§ "(1) For the purposes of this Act there may be appointed a Speaker's Conference, being a conference convened at the request of the Prime Minister and presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons with the function of considering and making recommendations to the House of Commons relating to the appropriate number of Members of that House representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies after the enactment of this Act.
§ (2) Those participating in the conference shall be Members of the House of Commons invited to do so by the Speaker, who shall secure that the balance of parties in the House of Commons is reflected, so far as practicable, among the participants in the conference".
§ Mr. Pym
I think that the House is grateful for what the Chair ruled in connection with the amendment tabled to New Clause 36 in the names of Liberal Members. I should have liked all the amendments relating to this subject to be included in this group, but naturally I appreciate, Sir Myer, that it was not possible for you to select them all, for various reasons. I should have liked to include in New Clause 36 the appropriate number of Members for all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, but I appreciate that there would have been problems had I sought to do that.
I regret that we are embarking on what I regard as a major debate at so late an hour. We are about to debate the representation at Westminster of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom—a matter of primary and fundamental significance to this Committee. Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most dramatic aspects of the Bill and could in the long run be the most important of all the 376 basic issues that the Bill raises. I should have liked us to embark on it at a reasonable hour.
If anything like the Bill is ever to become law—and it is a radical measure —the consequences and implications for the House of Commons and for the government of the United Kingdom will be very great. I am surprised that the Government have had so little to say about it so far, I do not know whether they were hoping that this problem would not be raised or that they could get away without proposing or making any changes. At any rate, it is high time that the Committee considered this major matter, and Clause 3 is the first opportunity to do so.
Even without the Bill, there is a case for a review of the representation in the House of Commons. The question is whether the present imbalance among the constituent parts of the United Kingdom is justified. Apart from views expressed by hon. Members, the Hansard Society in its report on electoral reform refers to the matter. In paragraph 44, it says:We consider that, whether or not the system of election to Westminster is changed, the Boundary Commission should be instructed to treat the whole country on the same basis.Many arguments can be adduced about that proposition, but much depends on the context in which one advances it. My noble Friend Lord Home and his Committee in 1970 came down against any change, but they made that recommendation in the context of a proposed Assembly which was part of Westminster—an entirely different context from what is in the Bill.
Whatever view one takes of what one might describe as the purist argument for a greater degree of fair proportionality among the various parts of the United Kingdom, the case for a review of representation in the context of the Bill is unanswerable because the Bill changes the government of the United Kingdom. It seeks to change the responsibilities and functions of Members of Parliament because it seeks to remove from this House the responsibility for taking certain decisions and to pass it to separate Executives in Scotland and Wales—by a different method in each case, but that is by the way.
377 The very fact that the Bill seeks to remove certain functions and responsibilities to Assemblies affects not only Members of Parliament for Scotland and Wales but also for England and Northern Ireland and therefore for the United Kingdom as a whole. Under the Bill, those effects and consequences cannot be avoided or brushed aside. All the implications must be faced and argued out.
Even if at the end of the day the Committee were to conclude that everything should be left as it is, they must be argued out, as they were on a previous occasion.
Throughout the immense debates on Ireland and Home Rule, representation at Westminster was a continuing issue of high controversy. Those debates are highly relevant to what is proposed in the Bill. As I said earlier, I should have included that in the amendment if I had thought it had been in order.
In the end, as we know, the Government of Ireland Act specified and laid down what the representation was to be —namely, 12 seats for Northern Ireland and one for the university. As we also know, the university seat was later abolished. That was the representation that was decided upon in the light of the new devolved Assembly at Stormont. It took into account the altered responsibilities for the House of Commons and for the Assembly at Stormont. Those constituencies have endured with a general public acceptance that has not often been questioned during the past 55 years.
It should be noted at this stage that the 12 Members representing the Northern Ireland seats had the same rights and responsibilities in this House of Commons as every other Member. Northern Ireland representation today is not directly appropriate and fair because Stormont is not in existence. There is a period of what is described as direct rule. We do not know whether Stormont or the equivalent will be restored to Northern Ireland. We do not know whether there will be devolved powers again. It seems at the moment that there is little or no Government policy in that direction. But either way representation in Northern Ireland should be reconsidered.
If there is no Stormont and if we are to have the present situation for any prolonged period, no one can pretend 378 that the representation of Northern Ireland is fair, reasonable or adequate. On the other hand, if devolved Government is again restored to Northern Ireland, the matter will have to be considered anew. That is because if the Bill were to become an Act there would be devolved powers, to some extent, to Scotland and Wales, though on a different basis. Surely the representation of the three parts of the United Kingdom and England should be considered together and as a whole.
Is it possible in the circumstances envisaged in the Bill, and would it be right, to leave unchanged the so-called overrepresentation of Scotland and Wales and the relative under-representation of England and Northern Ireland? The Royal Commission thought not. The majority was for parity with England, or at any rate for a basis that treated the various parts of the United Kingdom on the same basis in proportion to the population. That was its recommendation in paragraph 1147. The matter is also covered by Amendment No. 484, that has not been selected, that stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan).
The House of Commons should take on board what parity means. The arguments for and against must be considered. Given the same total number of seats for England, Scotland and Wales, it would mean 16 extra seats in England, 12 fewer in Scotland and four fewer in Wales. If the parity argument were to hold sway and to find favour, that would be a great change. But there are other factors besides such as geographical factors. We cannot consider only the widely scattered mountainous areas in Scotland and Wales such as Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty or Merioneth, where clearly special circumstances exist. We must also consider distance from London. It is not a matter of straightforward arithmetic. There are practical considerations to which the House of Commons has always paid attention and I am sure that it would wish to do so again.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the two smallest seats in England are those wild and rural areas of 379 Birmingham, Ladywood and Newcastle upon Tyne, Central?
§ Mr. Pym
I am coming to the urban seats, although it is fair to say that Western Isles has an electorate of only 22,470. We must consider geographical aspects, but what is the justification for keeping a large number of urban seats well below the average electorally? There may be a good reason for it, but it does not seem to be fair. I am certain that the House should look at it.
Because powers will have been devolved, there is an argument for going beyond parity, which is what happened in the case of Northern Ireland. I see many objections and difficulties about that, and I doubt whether it would be acceptable or wise. But it is clear from what I have said that, between the existing level of representation and a less-than-parity position, there is a wide range of possibilities, including an increase in English representation. That is another alternative way of handling it. The question is how and when are we going to decide what is the best form of representation.
I do not believe that the Committee stage of this Bill is the right method or the right forum for doing it. It is clearly a highly complicated and complex matter, and a great deal of preparation would be required before we could take a proper decision.
In the first place, there is no mention of representation in the Bill. Already we have had—indeed, even before the Second Reading debate had finished—one major change, the big addition in the form of the proposed referendum, and I doubt whether the Government are now going to bring forward new provisions reducing the number of Members of Parliament from Scotland or Wales. If they did, they would show themselves to be fairly desperate, and whom they would be buying and at what price would be the subject of speculation. But we have no indication that they will propose any such thing, although there is much speculation about the price they may have to pay for the guillotine which they are alleged to require.
I notice that the Under Secretary of State for Scotland said yesterday that he 380 did not expect the Government to impose a straight guillotine. That is good news, unless it implies that they are going to introduce a crooked one or a serrated one —a horrifying thought. But he added that they would instead introduce a timetable motion which would allow full debate within a specified schedule. I look forward to someone defending the difference between a straight guillotine and a timetable motion which would allow full debate within a specified schedule.
I do not think that the Government will bring forward major new proposals, but I may be wrong. We shall see later tonight. Apart from the Royal Commission's Report, there has been no general public consideration of this matter or any debate in the House on the issues involved. This is the first occasion, and many arguments and proposals will be adduced in the debate.
I think that the House would be greatly assisted if documents were produced setting out the considerations which are involved and identifying the options and the expected consequence of each. In our opinion, this is best done by a conference, convened on the Prime Minister's initiative and presided over by Mr. Speaker. In the end, the House will decide by resolution what is to happen, but it would be greatly helped if the preparatory work for that decision was done as I suggest.
The purpose of the amendment is in no way to cause undue or unnecessary delay. That is not necessary. It is a sincere attempt to propose what is the best way of dealing with an extremely important matter, because it is a major issue that cannot be brushed aside, and one of the most fundamental that we are facing. The issues which are raised and cannot be avoided include, amongst other things, the role of Members of Parliament. Are all hon. Members of this House, if the Bill becomes an Act, going to vote on all matters, as has happened previously, when there will be some matters devolved to Scotland upon which hon. Members will not be able to vote? New Clauses 35 and 37 refer to this aspect.
If there were a system whereby hon. Members of this House were not allowed to vote on certain matters, one can 381 imagine the objections and points of order that would follow and the scope there would be for dispute. The idea of two tiers or classes of Members would be something that would lead to a great deal of controversy. It is a possibility that has to be considered. It would be a major departure—
§ Mr. Dalyell
As a former Government Chief Whip, can the right hon. Gentleman picture the kind of discussions he might have had through the usual channels with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) on who could vote and who could not vote? Would that not have been rather picturesque?
§ Mr. Pym
If I was doing it with the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) it is probable that we would have come to an agreement. But perhaps that is a matter of history.
The role of hon. Members is crucial because upon the role depends to a great extent the number of hon. Members that would be appropriate for each of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. In addition, there are geographical and what I might describe as nationality factors, and underlying all is the unity of the United Kingdom. We must think of the appropriate number of Members in that context.
No doubt the unfairness of the existing representation will be rehearsed as the debate goes on, as it needs to be. The contrast within the United Kingdom of the representation as between various parts of the United Kingdom is startling but it has worked for decades and centuries with adjustment from time to time.
The Bill seeks to change all the circumstances surrounding the very way in which this Parliament, and its representation, has worked so well. One of our main criticisms of the Bill is that without thinking through all the consequences it proposes to make a radical alternation in the government of the British Isles and in particular in the functions of hon. Members of this House. It is inconceivable that this should happen without the implications for the membership of this House being fully considered and decided upon. It is right that we should start to consider at this stage of the Bill 382 this major fundamental issue to which I am certain we shall have to return.
I hope that I have made out the case for suggesting that we should begin by calling a conference on the basis that I propose so that we can begin work on seeing what would be the most fair, appropriate, workable and enduring method of ensuring the future power, strength and wellbeing of this House.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
No one would dispute that the issues to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are major issues. I would certainly like to comment on what he has said. In intervening at this stage I am not imagining that I am bringing the debate to a close, optimistic though I normally am.
I thought it might be helpful to hon. Members in various parts of the House if, at a fairly early stage in the debate, I were to state the Government's attitude to the amendment and to the general issues at stake. We can then have further discussion and, perhaps, there might be the possibility of my intervening again later.
One major issue which is bound to be involved in any question of altering the relationship between different parts of the United Kingdom is the role of Members of Parliament. I have always taken the view that, whatever changes we made and whatever might be required for any form of devolution or alteration in our relations with Northern Ireland or in any other way, one solution which had to be ruled out was the idea of "in and out" Members of the House of Commons, partly for the reasons which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) elaborated. I do not believe that the future of Governments and the future acceptance of majority decisions in the House and in the country at large could depend upon disputed arguments at the last moment about which Members were entitled to vote on which matters. That one reason alone is sufficient to destroy any possibility of our being able to solve these problems by the "in and out" membership of the House of Commons or by having Members with first-class and second-class rights. I do not think that that is a possible solution. We should 383 always start from the understanding that that is ruled out.
That also derives from the experience of the Home Rule Bills in the 1880s and 1890s, to which there have been references in different contexts in some of our discussions. Parliament had the same experience then, and I hope that I do not embarrass the Liberal Party by saying that Mr. Gladstone applied his formidable powers of intellect to this problem. He and the Liberal Party started off on the basis that there might be a differentiation between Members of Parliament in this way. But they came to the conclusion in the end that that was an impossibility. That was the verdict which they reached in 1893 when they had the Home Rule Bill, and that was the verdict again in 1914 when other Home Rule Bills were introduced. They agreed then that there could be no first-class and second-class membership of the House of Commons. I think that we should all start from that proposition.
The right hon. Member for Cambridge-shire said that the major issues to which he referred were not proper matters to be settled in the Committee stage of this Bill. I accept that that is the situation. That is one, though not the only, reason why I ask the Committee to reject his amendment and the thinking or theme behind it and the new clause. I believe that both should be ruled out on that account. I agree that the question of membership of this House is not, in the terms in which we are describing it and in the terms which hitherto have been settled by the Speaker's Conference, a proper matter to be settled in the Committee stage of a Bill of this character.
Let us consider this pair of related proposals—Amendment No. 575 and New Clause 36—from the technical and practical standpoint. After all, this Committee is asked to make law in a technically and practically sound fashion. But, in saying that, I hope that the Committee will understand that I shall be coming to the larger considerations to which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire referred and which the House naturally wishes us to consider before we proceed with the Bill.
I deal first with Amendment No. 575. To my mind, it is an odd procedure— 384 and I am not aware of a single precedent—to treat the setting up of a Speaker's Conference as a matter for legislation. The custom is and always has been to regard the establishment of such a Conference and the framing of its agenda as a matter of agreement between the parties. To determine the internal business of this House by an Act of Parliament, that is, by legislative process involving both Houses, is an odd, and to my mind, objectionable way of proceeding.
I invite the attention of the House to the crucial word "may" in the first line of New Clause 36. The provision is permissive, not mandatory. But the setting up of a Speaker's Conference requires no statutory enablement; and the word "may" in such a context imports no statutory requirement. Therefore, New Clause 36 is pointless in strict terms, because it achieves nothing.
Subsection (1) of New Clause 36 makes clear that the conference it contemplates would be directed to consider Scottish and Welsh representation, and not that of England or Northern Ireland. That is quite contrary to the claims which the right hon. Member for Ca0mbridgeshire made for his proposals in a speech last Sunday. In his remarks today he said that Northern Ireland could be considered in another context. I am not saying that he is neglecting it, but it cannot be done in his amendment.
What this amendment does is ask the conference to look not at the balance of representation in the United Kingdom as a whole, but at the artificially restricted subject of Scotland and Wales in isolation. As the new clause stands, the conference is precluded from considering adjustments in English and Northern Irish representation. It would be a half-baked affair, and indeed worse than that. It might be virtually impossible to look at the picture in the round for many years ahead, because it would be hard to open the subject later in a new conference while any recommendations for change from the first conference were still in the process of being carried into effect.
Amendment No. 575 attempts to bind together the work of the conference and the implementation of the Scotland and Wales Act. This combination is a strange 385 business not only in principle but in practice also. In principle there is no reason in logic why devolution should prejudice the outcome of any conference, or why the outcome of any conference should prejudice the fulfilment of devolution. Tying them together is an attempt to get this representation issue debated earlier by tagging it on to an early clause of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] That is perfectly correct. What the Committee must consider is the effect of passing the amendment which the right hon. Member has presented.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Before the Lord President leaves these narrow aspects, and in view of what he said about English and Ulster representation, would he tell us whether the Long Title of the Bill was drawn so narrowly so that we cannot raise these issues?
§ Mr. Foot
That is not implied at all. But in considering this amendment the Committee must take account of its effect. This is one of the considerations the Committee must weigh in deciding what to do with this proposition.
If the arbitrary date of 1st January 1978 is not a logical reality, then no recommendation for change consequent upon devolution can be reasonably known until it is known whether devolution is to be implemented—that is, until the referendums have been held. It is apparent to the House, as it is to the Government, that referendums, following Royal Assent to the Bill, can scarcely come earlier than October or November. Is it seriously considered that a Speaker's Conference should thrash out properly-considered views about this complex matter of representation between then and Christmas? If, as surely would be the case in practice, the timing condition of Amendment No. 575 had to lapse, New Clause 36 would be even more up in the air than it is already.
§ Mr. Cormack
The Leader of the House is obviously desperately unhappy. In the past he acquired a reputation for having a feeling for the constitution. Here he is reading a turgid brief with which he does not agree. Will he accept the logic of the case put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and will he accept that what the Government are proposing in this 386 hotch-potch of a Bill is the total destruction of the constitution as we understand it? Why does he not throw away his brief and argue the case?
§ Mr. Pym
Before the Leader of the House replies to that point may I say that he has answered some detailed points but that what he has said to the House is not worthy either of him or the issues? After all, he is responsible for the Bill. He drafted it. We all know of the limitations imposed upon anyone who wants to table an amendment to any matter in a Bill. The extent to which it is possible to put down amendments is governed by the Bill that the right hon. Gentleman has designed. We have criticised the Bill on major aspects. We have objected to having one Bill instead of two, and we have objected to other features. It is not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman to make these laboured points when we are dealing with something as tremendous and dramatic as representation at the United Kingdom Parliament.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman must understand—and it has been my understanding of the House of Commons—that first we must direct our attention to the precise meaning of any amendment that is tabled. If we were to carry his amendment it would have the consequence, which maybe he and most hon. Members would not feel was justified, of constricting what would be considered by such a Speaker's Conference.
Secondly, the date that he has written into his amendment would be open to all the objections that I have described. Therefore, even on these technical grounds I say that there is no justification for the House being prepared to accept the amendment. Even if we accepted that the right hon. Gentleman had good grounds for the amendment, it would not be open to the House of Commons, if it were to do its job properly, to accept the amendment.
However, we object to the amendment on larger grounds. We object to it on the ground, as we stated from the beginning of the discussions on the Bill, that we do not believe that representation in this House should be altered by the Bill. That was stated by the Government in the White Paper and by Ministers who have put the case in our debates. In our 387 earlier debates my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), when Secretary of State for Scotland, emphasised that from the beginning. That is the Government's position today.
We do not believe that it is desirable or necessary that representation in this House, either from Scotland or from Wales, should be altered in association with this Bill. Anyone considering the details and the evidence will see that there is perhaps very little ground for any suggestion that there should be alterations. The Leader of the Opposition has urged on a number of occasions that there should be a Speaker's Conference to discuss these matters, quite irrespective of devolution. She has argued that the figures are such that we should be prepared to alter representation in this House, whether or not we were proceeding with this Bill. Presumably that is her claim whether or not the Bill gets through.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Does not my right hon. Friend accept that in the event of the Bill's becoming law the Leader of the Opposition will have an argument for her point of view that she has never had before, and a substance to her views that she could never have claimed before, since there was no duality of representation before the prospect of devolution?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not agree. I do not believe that the proposal for devolution alters the arguments about representation here. The arguments for sustaining the present representation in the House should stand. I do not accept my hon. Friend's view that if we were to pass this measure we should therefore in some way be committed to proceeding to a Speaker's Conference. On this issue my hon. Friend and I are probably more in agreement than we may be on other parts of the Bill. But I entirely reject the suggestion that the passing of the Bill should in any way alter the argument about what should be the representation in the House.
§ Mr. Heffer
My right hon. Friend is correct in saying that on this matter many of us who are critics of the Bill are with him. But will he tell the Committee that we shall not get into the situation that used to exist in relation to Northern Ireland when Stormont was in being, when 388 Members who represented other parts of the United Kingdom, and even Stormont Members here, could not discuss Northern Ireland affairs? It would be ludicrous if 70 Scottish Members, a certain number of Welsh Members, and all the English Members were unable to discuss matters concerning Scotland or Wales. If that is the position, my right hon. Friend is handing the case to the Opposition.
§ Mr. Foot
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said, and that was my view during the whole period of Stormont. I and some other hon. Members who used to sit below the Gangway were among the few who were determined to raise Northern Ireland questions and exercised our right to do so. We insisted on it throughout that period.
The Government and I are opposed to the creation—or re-creation, if it ever applied to Stormont, although I did not apply it to Stormont—of any first-class or second-class Members, that is, Members who are entitled to engage in some business of the House but not in other business. We are utterly opposed to any such arrangement. Some of us were always opposed to it as it applied to Stormont, too.
§ Mr. Raison
Will the Lord President go further than he has just gone and confirm that under the Bill any Member, whether English, Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh, can continue to legislate about devolved matters, that Private Members' Bills about Scottish health, housing, education and so on can be introduced by any hon. Member? Will he further confirm that those executive powers that are apparently handed over to the Scottish Executive can continue to be exercised by the Secretary of State, that the scheme put forward is one of concurrent powers, and is the most complete nonsense anybody ever heard?
§ Mr. Foot
This Parliament will retain unabated responsibility for defence; security; police— [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I am answering the point—the management of the 389 economy, including pay policy and other aspects of counter-inflation policy; social security; energy, including North Sea oil; a host of other matters; and the reserve powers provided for under the Bill.
In the face of those facts—those are the facts under the Bill—full representation of Scotland and of Wales in this Parliament certainly deserves to be sustained. Major matters will still be matters of common interest to all Members of the United Kingdom Parliament.
§ Mr. Raison
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. I asked about the powers of the House of Commons to legislate on devolved matters in Scotland and the powers of the Secretary of State over devolved matters in Scotland. Will he answer that question?
§ Mr. Foot
Several of those matters and the question of the relationship of the House of Commons to devolved matters, the override, and the reserve powers, are matters which we shall be debating— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] All these are matters which we shall be debating as the Bill proceeds. I say to the hon. Gentleman—[H o N. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—that when this Parliament retains full powers to deal with all the matters which I have cited, there is an equally good claim for sustaining the rights of representatives from Scotland, Wales, and the whole of the United Kingdom to deal with them.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
I am naturally anxious to vote against this amendment, because I do not want the constituencies of my right hon. Friend, myself or any of my Welsh colleagues to be liquidated. But will my right hon. Friend explain, not merely by making incantatory statements, what I am still seeking to understand—namely, why in his view it is necessary for Welsh and 390 Scottish MPs to remain here in the same numbers? Will he explain how I am to meet what otherwise would seem to be inexorable logic—namely, that if I vote for the Bill, I shall be divesting myself of half my work—indeed, with a new town in my constituency, perhaps more than half—but will have the right to interfere with the work of other Members representing English constituencies, and to deny them any right to have genuine surveillance over the whole area?
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. Friend, who has brought to our attention during the debates on the Bill the fact that he has a different view from us, raises the whole question whether there should be any devolution of powers at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly my hon. Friend gives a complete misrepresentation of the apportionment of powers between the House of Commons and the Welsh Assembly. There is a difference between the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies, but the difference is part of the argument. My hon. Friend gives a false picture when he describes the transfer of such responsibilities to the Welsh Assembly. Of course important functions are transferred, but important functions are retained in the House of Commons. It is because we are determined to carry through the double proposition of recurring an extensive devolution of powers and at the same time of retaining the supremacy of the House of Commons that we shall carry it out in this way.
