could not have had solved the problems of the Chrysler factory at Linwood in my constituency except in combination with other areas of Great Britain and with the involvement of the Government. So again we have this intermeshing of the Government and the economy horizontally and vertically. That is why there are fears that a crack in our economic situation would make things intolerable for our people.
The other fear is that the Bill somehow gives to Scotland and Wales greater economic advantages. I do not believe that. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that he did not like guidelines being laid down. I do not see why. It seems a civilised way of regulating our affairs.
Some people are worried that an Assembly in Scotland, with the background of demands for separation, could give Scotland a massive political clout to gain more. One reason I wish to see the development towards regional devolution in England is in order to get an element of fairness. I do not seek advantages 1805 for Scotland except those we can create for ourselves in combination with the rest of Great Britain. I do not want economic advantages by stealth.
Once the allocation of money to Scotland is in the open, I do not believe that we shall get more from the block grant system. Indeed, I believe that we shall get less. As long as we get what we deserve and need, and as of right, I shall ask no more, but the people of Scotland must recognise that this will be the situation. If we do not deal with this problem, we shall be unable to deal with many other problems.
The metaphor which I have used before is the boulder in front of the car on the road. It is no use saying that the boulder is irrelevant to the car. Some of my comrades have asked what devolution has to do with Socialism or controlling the commanding heights of the economy. They have said that it is irrelevant to the major economic crisis facing us. But the boulder is there and unless we get it out of the way we cannot push the car in the direction we want it to go, and we shall not be able to deal with our major problems. Scottish politics could be bedevilled for the next 20 years with politics of the border.
We failed to get a political solution in Ireland 60 years ago. There is no other comparison because Scotland does not have the background of violence, bloodshed and oppression, but there is this similarity, that we could spend the next decade or two arguing about the border. We must create the constitutional structures—which are made by men and not by God—to enable us to get on and tackle our problems.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I was extremely interested in my hon. Friend's prediction that we might get less money under the block grant system. In that event, should the Assembly be given powers to levy taxation in order to augment the block grant? Has my hon. Friend given any consideration to this possibility?
§ Mr. Buchan
Of course. I have thought of little else for many years. I shall be dealing with that point in a moment.
I turn now to the question of economic separation and the rôle of the SNP. If 1806 the SNP would talk less about putting Scotland first and more about putting Scottish people first we might get on better. The first is an expression of status, the other is an expression of concern for people.
I have the Chrysler factories in my constituency. The jobs of 7,000 men would have been lost with a 5,000 further jobs placed in jeopardy if economic separation was already a fact. One minute with the Chrysler management would help members of the SNP to understand that. The firm of Babcock and Wilcox is in my constituency. It has one customer, the generating boards of this country. If we had a Scottish generating board, a separate Scotland would receive orders only from that board. We would insist upon that, just as the English Government would insist that orders for the English boards went to English firms. The difference is that my factory would not then exist because 80 per cent. of its orders go south of the border. The jobs of 5,000 men would be lost at once if there were total economic separation.
A Royal ordnance factory, employing 2,000 men, is situated in my constituency. I am not happy that 2,000 of my constituents should depend upon making cordite for a living. I am doing my best to try to end that and see they have better work. But I can tell members of the SNP that unless they have dreams of glory even greater than they have already disclosed to us there is no need to have all of these 2,000 men making cordite to provide gunpowder for a Scottish army.
There are, therefore, about 15,000 jobs, in my constituency alone, which would be lost if we had a separate Scotland. That is a fact which we must spell out to those who say "Scotland first." They care nothing for people, but only for the trappings of State.
We are facing a problem in that some of our regional policies will no longer work. Industry is not so mobile. It is not so easy to push industry into areas. What we need is the devolution of economic planning to Scotland so that we can build upon the basis of our existing indigenous industries. The Bill gives that.
I come now to the question of the referendum. I have played a modest part in achieving today's announcement. I know that many people are anxious 1807 about a referendum because they see it as cutting across the basic constitutional position. I reject that. We were elected to this Parliament to make decisions affecting the people of Britain. This is what I say to my electorate. This is what I believe in, those are the kinds of decisions that I will take.
But here we are bringing in a devolution Bill against a background of pressure for a totally separate State. As a result, devolution of itself may make a referendum useful, but I do not believe that of itself it demands a referendum. Devolution does not infringe the sovereignty of this Parliament or of this State. It is, however, against the background of the demand for separation, and the fact that that might lead to a separate State, that we must think in terms of a referendum, because a separate State is not a matter than can be solved in this Parliament. We were not sent here to create a separate State. If we cannot do that, the only people who can are those who sent us here.
This is an issue which transcends parliamentary rights therefore, and it is proper that there should be a referendum to deal with it. Most people would accept that, given this question of a possibly independent country, we should deal with the problem in this way. I know that people will think that this is the opposite way round and that we ought to have a referendum on devolution rather than on independence. A referendum on both questions is necessary.
The question should be as simple as possible. A short preamble should say that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has established an Act setting up an Assembly to sit in Edinburgh to deal with Scottish affairs. Question No. 1 could be:Do you approve of such an Assembly?We shall have debated this, we shall know what it means and what it can do. The question is simple and the answer clear. Secondly, people should be asked:Do you wish Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom"?Scottish Nationalists, who claim to speak for the people of Scotland but are always terrified to test their views, say that this 1808 would be an unfair question because they want to remain part of the United Kingdom in the sense that they want to retain the Monarchy. If they are having a separate country I would have thought it would be up to the Scottish people to decide whether they want a monarchy. The SNP says that it wants to go back to the position of 1603. I have news for members of the SNP. It was not the "United Kingdom" in 1603. Not only is the reasoning of the SNP wrong; its history is wrong. In 1603 it was the Kingdom of Great Britain, France and Ireland.
Secondly, members of the SNP say that because they will retain the Monarchy they still want to be part of the United Kingdom. Those who think I am nitpicking on this should realise that the Scottish nationalists are prepared to avoid a decision in such a referendum, by advising their members to vote 'Yes." The SNP is trying to say that because a separate Scotland will share the Monarchy it will still be in the United Kingdom. In such an arrangement Scotland would have to share the United Kingdom with Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Granada, Fiji, Canada, Jamaica, Mauritius, New Zealand, Papua and New Guinea, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is a nonsense and an insult to the Scottish people that the SNP should ever have developed that line of propaganda in the last few months.
The Scottish nationalists are afraid of the word "separate". It is absolutely correct, although perhaps a better word is "secession". I hope that the nationalists will drop this nonsense. The referendum must occur.
I deal now with the question of revenue-raising powers. If the Assembly is to be responsible there is only one way of ensuring that it is and that is to ensure that it has the power to raise taxes. Otherwise it is technically and in reality an irresponsible body.
There are three ways in which these powers can be given. The first is directly through an income tax. I know that Layfield talked about the cost of administration, but it is different in this case, because we would be dealing with one large area as opposed to a number of small ones. It would be difficult, but not nearly as expensive as suggested, and it would be the right way. 1809 There is another way, and that is either a percentage share of oil royalties on the basis of population and of need; or, as I would prefer, an oil fund which would be used for the regeneration of industrial areas in Britain, including Scotland.
I give this Bill an enormous welcome. On this question of nationhood some hon. Members will remember the words of McDiarmid, or, perhaps, strangely, Compton Mackenzie:The rose of all the world is not for me.For my partGive me the little white rose of ScotlandThat smells sharp and sweetAnd breaks the heart.There has been a lot of heartache in Scottish history. We must ensure that this Bill does not cause more heartache. It can work, given the political will to make it work. It should work because it is right. I support the Bill as a Scot; I support it as a Briton; and because I am a democrat. And since I support it as a democrat. I support it also as a Socialist. The Bill will give us immense powers to create the kind of Scotland we want, the kind of society we want, but we shall not be able to deal with the fundamental question till the Bill is passed and this constitutional argument out of the way.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), quite early in his speech happened to remark that there was no similarity anywhere else in the world to what we were trying to do in this Bill. That proposition is not surprising since it is not at all clear that even we know what it is that we are trying to do in this Bill.
There has been great variation in the reasons hon. Members have given—sometimes astonishing reasons—for their intention to vote for or against the Second Reading. There have been even greater variations in the motives assigned from both sides, sometimes in the same speech, for this piece of legislation.
At one end of the spectrum we have been told by many that it is a work of decentralisation, that devolution as exemplified by this Bill means—and this phrase has often been used in the debate—bringing Government nearer to the people. That motivation at any rate can be very satisfactorily discounted, nor does 1810 one need to go further than the Title of the Bill in order to do so. It is the Scotland and Wales Bill. If this were a Bill of which the object were to improve administration, to bring administrative change to the people administered, to bring it more conveniently within the control of the people subject to that administration, then no one on earth would have dreamt of Scotland and Wales, because neither Scotland nor Wales are areas which, even in a nightmare, anyone would dream of selecting as regions for the purpose of administrative devolution in any sense that anyone likes to give to that term.
In his speech on the first day of the debate the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) quoted from Milton's "Comus" and said that it was first performed before the Council of Wales. He did not mention—although I am sure he knew—where the Council was sitting. The Council of Wales was not sitting in Wales. There have been only two natural administrative centres of all Wales, at least in the past 1,000 years. One is Ludlow, where that performance took place, and the other Shrewsbury. Whatever one might say about Wales—and as one of almost wholly Welsh descent there is much, and much good, that I could say of Wales—that it is a convenient administrative area for any purpose cannot possibly be suggested.
Scotland, although until 270 years ago it—or nearly all of it—was an administrative area, is hardly one which in 1976 we would choose for the purpose. Those hon. Members who have said that a self-governing Scotland would in many senses and in many parts be in every real respect further from the people than Scotland within Great Britain speak no more than the truth.
It is easy, down this end of Great Britain, to forget the enormous extent and enormous variety comprised within Scotland. If anyone was told that we would like to have a system of devolution and bring administration nearer to the control of the people and was asked kindly to draw boundaries on a map of Great Britain so that these objects could be worked out and Assemblies set up, none of these boundaries would be drawn along the Anglo-Scottish border.
The Prime Minister gave the opposite answer, and, I believe, the correct answer 1811 in his explanation of why we have a Scotland and Wales Bill. Although his speech was self-contradictory, there was a passage in it which was extremely striking and has not received the attention that it deserves. He said:If this Bill becomes law … there will be a new settlement among the nations that constitute the United Kingdom.That is a remarkable thing for a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to say to the House of Commons on introducing a Bill. He went on:Constitutions should not be lightly tampered with, but neither should they be rigid and inflexible. They must adjust to meet the real aspirations of a nation."—[Official Report, 13th December, 1976; Vol. 922, c. 992.]So, it is the view of the Prime Minister, presumably of the Government, and presumably of the authors of the Bill, that we are to have a Scotland and Wales Bill because Scotland and Wales are nations. Otherwise they would not have chosen Scotland or Wales for the purpose of devolution.
Of course, the word "nation", like many other words, has been used in many senses in this debate. But it is clear in what sense it was being used by the Prime Minister. It is clear in what sense it lies behind the motivation of the Bill. It is not being used in any cultural, traditional or historial sense, but in a political sense, because, if the Prime Minister's words mean anything, this is a political settlement to be made betweenthe nations that constitute the United Kingdom".In his opinion a nation is the sort of thing that has to have the sort of Government that this Bill proposes for it. Otherwise the Prime Minister would have been talking nonsense, which he was not.
The motivation behind the Bill is to provide that the Scottish and Welsh nations be solemnly recognised as such—solemnity being implied by the new settlement, the new covenant, that is to be made—and be provided with the forms of government appropriate to a nation, not to an administrative area or an administrative region.
Politically speaking what are the characteristics of a nation? I would have thought that a political nation was one which would tax itself and make its own laws—at least I would have thought that 1812 until 1972. A political nation which cannot tax itself or make its own laws is a contradiction in terms. The most elementary notion of a nation, such as one would make a settlement with, is that of a community which, politically viewed, has those basic rights of self-government.
So we turn to the Bill. The Bill gives one and denies the other of those basic characteristics of a political nation. The Government say that a nation should indeed be able to make its own laws but that it should not be able to tax itself. That is to say, that local authorities should be able to tax themselves, should be free to put the rates up if they can face the ratepayers, but that an Assembly directly representing a nation should not. This, the Government say, cannot be allowed to tamper with finance, or to raise any extra taxation.
On that ground alone this so-called settlement is founded upon water. The proposition does not bear examination that the government of a nation should be incapable of deciding the level at which its citizens should be taxed.
Of course we understand the motives which led the Government so absurdly, so ludicrously to withhold the power of taxation from the Scottish nation while they give it to the district council for Edinburgh. Is that what it is called?
§ Mr. Powell
We are all districts nowadays—[Interruption.] Yes, and we have regions too. At any rate the districts can raise taxation.
§ Mr. Powell
Even the regions—I imagine they only just got that power. So a region can raise taxation, but not a nation. We understand the reasons; for if one gives the power of taxation, taxation cannot be separated from the general nature and characteristics of the economy, and the other incompatible proposition of the Government is that, nevertheless, the United Kingdom is to remain a unitary State, a single economy. So straight away, they found themselves in irresolvable conflict with the motive which they professed, of recognising and satisfying the aspirations of nations and the notion that they were making a new 1813 settlement with them which they hoped would be permanent.