I say to my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Foot
I shall give way in a moment. I say to my hon. Friend, who is so eager to vote with us at the end of the debate, that he need have no fears about this matter. When he votes with us, he will be helping to sustain the full representation of Wales in the House of Commons. That is what we seek to do. But he will also be seeking to secure a Welsh Assembly which will have greater powers to deal with many of these other matters. The same applies to Scotland.
§ Mr. Foot
I wish to make it absolutely clear that we are not prepared to propose any alteration in representation. 391 I think that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire acknowledged that it would be an absurdity—indeed, it would be a defiance of the whole of our past practice—for the House of Commons to try to deal with the question of representation here in a Bill of this nature.
I say, in order that the matter may be absolutely clear—and I say it also to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, because she has had a considerable amount of correspondence with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on this subject—that we do not believe that there is any case arising from the Bill or from any other circumstances of the present time for having alterations in the representation in this House.
Therefore we hold to the present representation and we believe that when these matters are looked at properly, and when one sees what considerations were involved in the historical context of the last Speaker's Conference at the end of the war, or any earlier Speaker's Conference, it will be seen that the considerations why there should be such representation for Scotland and Wales still stand. That is the Government's view. That is why we are not only opposed to dealing with the proposition in this Bill—I am glad to have the concurrence of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire about that—but we are opposed to raising this matter in a Speaker's Conference. That is not the proper way to do it.
§ Mr. Rifkind
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that even those of us who wish to see devolution established find his present argument incredible and indefensible? Is he seriously suggesting that it would provide a stable position for the future if 107 Scottish and Welsh Members were not merely able to vote but occasionally to decide matters of purely domestic English interest? Does he suggest that such a system would guarantee a stable United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Foot
I believe that the more the House applies itself to what is in the Bill, the more it will conclude that this is the best way of keeping the United Kingdom together, and that the people of Scotland and Wales will also agree when they vote in the referendum.
392 I have been asked whether the same situation applies in Northern Ireland. Different considerations apply there—
§ Sir Nigel Fisher
I do not in any way wish to be offensive to the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great parliamentary admiration, but this is the most cynical speech I have heard for years in this place. Could not the Leader of the House be honest and admit to the Committee that the real reason for retaining the present representation is that his party and his Government cannot do without it because they depend for their majority here on the Scottish and Welsh seats?
§ Mr. Foot
I know that that is the familiar slogan of Conservative Party propaganda, and that that is the way in which they seek to present the case. But it is certainly not the same case which appealed to previous Speaker's Conferences which examined the matter and which also agreed that there should be a higher proportion of Members coming from Scotland and a lesser proportion coming from Wales. That was the decision in circumstances not so very different from those of the Speaker's Conference at the end of the war.
I know that some hon. Members think that devolution alters the situation, but that is not the case of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who has been arguing that we should refer the matter to the Speaker's Conference not because of anything to do with devolution but because she wants to alter the kind of basis on which the last Speaker's Conference reached these conclusions.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say at what previous Speaker's Conference the representation of Scotland has been considered in the context of devolution?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has not followed what has been said. What I said was that a previous Speaker's Conference, which considered these different figures at the end of the war—when he had roughly the same kind of proportions—reached the conclusion that there should be a somewhat higher representation from Scotland and in lesser degree a slightly higher representation 393 from Wales. It reached those conclusions partly because of the way in which it believed that representation contributed to the maintenance of the United Kingdom. We believe that those good reasons still hold.
The case of Northern Ireland is in some degree different since the numbers were reduced because a settlement was made, which was partially carried out, and which has now been almost entirely revoked. I fully acknowledge that there is a different situation in Northern Ireland, although those who have followed these matters carefully will have seen that what the Government have said is that any reconsideration of the Northern Ireland situation has to take into account other factors concerned with Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The right hon. Gentleman refers to "other factors". Surely the only factor which the Government and the House of Commons have to take into account is that Northern Ireland is not properly represented in the House, that the people of Northern Ireland have not got the democratic rights which they should have as citizens of the United Kingdom. This Government ought now to increase the number of Northern Ireland Members.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand that the hon. Gentleman puts that case, as do many of his colleagues from Northern Ireland. There are many others in the House who sympathise with him. There are other factors involved in solving the problem—[Hon. Members: "What are they?"] Anyone who has studied the situation in Northern Ireland knows that there are other considerations which enter into the discusion. There is the whole question of how a new, devolved administration of some form or another, is to be re-established in Northern Ireland. There are some considerations which apply in Northern Ireland but do not apply to the same degree to other places. Anyone who is serious about the proposition must accept that.
§ Mr. Ridley
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it might look better from the point of view of the Labour Party if he were to accept parity of treatment for the whole of the United Kingdom and then take a leaf from Mrs. 394 Ghandi's book and put the Opposition in prison?
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman is out of date on that matter as on others.
What the Committee has been proposing, and what the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) has proposed in an amendment, is that there should be some form of electoral quota. That is certainly not a proposition that has been accepted by Speakers' Conferences. I do not believe that it should be accepted by the Committee.
§ Mr. David Steel
A few moments ago the right hon. Gentleman was trying to persuade us that the representation of Scotland and Wales here should not be under consideration because it was not affected by devolution. Now he is trying to tell us that Northern Ireland should be left alone because it cannot be considered except in the context of devolution.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents the situation. I would have thought that he and other members of the Liberal Party who have studied what has happened in Northern Ireland would accept that there are different considerations there affecting how we might set about finding a solution. When I say that we do not believe that these matters can be solved in the context of the Bill and that we are opposed to their being sent to a Speaker's Conference at present, that does not mean that we do not believe that we should not at some time give consideration to the question of Northern Ireland.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the right hon. Gentleman, of all people in this House, saying that consideration can duly and properly be given to the problems and circumstances of Northern Ireland when Northern Ireland is not fully and fairly represented in this House of Commons? Surely, he of all people cannot say that.
§ Mr. Foot
I was saying that whereas I believe that the question of representation in this House cannot be dealt with in the Bill—and most hon. Members are agreed about that—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) agreed to that. 395 In my view, and in that of the Government, there should not be any reference to a Speaker's Conference in this respect at the present time, for the reasons that I have given.
I went on to say—and this is fully understoood by all those who follow the issue—that there is a case in Northern Ireland, not necessarily for immediate treatment of this matter but for consideration in the light of reaching a general settlement in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Member for Down, South says that he prefers the question of representation to be considered separately from any others. I understand that argument, but many other hon. Members wish to settle many of these matters at the same time.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Does the Leader of the House not take into account that when Stormont was functioning, even hon. Members from Northern Ireland were not in a position to put Questions that were relative to the powers devolved to that Parliament? Let us look a little closer. When the right hon. Friend of the Leader of the House was Secretary of State, some of us from Northern Ireland attempted to put Questions on the Order Paper which were relative to matters devolved to the Assembly in Northern Ireland but they were refused. We were told that these were matters for the Assembly. Does the right hon. Genleman not think that in the present situation Northern Ireland has a right to be represented in the only elected forum that it has—that is, this House?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that I have allowed generous references to the situation in Northern Ireland, but I cannot allow the debate to become substantially one on the situation in Northern Ireland. I simply wish to remind right hon. and hon. Members that we are discussing devolution for Scotland and Wales. The Leader of the House has already said that an opportunity may be given to discuss the peculiar situation in Northern Ireland. Frankly, I do not see how we can continue with this line of debate and utilise the time to discuss Northern Ireland. The Lord President.
§ Mr. Heffer
On a point of order, Sir Myer. I do not argue with your ruling but I should like clarification. How is it possible to discuss devolution in Scotland and Wales without any reference to what actually happened when Stormont was in existence, particularly whether hon. Members, once devolution is achieved, can ask Questions in the House about their constituencies in Scotland and Wales?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Hon. Members will recollect that I have allowed generous references to the situation in Northern Ireland to allow illustration of the problems that will concern a Speaker's Conference. But we are now apparently debating the peculiar and particular problems of Northern Ireland. That is my interpretation of what is happening. That is my feeling. I am not ruling upon it. I am allowing the debate to continue. The terms of New Clause 36 deal specifically with the question of devolution for Scotland and Wales, and the spokesman for the Opposition acknowledged that. The ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means meant that general questions relating to Northern Ireland are in order.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. I wonder whether I can help those English Members who are present. The Lord President has made it clear that there is to be no change in the representation of Scottish or Welsh Members in this House. He has made it clear that there is no question of a change into a system of first- and second-class Members of the House of Commons, in terms of debating or voting. In other words, he has made a clear case for a separate English Assembly and a Northern Ireland Assembly.
How can we debate this in terms of the Scotland and Wales Bill?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. I want to put to you the fact that tonight we are discussing, under the new clause and the amendment, representation in this House. Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, I put it to you 397 that seeing that the Lord President has brought this question into his speech and the mover of the motion has done likewise, we are entitled to stand up for our part of the United Kingdom and see that we are properly represented.
If you gave a ruling—you have not given one, Sir Myer, but if you did—we would feel that we were second-class Members of Parliament.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. I gave an Irish ruling. The point is that if the hon. Member can show me where the amendment and the clause that we are discussing have any reference to Northern Ireland I shall be obliged to him.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. You will have noticed that the amendment refers to the calling of a Speaker's Conference. A Speaker's Conference can discuss only matters of representation in this House in the context of the whole representation here. For example—as I am sure you would agree, Sir Myer—if a Speaker's Conference agreed that the representation from Scotland and Wales should be doubled, it would, of itself, affect the representation of England and Ulster. Therefore, it is quite clear that any discussion in a Speaker's Conference that would affect representation in this House of Scotland and Wales must, of itself, affect the representation in this House by Members from England and Ulster. Therefore, it would be completely impossible to carry on a debate on the amendment without discussing the matter of representation of England and Ulster.
The fact that Ulster is already under-represented, and that the Lord President has said that it is under-represented because it may have a devolved Parliament, introduces at once the fact that Scotland and Wales are over-represented, despite the fact that the Lord President wants to give them a devolved Parliament.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
I invite the attention of hon. Members to page 971 on the Amendment Paper. At the top they will see that the new clause refers to making recommendationsrelating to the appropriate number of Members of that House representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies after the enactment of this Act.398 That is precisely the reference made to the situation.
§ Mr. Pym
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. It is fair to say that, whereas I addressed most of my remarks to that point, I indicated that it seemed very difficult to exclude England and Northern Ireland from consideration, and that it seemed appropriate to make references to them in speeches. I did in my speech. I referred to the Government of Ireland Act 1920, in which the question of representation was laid down. I hope that your ruling, Sir Myer, does not in any way imply that references cannot be made to Northern Ireland and England, because such references are really necessary.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
The right hon. Minister misinterprets what I said. I said that general references to the situation there would be permissible, and I did not intervene in the right hon. Gentleman's speech or ask him to withdraw or ask him to restrain himself in his references. Provided references are made in the general context, everything is all right.
§ Mr. Ridley
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. New Clause 36 goes on to say that Mr. Speakershall secure that the balance of parties in the House of Commons is reflected, so far as practicable, among the participants in the conference.It will not be without your memory, Sir Myer, that two of the parties in the House of Commons are the United Ulster Unionists and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maguire), who is another party, and I suppose it is that to which the words "so far as practicable" refer. If the amendment refers to a whole political party, such as it does, surely it would be in order for that political party to express views about its representation in the House of Commons and its representation of Northern Ireland.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
My interpretation of subsection (2) is that it refers to the people who will serve on the Speaker's Conference.
§ Mr. Foot
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Sir Myer, I do not think that any of us have offended against 399 your ruling, because I believe that it has been the case that, inevitably, right from what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said at the beginning of the debate, and throughout, references were bound to be made in this context, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, to Northern Ireland, both as an example and in reference to what might happen elsewhere.
I only replied to the intervention on this matter. I was not at any stage suggesting that the representation of Northern Ireland should be sustained at the present level because of the possibility of the restoration of devolved powers there. I never suggested that. I was suggesting that there were different circumstances in Northern Ireland that might lead to a different context in which this question might be settled, and I think that this is a reasonable approach.
I am trying to indicate as clearly as possible that we do not believe that there is any case in general terms for the reference of the whole question of the representation in this House of Commons to a Speaker's Conference.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Will the Lord President not be so mysterious about what these other factors are which affect representation in Ulster, other than the possibility of devolved power?
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
From his long experience, the right hon. Gentleman will know that the House of Commons is very tolerant towards any Minister when he is putting a difficult point, especially one with which, perhaps, he does not altogether agree. However, we really cannot be satisfied until the right hon. Gentleman has answered the question originally put by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party. How is it possible to say that devolution makes no difference to representation where Scotland and Wales are concerned but that there are factors involving Northern Ireland which could affect representation? Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the Committee that the integrity and unity of the kingdom 400 is in question? If he is not, I cannot see what other issue there could be beyond the restoration of devolved government.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not want to traverse the whole argument that we have had about Northern Ireland. It would be extremely tedious for all concerned. I should have thought that the whole Committee understands, and that anyone who had applied his mind to questions in Northern Ireland understands, that there is an attempt in Northern Ireland to see how we may reinstitute institutions in Northern Ireland that can deal with the situation there. [An HON. MEMBER: "That has nothing to do with it."] Of course it has a great deal to do with it, because the kind of institutions that can be established there can help in solving the situation about representation here, too.
All that I was seeking to do, not as a major part of the debate but to give a major illustration of what we are doing, was to indicate that if we were to refuse, on the excellent grounds that we believe exist, to refer the whole question to a Speaker's Conference, there may be a case in certain circumstances whereby Northern Ireland representation has to be differently dealt with.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
In view of the Northern Ireland example, will the right hon. Gentleman just answer the point that there will be 107 Welsh and Scottish MPs in the House of Commons who will not be able to discuss matters which are dealt with by their own Assemblies yet who will be able to discuss matters which concern England alone? How can the balance of the United Kingdom be preserved in those circumstances?
§ Mr. Foot
I have been asked that question time and again—[HON. MEMBERS: "So answer it."] What I have argued and what I say again is that the matters which are retained in the control of this supreme House of Commons are all the stronger reason why we should retain full representation here from Scotland and Wales.
§ Mr. Cormack
The substance of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks seems to be that the possibility of devolution to 401 Ireland prevents the possibility of increasing its representation here but that the actuality of devolution to Scotland and Wales prevents the diminution of their representation.
§ Mr. Foot
I am saying nothing of the kind. I should have to restate everything I have already said to get the hon. Gentleman to understand it.
The Leader of the Liberal Party has been making some suggestions about what he hopes will be the outcome of some of the discussions on these matters. Of course I do not hold him responsible for what is printed in the Liberal News—
§ Mr. Foot
—and I hope that no one else will take it seriously either. I am gratified to have that repudiation in advance because I hope that no one else will be deceived by it either.
The Liberal News said:Later in the week, David Steel had several private meetings with Mr. Foot, the Leader of the Commons"—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be eager to repudiate the idea of our having several private meetings—at the Government's request in order to hammer out the price for Liberal support.I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be the very first to repudiate any suggestion that that was what we talked about.
§ Mr. Foot
What we talked about was the speech which the right hon. Gentleman had delivered in the country, and we continued the argument on many of the questions which he had raised. I expressed to him my views on the subject —for example, on the whole question of tax powers, which we shall be debating later. These are questions which the House has to discuss. Certainly we sought to reach no bargain or agreement on that or any other subject—as the right hon. Gentleman now fully acknowledges. I am grateful to him for that because I am not sure whether this allegation would do him or me more damage.
I am glad that that matter is cleared up entirely. We have made no agreements, no bargains, no deals whatsoever on this matter. We have reached no agreement about it. What the Government 402 say to the Committee is that we believe that it is of paramount importance to the maintenance of the unity of the United Kingdom that the Bill should be translated to the statute book. We believe that in doing that we should sustain the full representation of Wales and Scotland in this United Kingdom House of Commons. We believe that that also is a contribution to our essential unity and to overcoming all our problems. It is on that basis that we ask the Committee to carry through this measure. It is on that basis that we believe that the Bill should go through, and we want no one to be under any misapprehension about it.
§ Mr. Pym
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in response to what I thought was a reasonable, rational, sensible and parliamentary proposal for discussing these difficult and controversial matters he has given the most opinionated and partisan reply? Does he accept that? The right hon. Gentleman has not been prepared to defend in argument the status quo, which is what he asserts will be best for the House of Commons. I predict that at the end of the debate there will be a great many right hon. and hon. Members who do not agree with what he has said. I hope he will realise that in addition to being the Leader of this Bill he is the Leader, for the time being, of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Foot
Of course the right hon. Gentleman holds to the views that he expressed and I hold to mine. Although strong objection was taken, I indicated to the Committee that if we were to pass the amendment we should be in hopeless difficulties for all the technical reasons that I have described. That may well be extremely irritable to the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of his hon. Friends. They do not like the consequences of their own actions pointed out to them.
The right hon. Gentleman may describe this as opinionated or whatever, but I have indicated to the Committee the general principles on which we stand. We 403 are not prepared to see the United Kingdom Parliament torn to pieces. We believe that the propositions that come from the Leader of the Opposition would, if carried into effect, run the grave risk of tearing the United Kingdom apart. We also resist the amendment so as to sustain the essential centre of the Bill itself.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
This has been a sad experience. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has hitherto enjoyed a high reputation as a parliamentarian.
§ Sir B. Braine
He has enjoyed a reputation as a doughty fighter for the rights of Parliament and fair representation. Never before have I heard a single speech shatter a man's reputation as I have tonight. I suggest that he will live to regret his words.
We are only at the beginning of this controversy. It will take a long time but when the people of England wake up to what the Government are doing in their name, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will bitterly rue the day that he made such a speech. He knows that what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) went right to the heart of the whole controversy. That is because the amendment is concerned with fair representation.
For many years I sat in the House of Commons representing a constituency of near and then over 100,000 electors when there were many Members, mostly on the Labour Benches, who represented fewer than 30,000. Therefore, I am especially sensitive—there are a number of us in this position—to fair representation.
I condemn the Bill because it smells to high Heaven of political expediency. If there had been any doubt about that, the smell has wafted across the Chamber tonight. I condemn it too, because it introduces constitutional innovations that have not been thought through and that if proceeded with are fraught with the greatest danger for the whole of the people of the United Kingdom.
Before I set my hand to agreeing to the proposals in the Bill I have to ask myself three questions. The first question 404 is whether they maintain and strengthen the unity of my country and enhance its standing in the world. The second question is whether they would provide for better government. The third question, which is especially relevant to that which we are discussing, is whether they are acceptable to all the people. The answer to all three questions is a resounding "No".
As to acceptability, it is not merely that there should be "no taxation without representation" but rather than no burden should be put on any part of the people without fair representation. That principle is as old as the hills. It was first affirmed in the Justinian Code and repeated in the writ of summons to the Model Parliament of 1295, namely that "What touches all ought to be approved by all".
§ Sir B. Braine
We shall come to that in due course. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am no enemy of a genuine devolution or of the Scottish interest, but I conceive of this matter in terms of the whole people of the United Kingdom. I have to ask myself whether this Bill is likely to be acceptable to all the people, especially to those I represent, when they discover that Scottish Members in future will not be able to vote here on Scottish housing, Scottish health or Scottish education but will be able to vote on English housing, English health and English education.
§ Sir B. Braine
The hon. Gentleman speaks for himself. We know where the Scottish National Party stands. It stands for the break-up of the kingdom. We know, too, that the Labour Party, or at least the Government, is so frightened of the SNP that it has produced this Bill as some sort of sop to it.
But that does not fool the rest of us, and it will not fool the people of England. As my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) suggested earlier, the only possible justification that the Leader of the House can have for his speech is that he believes that a Labour 405 Government must continue to rely on their 41 Scottish Members to keep them in office in this country. If England were free to choose, it would hurl the Labour Party as at present constituted into political oblivion—we all know that.
Why was the Kilbrandon Commission recommendation that the number of Scottish Members be reduced from 71 to 57 ignored by the Government? What is the game that the Government are playing on a matter of such key importance to the constitution? The idea that a Bill which ignores a matter so fundamental to fair representation should be subject to the guillotine is shocking beyond all measure. To introduce a guillotine would not be simply a matter of getting Government business through; it would be interference with the basic right of the citizens of this country not to be taxed without fair representation. That is the point I seek to make, and it is fundamental to the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that the Kilbrandon Report gave a warning that unless there was a large measure of agreement and consensus legislative devolution and an Assembly should not be gone ahead with?
§ Sir B. Braine
I recollect the warning. It begs the question as to why the Government should have so blatantly ignored such wise words.
§ Mr. Buchan
On the question of consensus, surely the report refers to the people. The Government have granted a referendum. That is where the consensus should come from, and not from the politicians.
§ Sir B. Braine
I am not particularly in conflict with the hon. Gentleman. I have said that if the people of Scotland want devolution and express their agreement to a set of clear proposals, that is a matter for them. That, however, is not what the Bill is about. Let the people of England realise that this Government wish to shackle, them with machinery for permanent Socialist control of Wales and Scotland with the English taxpayer finding the means, and they will have a revolt on their hands, I promise them, that will shake the kingdom.
406 Let the Government beware of what they are doing, whether it is by design or by a fit of absence of mind. In any event the time has long since passed when, without this Bill, there is need to ensure more equitable representation.
Northern Ireland is under-represented. Scotland and Wales are over-represented. Wales has been over-represented since 1918 and Scotland has always been overrepresented since the Act of Union. In the past there may well have been justification for that. But under the arrangements set out in the Bill there is no justification whatever. The time has come to say that if the Bill becomes law then unfair representation, if I can adopt a phrase of Sir Winston Churchill's, is something "up with which English Members will not put".
The Government have chosen to set the people of these Islands against one another for their own narrow partisan purposes. I warn them to beware of the anger of the English. It is aroused very slowly but once our English constituents fully realise what is proposed in the Bill and the cost they will have to bear, there will be a great wave of anger. To be fair, I believe that many Government supporters sitting for Scottish and Welsh seats understand that very well indeed.
The proper way to deal with a matter of constitutional importance of this kind is not to play the numbers game in an arbitrary way in an ill-drafted and ridiculous Bill such as this. The proper way is to refer the matter to a Speaker's Conference with properly wide terms of reference and a representation accurately reflecting the balance of the parties in the House.
I do not agree with the contemptuous remarks by the Leader of the House about a Speaker's Conference. There have been four Speakers' Conferences on electoral law and the first presided over by Mr. Speaker Lowther, which met in 1916–17 to consider electoral reform made recommendations which formed the basis of the Representation of the People Act of 1918.
The House of Commons always puts great faith in the Speaker. He is impartial and is seen to be impartial. That is not to say that all Speaker's Conferences have 407 been successful. Some were not, but this is a means of dealing with the matter in an independent way which would take control out of the hands of the Leader of the House who, on a matter like this, cannot be trusted.
§ Sir B. Braine
The right hon. Gentleman spoke scathingly about Speaker's Conferences and said they were not relevant to this issue. I do not wish to detain the House. I am concerned about fair and proper representation for all the people of this kingdom. Under the Bill that will not be ensured.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
The Leader of the House has made great play about putting his faith in the arguments for the disproportional representation of Wales and Scotland in the Speaker's Conference of 1944. He has in no way said that the Government accept those principles. Since the right hon. Gentleman's speech started I have gone to the trouble of finding the Speaker's Conference of 1944 on electoral reform and the redistribution of seats. This was published in the White Paper—Command 6534—as a letter from the Speaker to the Prime Minister. Here is the totality of the logic behind the stance being taken by the Leader of the House. It says:There shall be no reduction in the present number of Members of the House of Commons for Scotland and Wales and Monmouthshire.That is all. There is nothing else. Where are all the reasons and arguments? Where is all the logic? This is nonsense. The Committee is being misled.
§ Sir B. Braine
I could not have put it better. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery).
I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate and that they share not merely my anxiety but my anger at the way in which the Committee has been treated by the Lord President. He has done a grave disservice to Parliament. He has done a grave disservice to 408 a great political party. The Labour Party has always claimed to be the party of the people and to represent the voice of the underdog. Left in the hands of the Lord President, the country is heading fast towards totalitarianism. He has ceased to be the champion of parliamentary rights and parliamentary liberty.
I leave it at that. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will come to repent. I have been watching him, and I have noted his demeanour. He knows in his heart of hearts that he has been telling the Committee a travesty and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire is right. He knows that the country is slipping down the path towards ultimate destruction and ruin. If the Government pull down the pillars of the temple, as this Government have been doing busily for the past two years, disaster will surely come.
I plead with Government supporters to pause and reflect upon the speech that we heard from the Lord President. It is not too late to agree to the proposition that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire put before the Committee. It was reasonable, democratic and in line with our parliamentary tradition. It may be almost the last chance.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
I believe that the Opposition are to be congratulated on initiating a debate on this subject. It raises an important question which is causing considerable anxiety amongst Government supporters.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and his condemnation of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I have heard my right hon. Friend make many better speeches, but he has a difficult task in trying to deal with this matter.
I accept and am convinced that it is not the Government's wish to reduce the representation in the House from Wales and Scotland. But I believe that this is a topic which will be considered increasingly if Assemblies are established in Edinburgh and Cardiff.
As we have discussed the Bill so far, one of the difficulties has been the desire for devolution and the feeling that the Government were trying to meet that commitment, that they would give something to the people of Wales by establishing an Asembly in Cardiff, and that they 409 would give something to the people of Scotland by establishing an Assembly in Edinburgh. But we have come to learn as we have debated these proposals that there is a bill which will have to be paid for the Assemblies that we are to obtain. It is important that the costs to the people of Wales and of Scotland of having these Assemblies are spelt out clearly.
I welcome the Government's decision that the people, in the end, will have a referendum and will be able to decide whether we are to accept this measure. That is good, because I believe that the people of Wales and Scotland must weigh up the benefits which they will get from these Assemblies.
I am not supporting the Opposition amendment because I do not believe that this is the way in which we should deal with the issue. But we must ask ourselves whether a diminution in the number of representatives from Scotland and Wales in this House in future years will be a consequence of establishing the Assemblies. The case of Northern Ireland has been mentioned. But we all know the special circumstances of Northern Ireland. The argument has been put forward again and again that the reason for Northern Ireland's apparent under-representation in this House was that Stormont deals with certain matters which could not be dealt with here. Therefore, it was argued, there was a case for a smaller representation here.
I remember that in 1964 we could cot raise issues relating to Northern Ireland at all in this House. However, when the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) came to the House he forced the issue with the Table Office, and now we can discuss Northern Ireland questions. Before that, if Back Benchers wanted to raised Northern Ireland issues they were told that these were out of order.
Therefore, it is important to ask whether representation from Scotland and Wales in the House will diminish as a result of the Bill. Will there be a loss of influence of hon. Members from Wales and Scotland? The Lord President had an illustrious predecessor in Nye Bevan, who did so much towards establishing the Health Service. My right hon. Friend also has played an important part in the life of Britain and has followed in the 410 footsteps of Nye Bevan. If Assemblies are established in Cardiff and Edinburgh will hon. Members from Welsh seats play as important a part in the life of Britain as my right hon. Friend and his predecessor? Or will the situation be as it was with Northern Ireland Members when Stormont existed in that they were not able to participate fully in the affairs of this House? I remember that when a previous hon. Member for Londonderry was taken on to the Conservative Front Bench it was considered a very strange situation. That was because of the existence of Stormont. Scottish and Welsh Members from both sides of the House have held high office in many Departments.
Another important question we must ask is what will be the influence of the Welsh Grand Committee? It has played an important part in dealing with Welsh affairs. It has been said that there will not be a Welsh Grand Committee if this Bill is implemented, but that if there is one it will have to have a reduced agenda. Many of the matters that are now discussed will be devolved to the Assembly in Cardiff—[Interruption.] I note that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) is always vocal at this time of night.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)
I am vocal at all times. No one tackles the Prime Minister at 3.15 in the afternoon more often than I. Will the hon. Member explain why the Assemblies will be so dangerous, and why he and people like him are so worried about them?
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Member spoke of the bill that would have to be paid if devolution went ahead. But surely, whether or not the Lord President concedes what we are asking tonight, it will only be a question of payment deferred, and sooner or later the English people will say that Scotland and Wales cannot be over-represented here?
§ Mr. Evans
Guarantees may be given now by the Conservatives or by the Government, but no one can predetermine what future Governments will do. We can all make guesses. One fact has emerged, however. It is that if there were no argument for reducing Welsh and Scottish representation before, this Bill has now presented such an argument to those who would reduce that representation at Westminster.
§ Dr. Phipps
My lion. Friend brings up one of the central points. It is clear that with the House as currently constituted, without devolution the arguments for Scottish and Welsh representation are very strong. Later this year the House will be faced with a Bill on representation in the European Parliament. That will enshrine exactly the same principle. The Government will propose in it that we should give greater representation to Scotland and Wales than they would normally get. Does he agree that the Government are selling the pass, not necessarily to future Labour Governments but to future Conservative Governments as soon as the devolution Bill is passed, in regard to representation in this House?
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
The hon. Gentleman said that there were dangers of losing institutions of great value and gaining others of lesser value. He quoted the Welsh Grand Committee. That Committee cannot take a single decision. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that to lose that and to gain a body that can take executive decisions is a step in the wrong direction?
§ Mr. Evans
The hon. Gentleman does not believe in having any Welsh Members in this House. He wants formal political separatism. What worries me about this Bill is the enthusiasm of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists for it. The hon. Gentleman has seen the Welsh Grand Committee working as effectively as it can. But it is up to this Parliament to make it work more effectively.
It has been said that local government will not be affected. More recently the Government have admitted that the 412 structure of local government will be greatly affected.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mrs. Joyce Butler)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going very wide of the amendment.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is out of order in straying so far. He must return to the terms of the amendment.
§ Mr. Evans
If I had had the opportunity, I should have developed the question of other dangers in the Bill, but there will be other opportunities.
If we have the Assemblies in Cardiff and Edinburgh, are Members from Wales and Scotland to carry on as before, or is there a question mark over not only the numbers of Members but the nature of the representation of Wales and Scotland at Westminster? I warn Conservative Members, who may think that the Government have presented them on a plate with the opportunity to reduce the numbers of Members from Wales and Scotland, that such action would further weaken the unity of the British Isles.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman has eloquently raised some important questions. He has not yet given any answers. Can he think of a better place to discuss those important questions than a Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Evans
I am not sure that a Speaker's Conference is the best place to deal with them. I hope that the matter will never be referred to a Speaker's Conference. But if the decision is that there is to be a Welsh Assembly, the people of Wales must decide certain matters related to that decision. That is why we should spend time going through the Bill line by line, so that the full implications can be spelt out to the people of Wales and Scotland.
§ Mr. Powell
There is no hon. or right hon. Gentleman who can make a good case so brilliantly as the Lord President. There is no hon. or right hon. Gentleman who can make a bad case so brilliantly as the Lord President. But what the Lord President cannot do—and this is to his credit—is to make a case in which he himself does not believe. That was what the Committee witnessed tonight in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Perhaps the manner in which he delivered it was an even more effective refutation of such argument as there was as the content of the speech itself.
The right hon. Gentleman is a great student of Jonathan Swift, so his mind must often have turned to that adventure of Gulliver where Gulliver comes to the island of Laputa, the inhabitants of which spend their whole time endeavouring to do that which is self-evidently impossible, which is not only demonstrable by logic to be impossible but which is proved to be impossible by repeated experiments. The island of Laputa was not far distant from the England of Dean Swift. It was indeed the land of Dean Swift and many of his Laputan—
§ Mr. Powell
I am well aware of that. But he spent the part of his life in which "Gulliver's Travels" was devised in this part of the United Kingdom. Many of the Laputans of his day were in the House of Commons of his day. It is no new occupation of the House of Commons to spend weeks, months or years on exactly the type of experiment upon which the people discovered by Gulliver were persistently engaged.
No attempt of this kind has occupied so much of the time of the House of Commons over a century or more as the endeavour to discover how there can be a legislative Assembly for part of the unitary United Kingdom. In the case of Ireland it tried all kinds of ways. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to some of them. In the end it was proved by experiment, as it was demonstrable initially by reason, that the thing, by its very nature, could not be done.
This evening we are looking at that impossibility from one of its many facets. 414 The right hon. Gentleman glanced at one or two of them. We propose to set up an elective Assembly and to give it legislative powers over 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of those subjects which engage the legislative attention of the House of Commons. Well and good.
The question then arises: how is that part of the kingdom to be represented in the House of Commons? Of course, the nationalists, quite logically, say that they should not be represented here because they do not belong here. They deny the unity of the kingdom. That is not to solve the problem. That is to sweep the chessmen off the board.
The Lord President looks at and properly rejects the "in and out" solution—namely, that the Members who come from the part of the kingdom thus enjoying legislative facilities shall pop in for business in the long list which he laboriously read out and shall pop out as soon as we happen to touch upon matters which are legislatively devolved to the part which they represent. I believe that in this, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman carried the Committee with him in rejecting, as Parliament in 1893 rejected, the "in and out" first-class and second-class solution.
Are the numbers to be reduced? Are we to say that, as they have legislative devolution for five-eighths of the subjects which in total concern the House of Commons, they shall have five-eighths of the Members? But that is not logical, for they ought to have full representation on matters which are not devolved legislatively to their part of the country and no representation on matters which are.
Therefore, although in 1912, repeated in 1913 and 1914 under the Parliament Act, a measure was got on to the statute book which contained the imaginary solution of a proportionate reduction of representation from an Ireland with far-reaching legislative devolution, it never happened. There was no opportunity for it to happen. Even after 1920 it never happened in three-quarters of that island under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. There is no logical reason and no logical ground which underlies the proposition that representation should be proportionately reduced.
415 12.30 a.m.
So the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House says, "All we have to do is—nothing. There is no problem at all. We just leave them represented as they are at present, with their full membership as before." There was a moment—although it was not absolutely clear—in the right hon. Gentleman's dialogue with one of his hon. Friends on the Back Benches when he went so far as to suggest, I think, that by virtue of Clause 1 there ought to be no reduction of the representation of Scotland in the House because the House could—and would the right hon. Gentleman add the word "would"?—concern itself in all the matters devolved to a Scottish legislature. Here is the reductio ad absurdum at the other end. To justify the full representation in this House, he not only has to say that this House can intervene in the affairs of Scotland, even on the devolved subjects, in accordance with Clause 1. That will not do. Once every 50 years will not justify full representation. He also has to say—and this came out in our earlier debate—that it is necessary and reasonable to say that the House will constantly concern itself with the affairs of Scotland, that it will legislate over the head of the Scottish Assembly, that it will inquire behind the back of the Scottish Assembly, that the affairs of Scotland will be as much on the Floor of the House as the affairs of any other part of the United Kingdom.
I grant him that on that basis, if that is what Clause 1 of the Bill is to mean, continued full representation for Scotland is entirely justified. But then where is devolution?
§ Mr. Powell
The devolution has gone. The solution has, of course, eluded us. It has gone out of another door.
But let us suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House did not mean to be drawn quite so far along that path. Let us suppose that he tries to brazen it out and says, "Well, it is very difficult, so we shall not make any change at all. There are to be 71 Scottish Members in this House, and they will speak and vote like all other Members on all subjects that come before the House, whether those be subjects on 416 which devolved legislative power is enjoyed by Scotland or not."
It is a rough approximation that perhaps five-eighths or three-quarters of the time of this House is spent debating or legislating on matters which would be within the competence of the Scottish Assembly as envisaged under the Bill. A Government, a party which occupies the Government Benches, expect to find, and normally do find, some coherence in their policies. If it is a Socialist Party, its Socialism is not to be discovered in its foreign affairs and fiscal management only. Its Socialism will permeate all its legislation, whether it be housing, education, planning, or the management of local government. Its policies on all these must be a consistent expression of the policy on which that party received its majority from the electorate, and it will therefore quite rightly expect to legislate in accordance with that policy as long as its majority lasts in this House.
How can it be possible, with 71 Members coming from a part of the kingdom where five-eighths of these subjects are dealt with by an Assembly of which the composition does not necessarily bear any resemblance to the composition of this House, that those 71 Members should very often have the deciding voice and that they should make it possible or impossible for the Government to legislate in accordance with their policies? Remember that these subjects which are to be devolved are the very heart of politics. They are the very substance of the matters which are agitated at elections. They are the very substance of the matters which brought most hon. Members, on both sides, into the House and into politics.
Are we to be told that in the House the decision would frequently be determined by hon. Members who have, in the sense of other hon. Members, no responsibility whatever for those subjects and in whose constituencies those subjects are dealt with in accordance with a different make-up of the electorate and a different make-up of the elected Assembly? The think could not work, and this Committee knows perfectly well that it could not. This Committee knows perfectly well that it cannot accept the presence of 70–odd Members who, through no fault of their own, cannot be our peers in the House of Commons, cannot 417 be part of that pattern of party which makes the House of Commons.
There is no solution to this problem. It is, by definition, impossible to devolve legislative responsibility over a large sphere of politics and still retain the unity of the kingdom expressed in the sovereignty and the legislative competence of this House of Commons.
Just in case—it has been said so many times before—the apparent exception of Northern Ireland should be produced, let me say that it is an exception which proves the rule to the hilt for two reasons. The first is because it was minimal and the addition which was made by the 12 Northern Ireland Members in the House to the size of the Conservative majority or minority never exceeded six or seven on a Division. Secondly, it is because in Northern Ireland every endeavour was made by the management of the devolved powers to ensure that they did not have the natural consequences of that devolution.
I return to Northern Ireland, briefly and within the limits of the amendment. My hon. Friends and I have to address ourselves to the new clause on which the Committee is eventually to vote. We find ourselves asked, whether it be a suitable means of doing it or not, to commend the establishment of a Speaker's Conference to consider the appropriate number of Members to represent Scottish and Welsh constituencies. It would be impossible for any of us, being, as we are, the spokesmen of the undoubted grievances of our constituencies—with our part of the kingdom enjoying less local government than any other part of the kingdom, enjoying no devolved government in any sense of the term, having no immediate prospect, to put it at its lowest, of receiving any such powers, being represented on a far lower scale than any other part of the kindgom—to tender our assent to the proposition that the representation of Scotland and Wales should be reconsidered with not a word said about the crying scandal of the under-representation of Northern Ireland.
We must, in the first place, say that we could have nothing to do with the amendment. But we must also say that the claim of Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, to full and fair representation has no longer—it it ever 418 had—any relevance to the Bill. Here, tangentially, I make contact with the right hon. Gentleman. This is because if this Bill never came into existence Northern Ireland, as things are at present, would have an indefeasible claim to full representation.
What the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has said tonight has added to that claim the assertion that whatever form of devolution may be in prospect within the United Kingdom for Northern Ireland, that indefeasible claim is undiminished and intact. So, irrespective of the framework of the Bill, the representation of 1½ million citizens of this United Kingdom who live in Northern Ireland is before the House, it is upon the conscience of the House, and it will not go away until it is dealt with.
Finally, a word about what full and fair representation would mean in that context. If the principle is to be accepted that there is to be a uniform representation of the whole of the United Kingdom, then I think that we would say that our claim has always been to be treated as the rest. So, harshly though that might bear upon us, we will accept it. But we are told that the principle which the Leader of the House seemed to find implicit in the results of the Speaker's Conference in 1944 is that parts of the United Kingdom comparable to Scotland, and to a lesser degree to Wales, with great distances from the centre of Government, great sparsity of population, are fully and fairly represented only when they are represented on a somewhat higher scale and with a smaller electoral quota than that which applies to England with its large urban and industrial areas.
We intimate to the House, on the basis of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that unless different decisions are taken in the United Kingdom as a whole, full and fair representation for Northern Ireland means representation on approximately that scale which Scotland hitherto has enjoyed.
The conundrum which lies at the heart of the Bill of course will destroy the Bill. That conundrum is an explosive charge which will, sooner or later, blow it to pieces. Independent of that we say that the representation of the United Kingdom in this House, at any rate as it represents one part, does call for attention. We say that this House will not be fully true to 419 itself until it has given full and fair representation to that Province which at present lacks it.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
This is the first time that I have ventured to take part in debates on the Bill and it may well be the last. I take part tonight only because we seem to be engaged on a question that is of special and exceptional concern to English hon. Members. It is a question that deals not only with the government of Scotland and Wales but with certain principles about the government of the United Kingdom.
I start from the principle that it is clear that even if the Bill goes through substantially as it stands now, this Parliament at Westminster will be the body that decides some of the greatest issues that affect all peoples of the United Kingdom. For example, the Westminster Parliament will still decide on matters that concern our relationship with foreign countries and with the Commonwealth, the standing of the country with the world, economic matters and the organisation of social security. All those decisions will remain within the power of the Westminster Parliament. That being so, we should in general and by and large secure equal representation in this Parliament for the various nations that make up the United Kingdom.
I use the qualifying phrases "in general" and "by and large" for the reason that there are certain exceptions to that principle that probably all of us would accept. There would be few Members of this House who would demand that on numerical grounds Orkney and Shetlands should cease to be a constituency and should be tucked into a bit of the mainland. But when we make it a constituency on its own we give its citizens a considerable over-representation, numerically. That shows that we cannot press the numerical argument too rigidly. That is why I said "in general" and "by and large."
I would add that when we have a country—as ours is and as many others are—that is one State containing in it distinct entities that we can call nations, there is some case—if we depart from strict equality at all—for showing a degree of favour to the smaller nations in order to 420 allay any fear that they may have, arising from the fact that they are minority nations, that they will be continually overridden. That is broadly what we have done.
Apart from the question of Northern Ireland, raised so eloquently by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I cannot see that any good case can be made for making substantial alterations in the representation of this Parliament.
If, as is suggested in the amendment, the matter is to go to a Speaker's Conference, other matters concerning representation will have to go as well—the unquestionable over-representation of the thinly populated areas, for instance. Many of us would wish to raise that matter. If the question of Scotland and Wales is to be raised, the question of the representation of thinly-populated areas will have to be raised as well.
I am not sure whether we should be wise to commit ourselves to a full discussion of all these matters as a side issue in a debate on an amendment to the Bill.
It has been argued that if we have a Westminster Parliament of the kind that I have described, in which, subject to certain exceptions, there is roughly equal treatment of the different nations making up the United Kingdom, but we then have devolved Assemblies in Scotland and Wales, it imposes an injustice on English Members. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) made an impassioned speech a little while ago. I was not sure whether the pillars of the temple were to be pulled down or whether they had come down already—I understand that they had come down already; ruin was to come later. If the hon. Member is to talk like that, other hon. Members are entitled to say whether we think that a colossal injustice is being done to us if the Scots and the Welsh have Assemblies wielding devolved powers and have the kind of representation that they now have in the British Parliament. Greater London has a population nearly equal to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, and has some rights, but, as a Londoner, I cannot feel that there would be such a colossal injustice, and I certainly would not want it remedied by tampering with the important principle of equal 421 rights of the different nations to be represented in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the Assemblies will be tiers, or partners, in central Government and, therefore, that there will be not 71 people representing Scottish central Government but about 180, in addition. In my constituency, for instance, there will be three people instead of one dealing with the same matters. That is a matter of central Government. Part of the House will be devolved to two and a half times as many people. That is the problem. Our interests will be represented by so many more people.
§ Mr. Stewart
The habit of interventions is getting a little abused. It always seems to me better for speeches to be made consecutively rather than simultaneously or antiphonally across the Chamber.
I was coming to that point. The point at issue is this. Is an injustice done to parts of the kingdom that have not got devolved government if the representation in this House of Commons remains the same? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] All I can say is that it does not immediately seem to me to be one of the burning grievances of the day. If I felt a sense of grievance, I should not want to see it remedied by a remedy worse than the disease—that of upsetting the balance of the representation of the different nations in the United Kingdom here, and probably creating a very real resentment then between the different parts of the United Kingdom.
Let us look at the matter a little more practically. We in London have certain grievances. I trust that I shall not stray from order. I think that this is relevant to the argument. The management of the finances of the Greater London Council is brought to be surveyed by the House of Commons in a way in which the finances of no other great city are surveyed. I cannot see why we should be nursemaided in that fashion. We have to pay a police rate, though unlike the inhabitants of any other part of the United Kingdom, we have no control over or voice in the controlling of our police.