However, they have in the Bill provided for these nations to be able to make their own laws. We enter here upon terrain which has been trodden over and over again during the last century and more in the politics of the United Kingdom. It is land over which the armies have marched and countermarched. At the end they have established by constant experiment—even if reason could not do it, experiment has done it—that one cannot have the power to legislate given to a part of a unitary State. That was the proposition which was proved to destruction, as it were, in the successive debates on the case of Ireland from the middle of the nineteenth century to the early 1920s. It proved impossible to explain how one could give the power of legislation to an elected body in one part of a State if that State were to remain a unitary State, that is to say, a State with a sovereign Legislature—in this case the sovereign Legislature of the United Kingdom.
That can be readily demonstrated. Many of the contradictions have been exposed by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition in her opening speech and over and over again by others; but I take the simplest and I think the most effective manner of demonstrating this proposition—namely, the inquiry, how a Scotland which had powers of legislation in its own Parliament or Assembly would be represented in this House.
I am not concerned here with the present over-representation of Scotland. What I am concerned with is the fact that the representation of Scotland in this House, even if it were reduced to its due average proportion, would be incompatible with the attribution of extensive legislative powers to a directly-elected Scottish Assembly. One has only to ask the question—what is to happen when in this Parliament of the United Kingdom fiercely debated decisions have to be taken by vote on matters which are devolved, on which the power of legislation is vested in the national Assembly of Scotland? Are the Scottish Members to vote or are they not to vote?
If they are to vote, then we have the absurd position, which would instantly be 1814 found intolerable—unless there is the blessing of an enormous majority one side or the other or an enormous national majority one side or the other—that an irresponsible decision will be taken by those unconcerned and not answerable for the outcome to their constituents.
Yet no method can be conceived whereby they can be abstracted from the vote. Are we to believe that an Administration governing on a majority of perhaps 10, 15 or 20 will ask its Scottish Members—I will confine myself to Scotland—to stay away? Will they say "It would not be fair if you were to take part in this division, which I am afraid that we will lose"? After all, we all know the deep moral sense of Whips' Offices. We all know that, sooner than commit an unfairness, they would lose a Division and if necessary let the Government fall. No, it would not happen that way.
Therefore, would we draw up rules to explain on what subjects the visitors from Scotland were to be allowed to take part in our decisions? Matters of defence and foreign affairs are easy. But it would tax the wisest draftsman to draw up a list which would not keep the occupant of the Chair dealing with points of order until the early hours of the morning.
I give an example at random. Let us suppose that there is a debate on a subject in which, by definition, we have excluded the half-and-half Members—the "in-and-out Members" as they used to be called in the debates upon Gladstone's 1893 Home Rule Bill for Ireland. The hour of 10 o'clock comes and the Government need to get the Suspension. Do we take it that the Scottish Members will not vote on the Suspension? Will they not vote on Closures? Will they not vote on anything that is necessary to enable any Government to get any of their business, to remain in control of the affairs of this House?
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman is putting the matter to us in purely theoretical terms. Of course, the question was not theoretical. For example, in the period between 1951 and 1959 as some of us remember, the Conservative majority in this House was bolstered and sustained by the votes which came from Northern Ireland. Although I understand the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the general 1815 proposition which is being put forward, would he now consider what was the relation between this House and Stormont? I am not saying that it was perfect, but it has some lessons for us in these respects.
§ Mr. Powell
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has interrupted me. Allies as always—I am sorry—[Laughter.]—allies as occasionally—we can help one another to reinforce this very point. But will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me if I defer that for just one stage in order to examine the other supposed alternative which has sometimes been put forward?
It was being put forward right the way through from the 1850s to 1922. It was this: "Let us then have fewer Scots. Since they will have many matters on which they can legislate in their own Parliament—say, 50 per cent. of the subjects which come before this Parliament—they can have 50 per cent. of the number of Members to which they would otherwise be entitled. How about that?" That was the method adopted in the Act for the government of Ireland in 1914 and that Act even more ironically entitled in the Long Titlefor the better government of Irelandin 1920—the first of which never happened, and three-quarters of the second of which never happened. But even if we halved the number of representatives from Scotland, still in many circumstances the dilemma, the contradiction, would be unchanged.
The right hon. Gentleman invited me—I gladly accede because it makes my point—to examine what my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) on Monday called the exception which proves the rule. It is true that this contradiction was implicit in the fact that, from 1922 to 1972, the representation—two-thirds of full representation—of Northern Ireland in this House effectively added approximately six Members net to whatever was the size of the Conservative and Unionist Party in the Houses of Commons during those years.
It was a de minimis, and there was indeed a kind of unspoken compact. This House, disastrously for Northern Ireland, I believe, and not to the credit of this House, made a compact to ignore the affairs of Northern Ireland, and to pretend 1816 that Clause 1 of this Bill was effective when it was not effective. It seemed worth having six Members added to the Conservative strength in the House in return for not having to bother about Northern Ireland for those 50 years. We should not take any comfort from this minimal exception to the rule, which was tolerated for reasons well understood; whether it would be tolerated again, even at that low intensity, I am not sure.
§ Mr. Foot
I remember those days quite well. Although there was some sort of agreement I do not think it always worked, for the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman earlier described. At essential moments it broke down. I am not in favour of and the Government are not in favour of any second-class Members of Parliament in this House. In the Bill we are not making that suggestion. That would be an intolerable arrangement.
§ Mr. Powell
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I mention such a proposal, though it has been seriously made before to the House, namely, in 1893, only for the sake of completeness, in order to show that none of the alternatives which can even theoretically be proposed reconciles the existence of a unitary State and its sovereign Legislature with the devolution of the power of legislation to a representative Assembly in a part of that State. All the debates that have gone along these well-known lines have led to the only possible logical termination, which is that we can have legislative devolution to the parts of a State only where this State is federal, where the supreme Legislature has its own demarcated functions and each Legislature has its own entrenched functions.
This was once a much more live issue than is remembered today. That was so at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century; and it may be that there was some reality in it at that moment. There was a feeling just in those years, with the sense of the developing Commonwealth, as we afterwards knew it, that perhaps a federal Parliament might be the means not merely of reconciling nationalist Ireland to a place in the United Kingdom but of organising democratic imperial unity. However, that vision faded. Perhaps it was always, as will-o'-the-wisp. At any 1817 rate, it has faded and gone far down into history.
The reason why this ultimate device, the only one that will theoretically fit, is not practical now is not so much that the parts of a federation of the United Kingdom would be disparate in strength—I see no problem in a federal House representing different parts of the Kingdom in different numbers—nor even, though it would be a problem in terms of the Bill, that the devolution to one part of the Kingdom—Wales—would be less extensive than devolution to another part of the Kingdom, namely, Scotland. The reason why federation is only a logical reductio ad absurdum and not a practical possibility is that we do not want it. The House and the vast majority of people behind Members are not prepared to consider the notion of resolving ourselves into a federal State.
Therefore, there is no substance to thisnew settlement among the nations which constitute the United Kingdomthat the Prime Minister believes is embodied in the Bill. It cannot endure, because it denies taxation to what it calls a nation fit to be given self-government. It cannot endure because legislative powers that are proposed to be given to the Assembly of that nation are incompatible with the unity of the United Kingdom.
So I come to answer the challenge that has been thrown out over and over again in this debate. It is not the challenge addressed to the Opposition Front Bench. One has almost cringed with sympathy when they were asked "What is your solution?" Perhaps one should have the decency not to mention out loud in this House the proposition of a directly-elected Second Reading Committee. That certainly is no means of meeting the aspirations of a nation. I do not say merely that it would not be workable; it would not come into existence. If it were ever proposed and seriously considered, it would be swept away in a gale of laughter and ridicule.
Throughout the debate those who have declared that, with various degrees of constraint, they will support the Bill have asked those who differ from them "What would you do? What is to be done then?" I shall attempt to answer 1818 those questions. I say, first, that we should continue to make the laws of this country and of all parts of it in this House. I pause for a moment to remind the House that for many years this place has made special laws and different laws for different parts of the Kingdom. This House instituted intermediate education in Wales, a concept that was far in advance of educational standards in England at that time. This House legislated differently for Scotland not merely in the area of Scottish law properly so called——
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
According to my right hon. Friend he is against any directly-elected legislative Assembly for any region, including Northern Ireland. Does he remember—perhaps he does not—that when the Industrial Relations Bill was passing through the House there was a move by the Government of Northern Ireland, led by Major Chichester-Clark, to ask for the Bill to apply to Northern Ireland, which my right hon. Friend rightly rejected. That is one of the reasons why we should have a Stormont. I think that my right hon. Friend is wrong in rejecting the restoration of a Stormont for Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Powell
I advise my hon. Friend, who shares the representation of County Down with me, to make a renewed study of his speeches during 1972, when he and I were both opposing the destruction of Stormont. He will find some eloquent passages in which he delineated an integrated United Kingdom, which he believed was the only acceptable outcome from the destruction then being wrought. For I, too, deplored the destruction then wrought upon a system which, with all its weaknesses, had worked, and worked effectively and was grossly traduced.
So I remind the House that different legislation for different parts of the Kingdom is not incompatible with the legislative sovereignty of this Parliament. If we are serious about maintaining the United Kingdom, as all parties profess they are, let us maintain the essence of the unity of the United Kingdom, which is this Parliament with its exclusive power to make law for all parts of the Kingdom. If we are not satisfied with the degree of devolution or decentralisation, by all means let us find areas that 1819 are convenient economically or on whatever criteria we care to consider. Let us find the means whereby we can entrust perhaps a larger degree of control over administration and a larger jurisdiction to work within the law even than that enjoyed today by the GLC or the metropolitan county authorities. If we want more, we can have more. We could even increase the extensive powers that are already possessed by the representations of the regions.
No doubt I shall be asked "What about the nations? What about their national aspirations?" Some hard and unfair things have been said about those who sit in the House as members of the Scottish National Party or of Plaid Cymru. They sit in the House by the same right as the rest of us. If we are looking for the answer to the question "Is it or is it not true that there are nations in this kingdom which will not abide the present constitution of the United Kingdom?", they are the way whereby we can find out. We can identify a nation, as it were, only after the event. We cannot identify a nation by historical, sociological and cultural studies. A nation is a people who have made good the right to be a nation—not necessarily by force but, according to our institutions, by proving overwhelmingly that they are not content to remain part of another State, in our case the Kingdom as it is at present constituted.
That was how the Irish proved over and over again in the nineteenth century, in front of the blindness of a generation—I dare say we would have been as blind as they were if we had been alive in those years—that they were a nation. They sent to Parliament 70, 80 or 90 men who came here and said "We are sent here to say that we do not belong."
None of us has the means of knowing whether, in the political sense in which the Prime Minister was invoking nationhood as the motivation of the Bill, Scotland is to be a nation or Wales is to be a nation. What is quite certain is that we cannot answer that by passing legislation which is itself incoherent, which is inherently contradictory, which cannot answer the most fundamental questions addressed to it about how it will work, which cannot even explain how the representation of Scotland in this House is to work and be accepted.
1820 We would be mistaken if we were to say "It does not matter so much, because if so be the Scots are not a nation after all, they will settle down and live happily under this incoherent, contradictory constitution which we are cobbling up for them." For this is a constitution which, being inherently unstable, will force those who live under it in one direction or the other; and there is all too great reason to guess in what directon they will be forced.
It is a great mistake to suppose that the people are so intellectually and morally detached that they can separate their experiences of how their institutions actually work from their emotions. Under this constitution, even if there were not now a demand for the acceptance of the full claims of Scottish nationalism, the Scottish people would find themselves, by the leverage of this constitution, driven step by step in a direction in which they perhaps at the beginning never dreamed of going or wanted to go.
This is a Bill not fit to be passed by this House. It will not produce the new settlement that the Prime Minister envisages. It will not work. It will satisfy nobody.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
In the past, when I have listened to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) I have at least admired his logical consistency and the coherence of his arguments. This evening, however, I have not heard one argument from him which he did not contradict within two minutes from his own mouth. He told us at one moment that the powers of devolution were unbearable, intolerable and unworkable, and the next moment he said that he defended the continued existence of Stormont and he protested at any question of its abolition. He defended what he now says is intolerable.
§ Mr. Powell rose——
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I have more to say about the right hon. Gentleman and I shall give way shortly.
The right hon. Gentleman neglected the point made by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) that after 50 years' experience of Stormont most of the people in Northern Ireland would like that regime back, and that not only 1821 did they want to govern themselves but they wanted to do it within the United Kingdom, and they regard this as an entirely workable arrangement. The system is therefore workable. It has worked for them. We know that political problems 300 years old in Ireland destroyed the Stormont system in many ways, but let us be clear that this system brought administration closer to the people in that area. That system of devolution worked and that is why they want to adhere to it.
§ Mr. Powell rose——
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I shall give way in a moment.
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by asking who would have chosen Scotland as an area for administrative devolution and who would have thought of it as an administrative entity. The answer is that successive Governments in this country did so for 60 or 70 years. Why did they do so? It was because the Scots had their own legal system, their own education system and their own Church. They had elements of nationality left over to them since 1707, and this made it logical to treat the Scots as an administrative entity and to devolve administration to them.
I give way now to the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not want to pursue him any further down his various avenues.