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot feel that if there were fewer Scottish and Welsh Members here, either of those grievances would be substantially remedied. The remedy for that would be to make a shift in the balance between which things are done by central legislation and which things can be done in London and other parts of the kingdom—that is to say, if the English anywhere feel that they have a grievance because of the representation here, what they should ask for, if they wish—and I stress that—would be a similar measure of devolution to those offered to Scotland and Wales.
Personally, I would not ask for that, because frankly I am not in the least convinced that providing parts of the United Kingdom with a devolved Assembly will prove a benefit and a blessing to them. However, we have safeguarded that by the fact that at the end of the day, when we have worked out what kind of devolved scheme could be workable, the Scots and the Welsh are to be entitled to say whether or not they want it.
I should have thought that in trying to deal with politics—a practical matter of reconciling general principles with what people genuinely want and what can be made to work—there is nothing unreasonable at all in saying this: first, in this Parliament the nations of the United Kingdom should be on a broadly equal basis of representation. Second, if there are parts of the United Kingdom which, for long historical reasons and reasons that have validity today, want a considerable measurse of devolution that falls short of a federal State or the dismemberment of the kingdom, if they genuinely want it and if that has been demonstrated, not only by argument in the House of Commons but by referendum, then they should have it. However, it does not in the least follow that parts of the United Kingdom that have not made any such demand and possibly never will, should have something planted on them that they do not want.
I think that the argument of the right hon. Member for Down, South led us to the conclusion that we had better get rid of the Bill altogether. However, if there is a genuine and deep desire in Scotland and Wales for a Bill of this kind, it would be unwise and injurious to the unity of the United Kingdom to deny it. If there is not such a desire they will 423 make that plain in the referendum. That is why I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman to his conclusion. But none of these things can be remedied by tampering with the right of people to be represented in the British Parliament, which decides in the end the greatest issues of all.
§ Mr. Beith
The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) spoke with his usual logic and precision, but on a false premise—that there is already a balance in the representation of the various parts of the United Kingdom. The basis of this debate is that there is no such balance and that, far from a few special interests having been taken into account, there is a major difference in the representation of different parts of the Kingdom.
When the Lord President rose to speak much earlier than has been the practice of the Front Bench in these debates, the thought flashed across my mind that it could be because the Government had changed their thinking on one aspect of the Bill. Of course that was not so. I do not know why he chose to intervene when he did or why he made a speech which, much though I disagreed with it, was very significant and will be quoted many times in these debates.
The right hon. Gentleman went to the heart of the Government's ambivalence in this matter. He sought to address to one group of his hon. Friends the plea that the role of Members from Scotland and Wales would be largely unchanged because they could continue to ask Questions on just about anything they chose affecting Scotland and Wales, while seeking to address to others the argument that substantial autonomy would be granted to the Assemblies. Those arguments will not sit side by side.
§ Mr. Ridley
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that what we are talking about is not the ability to ask Questions about English matters but the ability to contribute to the making or breaking of the Government of one party or another. The whole thing is about whether or not we shall have a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Beith
Indeed so, and 1 shall come to that. But we should now recognise the significance of what the Lord President said. His speech displayed a monumental 424 and cynical conservatism, based, as it was, on a Speaker's Conference held in 1944, which he will find rather worrying if he looks at it closely. What the right hon. Gentleman will make of the argument presented at the Conference—not in the Speaker's final letter—that Scotland and Wales should not be "punished" for the depopulation which had resulted from the unsuccessful policies of successive Governments, I do not know. But if the right hon. Gentleman rests on that, I can point to other parts of the United Kingdom, not least in England, which have suffered depopulation and to which, on that argument, the same benefits should now be applied.
The amendment is designed to make possible—not certain—the reduction of Scottish and Welsh representation in the House of Commons, simply because they are over-represented—Scotland more so than Wales. Why should there be a seat for every 53,000 Scottish electors but only for every 66,000 English electors and every 86,000 Northern Ireland electors?
Let us not confuse this matter with the argument about rural areas, distance from London and special geographical factors. The Boundary Commissioners are specifically and separately charged to take those factors into account in Scotland, England, Wales and, I suppose, even Northern Ireland. Those factors do not apply to the centre of Glasgow. The fact that some constituencies in Scotland, as in Northern Ireland, present geographical problems has no bearing on how the centre of Glasgow should be represented. They are not an argument for saying that a particular locality should have greater representation than would be appropriate elsewhere in England.
§ Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)
The logic of that argument is that Members such as myself in the North of England should represent fewer people than Members in the London area. How can the hon. Gentleman justify that?
§ 1 a.m.
§ Mr. Beith
The hon. Gentleman seems to be making my case. I make the point that the Boundary Commission must make appropriate allocations for both rural and urban areas. The problems of urban areas and proper levels of representation do not differ because the area is Glasgow or Tyneside. I can see no 425 argument for treating Glasgow more favourably than Tyneside. Thanks to the vagaries of government over the years, representation in Tyneside is in total chaos. Some seats are above the appropriate quota while one seat is ludicrously below its proper quota. I am saying that there is no reason for an urban area in Scotland being treated more favourably than an urban area in the North of England.
The Boundary Commission has been given separate responsibilities to deal with these problems. If there were a common United Kingdom quota, variations of the quota could continue to be applied to deal with various geographical circumstances, although to take my own constituency as an example, it would be difficult to change the boundaries. On one side there is the sea. On the other side are hills across which no roads travel. Apart from a little detail, we do not seem to be changing the national boundary between Scotland and England in this Bill.
The West Country has problems of geography and the forming of constituency boundaries, but these problems do not justify giving the general over-repretation which Scotland at present has. They are separate matters and separate provision can be made. The Boundary Commission's terms of reference state that special allowance must be made forspecial geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of constituencies.To apply a general quota to Scotland would lead to a reduction in representation. Probably the reduction would not be as great as some hon. Members might imagine. I believe that there would be a reduction of about seven seats in the present Scottish representation. I do not understand how that can be argued by the Leader of the House as the tearing apart of the United Kingdom.
The argument has been advanced that Scotland and Wales should be given some sort of extra or bonus representation because of some lack of attention to their needs on the part of central Government. I never thought that was a sound argument, but it seems to have lost all credibility in the context of the Bill, which on the Government's argument is supposed to make the government of Scotland and Wales better, although there are different 426 views about that. Devolution seems to knock away any credibility from the proposition for extra representation.
I have argued that a reduction is already justified, but that is not a solution to the problem of the imbalance of devolution. English Members are concerned that they will be out-voted by Scottish Members on English domestic issues and that Scottish Members will continue to have a disproportionate say in what the Government of the United Kingdom should be. That continues to be a problem.
The problem faced by the presence of Assemblies dealing with many domestic matters in Scotland and Wales is not resolved by bringing the representation of Scotland and Wales to a fair level, but I do not accept the argument that has been advanced that we should go further and effect a penal reduction of Scottish and Welsh seats to compensate for the benefits that they are supposed to derive from devolution. A modest numerical reduction of Scottish influence does not answer the argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Down South (Mr. Powell). To fiddle with the numbers to compensate for the fact that there will be Scottish Members here who can speak on English isstes and determine the shape of the Government as a whole does not answer the fundamental arguments involved. It did net do so in Ireland.
Moreover, the sort of penal clauses that were a feature of the Government of Ireland Act have a frightening habit of outliving the very arrangements that are supposed to justify them. That is what happened in Northern Ireland.
Nor can I be particularly enthusiastic about the "two-class" Parliament which has been suggested, under which a Speaker's Certificate would prohibit Scottish and Welsh Members from taking part in English business. I share the views about the practical difficulties in that, and I do not understand how the Government could proceed with English business if they had not a majority for it although they had a majority for being a Government.
In any case, we Liberals look to the day when we shall have regional Parliaments in England to deal with these problems in balance, when it will be right and appropriate that this Parliament, as 427 a federal Parliament, will properly represent all parts of the United Kingdom on the same basis. The reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh Members to a General United Kingdom quota is not the answer to the inherent anomalies of partial devolution. It is justified in itself. The point of the Bill is that it knocks away the last creaking leg of the argument for the over-representation of Scotland.
I turn now to the question whether New Clause 36 is the best way to deal with the problem. This is difficult to answer because of the way the clause is worded. The Speaker's Conference could deal only with Scotland and Wales and therefore could not effect a general redistribution according to a United Kingdom quota or reallocate any of the seats which might be released by reducing Scottish and Welsh representation in order to redress imbalance elsewhere, such as Northern Ireland. It could effect a reduction only by reducing the total size of the House of Commons.
I appreciate the procedural difficulties which have led the Conservative Front Bench to word the clause as it is. We know from bitter experience that our amendment, which sought to widen the terms of the clause has been ruled out of order, and the Chair has made it clear that it does not see any possibility of carrying out what we suggest in the Bill. So it seems that New Clause 36 is the only way in which we could get a Speaker's Conference, as the Government show no enthusiasm for the proposal. In that sense, the hands of the Opposition are tied.
But why do it by a Speaker's Conference at all? It was not done in the case of Ireland. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 did not do it. Section 19 of the Act is headed:Irish Representation in the House of Commons.Subsection (a) says:After the appointed day the number of members to be returned by constituencies in Ireland to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall be forty-six, and the constituencies returning those members shall (in lieu of the existing constituencies) be the constituencies named in Parts I. and II. of the Fifth Schedule to this Act.428 Subsection(c) says:On the appointed day, the members returned by constituencies in Ireland to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall vacate their seats, and writs shall, as soon as conveniently may be issued for the purpose of holding an election of members to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom …".On the new calculation, that was 46 Members, of whom 12, plus the old Queen's University seat, were to come from Northern Ireland. Those 12 have survived to this day. That was done without a Speaker's Conference, and I would prefer the present situation to be handled in that way as well.
I am not very enthusiastic about the idea of a Speaker's Conference. It would be in no way committed to bringing down the number of Scottish and Welsh seats, which I regard as necessary. The Government would have half the membership of the Conference and would go into the Conference committed to opposing a reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament.
Again, while I sympathise with many of the arguments put by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), I did not get the impression from what he said that if he were a member of the Speaker's Conference he would be committed to reducing the number of Scottish and Welsh Members. He has not yet formed a view, it seems. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) is against a reduction in the number of Scottish Members. Perhaps we shall eventually get a balanced view from the Conservatives, but as yet there is no commitment from them that they will seek to reduce the number of Scottish and Welsh Members.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Is it not the case that a Speaker's Conference draws up its own terms of reference and is not bound in any specific way as to how it shall advise this House about what to do? Therefore, does not the mere existence of the Speaker's Conference, which can make its own terms of reference, enable that Conference to deal with the point the hon. Gentleman is making as well as the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), namely, that there is nothing to prevent the Speaker's Conference from 429 dealing with Northern Ireland once it is set up?
§ Mr. Beith
When the Speaker's Conference is set up specific matters are remitted to it by the Prime Minister, usually after consultation between the parties. It is not open to the Speaker's Conference simply to decide its own terms of reference.
Although the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to this, it is not the point with which I am now dealing, which is that however wide the terms of reference I see no basis for an outcome of the kind for which I am arguing. Government Members would be totally opposed to such an outcome and there is confusion about what Opposition Members might do.
Let us assume that the Speaker's Conference produced a recommendation that the number of seats in Scotland should be reduced to the United Kingdom quota. Not all Speaker's Conference recommendations come before this House. The Speaker's Conference of 1972 or 1973 produced a recommendation about multiple registration—people being registered for votes in more than one constituency. That has never come before this House. Indeed, the Home Office has bitterly and vigorously opposed its implementation.
When the present Prime Minister found himself obliged in 1969 to lay before the House constitutional proposals that he did not like concerning the boundaries of constituencies, he simply turned to his hon. Friends and said "Please do not vote for these proposals".
§ Mr. Brittan
Whatever way this is wrapped up there is no way in which what the hon. Gentleman would like to achieve could come into effect unless there was a majority for it in the House of Commons. Therefore, it is merely a question of in which way the matter should be considered and at which stage the House is asked to reach a conclusion.
§ Mr. Beith
If there is no majority for it, then for Heaven's sake let us find out now. Why wait until after a Speaker's Conference and have a further delay in the establishment of the Assemblies? I am coming to the conclusion that there does not appear to be unanimity in the hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)
Can my hon. Friend think of one proposal made by any Speaker's Conference which has not been to the interest of whichever has been majority party of the day?
§ Mr. Beith
My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter. Speaker's Conferences reflect, as they must do, the balance of opinion of the House at the time. One of the things the Conference will reflect is the present representation and the fact that the number of Scottish Members who may consider themselves entitled to be on it may be larger than those we may ultimately see in the House. If there is no majority in the House for fair representation in the various parts of the United Kingdom, then we shall not get it. The British public ought to be able to see the way these things work in practice.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The hon. Gentleman talks about fair representation. Does he mean equity in numbers, or how does he define "fair"?
§ Mr. Beith
The hon. Gentleman tempts me into pastures over which we trod a few nights ago. I have tried to reach a view on fairness that the hon. Gentleman would not find unacceptable. I have sought to answer some of the arguments that some of his hon. Friends put forward about the special circumstances in some Scottish constituencies.
What is demonstrably unfair is to see Scottish constituencies as a whole, or Northern Ireland constituencies as a whole, reduced in size simply because they happen to fall in Scotland or Northern Ireland and not because of any special features which may make it difficult for those constituencies to come up to normal size. I can see no fairness in the over-representation of Scotland or the under-representation of Northern Ireland.
We are being offered a bone with no meat on it. It is a proposal from which we can see no significant or material conclusion. It is clear that we shall get no nearer to dealing with this problem of unfairness if it is left to the Government. But the combination of the narrowness of the clause and the fact that we have not even a commitment on the part of the official Opposition to seek to use the Speaker's Conference to bring about a reduction—which, presumably, 431 is its purpose—makes it impossible for me to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment.
§ 1.15 a.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I hope to speak very briefly, so I am not asking for interventions or help.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) suggest that it was about time that we discussed this matter. As far as I remember, the Report of the Kilbrandon Commission was published later in 1973.
§ Mr. Ross
That is getting on for four year ago. Whose responsibility is it if the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire has not thought about it? We have had debates on Kilbrandon. We have had debates on this Bill, including a lengthy Second Reading debate. If anything was relevant, it was this subject. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had an opportunity, because Kilbrandon was the first real White Paper that we produced before we even came to a decision about functions and the rest of it, and we said from the Government side that we were opposed to any reduction in the number of Members of Parliament from Scotland and from Wales. That was said by the Government three years ago. I do not remember a host of Conservatives in Scotland declaring that this was wrong. I do not even remember a Liberal voice being raised in respect of it.
It is suggested that a Speaker's Conference would be a way out of the difficulty. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said that Scotland was always over-represented in the House. Does he know how many Members Scotland had after the Act of Union? I can tell him. It was 36. To suggest that we have always been over-represented is something of an exaggeration.
Why are we over-represented? It is for geographical reasons. There would be a great deal of complaint from Scotland if its Members were reduced in number by another 12 to get the parity of which a number of hon. Members have spoken.
The Orkney and Shetland constituency, for example, has about 22,000 electors. At present, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Energy, the Member for 432 Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) represents more than 90,000 electors. There is the same imbalance within Scotland. We have to remember, too, that the general mean for Scotland is created not by the occasional small constituency in a city, which can and will be sorted out by the Boundary Commission under its present remit, but by Western Isles, by Orkney and Shetland and by the Highland constituencies.
We must take into account the limitations upon travel in a constituency. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) does not conduct his election campaigns by car. He has to do it by boat. We have to appreciate the difficulties associated with these 71 seats.
I was surprised to hear the suggestion that parity should be looked at, quite apart from devolution. I do not believe that there is one Scottish Tory who would say "Let us, without devolution, reduce our representation by 12".
When it comes down to it, I feel that we have a proposal which does not make sense. There is no statutory obligation to refer this matter to a Speaker's Conference. The amendment says it "may" be referred. "May" is the operative word.
I have been a member of a Speaker's Conference, and I can tell the Committee that it is not one of the speediest establishments. For one thing, the Speaker is in the Chair, and his time is limited by the demands of this House. The last Speaker reckoned that whoever took the Chair at the Speaker's Conference, it should not be the Speaker. The agenda is laid down by the Prime Minister. I remember the arguments in the last Speaker's Conference about whether we should discuss proportional representation. We discovered we could not discuss it.
Suppose we did have a Speaker's Conference on this issue. What happens if such a conference comes to a conclusion? It has to come back to the House with its recommendation. If the number of Scottish representatives is to be reduced to 56, what happens? The Boundary Commission has to examine the situation, and then come back to the House for an Act of Parliament. If ever there was a recipe for delay, delay and more delay, this is it.
433 I agree with the Northern Ireland Members—they are unfairly treated. But that matter cannot be resolved in this way. Another way must be found. The argument is put forward that because Northern Ireland's representation was reduced as a result of Stormont, Scotland's representation should be reduced as a result of the Scottish Assembly. All I can say is that if the Irish accepted it in the 1920s, the Scots are not prepared to accept it in 1977.
Devolution will not decide the next General Election. That will be decided by the economy, unemployment, taxation and other things which will remain here at Westminster. On the basis of the old slogan "No taxation without representation", the number of Scottish Members should not be reduced, because taxation remains here. The same is true of many important aspects of what creates and will retain the unity of this country. From that point of view there is no argument for reducing Scottish representation.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)
The right hon. Member said that the next General Election would not be decided by devolution, and I agree with him. If this is the case, why all the rush? Why are the Government trying to rush this Bill through?
§ Mr. Ross
I have no intention of rushing it through. One may not win the election on devolution, but one could well lose it on that issue. The Conservatives have made such a hash of this. That stems from Front Bench ignorance. They have fought 40 elections on the basis of manifestos declaring themselves in favour of an elected Assembly in Scotland. Having done that they are now doing their best to oppose devolution. Although they will not win an election with devolution, they may well lose it without devolution.
The question of reducing the number of Scottish MPs, or of keeping 71 but not allowing them to vote on particular issues, is impracticable nonsense. English hon. Members are already second-class citizens. When I came to this House I thought that every Committee was supposed to be a reflection of the composition of the House. But not a single Member for an English, Welsh or Northern Irish constituency can go on the Scottish Grand Committee, and it was a 434 Tory Government that made that change in the rules. That has been the situation for a long time.
Let us consider the question of fairness in national terms. There are 71 Scottish MPs in a Parliament of 635 Members. I do not think that we have battled on with a sense of inferiority. I am quite content with the fact. When we get away from the national thinking about the composition of this House we shall get closer unity. The maintenance of the unity of this country depends on no tampering with the number of Scottish and Welsh Members at Westminster.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
I think that the Leader of the House brought in many purely political considerations of an electoral character. The fact that the Committee is discussing this matter tonight is of lasting importance to the history of our country rather than to any question of political advantage. On the point of political advantage, both Front Benches have been disastrous in their approach to politics in endeavouring to play the tartan card which will rebound on them and Scotland with a worse curse than the nine of diamonds.
I have no great love of either Front Bench in this matter. The country is setting on a fairly disastrous course. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) clearly indicated— and it was made clear also by the Lord President's speech—whichever way we move creates further and wilder confusion. That is the alarming state in which the House finds itself. When my right hon. Friend referred to Gulliver reaching the kingdom of Laputa, he was absolutely right. We are attempting to achieve the impossible by a series of machinations and manoeuvres which no longer make political or constitutional sense.
Of course, the Members of the nationalist parties have a clear row to hoe. They have a clear course to follow. The others, however, the Liberal, Labour and Conservative Parties, who believe in the unity of the kingdom, are faced with a terrifying decision about Scotland. As such, the amendment is not of immense importance. The Lord President said that there would be two constitutional difficulties in accepting it. But it is the 435 spirit of the amendment which is important.
It is a very simple fact that the Scots and the Welsh—those who wish still to retain membership of the House of Commons—will find themselves on their present representation with 107 Members of Parliament who cannot even discuss their own local affairs which are being discussed by their representatives in Cardiff or Edinburgh. We saw that with our Northern Irish friends when there existed a Parliament in Belfast. They could not discuss their internal affairs, but they were able to discuss and vote on not merely national matters but all those which build up the life of the country—housing, education, or whatever.
As the Lord President rightly said, we cannot have first-class and second-class Members of Parliament, but that is what we shall be creating. The moment will come—Speaker's Conference or no Speaker's Conference, and whichever Government are in office—when the English say "Enough is enough." That should concern those representing Scots and Welsh seats and Scots and Welsh Members for English seats. As a Scotsman, I feel very strongly about the Scottish interest.
It is right that the Scots should have rather more Members of Parliament than they deserve on a purely mechanical basis, because there are other factors. The former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said the other day that there should be special representation for places such as Orkney and Shetland and the Highlands. There is a belief in a sort of nationality which is a Scottish thing, and that merits a special representation. But once we have the absurd fact of 107 Members from Wales and Scotland sitting here after there are Assemblies, the whole cause of special Scottish and Welsh representation will not just dis-appear but will swing in precisely the opposite direction. Far from such representation being welcome, it will lead to hostility, upset, discord, confusion and eventually—Speaker's Conference or not—to demands from the English Members that there should be a reduction.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Knowing the Conservative Party as he does, does the right hon. Gentleman think it conceivable that such pressures could be resisted—supposing there were a Conservative Government and the Bill had gone through—and that the number of Scots would not be reduced?
§ Mr. Fraser
It is not for me to speak for my Front Bench or the Conservative Party. I am just saying that in the nature of things, whether we have a Labour or a Conservative Government, the pressure must mount for a reduction in the numbers of Scottish and Welsh Members, as sure as night follows day. That is why I so much regret from the Government's point of view that for some reason the Lord President was unable to accept the amendment. He should have accepted it because it is merely an indication of what is to come. The Committee should divide on the amendment, because it is vital that we should show what we believe to be inevitable, making clear to the people of Scotland and Wales what they are bound to lose if the Bill is passed.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I rise to oppose the amendment and to express the hope that the Committee will not pass it, if it is put to the vote, although it has led to a very important and very useful debate. I find it illogical that opponents of the Bill should recommend that the amendment be passed. I should have thought that all those who are agreed on the extreme seriousness of the legislation would not want to confuse the issue and would wish the country to be consistently and constantly informed of the main purpose, with no seeking to mix party advantage in any shape or form with the purposes of those who do not wish this legislation to pass. Therefore, it seems to me a most inappropriate moment to revive a debate which must inevitably, even if that is not intended by everybody who might support the amendment, bring in the question of party advantage.
I oppose the amendment and similar amendments because I do not wish the representation of Scotland and of Wales in the House of Commons to be reduced. I believe the representation is justified. It has enriched this place. Indeed, I recall what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) about that representation having been increased. From the beginning it 437 has made an important contribution to the work of Parliament for the good of the kingdom as a whole.
§ Mr. Mendelson
No. I have only just started I have not really said anything yet. I knew that I should carry general support on that matter. It is a good reason for the hon. and learned Gentleman waiting until I have further advanced my argument before interrupting me.
If it is generally accepted that Scottish and Welsh representation has enriched the work of Parliament, our main purpose ought to be to maintain it. I submit that the Government should consider twice before proceeding with this legislation lest, by so doing, they endanger the future representation of Scotland and of Wales in the House of Commons.
If the Opposition were to persuade the Committee to pass the amendment, we should be in a completely different situation. We should achieve not a warning, but a decision—a wrong-headed decision—based on a political manoeuvre. [Hon. Members: "No."] Having advanced that argument, it is my duty to try to prove it.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman later.
Why do I maintain that argument? Because both during and before this debate voices have been raised advancing different reasons why a Speaker's Conference should be set up and why, without a Speaker's Conference, there should be a change in the representation of Scotland and of Wales in the House of Commons.
One argument has been that, whether we have the Bill at all, there should be a Speaker's Conference to reconsider the matter. The other argument advanced from the Opposition Front Bench tonight has been that, because of the Bill, there should be a Speaker's Conference to consider the representation of Scotland and of Wales in the House of Commons.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), speaking for the Liberal Party, said that he did not wish 438 to support the amendment for a Speaker's Conference but wanted a reduction in the representation of Scotland and of Wales in the House.
Taking all those reasons together, how can the country conclude that the purpose of those supporting the amendment is to avoid the dangers involved in the Bill? The conclusion is bound to be that party interests are involved.
§ Mr. Brittan
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, whatever reasons may be given at other times for supporting a Speaker's Conference to consider these matters, what has been proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and my hon. Friends is an amendment to the Bill? If as the hon. Gentleman wishes, the Bill does not reach the statute book, the Speaker's Conference proposed by my right hon. Friend will simply not take place. If so, the fears expressed by the hon. Gentleman are unreal. There is no justification for saying that the presentation of a Speaker's Conference is in any way inconsistent with opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. Mendelson
That would be a true and consistent argument if one of the other sources of opinion to which I have referred were an academic outside politics who had nothing to do with the Conservative Party. But the other source which I have quoted is the Leader of the Opposition, and that puts a completely different complexion on the term "political manoeuvre" which I used earlier.
When we turn to the argument advanced from the Liberal Benches, of course I agree that if somebody wants to turn this country into a federal country, he will advance the argument that was advanced by the Liberal spokesman. That is also the explanation why the two nationalist parties in the House are supporting the Bill so fervently, and why they are in favour of reducing the influence of Scottish and Welsh Members in this House, as a prelude to having them removed from this House completely. If that were done, they would then argue that no Member of the House of Commons should have any say in the affairs of Scotland at all, which is a further step towards complete separatism. Those are their tactics, and they ought to make 439 the Government pause, if the Government were genuinely attempting to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom.
Returning to the subject of the Speaker's Conference, I am opposed to this amendment, also because it is not a useful amendment in its purpose. Any right hon. or hon. Member who has sat on a Speaker's Conference—and I have sat on two in recent years—know that we have been given some rather idealistic and unintentionally misleading descriptions of the nature or the animal and its workings. First, the Speaker's Conference is not as neutral as has been suggested. It is a much more political body than has been suggested so far. Its composition is political. Its debates are bound to be political because its members are Members of Parliament. How could one expect Members of Parliament suddenly to turn themselves into pure academics and not carry on political debate?
Moreover, the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference carry no guarantee of final acceptance. One hon. Gentleman who interrupted the Liberal spokesman asked him to mention a single instance where the recommendations of a Speaker's Conference had not been accepted by the House. He gave the impression that no such examples ever occur. I could give him a very important example. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman for being mistaken. He may have read the wrong text-book, because textbooks are often misleading.
I will let the House into a secret. At one of the Speaker's Conferences on which I sat, I moved a motion that the voting age should be reduced from 21 to 18. My motion had three supporters on the first vote, and we had only four people supporting the motion throughout the long debate in that Speaker's Conference on the fairly important subject of establishing a new voting age. It might be argued that this was even more important historically than the number of Members sitting in the House in certain circumstances, or that it was at least as important. Right up to the end of that Speaker's Conference there were never more than four supporters of my motion, and the majority recommendation went the other way.
440 The recommendations were then reported and considered by the Cabinet, and when the matter was put before the House there was a known Cabinet recommendation. The House then debated the subject, and what had been the minority recommendation of the Speaker's Conference miraculously transformed itself into the majority view of the House of Commons, perfectly democratically. People argued about it, discussed it, and there was debate in newspapers, journals, universities and political parties.
What I am suggesting is that we are not dealing with an amendment which suggests that this highly and explosively political matter should be put into the hands of a calm, academic assembly of experts, which was more or less the suggestion made by the Opposition Front Bench.
The Opposition attitude was that we should leave it to a Speaker's Conference to come forward with calmly considered, erudite recommendations far removed from the explosive turmoil of the political market place and after due consideration tell us what was best for everyone concerned. That is poppycock. There would be a recommendation just as political as the recommendtaion made by the Opposition Front Bench tonight. If that is so, why not do it in that way? If it is a political recommendation we are dealing with, I say to my right hon. Friend that whatever we might argue coldly and reasonably, and whatever the fate of this amendment—and there are many right hon. and hon. Members who, for different reasons, will combine to oppose it—there is no implication in the fate of this amendment that the arguments we have listened to will not be powerfully reflected in the constituencies.
I warn my right hon. Friend that I am convinced that nothing said by him, by me or by others will carry half as much weight as the other arguments we have heard. Once we remove some of the essential functions that we have so far given to all Members of Parliament from those Scottish and Welsh Members so that they cannot be regarded as the equal of other hon. Members, however much my right hon. Friend's convincing rhetoric may assure us, the demand will grow for something special to be done. If there is added to this realisation the 441 fact that for good historic and other reasons such areas may be somewhat over-represented in purely numerical terms, the demand will grow and it will be asked why they should have even more Members than the rest of us. The demand will become irresistible. It is one of the essential weaknesses of my right hon. Friend's argument.
I did not see what answer my right hon. Friend could give to those who asked what could be done about this feeling of inequality once functions have been removed from hon. Members here to Cardiff and Edinburgh. It was a waste of time to put the question to him about seven times. The only proper answer is that if we want devolution we must agree to this reduction in the influence of Members from Scotland and Wales. The problem which remains is not whether a Member from an English constituency will be able to introduce a Private Member's Bill which will have the same degree of influence on Welsh or Scottish affairs. We do not do that now. I would not dream of introducing a Private Member's Bill dealing with the affairs of Caernarvon. The question is whether one of my hon. Friends from a Scottish constituency would be in the same position to introduce a Private Member's Bill dealing with the internal affairs of Scotland.
I am afraid that the answer would be equally in the negative. That is the dilemma. An hon Member would be able to introduce such a Bill but would this be regarded as a place where he ought to do so after a few years have elapsed? The Commitee can discuss this calmly, without shouting and trying to make things more difficult for Ministers. But my right hon. Friend ought to face this and realise that while there is an element of political manoeuvering involved, the dangers have been shown all too clearly. My right hon. Friend ought to add this to the many reasons that might lead the Government to reconsider their attitude.
The Government want to safeguard representation of Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons. If they think that such continued representation is one of the guarantees of the continued permanent unity of the kingdom, it may be necessary to abandon the Bill.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order. Mrs. Butler. It is generally known that at 1.50 a.m. the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary often begs to move progress. I am not myself confessing to being tired, but we are discussing an important issue and 16 hon. Members appear to wish to speak. To continue at this time and then to ask the Lord President of the Council to reply when he must he dog-tired is a nonsense. It brings the Committee into disrepute and we should report progress.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am in complete agreement with the closing words of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I have made clear my views about the Bill for a long time. I spoke against the proposals in January last year and nothing that has happened since has shaken my conviction that the proposals are likely to lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom if they are implemented.
If the people of Scotland want devolution that must be conceded, but I am not convinced by any evidence that has been brought before the House at any stage of our debates that that desire prevails in Scotland. For that reason I would have liked to see a referendum before the Bill was introduced.
§ Mr. Sproat
To talk of the people of Scotland is misleading. The people of Scotland are spread all over the United Kingdom, not just over the border. If we are to have a referendum, surely it is unjust that it should be confined to the people who happen to reside north of the border and to exclude those, such as hon. Members, who work south of the border.
§ Mr. Grieve
Since I speak as a Scot who lives south of the border, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). I was using the expression compendiously as we must in our debates. Let me use another expression—those of the British people at present residing in Scotland. I reside in England but I have Scottish roots. I am proud of the United Kingdom and its achievements and of the partnership in it of all members of the British races. For that reason I am totally opposed to the Bill. Its passage will be a disaster for the United Kingdom.
I turn to the representation of Scotland and of Wales should the Bill be passed. 443 Even now Scotland and Wales are over-represented. There is a case—although I reject it—for a reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh representatives at Westminster, as there is an even stronger case for an increase in the number of Northern Ireland hon. Members here. But I totally reject any reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh hon. Members. Over-representation of Scotland and Wales, as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) just said, is a small price—if one regards it as a price —to pay for the unity of the United Kingdom. It is a small price to pay for the proper representation in this House of distant, scattered parts of the United Kingdom where communication is difficult.
If we can maintain the unity of the United Kingdom and defeat the Bill I hope to see the continued representation of Scotland and of Wales as it is at present. But, if the Bill is passed into law there will be an ever-increasing demand for a reduction in the Welsh and Scottish representation here.
The reasons are obvious. That part of the British people who live in England will regard it as totally unfair that their representatives should have no voice in a large part of the affairs of Scotland and Wales but that over-represented Scotland and Wales should continue to have, in the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the imperial Parliament—a voice in affairs which, in such a situation, concerned England alone.
The point was very well made by a fellow Scot—my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser)—who asked: how will that situation be met? One way of meeting it would be to exclude Scottish and Welsh Members sitting here from decisions in connection with a certain variety of Bills. How could that be done? Only by a commission that would decide whether a Bill came into a category in which the voices of Scottish and Welsh Members were not to be heard, or their votes were not to be counted. It is almost inconceivable. It would be so clumsy as to be impossible.
§ Mr. Dalyell
How, also, would it be decided whether the Scots should or should not vote on procedural matters— 444 for instance, on timetable motions or guillotine motions?
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful to the Member. I have adumbrated only some of the difficulties. I shall not refer to them all, because if I did I should take up more time than I desire to do at 2 o'clock in the morning, when some of my hon Friends and hon. Members on the Government Benches have constructive contributions to make.
This House is concerned not only with legislation; it is concerned with the affairs of the whole of the United Kingdom. The problem would arise, in every kind of business with which the House deals, whether the Scottish and Welsh Members were to take part. Therefore, there would be an overwhelming demand from that part of the British people living in England that the number of Scottish and Welsh Members should be reduced. There is a precedent—the precedent of Northern Ireland, which, for a long time, until the dissolution of Stormont, was accepted as a perfectly normal way of dealing with the situation.
There would be a demand for a reduction in Scottish and Welsh representation not to parity with English representation but to numbers lower than parity with English representation. There would be a demand for its reduction to the sort of scale that the British people living in Northern Ireland—I stick to my formulae —have had since 1920. I believe that that would be a tragic and sad thing for the unity of the United Kingdom; it would merely be one aspect of the deterioration and the destruction of that unity that would proceed from this Bill.
It is one of the prime objections to the whole of the Bill, and I am sorry that some of those who see it in that light cannot see their way to vote for my right hon. Friend's new clause. I accept at once that that new clause is not perfect; it could not be, within the narrow rules of order that pertain to this Bill. But it draws attention to the difficulty and enunciates it; it provides one way, at any rate, of dealing with it and it will satisfy some of the criticism that has already arisen throughout the provinces of England with regard to this matter. It is criticism that already exists. It is being heard and voiced in the newspapers and in the constituencies.
445 2 a.m.
I regret, therefore, that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) cannot support the amendment, because the amendment is the only way that we have before us at present of dealing with that is a fundamental objection to the Bill and one of the great difficulties that arises out of it, and which, as I say again, demonstrates how dangerous the Bill is for the unity of the United Kingdom.
Therefore, I for one am happy to be here tonight to support my right hon. Friend on the new clause in the Lobby.
Thank you, Sir Stephen.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I have been giving some thought to the proposed new clause. I have come to the conclusion that we ought to dub it the "I told you so" proposal. Throughout all our debates in the House of Commons, and in debates in the Labour movement, in public and in private, the warning has been repeatedly given by those who have had reservations about the whole of the devolution prosals, that we would soon reach this day—I think that most of us hoped that we would reach it rather earlier in the day than we have on this occasion—and that in whatever form the proposition was initially put, it would ultimately end in very straightforward political terms with a Conservative proposition that the number of seats that are provided from Scotland and from Wales should be reduced.
Stripped of all the technical discussion about the appropriateness, or lack of it, of the Speaker's Conference in dealing with these matters, or in dealing with the matter pre-referendum or post-referendum, I say that my main reason for objecting to the Bill tonight—Opposition Members will understand it—is that it will lose seats in Scotland and Wales, and the direct consequence of losing those seats will be to lose more Labour seats than Conservative seats. That will give us less frequent Labour Governments. God help us—they have been infrequent enough in any case, and I am against having infrequent Labour Governments.
Therefore, I put the matter in very straifhtforward, pork barrel terms. Anyone in the House who holds a party card, of no matter which party, will understand exactly what I mean when I say 446 that we ought to protect that very direct interest.
There are, of course, also other interests—the interests of the people of Scotland and Wales. Without any hint of condescension or paternalism, I say that if we were to accept the idea that the number of representatives in the House of Commons from Scotland and Wales should be reduced, by whatever process or procedure, whether it be the Speaker's Conference or anything else, that would be directly contrary to the interests of the people of Scotland and Wales.
I think that there is only one section of opinion in the House of Commons that would disagree with that assertion—the nationalists. They are much more interested in the enhancement of their own political futures than in the future of the people of Scotland and Wales, otherwise they would not be promoting the stupid idea of separatism in any case.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)
Is it not probably significant that on this crucial matter some of the representatives of Wales in the House of Commons, Plaid Cymru Members, have chosen to be absent almost throughout the debate? They clearly do not think that it is a matter of importance to Wales that Wales is represented in this place.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I have to admit that that consideration had flashed across my mind, but I thought that, in all charity, I would not refer to it. However, now that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned it, it must become a matter for the record. I hope that Welsh National Party Members, who are so enthusiastic about the Bill—indeed, they lead the enthusiasm for the Bill in the Principality—will do penance tomorrow night and on subsequest occasions. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's chastisement will encourage them to do so.
The other reason, apart from the political consideration, that I wish to sustain the present numbers is that the people of Scotland and Wales will continue to have a vested interest in maintaining whatever power and influence they have here, whether or not we have devolution. Under these proposals, not only will substantial lists of subjects remain, in the Lord President's words, the sole concern of this House and not that of the Assemblies, but even the Assemblies themselves will 447 be governed in their financial powers by the resolution of this place. It is vital, therefore, that the maximum influence be brought to bear in the House of Commons on behalf of the people of Scotland and Wales in the deliberations over the block grant which will determine their standards of living and that therefore the number of seats for those countries be maintained.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
What amount of powers in Scotland would have to be devolved before the hon. Gentleman would take the view that it was not important that the same number should have the power to control what remain here?
§ Mr. Kinnock
There is only one answer to that—in the event of Scotland and Wales becoming independent sovereign States, there would be no place for their representatives here. Short of that, in the very nature of the devolutionary relationship, so long as we sustain this idiotic idea of the delegation of powers from this House and simultaneously attempt to sustain the unity of the Kingdom while permitting the legislative diversity of the Kingdom, there will always be a case for trying to maximise the influence which can be brought to bear on our deliberations from each of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
But the main reason for sustaining the present numbers is that power will continue to reside at Westminster—insufficient power, challenged power, fragmented power, undermined power, disunited power, continually conflicting power, but still power, needing the maximum authority and pressure from Scotland and Wales to try to mould affairs to the advantage of the people whom I and my compatriots in Wales and Scotland represent. That will find agreement way outside the borders of Wales and Scotland and well beyond the boundaries of the Labour Party.
But the consideration must arise, is that a practicable way in which to regard these affairs? My right hon. Friend has said that the Government do not believe that representation in this House should be changed by devolution. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said that the Labour Party would always oppose the reduction of numbers 448 here. But there is a force of logic about the argument that if the responsibilities of this House are devolved —which is only a euphemism for "reduced" in this context—it is democratic, in logic, to reduce the number of representatives as well. I can envisage many situations in which we shall have to oppose propositions from those with different vested interests and perspectives. We shall have to oppose their propositions in respect of the appropriateness of the number of representatives we now have from Scotland and Wales. We shall probably have to oppose them at this time in the morning on future occasions.
We shall sloganise and pontificate about the necessity of sustaining the numbers from Scotland and Wales. We shall put our hands on our hearts and say that we never intended that Wales and Scotland should he politically emasculated as a consequence of devolution. But the fact remains, when all the sums are done about who pays public expenditure bills for Scotland and Wales and how Government majorities are constituted in the House, that there will be those who will be paying the bills in England, perhaps of different political opinions from the majority opinion in the House of Commons, who will require that the House of Commons, in fairness, logic and democracy, changes the total number of representatives from Scotland and Wales.
We can protest as much as we like, but because of what is happening in the Bill, and as a consequence of the Bill if it becomes an Act, the response to nationalism will make nationalists of us all. Those who have never given the slightest consideration to the way in which money is being spent and where it is being spent will begin to ask who is spending it and who is responsible for spending it. In those circumstances they will be forced to allow that consideration to dominate their political perspective and to dominate their consideration of the way in which the working of the House of Commons is carried out. It is a consideration that will dominate the attitude that they have to and the relationships that they enjoy with those from other parts of the country.
They are the floodgates that will open. I do not think I am being terribly pessimistic or exaggerating the situation. This 449 is the very stuff of politics. This is the very stuff of representation. We can try to make ourselves remote, insular and wise about these affairs, we can say that we consider that it will not be to the benefit of all the people of the United Kingdom to disentangle and fragment, but there might be a situation in which the pressures will not be coming from inside the House of Commons to change the number of representatives from Scotland and Wales. I think that the pressure will come from within but it may be that it will not.
For how long can the House of Commons sustain itself as a democratic forum without responding to the pressures from outside? Those pressures, without any particular meanness or malevolence towards the people of Scotland and Wales, will most certainly develop. Indeed, they are developing now. They are with us, for example, in what we call the backlash speeches of some Opposition Members. I do not blame them for making those speeches. They are adopting what is for them a novel attitude. We are seeing the drawing up of new perspectives that have never before been applied to the people of Wales and Scotland.
We are seeing developments in Government legislation. I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today—no one can accuse my right hon. Friend of trying to do down the interests of the Welsh people as he is the representative of a Welsh constituency—about the regional employment premium and he referred to the needs of the inner cities. I am sure that that debate would be taking place in any case. The contest for shares in our national resources and for assistance and inducement to industry would be taking place in any case. But it is a sample in this new assortment, this new allocation, this new dispersement of the nation's resources, of the situation that we are bound to see arising as a consequence of the changes made by devolution and the new conflicts of interest between the industrial and rural areas, the north and the south and the Scots, the Welsh and the English.
We already have samples and examples of those considerations. For instance, an example is to be found in the Water Equalisation Bill that was discussed last Monday week. I do not blame certain 450 Members representing the teeming cities of England for some of the attitudes that they adopted. Indeed, I have seen these attitudes rehearsed—I hope that they will take warning from this—in my 16 to 20 years' experience of Welsh nationalism. In any crisis or difficulty it is a quite natural human development to turn in upon oneself, to start chanting slogans such as "London First" as others have chanted "Wales First" or "Scotland First". It is taken into politics right off the football terraces. Again, it is done without malevolence or maliciousness. It is seen as the simple enactment of duty on the part of Members of Parliament for certain English cities. It is an attitude that was displayed by some hon. Members in the view that they took of the new arrangements for the financing of our water services.
These new developments and new divisions are being rehearsed even as we talk about this Bill—and the Bill can do no other than bring that whole drama to a final and disastrous act for the people of Scotland and Wales and consequently, therefore, for the people of England.
§ 2.15 a.m.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)
I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument with great interest. [Laughter.] I have been here for at least five minutes. So far as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman started speaking at one minute past two o'clock. The time to get over from Norman Shaw building is five minutes, and I came as soon as I could. I have been following his argument with great interest, as I always do. He seems to be arguing that the conflicts that he alleges are developing within the United Kingdom are new conflicts about resources and that somehow the political recognition of those conflicts in institutions will exacerbate them. Is it not better, if there are conflicts and arguments about resources and their allocation, that they should be resolved within political institutions?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am all in favour of resolving conflicts, and doing so democratically by argument within political institutions, by using majority opinion and by coming to conclusive votes. I am not in favour of the representation of particular difficulties as being characteristic of membership of a nation rather than membership of a class.
451 Another way I dislike of resolving conflicts is seeking to gain support for the purpose of resolving them on nationalistic grounds. I have said that these are not new conflicts or disputes; they would have existed, probably, in the clash of priorities for limited resources in any case. But in this Bill we have a new source of conflict, a new source of division, a new perspective superimposed, and it means that the unconscious generosity of people to those dependent on them as footers of their bills may be turned into a conscious parsimony. We in Wales cannot but suffer from that.