§ Mr. Powell
I wanted to clear up a misunderstanding about Stormont between 1922 and 1972 which arose in my exchanges with the Lord President of the Council. I believe that it was a tragedy that a system which, though inconsistent and though tolerated as the exception that proves the rule, because it was minimal was not able to continue. But that does not mean that I believe that it can be re-created or that the experience of Stormont entitles us to suppose that 30, 40 or 50 Scottish Members in this House will be ignored as the majority of six Unionist Members was ignored.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification, but what he is saying is that as a system devolution in Northern Ireland worked for 50 years. His colleagues say 1822 that they want now to go back to that system and that they regard it as consistent with membership of the United Kingdom. This seems to me to disprove a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said.
A great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's argument that taxation powers cannot be given is disproved by every State which has decentralised taxation powers. It is disproved by Canada, Australia and West Germany. The difference between federations and devolved States is a difference which is only a constitutionalist's creation. It is not a difference in content, because it is up to the central Government to devolve powers to member States or to specific areas.
The obsession that the right hon. Gentleman has—it is shared by many others in this House—is that nothing can be done unless it is done uniformly from John o' Groats to Land's End and that, therefore, the same institutional straitjacket should be imposed on Britain from one end to the other, if it were to work at all. When the people in one area want a degree of devolution and the people in another area do not, why not meet these two situations? The refusal to do this is like saying that we cannot have a Greater London Council because we have not imposed that pattern on every metropolitan area. It is like saying that there cannot be an island community because we cannot treat every other area in the same way.
One of the disasters of British administration has been its assumption that if an education system is right, or if a housing system is right, it must be applied everywhere irrespective of whether it is suitable for that particular area.
If devolution were to produce a Government in Scotland which after five, seven or ten years was regarded throughout the United Kingdom as a good Government and as one which had been helpful, I suspect that it would be demanded also by the people of the North-East and by the people of the other regions. If it turned out to be regarded as no great advance in an administrative or political sense, no doubt people would prefer to remain in the existing relationship to Whitehall and Westminster. I see no harm in that. I believe that it is quite wrong to make one law—that is, 1823 uniformity—the master of institutional diversity. We must meet the demands of people as they arise.
I turn now to the major theme of the Bill, which I welcome. I have a few reservations with which I shall deal later, but basically I welcome the Bill because I believe that there is a very strong demand for this kind of devolution in Scotland.
I know that the Leader of the Liberal Party, in his speech at the opening of the debate, said that the Bill was based on no discernible principle. Other people have questioned the motives which lie behind the Bill. I shall take three strands in the motives or principles which seem to me to be valid.
The first theme is the one that I have already mentioned. For administrative purposes, over the last 60 or 70 years, authority has been devolved to Departments of State in Edinburgh. The fact is that 8,000 officials—able, patriotic men who run these Departments—have had a degree of discretion and a degree of authority which are not accorded to Whitehall Departments. The civil servants in Scotland are not as closely supervised by the Ministers in charge, because they are resident in this Parliament and operating in this place.
The first argument for devolution is a straight democratic one—a case for control over big Government Departments by elected representatives. I can see that the right hon. Member for Down, South would wax eloquent about this curious anomaly—the idea that a Civil Service Department for a region operates a system different from that run by the Ministries in the central capital of the country. That is what we have had, and we now wish to establish democratic control over the Scottish Office.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has said, from time to time, that to take such a step would centralise decision-making in Scotland in Edinburgh. He neglects the fact that most decision-making already lies in Edinburgh. It is wrong to suggest that county councils or district councils have a wide discretion to plan, for example, Scottish education. Furthermore, they can build houses but they cannot decide policy. That is decided in St. Andrew's 1824 House, which is where the power now is and where democratic control is needed.
I intervened during the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who made a typical unhelpful, rabble-rousing type speech, in which he said that we would be creating a totally new tier of government if we were to set up a Scottish Assembly with civil servants and all the rest of it. That is untrue. That tier of government already exists. By this Bill we shall be setting up control over that government. The provision of extra people is required to service the Assembly and to provide for an Ombudsman and a Comptroller and Auditor General for Scotland. It provides for scrutiny of control over an existing Scottish Administration. I thought that this was part of the democratic principle on which our political system was based.
A second element underlying the general principle and motive behind the Bill is the subject of nationalism. Every hon. Member has his own views about nationalism. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) waxed eloquently about the destructive nature of nationalism. His speech would have been a defence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He told me confidentially that his origins were Phoenician. One of those who defended the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a Phoenician. He cast aside his nationality and defended the curious amalgam of people in that empire on the basis that they had nothing in common. That seems to be a curious way to proceed.
I accept the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool about nationalism in the sense that, when people become obsessed with destructive nationalism and take the view "We are better than others and, because we are superior, we must dominate them", that is the sort of thinking that has led to great crimes in modern times. But we must also recognise that in many respects in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries nationalism was a constructive and liberating force which produced energy and dynamism and led to greater understanding of people's backgrounds. There is a great difference between understanding one's background and identity 1825 and chauvinism and the desire to dominate. These are two different aspects of the matter.
The right hon. Member for Down, South, a passionate English nationalist, will never understand the forces that have led to the introduction of the Bill. He does not appreciate that behind the feel-in and desire for democratic control of Scottish government there is also a sense of identity. He does not understand that the traditions in, for example, the Scottish as opposed to the English universities, are different. There are also differences in the legal sphere. Why not let us develop these factors and find their value and worth? That is why this Bill has come forward.
There is a further point in the strands that lie behind the Bill. I believe that many people are becoming more suspicious of the claims of legislators or MPs. They have claimed that they can handle the macro-economic questions. We have told people over the years that we shall give them full employment, stable prices, a sound balance of payments and all the rest of it. People are becoming more and more dubious about these claims. I doubt whether this House is sovereign in that respect. At the same time people are becoming more and more concerned about the quality of life and other aspects of their environment.
My hon. Friends the Members for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) and for Pontypool asked what a Scottish legislature could do about unemployment. They implied that such a legislature could do little about jobs, mining conditions and other matters. The answer is that it could do very little, and it is not intended to. It is not intended to handle matters that are clearly outside the power of small units. But it could handle the quality of education, local planning, amenity and other matters. What is wrong with that?
The Labour Party has an obsession that the only important matters are economic. Of course they are important, but we may have to leave them to other people. At present, I do not think these macroeconomic questions are within the control of this House. We have recently had IMF representatives over here helping us to sort these matters out. Therefore, let us put these things on one side when considering the issues of local significance.
1826 People have always had a desire to run their own affairs according to their own traditions.—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian says that these are local matters. In a sense, it can be said that the British Government are a local government within Europe. Let us accept that situation.
These considerations I have enumerated are the forces that have produced the Bill. There is a desire for democratic control of the Scottish Administration. There is a recognition of certain national feelings, which are not aggressive. There are cultural and unitary feelings in Scotland, and there is a desire for greater control over the quality of life and other areas of importance in the Scottish environment. This concern is positive and is a valuable addition to the quality of government.
I turn to the Bill itself, about which I have some difficulties and reservations. On top of a generally correct approach, it takes all those matters that are the responsibility of the Scottish Administration and devolves them to a Scottish Parliament. I regret that that devolution is not as clear as it should be. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) put his finger on this. If the Scottish people have dual nationality in that they are Scottish and British and they want to live at both levels in the Union, it is not necessary to specify every point on which the United Kingdom Government or Parliament might want reserve powers.
I am unhappy about the powers that are reserved to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is a man who will be transformed from the person who actually governs Scotland to the person who will watch over the Assembly while it governs Scotland. The situation may be potentially dangerous when the Secretary of State may be of a different political party from that in the majority at the Assembly. That may cause trouble and difficulty. I should prefer to see much more wholehearted devolution of powers, such as the powers that were laid down in the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which was defended by the right hon. Member for Down, South during its period of existence. That is the kind of clear cut allocation of powers we should have, and I hope that in the passage of the Bill through the House the Lord President of the Council and the Minister 1827 of State in the Privy Council Office will allow us to amend the Bill to give more generous powers in areas suitable for Scottish administration.
I turn to certain weaknesses in the Bill, one of which relates to a financial weakness, particularly in terms of taxation. A misunderstanding is often perpetuated by some people. It is suggested that the call in Scotland is for extra taxation powers. That is not the point at all. The point is whether money should be taxed at a United Kingdom level, given to the British Treasury, and then handed to the Assembly under certain controls, or whether the same money drawn from taxes should go directly to the Assembly and be under its control.
The classic example is that other countries that devolve their taxation systems have found it quite possible to devolve the subject of personal income tax. The history in this country is clear. The Kilbrandon Commission looked at the subject of income tax and was told by the Treasury that it was too complicated and costly to devolve personal income tax. The same thing was said by the Treasury to the Layfield Commission, but it refused to accept the evidence. The Commission discovered that the administrative cost in devolving local income tax powers was considerable but not prohibitive.
If we look at the evidence of the Lay-field Commission we find that the cost arose from the fact that it was essential to locate the place of employment of people in all sorts of small local authorities. If the only issue was to decide on this for Scotland as a unit, the administrative additional cost would virtually disappear. Therefore, to devolve personal income tax would be an easy method and would cover half the block grant as at present proposed.
Secondly, I see no good reason why people should say that the country would be broken up by the devolution of taxes on natural resources. It is done in many other countries. It does not destroy Canada that Alberta has certain natural resource taxation powers. It does not destroy the United States that Texas has certain oil taxation powers. I see no reason why the royalties on Scottish oil should not be given to the Assembly. They are a fixed amount, and with the 1828 addition of personal income tax they would virtually cover the total sum at present covered by the block grant. But it is vital that the money should be devolved in such a way that Treasury control cannot be exerted day by day, month by month and year by year over the Assembly, because that would produce the kind of conflict and subordination which it is the objective of the Bill to prevent.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
I appreciate the feasibility of my hon. Friend's general plan, although it appears that the Government do not necessarily agree with him. But will not he take into account the hundreds of millions of pounds more in public expenditure which would be put into Scotland and Wales than would be contributed from any form of taxation in either of those countries? Does not my hon. Friend think that there may be a counter-productive reaction from the taxpayers who foot the bill?
§ Mr. Mackintosh
No. My hon. Friend still seems to think that, if we get a separation of certain local taxing powers in this way, it will produce the feeling among people in other parts of the country that they are not being fairly treated. If that is the case, we can produce a Bill to give the English regions similar powers.
These warnings of an English backlash are one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the argument. No one would deny these powers to the English regions. But it would be a fantastic statement for the regions to say "This may be very attractive for Scotland. We think it is attractive, but we are not sure. Until we are sure, Scotland cannot have it." That is similar to a situation with which I am familiar at home. I dump a plate of pudding in front of my daughter, and she says that she does not think she wants it. I say "All right. I shall give it to your brother who loves pudding", and she immediately says "He is not going to get it until I have determined whether I want it." It is as fatuous as that.
I want to say a word or two now on the aspect of the electoral system. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord President will consider an amendment advocating a system of proportional representation. I put the case quite simply. 1829 For years I taught the value of the British first-past-the-post system in my days as an academic teacher of this subject. It has great merit for a two-party system. If there are two parties and they win 95 per cent. of the vote between them, the system has merits. But Scottish politics now has a three-and-a-half or four-party system. Any one of the parties could slip ahead and get 32 per cent. of the vote and secure majority in the Assembly. Hon. Members have to remember that it is to be a four-year fixed Parliament. It means that a gust of opinion at the appropriate moment giving 32 per cent. of the vote could saddle Scotland with a one party majority for the full four years on one-third of the popular vote. That is an unsatisfactory and unstable situation.
I was unhappy when the lawyer leading for the Conservative Party opened the debate and said not a word about the Conservative Party's proposals. I was unhapy about that because I suspect that the support for devolution from the Conservative Front Bench is a hoax. I suspect also that this is why the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) and the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) resigned their posts. For years they have said that they did not want this kind of devolution. There was no problem for them in voting against the Bill, because they have never supported this kind of devolution. But there I believe their feeling is that, if the Tories ever won an election, that would be the end of any commitment to devolution among them now. That is very dangerous.
What will happen if that is the case and if the situation in Scotland remains the same is that we shall get a confrontation between Unionism and separatism. We shall get exactly what the right hon. Member for Down, South wants or what he thinks is satisfactory—that either the British nation asserts itself or the Scottish nation asserts itself but that they cannot coexist in their national consideration. I reject that proposal. I think that we can be both British and Scottish or British and Welsh.
One party, with which I have much sympathy—the nationalists—says "If you feel Scottish and want to run your own affairs, you must have the full panoply of 1830 statehood—with an army, a navy, an air force, ambassadors abroad and the lot". I do not think that the Scottish people want that. The other group, the Unionists, say "If you feel British, if you value British traditions and respect British parliamentary democracy, and if you think that the big industries have to cover the whole of Britain, you cannot have a degree of self-government which reflects your needs in your own areas." I reject both propositions. Institutions have to be the servants of political demands.
We have people in Scotland who want a degree of government for themselves at the Scottish level. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise the institutions to meet those demands and thus strengthen the unity of the United Kingdom.
I support the measure.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
The House will wish to know that I have a list of more than 30 hon. Members who are anxious to make their contributions in the debate.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentland)
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who was calling passionately for devolution in the days when the present Cabinet was equally passionately hostile to it. The House will do well to listen to the hon. Gentleman.
We are coming to the end of a four-day debate on the Government's devolution proposals. In less than two hours we shall have to take a decision which will be momentous for our future.