It is not cowardice on my part or sycophancy towards the English or fear of the future that makes me contemplate that result. It is more the fact that I have 12 per cent. unemployment in my constituency. So has the hon Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas). Indeed, he should know well enough that his constituency even more than mine is kept afloat on public expenditure, and that the bill is footed not from Welsh pockets but from British pockets on the basis of need for his constituency.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Shut up. I have listened to enough nationalist nonsense. These are facts. I am at least as good a Welshman as the hon. Gentleman is. We are having visited upon us in Wales, because of the ludicrous pursuit of a separatist answer and an even more ludicrous attempt to offset the pressures of separatism, new jealousies and new divisions—and they will cost us thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of pounds, and all the conflict, all the divisions and all the sorrow which comes from a nation with even more limited resources that cannot even find the means of meeting its most elementary aspirations. That is the future as a consequence of this. It therefore means that the division as a consequence of the changes upon this House is not the only division with which the hon. Member for Merioneth and myself will have to deal. There will be divisions inside Wales as well.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said that this is the best way to keep the United Kingdom together. The main sustenance in the devolutionary argument is that such are the threats and 452 strains imposed on the unity of the United Kingdom in the novel aspirations of the people of Scotland and Wales over the past decade that we must find some means of national self-expression in the form of Assemblies with varying degrees of powers in order to quench the thirst for self-determination and for bringing government nearer to them.
But built into the Government's attempt at unity are new and bitter seeds of disunity. There are invitations to new jealousies and invitations to people to draw new maps in their minds and new borders in their consciences. That cannot be a source of unity in this kingdom.
I do not have a Unionist's interest in unity. For me it has been profitable for the people of the valleys that I represent. I differ to that extent from Unionists in other parts of the House. But the fact is that by any criterion the people of my valleys have benefited considerably from a united kingdom.
Mr. Tom Ellis
Since the economic history of Wales during the last 50 years can be characterised by a steady drain on its population through emigration, would my hon. Friend not agree that this at least justifies some dissolution of the present set-up?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I do not think that the immigration into Wales in the previous 50 years—which sucked people out of the bogs of Ireland or, in my own case, from the slums of Scotland, or Shropshire or Spain or Italy—took place in order to endorse the previous system. I think it took place because of jobs. When that system failed—this is the source of my hon. Friend's grievance—they were not drained out. My hon. Friend has a longer knowledge than I have. He is a little older than I am, but I do not think he can teach me a lot because every member of my family has had to leave Wales at some time or another.
The resolution of our problems is to have a change in the system that put the problem there in the first place. Union with the remainder of the United Kingdom is not relevant to those problems one iota. My hon. Friend should know that well.
My hon. Friend will say that distance, insularity, the superciliousness of the 453 unitary State and over-centralised Government have contributed to this problem. So they might, but the abyss of depression in Wales at present is such that in the foreseeable future we have a vested interest in sustaining the present relationship and getting what we can out of it in order to get ourselves out of the trough rather than threatening our very lifeline. That is no exaggeration.
One of my hon. Friends said that I did not have to look in a crystal ball because I could see it in the book. In this case, the "book" is the Amendment Paper, and New Clause 36 says that there is a feeling amongst Members of the House of Commons that a Speaker's Conference should be convened to look at whether the representation is fair.
I put it to my right hon. and hon. Friends again. On the basis of the distribution of votes in English, Welsh and Scottish constituencies, if we go only on numbers, at the moment it is not fair. If we disregard the generally charitable attitude of the Opposition Front Bench to the need for representation as we have it now in Wales and Scotland and we consider for a moment the fact that resentments will arise, in this book—not in a crystal ball—we see the prospects of losing political power for the Labour Party, of losing political influence for our nation, and of losing all the claims through need, on the resources of Britain that we can make now. Of course we should make more claims. Of course we should get more. But if we cannot get more, there is a good argument for saying that we should not go for less.
§ Mrs. Knight
I have not been present during all the debates on this Bill, but I have read carefully the Hansard reports of all those that I have missed. Anyone reading those debates will have been struck by the extraordinary number of speeches from Government Back Benchers expressing the kinds of views that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock).
The fact that so many Government supporters alone—apart from a great many right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches—feel so strongly, so passionately and, I believe, so rightly about this Bill must surely give the Government pause. Surely even they 454 must see that this measure, so roundly condemned by their own supporters, cannot possibly be passed in its present form and certainly not without very much more careful thought being given to the fairness of representation in the House.
In this debate, we have had moments of frustration and moments of great sadness. One moment of great sadness came as we listened to the Leader of the House finally destroying the last shreds of his once glittering reputation as an unholder of the constitution. The frustration came when he was either unable or unwilling to say in clear terms why the amendment would not be accepted, and, when perfectly logical arguments were put to him, he did not even begin to answer them. He was like a man who says "Black is white" and who, when challenged, says "It must be, because white is black". It was a sad moment for us as we listened to the right hon. Gentleman.
Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman cannot grasp the fact that devolution affects fundamentally the case on representation. He suggests that we need not bother about representation now, that it has nothing to do with the Bill, and that it must be discussed at another time. But the whole crux of the Bill is the question of representation. Devolution is about representation or it is about nothing. What is more, unless there is fairness in this matter, there will be a very quick sighting of the bitterness about which we heard from the hon. Member for Bedwellty.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) made it clear that he was very concerned about the fact that the power of Welsh Members of Parliament was likely to be hampered after the Bill had been passed. He asked whether it would be hampered. Of course it will.
Much play has been made this evening about the question of the referendum, and people having a say. Will the referendum be extended to the ordinary English people in the United Kingdom? It will be extremely unfair if it applies only to Scotland and Wales. I very much take the point made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in his strong and powerful speech.—[Interruptions]
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Stephen McAdden)
Order. Hon. Members below the Gangway are indulging in conversations which they think are sotto voce. I should tell them that these conversations are much more voce than sotto.
§ Mrs. Knight
One of the reasons for my strong opposition to the Bill is that I am afraid that the gross unfairness under which Ulster labours will be perpetuated by the provisions in this measure. In Ulster there is no local government, no Assembly, and only a handful of Members are represented in Westminster. On the other hand, in Scotland and Wales there is full local government representation, an over-abundance of Members in Westminster, and now there is to be an Assembly as well. How can it be fair that one part of the United Kingdom is treated with such scant regard, while two other parts are blessed by special arrangements which others can never expect to receive?
§ Mr. Robertson
Would the hon. Lady not agree that any unfairness that there might be in Northern Ireland is there in any case? Is she arguing that it is all right to have unfairness as long as we do not have this Bill?
§ Mrs. Knight
Of course that is not my argument, and it never has been. I have tried to argue the case for more fairness for Ulster. It is a shame and a blot on us all that the unfairness exists. It is also relevant, when we are discussing fairness of representation, to point out that we appear to be saying that all parts are equal; some are more equal than others; and Northern Ireland is not equal at all. That is quite wrong and unfair.
I wonder whether there is any specific reason for the way in which New Clause 36 is framed. I would support the amendment all the way, but I am bound to say that the new clause is grossly unfair in that it speaks only of Members representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies. It may well be that there is some specific point about that, and that it was not possible to include Ulster. If that is the case, I want to hear it from my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, because it is a point of considerable importance.
I am against this Bill. If it is to get through at all—and I pray God that it will not—at least it might be bettered by the 456 adoption of amendments, particularly the one before us this evening. I support the amendment.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
To those of us who have followed the debates on devolution, the curious thing about tonight is that the difficulty we are encountering is not a new discovery. Two years ago tomorrow this House had the first general debate on the Government's proposals on devolution, and many of us who took part in that debate pointed out precisely this difficulty.
In retrospect it is rather strange that in the two years since then we have trundled so far down the road to devolution without at any stage attempting to anticipate or evade this boulder which lies in our path. I remember, having raised this matter at a meeting outside this Chamber, being advised at the time not to draw attention to this difficulty because were I to do so it might call into question the whole operation. However, here we are. The boulder has failed to recede and instead has become that much more concrete an obstacle.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my hon. Friend recollect that the now enobled Lord Glenamara, alias Mr. Ted Short, was told time and time again precisely of this difficulty? Would he listen? Not at all.
§ Mr. Robertson
Does my hon. Friend not realise that this situation exists and has nothing to do with the devolution Bill or devolution? It is based entirely on the question of population. Let us consider the calculations made to determine a Highland seat or the seats in Orkney and Shetland. If each vote had equal weight in Scotland we should have to abolish the Highlands and the Islands seats.
§ Mr. Cook
I am sure that my hon. Friend will be able to expand this point in his contribution to the debate. We might say that we have found the position of his party in the course of this Committee stage to be curiously quiescent. We would anticipate a lengthy speech 457 from my hon. Friend in which he might amplify some of his points. However I must say to him that on the basis of the urban seats, we in Scotland are overrepresented in terms purely of population. That should cause no embarrassment because in a centralised system it is justifiable for the peripheral areas to be over-represented.
As was said two years ago, and by hon. Members on every occasion which has presented itself to them since, the position of Scottish Members after the Bill becomes law will be indefensible unless some action is taken to remedy the position. I say that as a Scottish Member and as one who might aspire to be a Scots Member after devolution has arrived.
We have argued for devolution on the basis that it would be right for the Scottish people to decide their own policies through election to their own Assembly. If that is logical and right for the Scots, we have to concede it to the English, and it would be wrong for those of us from Scotland to seek to interfere in English domestic affairs after that watershed has been reached. We have only to cast our minds back to the controversial nights of last summer and autumn to see how many fruitful occasions there will be for conflict and friction to arise over that precise point.
However, I find no logic in the proposal before us in the shape of the amendment or the new clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), in an impassioned and eloquent speech, advanced the argument that it was logical that representation for Scotland and Wales should be reduced, pari passu with the amount of Scottish and Welsh business in this House. I see no logic in that. If it is wrong for 71 Scots to vote on English affairs, it is wrong for one Scot to vote on such matters. One does not resolve that anomaly by arbitrarily lopping off a given number of Scottish seats. Those Scottish Members will be participating in matters in which they have no constituency interest, no mandate and no representative powers.
Why do we pursue this non sequitur at all? The only reason that it occurs to us is that it has been the position with Northern Ireland ever since Stormont was established. To say that a given 458 situation applies in the case of Northern Ireland does not make it logical. It is an odd irony that so often in these devolution debates we turn for our parallels, analogies and similes to the sad and tragic experience of Northern Ireland. That can hardly be expected to help us on the basis of any firm success that has been secured in the past.
The other thing that I find curious about our debate is that those who have argued for the amendment, for this remedy, have also claimed to be most in favour of preserving the Union. The one visible, clear, demonstrable sign of the Union of the United Kingdom is the representation in this Parliament of the Scots and the Welsh. It is curious to seek to strengthen that Union by seeking to cut that representation in this House. So long as we remain a Union, so long as we remain a united Parliament, it is defensible that the periphery should be over-represented.
It is clear to me that the strategic, vital decisions affecting my country—on the economy, fiscal affairs, energy, industry—will continue to be taken here. I see no case for reducing the representation of my country on those matters simply because housing, education and health have been devolved to another centre. There is no logic in that proposition, either.
However, if we say that there is no logic in cutting representation, how are we to find a way out of the difficulty? I find a certain attraction in New Clause 35, in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Henderson), which enunciates the principle that after devolution the Scottish and Welsh Members should not participate in certain classified English matters. Many speakers have poured scorn on that idea.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. We are discussing not New Clause 35 but Amendment No. 575 and New Clause 36.
§ Mr. Cook
I accept your correction, Sir Stephen, but perhaps I may be permitted to answer the many points made in this argument. I shall seek to do so without further reference to New Clause 35.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the argument, in order to dismiss it, that we could have a two-tier 459 membership of this House. I do not see the difficulty that other hon. Members have perceived in that. It may be that I have not paid the appropriate attention to English domestic affairs, but I can recall no time in the past three years when I have spoken in a debate on a purely English domestic matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "But the hon. Gentleman voted."] I was coming to that point. I could happily give up the right and entitlement to be called to vote at the end of the debate without being conscious of being an inferior or second-class citizen.
Nor do I see the difficulty suggested by my right hon. Friend the Lord President that it would be difficult to define—
§ Mr. Heffer
Is not my hon. Friend now being illogical? I agree with him up to a point, but he could not avoid being approached by the Whips on, say, an education matter, and being cajoled to vote on it. It might well affect my constituency. It would be no good his saying "I shall not vote" and opting out. One cannot do that here. What my hon. Friend is really saying is that he wants to be a first-class citizen and that some of us will be the second-class citizens, because he will be able to vote on our issues and we shall not be able to say one word or vote on any issue affecting education or anything else in Scotland.
§ Mr. Cook
If my hon. Friend will bear with me, I may be able to help him on that point.
Before my hon. Friend intervened I was dealing with the question of defining purely English domestic matters. We have a process for defining what is a Scottish domestic issue. There is a process for certifying such Bills. Only once in the past three years have we had any dispute on such certification. That was as a result of the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn). Once in three years is not a high incidence.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) touched on the raw nerve. The problem is not defining the issues. It is that as one moves from the situation in which the whole House may vote to the other, in which only part may vote, one may well move from one political balance to the other. This is where the Whips come in and where the 460 pressure to which my hon. Friend refers arises.
Candidly, there are two aspects to my hon. Friend's question. First, I believe that it would be morally indefensible to vote in such a situation. I do not believe that we could for ever maintain a position in which Scots and Welsh Members vote on, say, English education and pay beds when the English cannot vote on Scottish and Welsh equivalents.
Secondly, the question can be put the other way round. We shall not find 107 men and women of principle and integrity who will be prepared to come here week after week, year after year, and do precisely that. All the pressure from the Whips will avail them nothing. In the last analysis, there will be no way in which any Whip will be able to put pressure on a Scottish Member through a Scottish constituency party because that Member failed to participate in an English debate or vote.
§ Mr. Cook
That has been self-evident for three years. Some of us have been trying to tell my hon. Friend and others about that problem. If Scottish and Welsh Members are not to be able to vote on English matters, that raises the precise problem of the political balance.
What is the sole, logical, clear way out of the problem? The only way to resolve the anomaly is to get to the heart of the matter. At the bottom of what we are proposing to do lies one colossal anomaly. We are creating a separate tier of government which is unique and peculiar to one-fifth of the population of these islands. From that flows this problem, and from this problem flow other major problems to which we have still to turn our minds—for example, taxation. The problem of defining taxation powers arises because of the unique and peculiar form of government proposed for Scotland. Therefore, any tax-raising powers that it has will be unique and peculiar to Scotland and the Scottish people. That 461 is at the heart of the matter. The only logical answer is to have a similar tier of government for the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Cook
I do not blame my hon. Friend for saying that. If any hon. Member is in doubt about the argument against such a tier of government, I shall be happy to supply him with a speech on the matter. Had we not perceived a popular demand for it, we, in Scotland, should not be seeking it now. I can understand why those representing English constituencies do not want such a tier of government. However, if we say "No, we are not prepared to have such a tier of government, but we are bent on giving devolution to Scotland and Wales", we cannot evade all the anomalies which flow from that basic fundamental proposition. One anomaly will be that we shall have to live with a certain amount of Scottish and Welsh representation in the House of Commons. That anomaly will in no way be resolved by tinkering with the representation here in the mechanical, arithmetical way proposed in the amendment.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)
There are one or two aspects of the speech made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) which I find a little difficult to follow. In particular, the hon. Gentleman seemed to be catching the disease of the nationalists when he said that he did not like to consider and compare devolution with the Irish experience. As Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which has ventured any way along the path of devolution or separation, we would be unwise not to consider closely the Irish experience. The one aspect of the United Kingdom with which the nationalists do not want any comparison is Southern Ireland. It is unpalatable to them to compare the situation in Southern Ireland, after 50 years of independence, with the prospects which they throw out for an independent Scotland. Their comparisons, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, are usually with Scandinavian countries which are far enough away for most Scottish people not to have a great deal of experience of them.
462 One of the ironies of debate on the Bill is that the motivation for devolution does not appear to come from those parts of the United Kingdom which could be considered constitutionally under-privileged or from any of the regions of England or Ulster. The motivation comes from Scotland and Wales, which are the most privileged parts, constitutionally, of the United Kingdom. I remind the Committee that Scotland, with a population of 5¼ million, or 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, has six Ministers in the Commons at the Scottish Office, two Ministers in the Lords who are also Scottish Office Ministers, and at least half a dozen Ministers in other Government Departments, excluding the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means who plays a prominent part in the activities of the House generally. Those figures illustrate the privileged position which Scotland enjoys in the United Kingdom. It now appears that the present position should be a stepping stone to even greater privilege.
I am not altogether happy with the amendment, but I accept the reasons behind it and I have to try to go along with it on the basis that if we are to have a Bill such as this there must be a Speaker's Conference to consider the important question of representation. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) has opened the way to consideration of the numbers and voting rights of Scottish and Welsh Members. This amendment would come into effect only in the event of the Bill reaching the statute book.
There has been a great deal of speculation tonight about whether the Leader of the House would introduce a guillotine motion, thus wielding a sharp instrument against the Bill. But this evening he has dealt the Bill a severe blow with an extremely blunt instrument in the way that he was unable to cope with the questions put to him about what the position of Scottish and Welsh Members would be if the Bill reached the statute book. I find it surprising that Ministers have given so little consideration to this matter, which must by its very nature strike at the heart of the Government's proposals.
The difficulty that we face is not so much one of numbers, because few people 463 would defend passionately the status quo m the number of Members here. At the end of the day a fairly simple arithmetical sum concerning representation in the House would be presented and the House would vote on it. The difficulty concerns the voting rights of Scottish and Welsh Members in this House in the event of Assemblies being set up in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Even if the number of Scottish and Welsh Members were halved the same difficulty would remain. The Committee cannot overlook this difficulty. Least of all can the Government and the Lord President brush aside this difficulty as being of no consequence when it lies at the heart of the debate. It would be a nonsense for Scottish Members to vote on English Bills and not on Scottish Bills and for English Members to be unable to vote on Scottish Bills.
§ Mr. Robertson
The hon. Member's point has little to do with the amendment. The argument put forward by his Front Bench concerned the number of Members elected in Scotland who should come to the House of Commons. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are two factors to be taken into account in determining that number—and he should know this as a Scottish Tory? Not only has population, its sparsity or otherwise, to be considered but area has to be born in mind. Area has always favoured the Tories in Scotland, where there are small electorates in large areas. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that in fairness, if there were to be any cut, each single vote —
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I must remind hon. Members that interruptions prolong speeches and long interruptions prolong them even more.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not need persuading that the number of Scottish Members at Westminster should be retained at 71. But I must relate this to the proposals put forward by the Government. There is, to say the least, a lack of logic in the Government's proposals to retain 71 seats when they have not resolved the problem of how the House of Commons would operate thereafter. That is the crux of the matter. It is not just a difficulty because of party lines. The difficulty is defining when, and in what circum- 464 stances, Scottish and Welsh Members would be able to vote in the House. It is a difficulty which the Lord President and the Speaker's Conference will find virtually impossible to overcome. It is an extremely ticklish problem. I doubt whether any hon. Member is likely to present a solution which will make life easier for the Lord President if the Bill reaches the statute book.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The hon. Member and many other hon. Members have made the same fundamental mistake of believing that this issue has arisen only recently. For a long time there has been separate Scottish legislation on matters such as housing and health. Such legislation can be voted down by English Members. That anomaly has existed for a long time. It is merely sharpened now.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I disagree with the hon. Member. Although we may have, for example, a Housing (Scotland) Bill, it is still essentially a piece of British legislation going through the House, given special consideration by Scottish Members. But it is essentially funded on a British basis although it may be administered from St. Andrew's House rather than from the Department of the Environment.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Is the hon. Member aware, when we consider the question of Bills, that it is not just a matter of funding? There are party considerations, too. In the Scottish Grand Committee the Conservatives have six or seven Members out of 16 hon. Members representing Scottish seats whereas the SNP has only one, or at the most two, out of our 11. The result is that the party situation is weighted against the SNP. Would he care to comment on that?
§ Mr. Fletcher
Not particularly, because it is not relevant to my point. What makes a mockery of the numbers question is the inability of Ministers to hide the fact that the clear motivation behind the Bill is an attempt to save Labour seats in Scotland and Wales. It may be that Ministers have reached the state when they have stopped trying to suggest that any other motivation exists. Ministers, and Members representing Scottish seats, must realise that even a nationalist-ridden oil sheikhdom cannot have its cake and eat it, as the Government propose. That is what the amendment is about.
465 3.0 a.m.
I do not want the price of devolution for Scotland to be so great financially that it would create a tremendous amount of extra government overheads in a country which is already crippled by a two-tier system of local government. It has already been suggested in Committee that to the Assembly should be added a senate. That would result in a bicameral system in Scotland. I do not want the cost of devolution to be measured in terms of loss of Scottish influence here because Westminster will remain the centre of politics.
If the Government had been less panic-stricken about nationalism, they might have thought more about those costs before presenting any devolution Bill to the House. That is particularly so since there are ways of meeting the aspirations of the Scottish people without extracting a price which most people will be unwilling to pay.
I do not suggest that there are any easy ways of finding a solution. Our debates so far have shown that there are not. There are no easy ways, particularly if one wishes to retain the integrity of the United Kingdom and the sovereign Parliament at Westminster. That is the fundamental principle of those who advocate devolution, but it is not the fundamental principle of those who advocate separatism. Federalism has been suggested and it has certain advantages. But the winds of change have not reached anything like that pitch in the United Kingdom.
Having heard the disappointing contribution of the Leader of the House, it is tempting to say that he should take the Bill away and think again. I am sure that that is the best advice that the Committee can give, but in the spirit of 3 a.m. constructiveness I feel that I can throw a life-belt to the Lord President, who has endured much this evening. He might consider my suggestion if he has not closed his mind too firmly on the documents that constitute the Bill.
The possibility of developing and rearranging the strength of hon. Members in the House in any logical manner will be shown more and more to be impossible. The absence of any constructive answers from the Lord President indicates the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of doing that. If the Assembly in 466 Edinburgh were made an upper House of this Chamber rather than a minor House, the solution to our problems might be found. If a directly elected Assembly was the upper House for all Scottish business and we could find a way of bypassing the Lords, our problems might be solved.
I know that the Lord President feels protective towards the House of Lords but my suggestion might resolve the difficulties that he is encountering among hon. Members. Other advantages would be gained. There would be no increase in the cost of government, there would be no loss of Scottish influence and this amendment would not be necessary. Parliament would retain its power at Westminster in association with the upper House in Edinburgh for Scottish business. That would achieve a partial reform of the Lord President's beloved House of Lords. There would be no need for a Scottish senate and there would be a bicameral system for Scottish legislation.