One feature that has become clear during the debate is that, irrespective of party, right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Scottish constituencies have called strongly for a directly-elected Scottish Assembly. It is equally clear from all the evidence available that they reflect what the majority of people of Scotland want. It is possible that they have wanted it for many years. But it is even more the case that the determination with which they pursue a substantial amount of devolution is greater than ever. If it 1831 is not conceded, their frustration will be powerful.
I remember the words that Victor Hugo said in a different context:Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.The time has come for devolution for Scotland, and this House must take account of it.
I do not suggest that simply because the will of the people has been established in Scotland this House must automatically accede to that demand and establish devolution. To suggest that would be to imply that this Parliament is merely a rubber stamp for popular sentiment. I am sure that no one would argue that.
It is clearly a factor to take into account. However, I concede that the main criterion that this House must decide is whether the establishment of a Scottish Assembly will improve the good government of Scotland within the United Kingdom. It is on the criterion of good government for Scotland that we consider these proposals and, if they help in that direction, they are worthy of our support.
The reasons which led to devolution being necessary in terms of quality of government did not originate in a few clear victories for the nationalists or in popular or national sentiment, although that has expressed itself over the last 270 years. The origins go back to the very Act of Union itself, although many who supported that Act wanted to see not only the Scottish Parliament extinguished but the creation of an incorporated unitary British nation. That has been achieved to a substantial extent, but, throughout the last 270 years, the separate Scottish national identity has never been extinguished, and this Parliament and British Governments have sought to encourage that national identity. Why else have we had for many years organisations such as the Scottish National Orchestra, the National Library of Scotland, and separate Scottish banks? There are many national characteristics which British Governments have encouraged over the years, and we are now facing the consequences of this.
The most important decision made in 1707 was to preserve the Scottish legal system and the consequences, despite the unitary system of government, have been 1832 marked. Throughout the 270 years of Union, Scotland has required—and here it is very different from Wales—separate legislation throughout the whole sphere of domestic matters. This is a major anomaly, which the British Parliament has accepted because it has no alternative. It is an anomaly which has not always worked entirely to the advantage of Scotland because as a result of the requirements of a separate legal system, the British Parliament was unable to meet fully the need for modernising, reforming and improving that legal system. Scotland is the only territory on the face of the earth which has a legal system without a legislature to improve, modernise and amend it. This is a crazy anomaly, and it cannot meet the requirements of 1976.
There are other distinctive Scottish characteristics as well. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland was governed in a different way from the rest of Britain, with different administrative powers, different local government and a different structure of education. In 1885 a Scottish Secretary was appointed, and in the 1920s he was elevated to Secretary of State. In the 1930s the Scottish Office was sent lock, stock and barrel to Edinburgh. All this administrative devolution was done by Conservative Governments, and it was not done out of a feeling of national sentiment, but because of the administrative requirements needed to achieve good government for the Scottish people.
It may be asked why, if we have had this enormous devolution and if Parliament, with a unitary system, is able to respond to the distinct needs of Scotland, this should not continue. It may be asked why, with a separate legal system and a separate Scottish Office, it is necessary to go any farther and establish a directly-elected Assembly. That is a fair question, and it deserves a serious answer. The answer is that throughout the last 270 years a dynamic change has taken place. This is not because the people have changed their minds but because of the increasing complexity of government, requiring more and more administrative devolution, and more powers to be given to the Scottish Office.
We have now a Secretary of State for Scotland who is for all practical purposes a Scottish Prime Minister. He covers a 1833 Department the equivalent of which in England and Wales is served by eight or nine Ministries. He has one Department, and Scottish Members are expected to scrutinise his actions. The Scottish Office has more civil servants than the European Commission. The clear indication of the importance attached to that office and of the changes which have taken place can be seen by looking at the Bill. The six or seven powers which are being devolved to the Scottish Assembly are powers which were not even the responsibility of central Government 70 years ago. Housing is being devolved, and that was not the responsibility of central Government until after the First World War. Education is being devolved, and central Government play little part in that. The health service is being devolved, and that did not even exist until after the last war. Other powers which are being devolved are those for the probation service and other matters which have been the responsibility of central Government only in the last generation.
There has been a qualitative change in the call for devolution. In the early twentieth century the demand for a separate Scottish Legislature was the result of national sentiment. That national sentiment still exists, but added to it is the need for good government, good administration and a better deal for Scottish people within the United Kingdom.
I turn to the Bill itself, and ask whether it responds to these needs in an acceptable way. Clearly I welcome the establishment of a directly-elected Assembly, and I welcome the fact that its functions are broadly those of the Scottish Office. The very fact that these functions are with the Scottish Office already is a recognition by previous Governments that distinctive Scottish treatment of these problems is necessary. The Government are correct in saying that there should be no substantial industrial or taxation powers devolved. I understand the arguments used against this, but I do not believe that within the structure of the United Kingdom one can legitimately devolve substantial industrial powers. Industry has evolved in Scotland in the same way as in England and Wales since the Act of Union. Modern industry is British industry. It is closely integrated and cannot be devolved adequately.
1834 In most major areas the Government are right, but there are some problems and difficulties in this legislation. One of the most foolish aspects of the Bill is the proposed size of the Assembly. It will have 150 Members. It is interesting that the Government have never sought to justify that number. They cannot justify it. It is an arbitrary decision, which was arrived at by doubling the existing number of Scottish constituencies and adding three or four in predominantly Labour areas. The Kilbrandon Report recommended an Assembly with similar powers, but it also recommended that that Assembly should have only 100 Members.
§ Mr. John Smith
The hon. Member should address himself to the point about the appropriate size of the Assembly, which is open to argument. Our belief is that it is important that when one draws the Executive from Scottish Members there should be sufficiently widespread talent to ensure good government. The hon. Member must recognise that he is making a party point. We have increased the number of rural seats, giving every seat two Members instead of one.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I still say that it is an astonishing coincidence that the Government, in applying their criteria, have only had to double 71, get 142, then add six or seven to come up with a number which roughly corresponds to double the existing number of Scottish constituencies. They should consider that the Californian State Assembly, which has a responsibility for 20 million people, makes do with 80 Members. Stormont has only 52 Members. The New Zealand Parliament, which has responsibility for the whole function of government, defence, foreign affairs, taxation, and so on, makes do with 87 Members. Yet the Scottish Assembly must have 150. I hope that the Government will reconsider this.
Also, I hope that the Government will reconsider the method of election and proportional representation. I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) who pledged the Conservative Party to giving serious consideration to proportional representation. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), when 1835 he closes the debate for the Opposition, will confirm that, because it is a proposition that is worth consideration.
I hope that the Government will be more explicit about the consequences for local government. Many people with serious doubts about devolution would be happy to accept the Assembly if it meant that we could move to a unitary system of the one-tier single-purpose authority in local government.
I believe that the Government are very wrong in their insistance on a separate Executive. This insistence does not go well with their equally strong insistence on maintaining the office of the Secretary of State. They will find a whole area of functions in the government of Scotland in which the two Executives are competing with each other. The Secretary of State will continue to have real powers and objectives and the Assembly will have other powers, and the conflicts between the two are likely to be exaggerated. In industry it will be even worse. The Secretary of State for Industry is responsible for the overall industrial policies in the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for the implementation of Section 7 of the Industry Act and for issuing guidelines to the Scottish Development Authority. The Assembly will have other industrial powers, to implement the guidelines.
§ Mr. John Smith
Perhaps the hon. Member should take one other factor into account, namely, that the Scottish Office has been able to offer decentralised administration, particularly in the operation of the Industry Act. As he knows, these functions were transferred from the Department of Industry to the Scottish Office. If we do not retain the Secretary of State we shall have to take those powers back to London.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I do not question leaving the Secretary of State; what I question is dividing responsibility for industry not two, but three, ways. There will be the Secretary of State for Industry, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Executive of the Assembly, all sharing the powers. That policy will create major problems and is not desired by industry.
The major reason why the decision to have an Executive is unfortunate is that the Government's proposals will lead to a 1836 curious imbalance in the United Kingdom, whereby Scotland, Wales and, ultimately, Northern Ireland, will have Assemblies with their own Executives, whereas the 85 per cent. of the population who live in England will have only Westminster as their Legislature. That is a curious situation, because it will result in Westminster becoming a sort of imperial Parliament for three parts of the United Kingdom, but being only the domestic Legislature for the fourth part. These are inherent difficulties, which will lead to instability. I hope that the Government will take these factors into account during the ensuing stages of the Bill.
If there are major problems in the Bill, is there a preferable alternative? I was delighted with the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who said in reply to an intervention that the alternatives to the Bill were either the Douglas-Home proposals or a scheme which went much further than the Bill. The option of going much further is essentially the Liberal solution of federalism. It has enormous attractions in terms of simplicity and logic, but logic was once defined as the act of going wrong with confidence. The problem with the Liberal proposals is that at present there is no demand from the 85 per cent. of the population in England for such a system.
I believe that these proposals will ultimately lead to a federal United Kingdom, and perhaps the quicker it comes the better. But the fact is that we are not faced at present with that as a serious option. It is for that reason, and because of my dislike of the Executive, that I think that the Douglas-Home proposals have a lot of merit. They do not go far, and the amount of devolution they propose is modest. But an Assembly in Edinburgh which was able to take the Second Reading, Committee and Report stages of Scottish legislation, was able to scrutinise the action of Scottish Office Ministers and to discuss problems of a Scottish interest, would meet many of the requirements of government. It would not satisfy the extreme nationalists, nor would it meet the fears of the diehard Unionists, but those two do not represent more than a minority of the Scottish population.
Let me touch on two further aspects. I believe that the diehard Unionists—and they exist on both sides of the House 1837 —have certain similarities to the nationalists. Both of them have very little faith in the belief of the Scottish people in their membership of the British nation. Just as the nationalists think that the Assembly can be used to break up the British nation, so the ultra-Unionists accept that argument and believe that merely by establishing an Assembly the British identity and the British nationality, which is felt with equal passion by Scots as by Englishmen, will somehow be dissipated and will disappear in a very short time. I have more faith in the British identity as shared by the people of Scotland.
It is argued that devolution always leads to separatism. This has been claimed by many hon. Members, especially by some of my hon. Friends. I must challenge them to name an example where that has happened. The examples they tend to give are of countries like Basutoland, Nigeria, British Honduras and other colonies, which, of course, have demanded independence but which have never had representation in this House, were never part of the United Kingdom, and were dependencies in the sense that Scotland or Wales never have been. Therefore the comparison really is invidious and somewhat ridiculous.
Let me finally turn to what the House should do tonight at 10 o'clock, when it must decide whether to give the Bill a Second Reading. The Bill has many serious defects, but I and my colleagues who have for 10 years argued the need for a directly-elected Assembly would clearly, under any circumstances, find it difficult to vote against a Bill which proposes the establishment of a directly-elected Assembly. It is not merely the people of Scotland but people throughout the United Kingdom who will find it difficult to reconcile our commitment to an Assembly for Scotland with voting against the Bill at this early stage.
There is only one basis on which I could vote against this Bill on Second Reading. If, in attacking the defects of the Bill, those who did so were able and willing to argue and champion an alternative form of devolution—if they were able to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that not only did they dislike the Bill but, in supporting the principle of devolution, they were prepared to 1838 argue for an alternative structure of Assembly which would meet the requirements but not have the defects of the Bill, I might take a different view. That is not what has happened from the Opposition side of the House.
I compliment and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), who at last repeated the commitment of my party to a directly-elected Assembly. It was perhaps a pity that we had to wait until the fourth day of the debate for it to be repeated, but we were grateful for what he said. However, we were faced with the situation that the only proposals before the House are those in the Bill. By not having alternative proposals to contend with, I find my decision easier. I have made that decision more in sorrow than in anger—the Bill is before us and it proposes a directly-elected Assembly. I wish to see such an Assembly, and I shall vote accordingly.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)
I should like to start by quoting from among the many thousands of words we have heard this week. It was a speech from the Government Front Bench on Tuesday. It reads:I would say only that our intention will be to meet the concern of the Nationalists that the process of transition to independence should be rapid and guaranteed".—[Official Report 14th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1187.]That, however, was not a contribution to this debate, but an extract from the statement by the Foreign Secretary on Rhodesia. It might, however, have been more appropriate had we had some indication of a more generous spirit on the part of the Government in the way that they have brought the proposal forward and in what would appear to be the calculated, cool and cynical way in which these proposals have been formulated.
We should really have been taking a look at the whole question of the future relationships of the countries in these islands, and we should have taken a new look at the future relationship between Scotland and England. We should have been looking at the perspective of this situation in the international scene since the decision has now been taken to remain in the EEC. Many people in Scotland would ask how it could be 1839 argued that Scotland should be denied a direct voice and the power of veto in the EEC, when countries which are smaller than Scotland, such as Denmark, Luxembourg and Eire, have that right.
Therefore, many of the previous arguments—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) can shout until he is blue or red in the face.
§ Mr. Kinnock rose——
§ Mr. Henderson
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Time is very short. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to speak later.
§ Mr. Kinnock
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that the hon. Gentleman objected to a remark I made. After 20 hours sitting in this debate listening to endless speeches by SNP and Plaid Cymru Members, I am beginning to wonder whether we need devolution.
§ Mr. Henderson
I think that that was an intervention disguised in the form of a point of order. In fact, I am the first person to speak from the SNP Bench today. We have heard three Scottish Labour Members today, and one Scottish Conservative. I do not object, but we are entitled to hear one voice from this Bench today.
We need a new perspective on the way in which the Bill has been prepared and introduced. Its basic weakness was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who drew attention to the ambiguity of this Parliament in the new situation. It is clear that because the Bill makes no provision for an English Assembly this Parliament will have to continue not only as the Parliament of the United Kingdom but as an English Assembly. There are constitutional ways in which this could be corrected. For example, it would be open for Mr. Speaker to certify Bills as applying only to England, as he now certifies that some Bills apply only to Scotland when they are taken in the Scottish Grand Committee. There is a problem which 1840 the Government have not grasped. My hon. Friends and I have no desire to interfere in domestic English legislation.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Gentleman is becoming even more tedious.
The policy of our group since we entered the House has been to refrain from voting on any matter where the legislation applies only to England and Wales. We have taken the view that it is our purpose to pass an opinion and vote on Scottish legislation. We have not voted on legislation affecting only the people of England and Wales. Hon. Members who look through the Division lists will see that we have maintained a consistency of purpose in that regard.
The House will have to consider very carefully whether such a convention will be necessary if the two devolved Assemblies come into being. It would be monstrous for Scottish hon. Members, with the power to deal with matters in their own Assembly, to interfere here in matters affecting only the people of England. This may well create difficulties for governing parties, but that is part of the price that will have to be paid if the Government wish this legislation to operate in the way proposed.
As the right hon. Member for Down, South said, the Bill is an attempt—not a very clever or very good attempt—to forestall the claims of nationhood and the rising national consciousness within Scotland. We make no apology for making our position quite clear. We have always made clear in the House that we believe that changes should be made to meet the national aspirations of the people of Scotland. There are differences in judgment. We can differ between parties and hon. Members about how far the changes should go and the political framework within which they should be encompassed, but let there be no doubt that within Scotland the Bill is seen not as a method of better or worse administration but as a means of giving focus and expression to Scottish national feeling and consciousness.
The Bill would not be before the House but for the presence on this Bench of my hon. Friends in the SNP and the Plaid Cymru Members. I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. 1841 We have had 50 years of discussion about the matter in Scotland, but, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) said, this is the first time that there has been a Government Bill. It has been introduced because in the October 1974 General Election the SNP had more than 30 per cent. of the Scottish vote and the Labour Party only 36 per cent.
§ Mr. Henderson
One thing that we are entitled to hear—I hope that we shall have the support of hon. Members in the Tribune Group in this—is the Conservatives' position.
They have consistently and persistently evaded any statement of their position on the whole issue. The Leader of the Opposition—I apologise; I refer to the hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who is the lost Leader of the Opposition—would have been more to the point if he had told us why, during his period as Prime Minister, the Conservatives did nothing to introduce the Assembly that they had promised. What will be a monument to the right hon. Gentleman is the reconstruction of local government in Scotland and the imposition of the regional and district system.
The Conservatives wanted a directly-elected Assembly, and then moved to the idea of an indirectly-elected Assembly. The only thing they did not go for was a hereditary Assembly. That might have been an appropriate thing for them to introduce.
§ Mr. Henderson
That may well be their policy next week. Today we heard, with unusual candour from the Opposition Front Bench, the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) saying that they had returned to the idea of a directly-elected Assembly. That is the policy for today.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would hate to spoil my punch line. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) once said that 1842 a week was a long time in politics. He has been overtaken by the Leader of the Opposition, for whom a day is a long time in politics when it comes to changing policies.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman should realise that there has been no change of policy. Had he taken the trouble to read the statement issued by the Shadow Cabinet last week, he would have seen that exactly the same commitment was made as was given from the Dispatch Box today. Had he listened to the radio last night, he would have heard the same, and if he had listened to the debate today he would have heard the same. The hon. Gentleman will find no evidence that there has been any change in the Conservative Party's policy.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his elucidation and weighty references. Perhaps we should all listen to "Children's Hour" tomorrow to hear whether Conservative policy has changed again.
When the Conservative spokesman on Scotland, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), was challenged by my hon. Friends, the Leader of the Liberal Party and other hon. Members, he resolutely put his face down on the Dispatch Box—which is perhaps the best way for us to see him—and continued to read his script. He refused to give an answer.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
The hon. Gentleman should not be too unkind to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). His hon. Friend the Leader of the SNP will be able to advise him that it is only three years since the hon. Member for Cathcart was seriously thinking of joining the SNP.
§ Mr. Henderson
I assure the Minister that the SNP is protected by a divine force, and such a thing could never happen.
What happens if the Bill succeeds? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will have to say what he thinks are the prospects of the Bill getting through. From listening to and reading the speeches of the last few days, it is clear that there is an embittered remnant in the House who will refuse to allow what they regard as a concession to be 1843 made to the people of Scotland. The Leader of the House owes it to us to tell us what are the prospects.
An announcement was made today about a referendum. Some hon. Members seem to think that that is a way of dishing the SNP. Our party is geared up for a referendum; we are ready for it. When the glad news spreads forth in Scotland tonight, many an SNP rosette will be taken out, dusted and put back ready for the referendum campaign.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who is hardly the most impartial person, purported to set the questions for the referendum. The questions must not be loaded. The people must be given a choice. Otherwise the referendum will be of no use. The Government must also give an undertaking that they will enact the necessary legislation.
We are ready for the referendum. If the Bill goes through and we get an Assembly in Scotland, as a party we shall contest the elections for that Assembly. If we are entrusted by the people of Scotland with the responsibility of government in that Assembly, we shall properly administer the functions of that Assembly to the benefit of the people of Scotland. Let there be no doubt about that. The party will take its share of the responsiblity of government.
I think that we must also say that, as well as doing that it would be only our duty to the people of Scotland to explore ways and means by which the powers of that Assembly could be extended to deal with the basic underlying problems in Scottish society. Certainly the civil servants, whether or not they are part of a unified Civil Service of the United Kingdom, will be expected to prepare proposals for the benefit of our Ministers to explore ways in which Assembly's powers can properly be extended.
The onus is not just on those who form the Government in the Assembly; it is also on this House. If this measure is seen to be given in a grudging and complaining atmosphere; if it is seen that too many straitjackets are being put round the work of the Assembly, it will have got off to a very bad start. It is necessary for the House to show some generosity and some appreciation of the 1844 needs and aspirations of the Scottish people, and to show us that in this House there is some justice to be found for Scotland.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. The Chair would also appeal to the generosity of right hon. and hon. Members. The winding-up speeches begin at 9 o'clock and there are still many hon. Members who wish to be heard. I appeal to the House and to hon. Members to keep their speeches brief. I suggest that speeches should last for no more than 10 minutes.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am not challenging your ruling, in any way, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but at least two minority parties have had every Member called to speak, and another minority party has had about nine or 10 out of 11 chosen. I think that it is——
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
I shall be brief because I appreciate that many hon. Members want to speak, particularly the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who has been present as long as myself during the debate.
To sum up the debate which has taken place over the last four days, my hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) and for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) have stated our position in relation to our national aspirations and in relation to the practical effects and practical policies we would wish to see followed by the elected Welsh Assembly which is being proposed.
There is one fundamental reason above all why we want to have more control over our own lives in Wales—that is, the basic political reason. Ever since we first had the popular vote in Wales in about 1886, we have never had a majority of Conservative Members from Wales. It was first of all overwhelmingly Liberal and then overwhelmingly Labour.
1845 The national and social aspirations of Wales have had a coherence and an identity different from the coherence and identify of the average pattern followed in the United Kingdom as a whole. For that reason, and in order to achieve our aspirations, we need the maximum degree of freedom that we can possibly gain in order to solve the problems facing us in our own lives.
We do not hide in any way the ultimate objective that we as a party are seeking—namely, full self-government for Wales. I put to the House that we can go no further, no faster than the support of the Welsh people allows us to go in this matter. We look at the Bill as a step in the right direction. It is a small step, but despite that it is a step in the right direction to help Wales.
We shall vote for Second Reading on that basis but will reserve the right to try to amend the Bill, particularly to give Wales the legislative powers given to Scotland, which are important, and the economic powers which are so necessary to solve the problems facing Wales.
I welcome the statement made by the Government on the referendum. We are concerned that the questions should be phrased in a totally equitable way and that the campaign will be organised fairly. I put it to the hon. Member for Bedwellty and to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) that those who have campaigned for a referendum, on the basis of allowing Welsh people the democratic right to decide, should put all their energies into making the Bill the best possible Bill, so that when it comes to the time to decide the Welsh people would have the opportunity of having a Bill before them. To cut Wales out of the Bill would be to throw away the whole democratic argument they have been putting forward in asking for a referendum for the people of Wales to have the right to decide. Having got the referendum, it is only reasonable to expect from those who called for it an effort to make the Bill a practical package on which a decision can be taken.
At the last General Election in Wales, Labour Members fought on a manifesto that demanded an Assembly for Wales. That was across the board. It was the same manifesto in all parts of Wales. 1846 If they now say that they will not support the Assembly, when the next General Election comes let us not have Labour candidates in Caernarvon, Merioneth or Carmarthen saying that they believe in an Assembly. If the Bill goes down because Labour Members from Wales abstain or vote against it, it will be clear that the only way in which we can get not only full self-government but any devolution of power to Wales at all, is to vote for Plaid Cymru, since those who in their manifesto call for devolution and an Assembly will not stick by their words when the time comes.
Tory Members are out of touch with what is happening in Wales. Only a couple of weeks ago the Leader of the Conservative Party visited my constituency. She met Gwynedd County Council, which is overwhelmingly in favour of a legislative Assembly, yet the right hon. Lady said that evening that she had not met one person in favour of devolution. She is out of touch with the policies being demanded in Wales, just as she is out of touch with her party in Scotland. I despair at the thought that she could have her finger on the nuclear trigger in due course.
Reference has been made to the possible break-up of the Union. If the Union is so fragile that this minimal amount of devolution will put it in jeopardy—and the amount of autonomy to be given to Wales is less than that enjoyed by the Isle of Man—it must be extremely fragile. The fears of hon. Members who use that argument show their insecurity.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans rose——
§ Mr. Wigley
No; the hon. Gentleman has had his opportunity.
There is a broad demand in Wales for an Assembly. It comes from the Wales TUC, from various unions such as the miners and the TGWU, the religious denominations, the Labour Party in Wales if not in London, Liberals, Communists, the Farmers' Union of Wales, Plaid Cymru, many councils and so on. The opinion polls have shown 33 per cent. of the electorate vaguely happy with the Government's proposals and 35 per cent. demanding more power for the Welsh Assembly. It cannot be said that there is no demand for the Assembly.
The cost of the Assembly will be less than that now being spent on military 1847 bands in the United Kingdom. A 2 per cent. improvement in efficiency in spending would do more than pay for the cost of this proposal. The Assembly building will cost less than the underground car park at Westminster. Those who argue against 1,300 civil servants going to Wales for the benefit of Wales are those who are arguing in favour of 5,000 civil servants going to Cardiff for the Ministry of Defence.
We shall support the Second Reading. We shall support the principle of the referendum provided that the questions are fair. We shall campaign in the referendum for the maximum possible transfer of power from London to Wales. If the Welsh part of the Bill fails before the referendum, we shall press as hard as we can for a General Election. We shall participate fully in the Assembly when it is set up and contribute constructively to its work. We shall continue to press for full Welsh government, recognising that we can go no further and no faster than the Welsh people allow.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I question the motivation behind and the necessity for the Bill. If the motivation is a belated recognition that the people of Scotland in particular, and in Wales to some extent, have been denied honest representation at Westminster, and if they feel a sense of neglect or think that they have been isolated, I am in agreement with the Bill, but I should be dishonest if I did not say that I have detected some worrying elements and that I am fearful of the future when the Assemblies come into operation.
I live on an island, and my political career as a Socialist has been on an island which is riddled with nationalism and its mythology and riddled with the efficacy of violence. In Belfast last week a little girl of 14 was murdered in the cause of Ulster nationalism, and this week a youth was shot in the cause of Irish nationalism.
I am fearful that an aggressive nationalistic element may appear in the new Administrations in Scotland and Wales. I desperately hope that I am wrong. There is a great responsibility on the SNP to ensure that hostile anti-English and pro-Scottish nationalism does not become all-important in the election campaigns.
1848 I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is not now present. We have heard a dramatic change in his views on devolved government. We had a devolved Parliament with legislative powers in Ireland for 52 years, but we heard on Monday that the Ulster Unionists no longer want that and that they no longer want what was called for in the Unionist Convention report.
The inconsistency of the right hon. Member for Down, South was shown in the logic of his unholy alliance with the SNP. The right hon. Member said that he accepted that the only way that the SNP could succeed in reaching its goal of independence would be for a majority of the people of Scotland to elect SNP Members to this House. When the Irish people did that, however, and the vast majority of their elected representatives voted for nationalism in Ireland, the British Government did not agree and instead imposed partition. There is no guarantee that even if the SNP gained a majority of seats at Westminster or Edinburgh this Parliament would abide by that demand from the Scottish people and would grant independence.
Early in my political career I read many of the great constitutional debates in this House—mostly in relation to Ireland—and I believe that we have now reached a turning point, a watershed, in the politics of the United Kingdom.
In the years ahead we shall hear more demands for Scottish separation. I do not believe that this would be the end of the world. We all have to live on this island, and if there is to be a degree of independence for Scotland I do not think that it would be too bad—provided that it took account of the needs of the Scottish people.