That amounts to something more than was contained in the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who suggested that the present proposals of the Scottish Conservative Party were for nothing more than a directly-elected Select Committee of the House of Commons. It would certainly be considerably more than that. That is something that the Lord President may want to take into account as he becomes more and more desperate at the size and the complexities of the problem that he is facing. I offer the suggestion to him at this early hour of the morning at no extra cost.
I suggest that if the Lord President cannot find some solution of that nature he should, for the sake of his own reputation, take the Bill away, rethink the whole thing, and either keep it from the House altogether or bring it back in a form that will be more comprehensible and much more nearly confined within the constitutional lines of our proceedings in Parliament.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
I should like to make a point on the hon. Member's rather original and vague concept of a Scottish House of Lords—or "Hoose of Lairds". Would its Members be hereditary or appointed—or would they be elected? If so, who 467 would pay their wages, and how would it not cost any extra to the public purse?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I know that it is rather early in the day to stretch the mind of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), but the simple point is that it would be an elected Assembly, as proposed by the Government; it would be in Edinburgh, as proposed in the Bill, and it would undertake the duties of an upper House. Its Members would be paid in the same way as hon. Members are paid.
§ Mr. William Ross
What would happen to the hereditary and other Scots Members who are in the House of Lords? The hon. Member shifts from the Commons to the Lords the problem of how they would vote—or has he not worked that out yet?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am sure that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is aware that his right hon. Friend the Lord President would take good care of those matters. The Lords is a much more flexible place than the Commons. Things are managed much more flexibly there than here.
§ Mr. Leo Abse
I found the contribution made by my right hon. Friend the Lord President yesterday extraordinarily bizarre, because in what was an uncharacteristically dispirited speech he never ceased to emphasise the residual power that the House of Commons was retaining in the devolution scheme. He carefully catalogued all the major matters which would still be under the control and within the surveillance of this House and which would leave full authority—as he believed—to a Member of Parliament representing a Welsh constituency.
I found my right hon. Friend's contribution strange, because I have heard speeches from the Secretary of State for Wales constantly telling the people of Wales how much power was being devolved, reciting in White Paper after White Paper and at party conference after party conference the massive hand-over that was taking place. Those words, spelt out without hyperbole, are contained in each White Paper.
So we have a curious pair of Ministers, one of whom is preaching to us how much power is being retained and the other of whom is preaching how much is 468 being devolved. It is not a very edifying spectacle. It seems at first sight as though two honourable men are behaving with a certain measure of duplicity. As the Leader of the House of Commons is normally always distinguished by his candour, even when the House of Commons may be in disagreement with him, it is not a particularly happy spectacle to believe, as one begins to believe, that there is something lacking in candour in the manner in which the case is being presented.
It is not surprising that the Lord President has contributed a curious combination of diffidence and dogmatism, because in this case the dogmatism betrays, inevitably, the overcompensated doubt. He insists that there will be no change. He calls as his witness what has been said before in past Government declarations. He says that there will be no change at all in the membership of the House of Commons as far as Wales and Scotland are concerned.
When one asks the Lord President again and again for the reasons why he believes that there should be no change, he does not give the reason which I believe to be the reason and by which I stand. I was elected to come to Parliament as a Labour Member. My constituents clearly want to have a Labour Member of Parliament. The overwhelming majority of the people of Wales have shown consistently by their vote that they want a Labour Government.
I do not know why the Front Bench spokesmen should be so lacking in candour that they do not say that the reason why we believe that in no way should the membership be altered is that we proudly believe that the wisdom of Scotland and Wales has in the past ensured that from time to time we have Labour Governments. I believe that to be in the interests of the United Kingdom. When at various times there have been panics in other parts of Britain, as in 1931 we had the benefit in Wales of people keeping their heads and maintaining their Socialist convictions. They were able to stand up against those who were moved so unfortunately by what they believed to be inescapable economic facts.
Therefore, I make no apology for saying that the reason why I oppose the amendment is that, like the speeches 469 from my Front Bench, the amendment lacks candour. It affects to require a Speaker's Conference. Everyone knows what the purpose of that Speaker's Conference would be. It would be to create a situation in which where would be a recommendation, which it would be hoped that the House of Commons would pass, to cut down the number of Members representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies.
Why are we not facing up to the fact that what we are debating when discussing the amendment is the whole future of Labour Governments in this country?
§ Mr. Beith
Is not the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument that we should reward those parts of the country which have consistently shown support for the Labour Party by giving them more seats and reducing the number of seats available to those places that have failed to support the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Abse
The wisdom that has been displayed by Scotland and Wales means that a debt is owed to them by England. The reforming zeal that has so frequently come out of Wales, a reforming zeal which shaped the whole of the Welfare State and which gave us the insurance Acts and health Acts, came out of the deprivation that had been suffered. The dynamic came out of Wales.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
Would the hon. Gentleman care to take his argument further and agree that the cause of Socialism in the United Kingdom as a whole would be advanced even further if there were Labour Governments controlling Assemblies in Scotland and Wales, which could therefore introduce legislation and programmes of action which could provide a Socialist example to the other countries in the United Kingdom?
§ 3.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Abse
I do not believe that the role of Socialists in Wales is to live their lives by a parish pump. They should continue to leaven the political life of Britain as a whole with a spirit of enlightenment, reformism and radicalism. So I oppose the amendment, bluntly and brutally, for the same reasons as those for which it is put forward—political reasons. The Conservative Party naturally wants to obtain Conservative Governments and the Labour Party wants to 470 avoid them. We should face the fact that we are debating a manoeuvre which would make Labour Governments less likely.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
Is not the hon. Gentleman merely postponing the evil day? The change arises not from the amendment but from the Bill. As his hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) so eloquently said, these conflicts and demands were irresistible and will arise with or without the amendment.
§ Mr. Abse
Indeed, but the diffidence of Scottish and Welsh Tories in failing to agree bluntly to the diminution of numbers is due to their fear of offending Wales and Scotland. Why should be deceive ourselves? It is true that, with or without the amendment. there will be a growing demand for the numbers to be cut. When I have said, as I have many times, that the Bill is a trap for the whole British Labour movement, I have been accused of being extravagant and alarmist. This is the moment of truth. Now we see revealed, naked and unashamed, the goal of some hon. Members that the numbers should be reduced.
The reason that the normally resourceful and vigorous Leader of the House provided no adequate reason—if any at all—to justify maintaining the present numbers is that he did not face the fact that each of us who represents a Welsh or Scottish constituency will have no supervision of more than half the work we now do.
Together with the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas), I represent a new town. The part which I represent now comprises more than a third of my constituency. All the powers of funding and appointment, and those relating to shopping and industry in that new town will now be vested in the Cardiff Assembly.
Heaven help my new town if that comes about. If it came about, I should not be in a position to raise the issues with Ministers. I should not be able to raise the major matters that would be involved in the new town.
There will be a total change in the role and the function of every Member of Parliament who represents a Scottish or Welsh constituency. We shall be sharing 471 our work with two others. They will do half the work and we shall be left, perhaps, with the other half. As has been repeatedly said in the House of Commons, there will be an intolerable position. We shall be adjudicating upon matters in English constituencies and the English constituency Members will not be able to adjudicate upon matters in Welsh and Scottish constituencies or to question what is taking place.
It is clear that serious consequences flow. The amendment is an intimation that if this measure is accepted by the people in a referendum, if it ever reaches them, it will mean that the voice of Wales will be muted at Westminster. It will mean that Members here will not be able to speak up on a wide range of issues on behalf of their constituencies. It will mean that Wales would have colluded in a scheme that would result in making it less and less likely in the event that we shall have a Labour Government.
Indeed, it is worse than that. We have heard a great deal in this debate about Northern Ireland as far as the amendment has permitted us to talk about it, and it seems to have permitted us to talk about it a great deal. I hold a minority view on what we should be doing with Northern Ireland. Unlike Scotland and Wales, where the people have by their conduct, behaviour and political expression made it unequivocally clear that they are enmeshed in the life of the United Kingdom, I believe that the destiny of Northern Ireland will be determined in the last analysis by those who live there. I believe that we are in danger of Northern Ireland becoming our Vietnam. We are deceiving ourselves if we believe that we can deal with the matter directly from Westminster. I believe that it will be one more tragic consequence of the Bill if the people of Wales are to be told, as is clearly indicated in the amendment, that they must have fewer Members of Parliament and that the people of Northern Ireland must have more. What a droll consequence that would be.
When the people of Wales understand that that is the bill that will be presented, they will realise that those who have suggested that even if the amendment is defeated the bill so rendered to them will only be deferred have been speaking with 472 authenticity. It does not require many prophetic gifts to realise that the House of Commons will find it increasingly intolerable that there should be an imbalance between the number of Welsh and Scottish Members and other Members of Parliament.
I say to the Committee, as I say to Wales and my constituents, that if it condones the Bill it will mean that the people of Wales will lose a great deal. They will lose having Members who can speak up and out for them as they have had in the past. They will be taking a grave risk in believing that some untried and untested Assembly man in a new institution will perform the traditional role of the Member of Parliament in this Chamber.
I say to the people of Wales as 1 say to the Committee that the voice of Wales will be so muted that it will be inevitable that no longer will Wales be able to throw up such an extraordinary number of major and influential members of Governments. That is because Scottish and Welsh Members will be bound to scrutinise the claims of other Members who will be denying them the right to interefere in any way with issues that are impinging upon them in Scotland and Wales. It will mean that we shall have fewer Welsh Members; it will mean, in short, that our remarkable political history—a political history of the Welsh Labour movement—will shrivel and wither.
For these reasons, and because I do not want it to occur, I shall vote against this insincere amendment, which puts forward a procedure designed deliberately and clearly to bring a little nearer the aim that Welsh and Scottish representation shall be truncated with a view to making it more likely that we shall have permanent Tory Governments. I shall vote against that. I shall do so because if I did not it would bring a little nearer what in any event will come about if the Bill goes through—the probability of the permanence of Tory Governments.
Let my hon. Friends representing English constituencies not believe that what we are discussing affects only Scottish and Welsh Members. If we in Scotland and Wales have regional Assemblies, it is logical and likely that regional Assemblies will spawn in England. Indeed, last weekend, at a local government 473 conference attended by Ministers and the General Secretary of the Labour Party, the view was being canvassed that there should be regional Assemblies in England similar to the Welsh Assembly. That view was put from the platform. It was put in order to present the goal of regional Assemblies for England.
If regional Assemblies spawn on the lines of the proposed Welsh Assembly, it will mean that the whole role of this Parliament will be entirely different. It will mean that we need fewer Members generally, for otherwise we would, as a small nation, be hopelessly over-governed. It begins with Wales, it will end with England.
If any of my hon. Friends believe that he will have placated or bought off nationalism without paying his price, he is gravely mistaken. He will not only lose the possibility of future Labour Governments; he will begin on the road which could be a threat to a considerable number of seats throughout the kingdom. It is bound to mean, in the last analysis, a reduction in the number of Members required to serve in this House if we proliferate government in the form of regional governments throughout the kingdom, as will be spurred on in the North-East, Merseyside and Humberside, jealous, as they will be, of Wales and Scotland, believing that Wales and Scotland have something they have not got, and wanting to join in the fray.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Has my hon. Friend read the article in The Scotsman by David Gow, quoting Mr. Illtyd Harrington, deputy leader of the Greater London Council, as saying:We would like to have comparable powers with the Scottish Assembly, particularly in the fields of financial and planning authority. We are unique in putting a money Bill through Parliament. From this room, where we are sitting, if we include the education authority budget, we are running a budget of £5,000 million a year."?So it goes on.
§ Mr. Abse
It is inevitable. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty, in all his eloquence, said that the Bill would make nationalists of us all. It is already beginning. It is echoed in the North-East and in London. We have started upon a road which can only lead to the most miserable fragmentation. What has 474 happened to this House that it should lose its self-confidence?
What has happened to this nation? Because we have lost an empire, and because we are bewildered, must we feel we can only gain a real identity in the British House of Commons by multiplying ourselves, by creating Assemblies one after the other? What we are demonstrating by this Bill, and what we are discussing, is a failure of nerve and confidence. When we discover that some fringe groups spawn, as inevitably they do, we should hold our nerve just as the Labour movement in Scotland is evidently prepared to do, because according to the latest poll the majority of the Labour electorate is saying that it does not want devolution in any form whatever.
But instead of doing that one simply yields pathetically to the blackmail of Scottish and Welsh nationalism and embarks on a Bill that is the most miserable piece of appeasement comparable to that which took place in pre-war years and against which the Leader of the House so eloquently fought and wrote.
The importance of this debate, and the importance of the Opposition Front Bench amendment, should not be minimised. It is a warning to Wales that if devolution comes to Wales we shall no longer be able to make our proud contribution to Labour Governments. We shall be paying the price for having some wretched white elephant down in Cardiff. We shall be making sure that we shall always have the Tory yoke upon us.
§ Mr. Raison
We have heard some eloquent speeches from both sides of the Committee. I do not propose to be eloquent. I propose to be rather dry and technical. I must start by saying that as one sat here this evening one has wondered how the Lord President will feel when he finally crawls into bed this morning. Will he feel a sense of deep weariness? If so, will it be the weariness of someone who knows that he is on the losing side? The Lord President should also feel a sense of despair because throughout the night he has heard hon. Friend after hon. Friend attacking almost every aspect of this piece of legislation.
I hope the Lord President will also feel a sense of shame because the speech with which he opened the debate was the 475 most shameful that we have heard from him.
I want to take up the point that I made earlier in an intervention when the Lord President was speaking. I asked the right hon. Gentleman to confirm—he did not do so—that under this scheme an hon. Member of the House of Commons can take part in legislation, and question Ministers about any aspect of the United Kingdom just as he can at present. That point was accepted the other day by the Minister of State, and anyone who looks at the Bill will realise that there is no limitation on the powers of Members of Parliament to legislate and question Ministers. There is no limitation at all. The Government hope that there will be a convention by which they will forbear from legislating and from questioning Ministers. We have established that fact.
As I said in my intervention, the logic of this is that this scheme is even more unsuccessful than people have realised. The notion of concurrent powers is an absurdity and a constitutional monstrosity.
The question I wish to put to the Lord President concerns not the powers of Members of Parliament, because those are clear, but the rôle of the Secretary of State. For example, Clause 21 says that things that are basically done at present by Secretaries of State can, in Scotland, be done by the Executive or members of the Executive.
Clause 21 (2) states:The members of the Scottish Executive shall exercise on behalf of Her Majesty such of her prerogative and other executive powers exercisable in or as regards Scotland as relate to devolved matters.In Clause 21(8), we read:The executive powers mentioned in subsection (2) of this section include any executive power conferred on a Minister of the Crown by any enactment passed or made before the passing of this Act; and a member of the Scottish Executive shall perform any duty which by such an enactment is imposed on a Minister of the Crown, so far as it falls to be performed in or as regards Scotland and relates to a devolved matter.Clause 23(1) reads:Where, by or under any Act passed before this Act, any power to make, confirm or approve orders, rules, regulations or other subordinate legislation is conferred on a Minister of the Crown, then, to the extent that it is exercisable exclusively with respect to a devolved matter, it shall be exercisable— 476My question to the Leader of the House is whether those provisions mean that the Secretary of State or the appropriate Minister of the Crown will still be able to exercise the powers which have been conferred on him by Parliament. As I read the Bill, it seems that, just as with legislation there is a concurrent power and this House can legislate as well as the new Assemblies, so in the administration of government it is also the case that the Secretary of State will still be able to perform all these duties which have been imposed upon him by statute. They will, at the same time, as the provisions which I have just read indicate, be done by the Executive or a member of the Executive.
- (a) as regards Scotland, by a member of the Scottish Executive; and
- (b) as regards Wales, by the Welsh Assembly".
But we have to establish whether those powers are transferred from the Secretary of State to the Executive or whether they are, as I suspect, to be concurrent powers. If that is so, once again we see the absurd anomalies which are embodied in so many respects in this legislation. I hope that we shall be given a considered and factual answer to what I believe to be a very important question, even though I may have made it sound rather boring.
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the convention—what I have called previously "the self-denying non-ordinance"—upon which the Government rest their hopes that Members do not continue to take an interest in the affairs of their constituents actually works. Let us suppose, in other words, that the Government's scheme works. What can we expect?
Tonight's debate has established, if it needed establishing, the utter inequity of what is being proposed. I make it clear, like many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that I am not attacking the existing Scottish and Welsh numerical over-representation. I do not wish to see that taken away from the Scots and the Welsh. There are perfectly respectable reasons why it should exist. But, under the new dispensation, it has become utterly untenable.
The problem is that the Government have landed themselves in a situation to which there is no answer under this 477 scheme. They can reduce the number of Scottish Members. That is one answer, and I dare say that that will have to happen. To that extent, therefore, I support my right hon. Friend's amendment. But no one thinks that that is a satisfactory answer. They can try to limit the powers of Members. They can adopt the "in and out" system. But, again, no one thinks that that is a satisfactory system.
There is no satisfactory way of resolving the problem. The Government have come up with a structure which is unworkable. Anyone with a glimmering of instinct for constitution making would say that this attempt to combine the unitary with the devolved can never work. The only way in which it can conceivably work is in a climate of maxium good will on all sides. But we know that two of the parties represented in this House have no good will towards this working. They regard it merely as a half-way step on the road to total separation. We know that there will be far too many people and far too many parties with a vested interest against the scheme working for it to be able to work. We have outlined in debate after debate the endless opportunities for friction which lie in this scheme. These will be exploited by those people who do not want the scheme to work.
The only answer now—and it is becoming more apparent with each Committee sitting—is to scrap the whole scheme and start again, so anomalous and ramshackle is this particular edifice.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On the matter of good will, I would remind the Committee that the Kilbrandon Committee in all its deliberations, and with an approach that was in favour of devolution, made it clear in paragraph 771 of its report that if good will did not exist, and there was no consensus, legislative devolution should not go ahead at all.
The issue which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and I have raised four times is the question whether that hon. Member is right or wrong about raising in this House matters which have been devolved to the Scottish Assembly. The Lord President is too tired to give a full answer now, and I do not expect it. But could we ask that at the beginning of tomorrow's business a statement is made by one of the Law Officers—either 478 the Attorney-General or the Lord Advocate—setting out the facts of the legal situation as seen by him on this question?
If the hon. Member for Aylesbury is right and this Parliament can raise any devolved subjects, why are we bothering to go through this subject at all. What is the point of devolution? If he is wrong, this Committee should be told, because then the whole issue of meddling and interference without responsibility arises.
§ Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)
Does the hon. Member recall that a document sent to Members on 3rd December by the Lord President contained an explanatory note of the purposes of this Bill? It said:Parliament will remain constitutionally able to legislate on any matter. That is the essence of the concept of devolution as distinct from federalism. But the Government expect and intend in practice to stand aside from devolved fields.The Lord President has circulated exact confirmation of what the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) have been saying time and time again in this House.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I go along with that. The intervention by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who was a Minister, prompts me to give an example in relation to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and my constituency. There is, at the moment, a long correspondence in The Times on the issue of Mentmore, which is well known to the hon. Gentleman who is interested in the arts. The fact of life at the moment is that under this Bill I could raise, on an Adjournment debate, the issue of policy in relation to Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. But in relation to Rosebery Place, West Lothian or Dalmeny or the Scottish Historic Buildings Council, I would have no right to raise the matter. This is a crazy situation, and it should not be allowed to continue. What is true in the arts will be equally true in other more important fields. This situation cannot go on.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) said that the Speaker's Conference would find it very difficult. That is part of the trouble in the whole issue which we are discussing. 479 It is no good saying that it will be difficult for the Speaker's Conference. Indeed, it will he difficult, because it will be asked to find solutions to problems for which there are no solutions.
If after all these hours of debate these able Ministers and these clever civil servants, who have worked for so long on this matter, quite aware of the problems that arise, can find no satisfactory answer, how is it imagined that a Speaker's Conference will come up with some kind of solution? This is the problem that faced my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He said that someone in the House might come up with a marvellous idea of how the Scottish Assembly could have taxing powers. If there had been any way in which, painlessly and acceptably, the Scottish Assembly could have levied taxes, my right hon. Friends or the civil servants would have discovered it long ago. The truth is that it is no good shelving it for other people to deal with when there is no solution to the basic problem.
The trouble with the amendment is that the idea that these things can be pushed over to a Speaker's Conference will meet the same kind of difficulties as those described to me by Arthur Woodburn in connection with the 1920 Speaker's Conference. This kind of thing was put to that conference and it found it impossible to provide an answer for the very reason that Mr. Gladstone failed over representation for Ireland.
We therefore come back to the basic proposition that it is no good trying to pass off to a Speaker's Conference, to the House of Commons or to any other body the idea that one can have a legislative Assembly, a subordinate Parliament, answerable only to a part of a unitary State. We are here at this early hour trying to achieve the impossible, and the sooner we recognise that it is impossible the better for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the rest of us.
§ Mr. Sproat
There are many things to be said against an all-night sitting and against debating matters such as this at this hour of the morning. One of the 480 great advantages of having gone all through the night, however, is that it gives the opportunity to make it abundantly clear, by the sheer weight of the momentum of the argument, that what the Lord President is trying to tell us will not stand up to scrutiny. Successive speakers have made it clear that in this matter of representation we are being asked to find an answer to a question for which there is no answer.
It was a privilege to listen to the brilliance, logic and passion of the hon. Members for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) and Pontypool (Mr. Abse). They have travelled very different roads—Socialist roads—talking with candour about the need to maintain the Labour Government as being the motive behind the Bill. But they have arrived at the same destination. It is that there is no way down that road for Tory or Labour Members which fails to arrive at the conclusion that this Bill will lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom.
I wish to direct my attention to what I believe is a "Catch 22" situation. If an Assembly is set up, to have 71 Scottish Members of Parliament is unfair to the Members who represent English seats. On the other hand, if we reduce the number of Scottish Members from 71, that is unfair to the people represented by Scottish M.Ps. Some of the arguments have been advanced many times tonight. But the advantage of these debates is to go on hammering home until the point eventually sinks into the Lord President's head.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. It is not in order for an hon. Member to read a newspaper during the course of the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Sproat
It will not be acceptable to have Scottish Members able to legislate on matters affecting only English constituencies but Members for English constituencies unable to do the same for Scotland. It is no use the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) saying with dour truculence that if the number of Scottish Members is reduced the people of Scotland will not stand for it. That may go down well in Kilmarnock, but it is no use saying it here, when we represent only 10 per cent. of the people. We must be fair. It is no use thinking that Scotland can protect its interests in 481 ways that are not open to other parts of the United Kingdom. This place will work only if each part is given equal and fair weapons to get what it wants.