I should like to see a Socialist Government in the new Assembly. Presumably there will be Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Scottish nationalist candidates in the campaigns, and I am interested in the philosophy of the nationalists. Will they be vying with the Labour and Conservative candidates, or will they go straight ahead for independence?
There is some justification for the attitude adopted by the SNP. Debates in this House must have regard to all four countries in the United Kingdom. Some 1849 people believe that an hon. Member is an intruder if he seeks to give his opinion on an issue which appears to be connected with only one country. In fact, the Bill can have tremendous effects on the future of the whole United Kingdom.
I support the Bill, but I have very strong reservations that we have not seen the end of demands for outright separation for Scotland.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I shall be brief, first, because I want to be and, secondly, because I must be. My colleagues and I have said that we shall vote for the Second Reading. As someone who wishes to see the Second Reading carried, may I say that I believe, looking at it clinically and coolly, that the Government have a 50–50 chance of getting the Bill through on Third Reading, and not much more? They can improve their chances in a variety of ways, and I would like to suggest how they should do so.
The Government will be in difficulties because at the moment there is a coalition, not unknown, between certain hon. Members of the Labour Party who feel great uncertainty and opposition to this measure and the Conservative Party officially. Some of us suspected that the enthusiasm of the Leader of the Opposition for Europe was not total. Now we are convinced that her enthusiasm for devolution is minimal. It was extraordinary that it took an intervention by me in the speech of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) for the House to be told, for the first time, that the Tory Party is still in favour of an elected Assembly.
If this Bill is defeated I believe that the two nationalist parties will be perfectly entitled to return to Scotland and Wales and say "It is no good returning a United Kingdom Government committed to devolution, even when they have pledged it in their manifesto. They cannot get through a Home Rule Bill. There is no alternative but total separation." That was precisely the position which we placed Parnell with the Irish. He wanted Home Rule and no more, until he was convinced, after the defeat of two Home Rule Bills, that it was impossible to get an English-dominated House of Com- 1850 mons to pass such a measure. That is one of the reasons why I support this Bill. This is the first thing the Tory Party has to realise.
It is ironic that a party that calls itself a constitutional party is the party that has almost always opposed constitutional changes in this House. The reasons, would say, are precisely the same. We were told by the Conservative Party that the first Irish Home Rule Bill would lead to separation and that no such measure must be passed. The left wing of the Liberal Party and other Back Benchers asked "Why give economic powers to Ireland which we shall not have for Wales, Scotland and England?" In vain the Prime Minister of the day said "Our policy will keep the Union together, and yours will cause it to disintegrate." It was in vain that he said to his colleagues "We are in favour of Home Rule for England, Scotland and Wales, as well as Ireland." We can get into the same problem.
I say to the Leader of the House that there is genuine feeling among English Members who ask "Why should we see powers given to Wales to a small extent, and to Scotland to a large extent, which are not accorded to England?" It is vital that we take seriously the demand for England to have a greater say in the runing of its affairs. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) asked how this can be done. I can tell him that I have no doubt about this whatever. I gave evidence to the Kilbrandon Commission and set out precisely the proposals we had for 12 elected regional Assemblies, which would take away the grave doubts the hon. Member has about the disparities between regions. This can be done.
To those who say that they do not want federalism because there is no demand for it, I reply that I can remember standing up in this House and saying that we must go into the Common Market but being told that there was no demand for it. Federalism must come. If it does not, the United Kingdom will break up. We must first realise that there is an important English dimension. We ignore that at our peril. We must go further than the White Paper.
Another point which has come out time and again is that the power of taxation has to be given to Wales and Scotland. The lack of such a power will be a cause 1851 of major friction. Whenever there is a disagreement, whenever there is criticism of an Assembly decision, either in Scotland or Wales, it will be possible to blame it upon the parsimony of this Parliament.
For the Prime Minister to say that we do not know any formula whereby this can be done when there has been a formula evolved for the past 50 years in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 is an incredible admission of failure. There are possibilities for a provincial income tax, a payroll tax, a sales tax. All of these have been experimented with in other countries and have worked. It is absolutely crucial that there are some powers of taxation in Scotland and Wales. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) suggested that the problem of taxation could be dealt with by having PAYE credited to Scotland and Wales.
My next point concerns the electoral system. I ask the Leader of the House to remember how this Parliament, in 1920, deliberately inserted proportional representation into the electoral systems north and south of the border in Ireland to prevent polarisation on religious grounds and to see that the minorities were fairly represented. That system has never been abolished in the South. It was abolished by the Tories for cynical reasons in 1929 in the North and in 1973 the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) had to reintroduce it. In the context of four or five political parties fighting in Scotland one thing that can be guaranteed under our electoral system is that there will be a minority probably scooping the majority of the seats.
The Government should not worry that proportional representation will lead to a pushover for Westminster. They will have the support of the Leader of the Opposition, who is equally keen to protect the present electoral system, and will even gang up with the Government in breach of her party's electoral commitments to prevent the subject being even placed in the agenda of the Speaker's Conference. It is important that we have the right electoral system for Wales and Scotland. The important questions about the referendum are when we have it and what questions are asked. I warn the Government that one can have a referendum which produces one result and a first-past-the-post election which totally 1852 negatives it. I remind the House of what happened in Quebec, where 41 per cent. of the electorate was in favour of separatism whereas 60 per cent. would have been in favour of keeping the Canadian federation had a referendum been taken a month before. I warn the Government that a referendum could be overtaken by the results of our electoral system within months.
The most depressing aspect is not that the Bill is in need of amendment and strength but that the Opposition have no recognition of the aspirations of the people to have a say in their own affairs. They have no recognition of the need for Scotland to have a better form of decentralised government. We cannot rely upon the official Tory Party to support constitutional changes. Only one or two members of the Opposition have the principles and clearsightedness to lead us in that direction.
Let us get down to making the Bill give us a better system of government. If we do not improve that system, the United Kingdom will break up, Certainly, it will break up if we do not do something to change it. To see that this is so, one has only to look to the country where I have dual nationality—Ireland—which is divided because we failed to act in time. Let us not make the same mistake again.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
In opening the debate from this side of the House today, my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) said that the Government have already gone on the defensive over the Bill. The evidence for that is that they have had to bring forward a major amendment in the form of a proposal for a referendum before the Second Reading is over. On Monday the Prime Minister said that he hoped to make an announcement by the middle of January, and on Thursday of this very week he comes forward with that announcement. It is remarkable what a few signatures on the Order Paper can achieve.
The referendum is desired by the people, but it is also complicated, as the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) said yesterday. He said that the referendum takes over a certain degree of authority that belongs to 1853 Parliament, and then he went on to say that the people of Wales must decide. The normal way to do that would be through their Members of Parliament. That will be difficult, because Labour hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies are at sixes and sevens on this issue.
The important question is how the House will provide for the referendum. When we had a referendum for the Common Market, a separate Bill was introduced which went through the House in a total of four days. We hope the Government will take that into account in their timetable. In many respects the arrangements for the referendum announced by the Minister of State will be, if anything, more complicated than the arrangements for the EEC referendum and, therefore, the House will need more time to consider them. If the Bill were to become an Act and there were then to be a referendum and either Scotland or Wales were to say "No", will the Leader of the House undertake to introduce an amending Bill to adjust the statute book so that the aspects of the Bill which will not be invoked do not remain on the statute book?
I want to come to the question of voting tonight and the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). The European Communities legislation is not quite comparable. The free vote that we had when we were in Government was upon the question whether this House agreed in principle that Britain should join the EEC. On that occasion the Labour Party, in Opposition, had a three-line Whip. On Second Reading, both parties had a three-line Whip. I would not say that all the circumstances are the same, but certainly there are many similarities.
We are not actually debating tonight the principle of devolution. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, we are."] No. We are debating the principle of this method of devolution, which is a very different thing. The Secretary of State for Wales may laugh, but that is a true and accurate point. If hon. Members say that if we believe in devolution this Bill is the only way to do it and we must support it, that is not an accurate statement.
1854 For a long time, my feeling has been that the approach by Westminster, as the Parliament of the United Kingdom, has not been what I think it should have been on a matter of this gravity, affecting the kingdom itself. As a result, a theme of doubt and uncertainty, reserve or opposition has informed almost all the speeches, from wherever they have come. I make no secret of the fact that I would have liked to see a different approach, with all parties talking together, because all of them to a greater or lesser degree—of course, with individual exceptions—acknowledge the dissatisfaction which exists in Scotland and Wales, and in Northern Ireland and England for that matter, with the government of the United Kingdom as it affects them.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
I am fairly new to the House of Commons, but I always understood that a vote on Second Reading was a vote on the principle of a Bill. We have all listened to the Front Bench speakers, and we still do not know what the Conservative position is. Will the right hon. Gentleman please explain it?
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman is right: a vote on Second Reading is a vote on the principle of the Bill.
All parties in the House except the nationalists want the United Kingdom to remain united, yet there has been no attempt to reach common ground in the interests of the United Kingdom, to analyse and diagnose the problem which we all appreciate exists or to recommend possible changes and improvements. I attribute this failure to the ever-widening political divide, the polarisation of opposing political views which is taking place in this country, to the detriment, I believe of the national interest and of our people.
Although I do not think that I shall carry many hon. Members with me, my own personal conviction is that it would have been right to try to approach the problem that we face over Scotland—I do not think that there is so much of a problem with Wales—in the same spirit as the House has approached the problems of Northern Ireland. Of course no agreement would have been possible, but there could have been an identification of differences, there could have been an 1855 attempt at identification of the options which remain open to us. In the context of the European Community, it seems all the more important to take the United Kingdom view, as opposed to a party political view, of so rapidly changing a situation.
But nothing like that has happened, and I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup should take that into account. He said that he also wanted a corpus of agreement. I am not sure what attempt he may have made at that time to achieve it, but it has not happened and, in the absence of it, cool, comprehensive consideration is not so silly an idea of how to proceed.
Instead, we face a Bill with a highly party-political motivation. It is an attempt by the Labour Party to save seats that it feared it would lose. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has said that it is a Bill to placate nationalism. It was the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) who first saw the threat posed to his Labour Govment. In an intervention this evening, the Leader of the House said that between 1951 and 1964 the vote of the Conservative Party was bolstered by Members from Northern Ireland. I happen to think that 10 years ago it was the right hon. Member for Huyton who took an interest in seeing how he could chip away the support of Ulster Unionist Members for the Conservative Party. I am bound to say that he succeeded up to a point. To a limited extent he succeeded, with all sorts of unfortunate consequences that have not yet worked themselves out.
I also happen to think that the right hon. Gentleman saw a threat to the bolstering of the Labour Party vote by Members representing constituencies in Scotland and Wales, and that is the origin of the Bill. That is not the way in which the Bill should have been approached. In all the circumstances, it is no wonder that the Bill has been subjected to such severe criticism.
The Government say that if they are defeated on Second Reading they cannot bring in another devolution Bill this Session. Why not? In any case, they should have brought in two Bills. Amalgamating, the proposals for Scotland and Wales in one Bill has been criticized 1856 in all parts of the House. It is a political manoeuvre and it is wrong.
It is worse than that. The introduction of the Bill is accompanied by talk of the possibility of violence if it is obstructed or if it fails. I admit that the Leader of the House was almost led into the answer on his television interview, but it sounded like blackmail, which is totally unworthy of him or of anyone else. For the Prime Minister to say on Monday that the defeat of the Bill on Second Reading would drive a wedge between the peoples of this island certainly is not true. The Secretary of State for Wales said that failure to enact the Bill would set back democratic accountability for 10 years. That is nonsense. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that if the Bill were turned down we should be turning our backs on the aspirations of the people of Scotland and Wales. That equally is nonsense.
Such assertions and opinions do not represent the views of many hon. Members, as we have heard during the debate. The criticisms have been from those who disagree with the whole concept and about the manifest and manifold flaws in the Bill.
Whatever happens tonight, however, the devolution argument is here to stay. It is here to stay because, whatever some hon. Members say, there is dissatisfaction with government in the United Kingdom, especially perhaps in Scotland. However, that also applies in the other constituent parts. The question is why this is so, how we should adjust it and to what extent.
I identify one cause as the magnitude of the intensity of the parliamentary political struggle that is now taking place, which in my opinion has reached a new degree of party political controversy. There is also the cause that comes about from the ever-increasing persuasiveness of government. The lives of all of us are more and more interfered with, and people are coming more and more to resent it. I also agree with the argument that with the contraction of the Empire we have turned in upon ourselves, which is a new and unfamiliar experience. Joining Europe has helped slightly, but in no sense has that been a replacement for the expansive and spacious sense that the Empire gave us and all the opportunities that it gave to our people.
1857 Many Members, including the Prime Minister, have spoken of the worldwide tendency for smaller communities to assert their independence and their own personality in the context of ever-increasing international groupings. In part, this tendency is a reaction to what seems to be an inexorable move towards larger and larger scales of operation and administration—the inexorable drive to a greater degree of conformity at the expense of individuality.
The advantages of larger-scale groupings are obvious, but there is a corollary. People do not wish to lose their identity. People have begun to feel swamped, and their desire to resist this and their desire to have their individual, unique identity recognised is a development that ought to be welcomed.
The essential feature that we have to keep in mind in the context of devolution surely is the preservation of the United Kingdom, while at the same time recognising and accommodating the aspirations and feelings of the people of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. In the end that depends in part and to some extent upon our will, but primarily upon the will of the people.
If, for example, the people of Scotland were ever to decide and to show conclusively that they wished to separate, no matter what the cost, no matter what the consequence, that is what would happen. Very few of them indeed, it seems, want that at present, and one of the fundamental issues in the debate has been how to maintain this position of the unity of Scotland within the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
At this stage, it might help some hon. Members if the right hon. Gentleman would now tell us what is the policy of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Pym
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be patient. As I was saying, one of the fundamental issues is to try to maintain this position of the unity of Scotland within the United Kingdom. That is our objective and purpose. Not only do we believe that the overwhelming majority of British citizens, including the people of Scotland, want that. We believe that Scotland is also vitally important to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom needs Scotland and 1858 Wales and England and Northern Ireland. Almost the entire House, and certainly my party, finds it almost impossible to contemplate a United Kingdom without all its constituent parts.
That is why the Conservative Party has been at pains for a long time—[Interruption.]—to find the best way—[Interruption.] Labour Members may think this funny, but it is not. We have been at pains for a long time to find the best way of meeting the aspirations of the various members of the United Kingdom.
Our recognition of this and the constructive approach we have sought to take indicate clearly our appreciation of the fact that we do not have to adhere to the existing system of government. In any case, I doubt that that is a possible option. Not many hon. Members have argued for the status quo. Some would like it, and I understand that, but the more rigidly we try to adhere to a system that is the source of continuous criticism and of continuing frustration, the more possible it is that in the end bigger changes may come about than are desirable or necessary.
Much play has been made in the debate of the history of Ireland, and rightly so, because we know what has happened there. If I may say so, I thought that this point was made exceptionally well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), but we must resist the temptation to press the parallel too far, because the circumstances of each constituent part of the United Kingdom are different.
What people in Scotland have been saying is that they want a new and better way to have decisions taken affecting Scotland within the United Kingdom—a new and better way to give expression to their own particular needs. For a long time we on the Conservative Benches have argued for and proposed a new Assembly in Scotland, to be the focus of all issues affecting Scotland, to advise upon and suggest legislation to the benefit of Scotland, and to be involved in it—in other words, a new elected body in Scotland to speak for Scotland within the United Kingdom.
Our proposals, which have been referred to today, made Six years ago, 1859 envisaged an extension of Parliament to Scotland. If the United Kingdom is to be preserved, an extension of Parliament in Scotland rather than a rival Parliament is surely a sound approach. The conflict that will arise through the provisions of this Bill between the Executive and the United Kingdom Secretary of State amounts to rivalry, which is one main reason why the Bill has few friends, whatever the result of the vote tonight.
It may or may not be the case that a third chamber of Parliament in Scotland is now thought inadequate in Scotland. We do not know, though the impression is clear enough, but it is a far wiser road to take than this Bill, because it would avoid a separate Executive and duplication of the Civil Service. There is much less scope for conflicts and disagreements and a much more satisfactory method of reconciling differences.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give a total commitment that a future Conservative Government will introduce a devolution Bill for Scotland?
§ Mr. Pym
I am explaining what my party will do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I shall answer. Everybody is so impatient. Our proposals involve the Assembly in legislation, in questioning Ministers in Scotland and in developing new policies for Scotland. We have not proposed over-government through an extra tier, which is costly and unwanted, but we have proposed closer scrutiny for Scotland of decisions made by Scots in Scotland.
It is true that the principal author of our proposals, Lord Home of the Hirsel, now believes that in the light of events of recent years the mood and feeling in Scotland has changed and that his proposals, though constitutionally right and sound, may no longer be sufficient. There can be few, if any, better judges than he, and I would not presume to question his judgment, but I think that there is confusion in the minds of many people, not only in Scotland. My clear impression is that the Press and the media in Scotland are competing with each other in their enthusiasm for devolution—a word that is not very accurately defined.
The long-running discussion and debate is now to some extent being displaced by a build-up of emotion. The devolution 1860 stakes that are run in the Press in Scotland almost daily can make compulsive reading, but they do not contribute anything very significant to formulating better methods of government.
§ Mr. Iain MacCormick (Argyll)
The right hon. Gentleman made some play with the question of over-government in Scotland. Why was it that the Conservative Government saddled Scotland with over-government and a ridiculous regional tier of local government?
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman has made his point. I am concerned at the high hopes that are being raised in Scotland at present. I am concerned at the excessive expectations that are being aroused. There seems to me to be something of a conspiracy to encourage the mood that the more we devolve Scotland, the more glorious will Scotland's future be. I reject that absolutely, and so, I believe, will the people of Scotland. It is the responsibility of this House to take full account of, to consider and, if necessary, to act on the dissatisfaction that we know exists and to find, if we can, a better method of government that accords more closely with contemporary needs.
The proposals of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been described as minimalist. They were not minimalist originally, although they might be now. But they are far better than what is proposed in the Bill, which we believe will not work satisfactorily and cannot endure.
It is no good saying that this is a Bill for devolution and that devolution is a good thing and, therefore, we must vote for it. This House must take a more responsible attitude. I admit that there is a case for going further than the Bill. There is logic in a clearer division of powers. But fully-fledged federalism has few friends here except on the Liberal Bench. On this side of the House we are agreed that the preservation and strengthening of the United Kingdom is the overriding necessity for our future prosperity.
As the House knows, I have come to this devolutionary world only in the last few weeks, and this is the situation as I see it. After a prolonged debate in Scotland, the House is confronted by, and shortly reaches a conclusion on, a bad Bill. Its future is unknown even if it gets a Second Reading. The extent to 1861 which it will be amended, no one knows. Whether it will be possible to complete all its stages in 35 days, no one knows. In any event, how long can this Government last? What is the authority of the Government now after the announcements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday? Will they last long enough to see this Bill through? To say the least, it is doubtful.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen) rose——
§ Mr. Pym
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way to him. I have a great deal more to say.
Meanwhile, the attitude of people in Scotland is moving on all the time. There is a current of emotional opinion which is understandable. It wants important decisions affecting Scotland to be taken in Scotland in a new and different way. At the same time, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the cost and of all the consequences and implications of any degree of separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom. How are these consequences——
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans rose——
§ Mr. Pym
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way to him. I have given way a number of times already.
How are the consequences to be spelt out in a way that the people of Scotland or of any other part of the United Kingdom can understand? The Government have a rôle here if they mean what they say when they say that they, too, want the unity of the United Kingdom to remain. I thought that the Minister of State helped in that because he began to spell out his view of the consequences. it seemed to me that it was very important to do it. There is uncertainty about what the people of Scotland want, and obviously the referendum will contribute to answering that question.
We have, therefore, a fluid situation. We have an evolving situation here in Parliament with the Bill and over the duration of this Government because of the political difficulties that they are getting into. We have a fluid and evolving situation in Scotland. In such circumstances and on a matter of such fundamental importance to the United Kingdom, it would be impossible and it would 1862 be irresponsible to detail at this stage exactly what would happen on a change of Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it would be irresponsible and impossible. We do not know the situation that would confront a Government formed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. However, my right hon. and hon. Friends have a firm commitment, which is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup and many others, to a directly-elected Assembly in Edinburgh. That seems to be the right undertaking to give to Scotland, and that is the undertaking that we have given.
In this Bill, it appears that the Government decided to give powers to the proposed Executive and then took fright and withdrew them. It is impossible to avoid conflict in politics. But the conflict which will flow from the Bill is of such a character as to be unacceptable. It cannot endure. That is why we think that the structure of the Bill is unsound.
The position in Wales is different. The evidence that I have seen suggests that the Welsh people do not want an Assembly, and many Government supporters have expressed this view most strongly. There is little case for an Assembly in Wales unless the Welsh people really want it. They are not so far away as Scotland. They have no separate legal system.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for giving way. Did I understand him to say at the beginning of his speech that the status quo was not an option? If that is so, in what way does he propose to change the constitution in Wales?
§ Mr. Pym
I shall come to that in one moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not now?"] All right, I will come to it now. I cannot understand why Labour Members should find this so amusing. We are dealing with the affairs of the people in constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It seems to us that more administrative devolution is the right way to go about this in Wales, coupled with more scrutiny by the House of legislation affecting the people of Wales. The Bill creates an extra tier of government at considerable cost in terms of 1863 money and manpower in Wales. The case for it was destroyed completely yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards).
The Welsh Assembly as proposed in the Bill will be responsible for administering legislation which it has no power to shape. That is nonsense. It is not wise to have a different form of government for Wales with the result that all four constituent parts of the United Kingdom will each be governed by a different system. The circumstances of Northern Ireland are most strikingly different, and in that respect I was struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux).
Clause 1 of the Bill, to which many hon. Members have drawn attention, has as its second sentence the fantastic assertion that the provisions do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom. Of course they do. As one hon. Member after another has said, there is nothing in the Bill about representation of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Huyton was not in his place earlier when I talked about support ebbing away from the Labour Party and the risks he saw in not trying to save seats.
The Bill as a form of devolution is a new proposed form of constitution within the United Kingdom. It is not satisfactory and it is not certain that it is wanted. We do not believe that it will work. We think that it will lead to conflict, thus making the situation infinitely worse than the complaints which it seeks to cure. On that basis, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support our opposition to it in the Lobby tonight.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
I hope that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) will excuse me for one moment before I comment on his remarks. I want first to comment on some of the speeches by my hon. Friends, particularly those who speak for constituencies in Wales.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) stated our case for Wales as effectively as anyone has ever done in this House. Those of us who have been in the House for some time will 1864 recall what he proposed to the people of Wales, and what he tried to provide for them during the period when he was Secretary of State in the 1960s. He wanted a reform of local government which was very different from the actual so-called reform which we had a few years later. What he proposed then was an elected Council for Wales, which would have led the way to the proposals in this Bill. He had worked out these proposals in the 1960s, and to some extent these proposals were—I will not say thwarted—besieged by obstacles that were put in their way by some of my other hon. Friends in the Government. It was, in one sense, an English objection to Welsh proposals. My hon. Friends believed that if there were to be any reform of local government at all it should be carried out in an identical manner throughout the country.
Broadly, because of that, the very wise and fair-sighted proposals of my right hon. Friend were not carried out at the time. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) that we should not approach constitutional matters on the basis of saying that the development of every part of the country should proceed in the same uniform manner. We should be prepared to have a diversified system, developed in response to particular needs. Certainly, had we been able to adopt the proposals advanced by my right hon. and learned Friend when he was the Secretary of State I believe that a lot of our subsequent difficulties in Wales could have been overcome. I hope, therefore, that the whole House will pay attention to what he said and will accept the foresight that he has shown in these matters.
Let me also comment on the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). As he said—I do not know whether it was a confession, a boast, or an acknowledgment—he and I have been friends throughout the period that we have been in this House together. I certainly acknowledge that. I have always admired the independence that he has shown in this House and what I would describe as the Maccabean courage with which he has fought for the causes in which he believes.
My hon. Friend seeks to analyse political matters in psychoanalytical terms, but it has been a puzzle to me 1865 that while he has a great legitimate pride in his Jewishness—and that is a form of patriotism—he seems to pour scorn on Welsh pride and Welsh patriotism. That seems an extraordinary contrast.
§ Mr. Abse
I think that that was an unworthy comment by my right hon. Friend. I am blessed with children who are half Celt and half Semite, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that they are able to take pride and to extrapolate from both those traditions. It is because I take pride as a Welsh Jew that I have urged forward the views I believe to be correct for the whole Principality.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us are not Welsh, Scots or Jews, but happen to be English? Is he aware that some of us have been very closely associated with Welshmen, as workmates? I went to university at night to learn the Welsh language, because I was concerned with Wales and its culture. But the fact that I oppose the Bill does not mean that I do not appreciate the Welsh, the Scots or the Jewish cultures.
§ Mr. Foot
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool, that if he finds anything offensive in what I have said I apologise to him, without qualification. I hope that what I say will be accepted by the House. I certainly intended no offence.
Let me now turn to what I believe to be the central question of the debate. I take it from the speeches of many of my hon. Friends and others. The central issue was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendel- 1866 son), and the right hon. Members for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and Brighton, Pavillion (Mr. Amery) among others. They expressed their genuine belief that there was a danger of the Bill's undermining and destroying the unity of the United Kingdom. That is the central feature of the debate. The fear has been expressed in different forms by hon. Members on both sides of the House, perhaps most formidably by the right hon. Member for Down, South.
My reply is that there are many other hon. Members on both sides of the House who support the Bill precisely because they believe that it is the best way—in certain circumstances the only way—to strengthen and sustain the unity of the United Kingdom. That view was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), many of my hon. Friends, and many Conservative Members who cannot find it in themselves to support the official policy of the Opposition.
The Government's predominant motive in the way in which we have devised the Bill has been to sustain, as the only method of maintaining the unity of the United Kingdom, the maintenance of the supremacy of this House. That is one of the reasons why we object to the federal proposal so strongly backed by the Liberal Party, the right hon. Member for Down, South, in certain circumstances, and others. We reject it partly for the reasons given in the Kilbrandon Report and comparable reasons, but also because if one is to have a fully-fledged federal system one must have a Supreme Court or a written constitution—a written arrangement laying down the demarcation be-between different bodies; something to which appeal can be made in issues of dispute. That is the basis of most federal constitutions.
We take strong objection to that kind of proposal, partly for the Kilbrandon reasons, although our other reasons may have been in the minds of the members of the Kilbrandon Commission. We believe that it would fundamentally alter the constitution of this country if we were so to transform it that instead of having Parliament supreme—this House, as we on this side of the Chamber would say—the final word was transferred to a Supreme Court or written constitution. We 1867 are against a federal settlement of the matter for that reason, too.
We have chosen the method in the Bill precisely so that matters of final dispute, if there are any, come to this House. Nobody can say that disputes will never arise, because they are a natural concomitant and feature of all politics. The question we must settle in the Bill is: who is to be the arbiter? The explanation for many clauses is that we say that the final arbiter must be this House, which can vote to decide what happens in such circumstances. That is the explanation for many of the powers to which the Leader of the Opposition and others objected.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State dealt fully with most of those matters at the beginning of the debate. The fundamental explanation for the way in which we have devised the Bill is that we want to ensure that this House retains its supremacy and that we have the right to decide if disputes occur.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Let us suppose, in the process of that unilateral arbitration, which is dependent on the fact that the House of Commons will have the purse strings and not upon the affection or obedience of the people to the House of Commons, that Scotland or Wales, with a semi-independent Parliament, did not accept that arbitration? What would my right hon. Friend propose to do then?
§ Mr. Foot
Exactly what is done now. That is to say, we sustain the proposition that the House of Commons and its decisions and the decisions of Parliament must be respected. That is the way in which we say these matters must be settled. Because we set up other Assemblies with specified powers, rights and duties does not mean that the House of Commons need not retain its full power to deal with these matters in the future.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept the doctrine in Scottish constitutional law—which is different from English constitutional law—that people in Scotland are sovereign? Does he not accept, as a democrat, that it will be the Scots people who decide the issue at the end of the day?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has made a political claim, not a con- 1868 stitutional assertion. When we have established these Assemblies there will be some members of the SNP—although I doubt whether there will be many—who will seek for ulterior purposes to manipulate the institutions which have been established. No one will deny that there are such persons. That will happen in any case if we do not reach a settlement that is genuinely approved by the people of Scotland, England and Wales. That is what we seek to secure, and that is what is backed by those who have asserted during the debate that our purpose in introducing the legislation is to protect and enhance the unity of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman may have doubts about that purpose, but we on the Labour Benches certainly have no doubts about it.
The right hon. Member for Down, South makes a different attack upon the proposition. He says that it will not work. When we interrupt him, he seeks to dismiss the period when something comparable—I do not say it was the same—operated in Northern Ireland. His hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) made an important speech on Monday night which deserves to be examined carefully because of the possibilities that it may provide for the future. The right hon. Member for Down, South said that his hon. Friend was the exception that proved the rule. But it was really the exception that disproved the speech made by the right hon. Member for Down, South. The right hon. Gentleman was on very weak ground when he dismissed all the possibilities of devolved power when some form of devolved power had existed in Northern Ireland for a considerable period.
The right hon. Member for Down, South went even further in underlining the virtue of our case. His only answer to the nationalists was that it is possible to find out whether a nation is a nation only by the event. I do not know whether I have his words exactly, but I do not think I misrepresent his sense.
In my opinion much of the blood that has been shed in British history has been shed, and many of the errors of British history have arisen, because politicians or statesmen have not seen before the event what might constitute a nation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member 1869 for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Walton and others who have said that we can have a nation without the full apparatus of statehood. We can have different forms of nationhood, and different forms of institutions in which that nationhood is revealed and enshrined. It is the doctrine of despair to say that we must await the event before we take steps to recognise the claims of nationhood.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Can my right hon. Friend name any country in the world today which fits the description he has just given, that is, a country which is a nation but which has not proceeded to separate status as a State?
§ Mr. Foot
What has been said by many hon. Members, and I think it is quite right in this debate—my hon. Friends have heard this statement made as I have—is that what we are seeking in this United Kingdom of ours is a fresh way of dealing with a new problem. We should not be deterred by the fact that there are very few models for what we have done, but we can be deterred by the failure of other forms of dealing with it. We can be deterred in one sense, I believe, by the federal solution, which does not apply to this situation and which would involve a drastic alteration of the whole British constitution.
I repeat that we are seeking a solution which sustains the supremacy of this Parliament. and that is the proposal which is before the House and upon which the House is asked to vote.
Opposition Members have been asked what are the solutions that they would propose for our situation. I looked forward with great expectation to this debate when I read the headline in The Sunday Times which told us what we could expect. It said:How Teddy Taylor became Maggie's extricator-in-chief.It then described how he was going to show us the way in which he would deal with the situation. The hon. Gentleman is on the Opposition Front Bench now. I quote from further down that same 1870 article—I assume that it is correct—where the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is quoted as saying:The Tories here treat me as a lesser form of pond life.I congratulate him on his advance. Henceforth we need not call him Teddy Taylor, but Teddy Tadpole, instead.
§ Mr. Foot
Perhaps even if the quotation is not true the nickname will stick.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup asked us how we would proceed with the rest of the debate during the time that is ahead of us. At the beginning of the debate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated to the House how we should be able to deal with our business. I say this in response to what the right hon. Gentleman said, although it is addressed to the official Opposition as well. I hope that we shall be able to have discussions about the procedure of the debate itself.
With regard to the programme for our future deliberations on the Bill, the House will have heard what the Prime Minister said in opening the debate. We are keen to have thorough and well-planned discussions to bring the wisdom of the House to bear on the Bill. We are ready to assign for all Commons stages about 30 days on the Floor of the House, which is more than has been assigned for any other Bill, other than the occasional Finance Bill, for more than 40 years. We are ready to consider with Opposition parties how best to organise this time, and we shall have proposals ready for them to examine as soon as they wish to discuss the matter. We are anxious to make progress in this respect on the basis of the maximum agreement and co-operation, in the interests of the House as a whole—and, as I say, that applies not only to discussions through the usual channels but with all the other parties involved.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I hope that my right hon. Friend appreciates that this is not a matter that can be settled by consultations limited to the usual channels. Others will want to have their voice heard.
§ Mr. Foot
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we would need, and if so whether we would undertake to provide, a special Bill if it were necessary to extract Wales or Scotland from the Bill, if there should be a vote in either of those two countries against the proposition of inclusion in the Bill.
§ Mr. Foot
Let me deal first with the question whether we would need a separate Bill to deal with what might occur if the referendum went against inclusion in the Bill. We do not believe that that would be necessary. My hon. Friend dealt with the matter. If it were necessary we should provide such an arrangement.
I now come to the matter of extra time. As I have indicated, we shall, of course, be prepared to discuss the timetable or the time to be allocated for the discussion of the whole Bill We hope that we can provide it on a most generous basis to enable us to cover all these matters That includes proposals for discussions on the referenda, because that
§ would be a clause in the Bill. It would not be a separate Bill, as was the case in the Common Market legislation. It would, as I say, be a clause in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the beginning of our discussions, we intend to provide reasonable time for all these matters to be discussed.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would allow 30 days. I put him on notice that 30 days may not be enough.
§ Mr. Foot
I know that there are some who may say that it is not enough, but I believe that what I have said will be considered by all hon. Members. What we are proposing is a generous allocation of time, so that the whole of the Bill can be properly discussed and so that the House and the Government can take full account of the representations that may be made from different sections of the House as to how we should produce the best Bill in the end.
We think that we have produced a good Bill. I am sure that the House of Commons can make it a better Bill. I am sure, too, that it is not beyond the ingenuity of this House of Commons and the British people to provide for the people of Scotland, Wales and England the two things needed together—a more democratic method of government, and, at the same time, a method of keeping the United Kingdom united.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 247.1875
|Division No. 22.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)|
|Archer, Peter||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Corbett, Robin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)|
|Ashley, Jack||Buchan, Norman||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)|
|Ashton, Joe||Buchanan, Richard||Crawford, Douglas|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Atkinson, Norman||Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Cronin, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Callaghan,Jim (Middleton & P)||Cryer, Bob|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Campbell, Ian||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Canavan, Dennis||Davidson, Arthur|
|Bates, Alf||Cant, R. B.||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)|
|Bean, R. E.||Carmichael, Neil||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Beith, A. J.||Carter, Ray||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Deakins, Eric|
|Bennett, Andrew(Stockport N)||Cartwright, John||Dell Rt Hon Edmund|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Dempsey, James|
|Bishop, E. S.||Clemitson, Ivor||Doig, Peter|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Dormand, J. D.|
|Boardman, H.||Cohen, Stanley||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Coleman, Donald||Dunn, James A.|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Concannon, J. D.||Dunnett, jack|
|Bradley, Tom||Conlan, Bernard||Eadie, Alex|
|Edge, Geoff||Lambie, David||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Lamborn, Harry||Rowlands, Ted|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Ryman, John|
|English, Michael||Lee, John||Sandelson, Neville|
|Ennals, David||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lipton, Marcus||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Litterick, Tom||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Faulds, Andrew||Loyden, Eddie||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Sillars, James|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Silverman, Julius|
|Flannery, Martin||McCartney, Hugh||Small, William|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||MacCormick, Iain||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Ford, Ben||McElhone, Frank||Snape, Peter|
|Forrester, John||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Spearing, Nigel|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||MacKenzie, Gregor||Stallard, A. W.|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mackintosh, John P.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Freud, Clement||Maclennan, Robert||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|George, Bruce||McNamara, Kevin||Stoddart, David|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Madden, Max||Stott, Roger|
|Ginsburg, David||Magee, Bryan||Strang, Gavin|
|Golding, John||Mahon, Simon||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Gould, Bryan||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Gourlay, Harry||Marks, Kenneth||Swain, Thomas|
|Graham, Ted||Marquand, David||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Gray, Hamish||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Maynard, Miss Joan||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Meacher, Michael||Thompson, George|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Harper, Joseph||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Tierney, Sydney|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Tinn, James|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Tomlinson, John|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Hatton, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Moyle, Roland||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Mudd, David||Walden, Brian (B'ham L'dyw'd)|
|Henderson, Douglas||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hooley, Frank||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Newens, Stanley||Ward, Michael|
|Horam, John||Noble, Mike||Watkins, David|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Oakes, Gordon||Watkinson, John|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||O'Halloran, Michael||Watt, Hamish|
|Huckfield, Les||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Weetch, Ken|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Padley, Walter||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Pardoe, John||Welsh, Andrew|
|Hunter, Adam||Park, George||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Parry, Robert||White, James (Pollok)|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurie||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Pendry, Tom||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Penhaligon, David||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Janner, Greville||Perry, Ernest||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Price, William (Rugby)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Radice, Giles||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|John, Brynmor||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Reid, George||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rifkind, Malcolm||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Woodall, Alec|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Robinson, Geoffrey||Woof, Robert|
|Judd, Frank||Roderick, Caerwyn||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Kelley, Richard||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Kerr, Russell||Rooker, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kilfedder, James||Roper, John||Mr. Thomas Cox and|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rose, Paul B.||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Knox, David||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baker, Kenneth||Berry, Hon Anthony|
|Alison, Michael||Banks, Robert||Biffen, John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bell, Ronald||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Bennett,Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Body, Richard|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Awdry, Daniel||Benyon, W.||Bottomley, Peter|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Havers, Sir Michael||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Brittan, Leon||Hawkins, Paul||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hayhoe, Barney||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Heseltine, Michael||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Buck, Antony||Holland, Philip||Percival, Ian|
|Budgen, Nick||Hordern, Peter||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Burden, F. A.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Carson, John||Hurd, Douglas||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Channon, Paul||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Raison, Timothy|
|Churchill, W. S.||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Jessel, Toby||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Clegg, Walter||Jopling, Michael||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Cockcroft, John||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Cope, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cordle, John H.||Kimball, Marcus||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Patrick||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cowans, Harry||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Critchley, Julian||Knight, Mrs Jill||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lamond, James||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Lamont, Norman||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Daiyell, Tam||Langford-Holt, Sir John||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Latham, Michael (Melton)||shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lawson, Nigel||Shepherd, Colin|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Leadbitter, Ted||Shersby, Michael|
|Dunlop, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Silvester, Fred|
|Durant, Tony||Lloyd, Ian||Sims, Roger|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Loveridge, John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Elliott, Sir William||McCusker, H.||Speed, Keith|
|Emery, Peter||Macfarlane, Neil||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Eyre, Reginald||MacGregor, John||Sproat, Iain|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stainton, Keith|
|Farr, John||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fell, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stanley, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Marten, Neil||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mates, Michael||Stokes, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mather, Carol||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Maude, Angus||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fox, Marcus||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mawby, Ray||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Mayhew, Patrick||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mendelson, John||Trotter, Neville|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Urwin, T. W.|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mills, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gilmour. Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Miscampbell, Norman||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Viggers, Peter|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Moate, Roger||Wakeham, John|
|Goodhart, Philip||Molyneaux, James||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Montgomery, Fergus||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Moonman, Eric||Wall, Patrick|
|Gorst, John||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Walters, Dennis|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Morgan, Geraint||Wells, John|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Grieve, Percy||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Morrison, Charles (Devizee)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Grist, Ian||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Grylls, Michael||Neave, Airey||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Hall, Sir John||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neubert, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Newton, Tony||Mr. spencer Le Marchant and|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Nott, John||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.1876
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Stoddart.]
§ Committee tomorrow.