I think that the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) said in a less aggressive way that English Members would not consider that the position was unfair. They would, because it would be unfair. It would lead to bitterness and divisiveness and to the use of words to which I have objected on several occasions. We are already starting to talk about English Members and Scottish Members. That is a detestable habit which is creeping into the Chamber. It is an inevitable result of this sort of legislation, and it will grow. Hon Members who try to deny that are deceiving themselves, the Committee and the country. If Scottish Members can carry out duties which are not open to Members for English constituencies, unfairness, bitterness, divisiveness, conflict and ultimately fragmentation will result. I very much hope that the Lord President will answer in a straightforward way and factually.
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend is probably right, but we give the right hon. Gentleman every opportunity. He has been asked several times to answer the conundrum of concurrent legislative powers. If the House can legislate on, say, Scottish education, how can it make sense that a Scottish Assembly can also legislate on Scottish education, presumably at the same time? There could be concurrent debates on the same subject, but with different conclusions, possibly because there is a Conservative Administration here and Labour Administrations at Edinburgh and Cardiff, or vice versa. Then two parts of the United Kingdom Parliament would have come to different conclusions. How can anyone say that that is anything other than a recipe for conflict? It is ludicrous.
In a previous debate the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) put a question which was not answered. He asked what would happen if a Private Member's Bill on a devolved matter, such as Scottish housing, was passed by this House and 24 hours later the Scottish Assembly wiped it out. so that we had all wasted our time. Can that happen? 482 The Lord President shakes his head. I do not want him to say that he does not think that it will happen because there is a convention that it will not. Can that happen or can it not? That is what we want to know. If it cannot happen, will the Lord President tell us exactly why?
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
I have not so far taken part in the debate because I am one of the poor English Members. What will be the attitude as and when those people in another place decide that they want an Assembly in Scotland? Do we then start all over again and give the other place a place in Scotland?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be led astray by that intervention. It was quite out of order on the amendment.
§ Mr. Sproat
I was about to deal with it in one crisp sentence. That is the kind of lunacy into which we shall be led by these lunatic proposals. If the Lord President never was logical, if he starts from a lunatic premise, everything thereafter will be lunatic. That is what is happening with the Bill.
If there were fewer than 71 Scottish and 36 Welsh Members in this place, that would be unfair to the people of Scotland and Wales. I do not want to enter into the argument whether the boundaries are correctly drawn and whether the present representation is wrong on that ground. My belief is that they are not. But I go along with the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith)—
§ Mr. Sproat
When I have finished the sentence, I shall give way to my hon. Friend. I go along with the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed who said that those same criteria which apply in Scotland should indeed apply to every other part of the United Kingdom, if possible, but that in Scotland, because of the expanse of land and the islands, it is right and proper that places such as Orkney and Shetland should be individual constituencies—
§ Mr. Sproat
—I shall give way to my hon. Friend shortly—although in population they are not as large as my constituency. I should point out that my constituency is well above the national average in population terms. I agree that there should he the same criteria for England, Scotland, Ulster and Wales. Of course, as has often been said, Ulster is treated most unfairly under the present system.
§ Mr. Budgen
Does my hon. Friend agree that the word should be not "fair" but "equal"? In the past Members of the United Kingdom Parliament have said that they were prepared to accept an unfair and unequal system of representation in the interests of retaining the unity of the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Sproat
I know that my hon. Friend is trying to be helpful. I prefer the word "fair" to the word "equal". The word "equal" has a mathematical connotation, whereas the word "fair" has a much broader connotation. That is what I am seeking to put forward. In general, I should not disagree with my hon. Friend.
It would be a disaster if the number of Scottish MPs were to be cut other than in accordance with those criteria which I have indicated because, if we need that number now to deal with economic, foreign affairs and defence matters, we shall certainly need them in future.
For example, one matter which will be kept in the House of Commons will be control of North Sea oil. Is the Scottish voice on North Sea oil in the House of Commons to be reduced? It is absolute lunacy. I repeat, it is a kind of "Catch 22" situation.
We can have a united Britain with a fair deal for all parts of the country or this Bill. We cannot have both. The Bill is a shambles. If it were ever put into practice, it would surely make the government of the country a shambles.
§ 4.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Emery
I should like to take up a little of the time of the Committee as the time approaches 4 o'clock to consider the Lord President's argument for rejecting the amendment.
484 The theme of part of the Lord President's argument was that the Speaker's Conference in 1944 had set out the whole basis why there should be different representation of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament from English Members. I found what he said somewhat strange, so since the Lord President spoke I have attempted to refer as thoroughly as I can to the Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform and Redistribution of Seats.
I shall refer to the letter from the then Speaker to the Prime Minister after the Speaker's Conference, which in those days was the way of bringing the decisions of the Speaker's Conference to the attention of the House. I have already read out one part of the letter.
Recommendation No. 7, dealing with the permanent rules, states:There shall be no reduction in the present number of Members of the House of Commons for Scotland or for Wales and Monmouthshire.Recommendation No. 9 states:The standard unit of electorate for each Member of the House of Commons for Great Britain shall be a quota ascertained by dividing the total electorate in Great Britain by the total number of seats in Great Britain (other than University seats) existing at the time the Boundary Commission reports.Hon. Members will note that there were university seats at that time.
In fairness, I must mention that Recommendation No. 14 stipulated that there should be 12 Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland. But there is no argument at all in that document, other than the recommendations. Yet, as I listened to the Lord President, I was given the impression that there was a whole basis of strong logic which led to the House of Commons making this decision. One had the feeling that the recommendations were tablets of stone which the Government had to accept, and that we should pay great attention to the decisions of that Speaker's Conference. I would add that Appendix 2 records that the Speaker's Conference rejected by 25 votes to 6 a resolution recommending that no person should vote more than once at any election. I do not think that this suggestion would be very popular today.
We go on from that Speaker's Conference to the House of Commons (Redistribution) Bill. In Hansard of 10th October 1944 we read that Mr. Morrison, 485 referring to the Speaker's Conference, said:But I must make it clear that whilst we have, and quite properly I think, carried out the recommendation of the Speaker's Conference in respect of England and Wales, it does not mean, and of course it cannot mean, that the Government or the House are committed to the view that figures of not less than 71 for Scotland, and not less than 35 for Wales, should stand for all time. There may in the future be such changes in the distribution of population that some alteration of those figures will in fairness be required.I shall read the whole quotation so that I cannot be accused of leaving anything out. Mr. Morrison continued:Unless and until, however, such substantial changes take place and fresh legislation is passed, these provisions which I have mentioned will operate. There cannot, of course, be any commitment beyond that. It must be for future Parliaments and future Governments—and this is the point that I want to emphasise—to decide what is right at the time—and I wish them luck."—[Official Report, 10th October 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1615.]
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has illustrated the point I was seeking to make because if he takes the comparison of the 1944 Speaker's Conference he will see that there has been no alternation in the population which would lead to a change in the sitution. That is shown by the fact that, on the 1939 registers in force in 1944, leaving aside the university seats, the average English electorate was 23 per cent. higher than the Scottish electorate and 16 per cent. higher than the Welsh electorate. The comparable 1975 figures were respectively 24 per cent. and 16 per cent. In other words, the figures are almost unchanged. The point the hon. Member made, quoting from Mr. Herbert Morrison saying that a future Parliament might wish to change these matters, was underlined by the Attorney-General in the Conservative Government of 1958 who said:One ought not lightly to depart from the accepted recommendations of a Speaker's Conference which have stood for so long." —[Official Report, 27th March 1958; Vol. 585 c. 664.]All I am saying is that the same considerations apply now and that is why we were opposed to the reference to the Speaker's Conference even before we embarked on this discussion.
§ Mr. Emery
Taking the right hon. Gentleman's last point first, I suggest that he is now praying in aid something much later than the 1944 conference, namely what a Conservative Minister may have said in 1958. I wish to challenge his figures. He is going back to 1939. The Speaker's Conference we are talking about was held in 1944.
§ Mr. Emery
Perhaps I can give the right hon. Gentleman some figures for 1944.
I refer to Mr. Butler's book "The Electoral System in Britain since 1918", page 215, where it is said that in 1944 it was provided that the total numbers of MPs should not be substantially greater or less than it was then but there should be no reduction in the representation of Scotland or Wales although that gave Scotland one Member for 46,693 electors and Wales one for 51,333 compared with one for 55,693 electors in England.
If, using those figures, we set the English figures as 100, the Welsh figure represents 92.1 per cent. and the Scottish figure 83.8 per cent. The statistical section of the Library has supplied me with figures dealing with today's electorate. These show that the size of the electorate per seat in England is 64,900, in Wales 56,100 and in Scotland 52,200. Again, taking the English figure as 100, that gives a figure for Wales of 86.4 per cent. and for Scotland of 80.4 per cent.—differences of 5.7 per cent. and 3.4 per cent. respectively.
While that is only a partial argument in my favour, the right hon. Gentleman must realise that he cannot rely on the statistical evidence. Recommendations from the Speaker's Conference are not Holy Writ. The recommendations we are talking about were based on a situation which took no account of devolution, when there were not to be 100 or so Members in Assemblies.
The Leader of the House is a fair democrat, whatever the criticisms of him may be. He is a man who wishes to see democratic processes carried out to the best of his ability, so why is he not willing to have the whole matter considered if the Bill does get through? I hope that 487 it does not, but surely one of the ways of stopping the resentment of British hon. Members is to have the matter referred to a new Speaker's Conference. If that were done I could go to my electorate in Devon and say that if the Bill gets through the Government will look into the possible unfairness that might exist in the representation of the different sections of England, Wales and Scotland.
In my area of the South-West people are usually a little slow to catch on to what is happening in legislation. They say that there is too much legislation and ask me to stop it. But now the consequences of the Bill are beginning to get home to them. They are asking what is to happen to England? Will the Bill break up the Act of Union? I shall not make a speech along those lines, as I have argued the case before. But I am trying to get home to the Leader of the House that he must show some flexibility and that this way he loses nothing. I urge him to have second thoughts. Accepting my right hon. Friend's amendment can do no harm.
I reject the argument of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). He said that by accepting the amendment we are likely to confuse the people who think that we are opposing the Bill. That is a false argument.
I urge the Leader of the House to have second thoughts to allow people to see that there is flexibility and to see that if the Government do hammer the Bill through, they will still try to look after English hon. Members and the English electorate.
§ 4.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)
Hearing the speech by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) gives me more confidence to oppose the amendment. I have spend much of the evening thinking that I had sat up all night with the probable result that I would abstain. But now I have confidence to oppose the amendment.
The effect of the measure as a whole is likely to be disastrous. With the exception of voting on the proposal to exclude Wales from the Bill, I have not voted in the Committee. I then voted in support of the Government because it would 488 be undesirable to prevent the Welsh people from having an opportunity to vote in a referendum.
In practice, the vote tonight is probably irrelevant. If the Bill goes through it is likely that some future Government will take the opportunity of readjusting the representation of Members of the House. I see the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) nodding his head. I think that that may well happen at some future time.
I do not pretend that I am unalterably opposed to the idea of devolution. I should be prepared to accept it if I were convinced that it was what the people of Scotland and Wales really wanted, but until we have had a referendum in which a choice of three questions has been given to the people of Scotland and Wales and we know what they feel about the issue I am not prepared to vote on a particular form of devolution on the form that the Assembly should take the powers it should have, or the manner in which it should be elected. I must accept that nevertheless it is possible that the Bill will go through. I do not wish to curtail the debate for those who wish to continue discussing the Bill but I must recognise that there is a distinct possibility that the Bill will go through, whatever my attitude. I therefore have to consider what will be the consequences after the Assemblies have been set up. I feel that what we are doing now is to declare a decree nisi of divorce without having heard any adequate evidence of the breakdown of the marriage. The only evidence that we have is the presence of a certain number of nationalist Members on the Opposition Benches, but that represents no more than evidence of the capacity of the Scottish and Welsh people for flirtation; it does not represent the irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
In the process of passing the Bill we are declaring a decree of divorce without having heard adequate evidence—which we can do only after a referendum—of the breakdown of the Union of the two countries. If we pass the Bill and then hold a referendum the people of Scotland and Wales will be faced with the question: do you approve what Parliament has done? They will be asked to approve what Parliament has done and they will be consequently the more likely to vote in support of it, because Parliament 489 will have given it the seal of approval.
Notwithstanding my reservations and my regret that the Bill is before the House, I must face the possibility of what will happen if the Bill is passed. I accept that if we curtail representation of Wales and Scotland in Westminster after the Bill is passed the likelihood of a further breakdown of the Union will be that much enhanced. So long as we at Westminster have full representation and the power to levy taxation it is here that the real power will lie. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have acknowledged the need for more than numerical representation for the peripheral parts of the United Kingdom. Unless we retain that representation in the future it is likely that we shall have a greater move towards total separation.
In those circumstances I propose to support the Government in resisting the amendment, but I hope that the Government will, even now, have further thoughts and will decide to hold a referendum before proceeding further with the Bill.
§ Mr. Channon
The only moment when I had second thoughts about supporting the amendment was when I heard the view expressed that if it were carried it might help the Bill to get through. I believe that if the Bill is passed—I hope it will not be—it is essential that some provision such as that contained in the amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend should be incorporated in it.
The whole debate to which we have listened is a classic example of the terrible dangers into which the House of Commons is creeping, night after night and day after day, with every hour that we discuss the Bill. We hear Scottish Members and English Members, as we now all think of ourselves, discussing whether they think of themselves as British, Scottish or English, or whatever it may be. All of these matters, which none of us had seriously considered previously, are now coming to the forefront.
We have heard the passionate speeches of the hon. Members for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), Pontypool (Mr. Abse), Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and many others, all of whom give me the feeling that Parliament is sliding into a situation that will get us out of control completely if the Bill passes into law.
490 Until now, I did not believe that there was any English Member who seriously disputed the right of Scotland and Wales to be over-represented here. It was not a subject for discussion. It was not something that English Members even seriously considered. Now, as a result of the Bill, this is a very live issue in the House of Commons and will shortly be so outside it.
In our constituencies it is already to some extent a matter for discussion. If the Bill goes through, it will become a matter for very live discussion. Whatever may happen to the amendment—from the speeches we have heard, it will probably not be accepted by the Cornmittee—this topic will not go away. It will be with us for years to come. There will be a great likelihood of a feeling of burning injustice among English Members if the situation occurs, as it would do in a Parliament of this kind, in which a Government with perhaps a small majority were supported by Members from, say, Scotland or Wales representing smaller numbers of people than those from England and voting on topics in relation to English matters on which English Members would either not have the right to vote legally in Scotland or in Wales or, at the minimum—and we do not know the truth of the matter yet—would be subject to a convention that they should not do so.
All hon. Members will have their onstituency points to make about a matter of this kind. I do not wish to enter into the merits of the controversy I am about to mention. In my constituency there is violent controversy at present about education, and there are strongly held points of view. Hon. Members may take different views about what is right and what is wrong in this matter but it will be thought astonishing, not only in my constituency but all over England, that these matters are to be settled in the future by, perhaps, hon. Members from Scotland who have the right to vote about education matters in my constituency when I shall not have the right to vote on what happens in education in their constituencies. In the long run, people will regard that situation as intolerable.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)
Will this issue be in the hon. Gentleman's election address at the next General Election?
§ Mr. Channon
If the Bill passes into law, it almost certainly will be in my address. I very much hope that the Bill does not pass into law. If it does so, it will be a running sore—a sore that English Members will feel more and more deeply as time passes.
§ Mr. Dalyell
By "running sore" does the hon. Gentleman mean that if he wera member of a Government he would urge that Government to try to repeal this legislation?
§ Mr. Channon
In that unlikely event, I would certainly urge the Government to repeal it. I would willingly wish to repeal it. However, that is not for me to say.
I am in agreement with what the hon. Gentleman said earlier. There is no easy solution to the problem with which the Government have confronted the House. What is the solution? Should we have two categories of Members? Some have canvassed that solution. From the Home Rule Bills of the ninteenth century and later, we all know of the immense practical difficulties that were found in trying to devise a system of having "in and out" Members. It has been said tonight that that is a course to which we might have to come.
Let us take, for example, what happened during last Session. Under the Bill, would Scottish and Welsh Members have been entitled to vote on Guillotine motions introduced by the Lord President? Would that have been a wholly English matter or a matter on which Members in all parts of the House of Commons would have been allowed to vote? Inevitably, there would be immense anomalies in having "in and out" Members entitled to vote on some issues but not on others. It would be an incredibly difficult position for the Committee to adopt. It is a solution that has been examined by many Governments in the past and has always been rejected by them.
Would another answer be rough justice—the ending of the over-representation of Scotland and Wales but the maintenance of their voting rights? That would not be perfect, but there is no perfect solution. The Bill is incapable of amendment to provide a rational solution. Before passing such a measure, the Comm 492 itte should ask that a Speaker's Conference be convened. I agree that the odds are that it will find no solution but it is the counsel of despair to say that nothing should be done.
As 90 per cent, of all hon. Members who have spoken have said, this is a bad Bill. Never have I known a Bill attract such an unending torrent of criticism. Scarcely anyone has spoken in its favour. Representation will matter in the end more than almost anything else, and the answer to that is a Speaker's Conference or something similar to see whether it can reach a rational solution.
§ Mr. Channon
I rather agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but we cannot just let the matter go. I shall vote against the Bill at all stages, as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will, but we should have a Speaker's Conference to examine the representation of Scotland and Wales, England and Northern Ireland, to mitigate the evil effects of a monstrous Bill—a Bill which I hope will in the end be rejected.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
Having sat here continually for 12 hours, I shall not listen to the groans of those who have not been here so long—especially on a matter so important to the Labour Party and the House of Commons.
This debate has provided a fundamental lesson for the Government. Through not listening to members of their party or to public opinion, they have reached an impasse. They have placed before us the simple but crucial question—does support of the Bill produce a future that we do not want for the Labour Party, and will pushing it aside remove the Government's problem?
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) behaved in a devious manner. He seemed to think that the amendment would be supported by hon. Members as they would support a Scottish or Welsh Bill in Standing Committee. The Lord President said that this was not the place to deal with the amendment. The right hon. Member for Down, 493 South (Mr. Powell), in one of the most important speeches on the Bill so tar, made it clear that it would not matter whether the amendment was before us or not. It is inevitable that this question will be with us for some time.
If we accept the Bill and it becomes an Act, without doubt many English Members, and certainly Scottish and Welsh Members, will question the role of Members coming from Scotland and Wales. If the role of those Members is to be anything less than the full-time role of English Members for the reasons that have been given time and time again in Committee, there will obviously be increasing demands for less representation from Scotland and Wales. The corollary of that is simple.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ponty-pool (Mr. Abse), in a speech as important as that made by the right hon. Member for Down, South, took a different but more pungent approach to the problem. He said that the Bill would affect the future of the Labour Party in Great Britain in respect of the Government at the House of Commons or the West-minister Parliament. He made it clear that that was the purpose of the amendment.
If I heard the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire correctly, when he talks about parity of representation he means, without dealing with peripheral matters, representation on a population basis. He talked about 12 extra seats for England, I think, 12 or 10 fewer seats for Scotland and four fewer seats for Wales. He spoke of figures of that sort. Once Members talk in terms of that sort of parity, or once we get future Boundary Commissions dealing with parliamentary boundaries, there will be pressures, if we suffer the great misfortunes of the Bill becoming an Act, that will result in less representation from Scotland and Wales and the likelihood of Labour Governments emerging successfully from General Elections less often.
Anyone who is as honest and frank as my hon. Friend the Member for Ponty-pool can very well be accused of introducing politics into the debate, but that is what it is all about. If I have to make a choice between a Labour Government and a Conservative Government, I 494 do not want to see the Conservatives in power. I accept that a two-party system or a three-party system is essential to democracy, but I do not want to find the cards stacked so much against us, as a result of arguments which have a great deal of plausibility but which cannot be related to reality, that the future prospects of Labour Governments are damaged.
Over the years the Scottish National Party has placed before both parties a situation that I describe as reaction to party rather than to the will of the people. If we are to have a situation in which Members of the House of Commons cannot raise Questions on 27 groupings under the Scottish measures for devolution and 20 groupings under the Welsh process of devolution under Schedules 6 and 7, what worth will a Member have who comes from Scotland or Wales? He will come increasingly to recognise that he is less important in the House of Commons than a Member of the Cardiff or Edinburgh Assemblies? He will soon be able to say "I am only a part-time Member in the House of Commons". He will be increasingly subjected to a position of being in or out, a position in which he is part of a separate certification procedure where he speaks and votes on certain subjects but not on others. Therefore, for the Scottish and Welsh Members there will be great difficulties.
There will be difficulties arising out of the divisions between us. There will be difficulties between Parliament at Westminster and the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies. Again, the Northern Region of England, for example—which has not had much expression in the debate so far —has an important stake in this matter. Many of us from the North are being increasingly pressed on the question of the disparities which are bound to arise out of the establishment of these Assemblies, the representation issue, and the increasing divisions which will arise between Members of Parliament in different parts of the United Kingdom.
We in the North are seeking a fair share of limited resources; we have our unemployment problem; we have a right to our fair share of investment programmes in oil development and construction; we have other problems which are also no less than those of Scotland and Wales.
495 If the Government go much further in this argument and do not listen to Back Benchers on both sides of the Committee, if they do not recognise that there is now a change in the tide of opinion in Scotland and that there was never a tide of opinion in Wales in favour of devolution, if they create these divisions, we shall be brought right to the crossroads where the demand to decrease the number of Members for Scotland and Wales will be real.
It is no good my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales giving us assurances. They have no power to determine what will happen under pressure in future. There are forces in the Committee which are determined to look for parity of representation. There is, indeed, a good sound argument for parity. It might one day satisfy the House but it does not make any sense for a Labour Government, and for a Labour Government to have responded to a minority group and not to the people of Scotland, thus bringing us to this impasse, is a great tragedy.
While I oppose the amendment, I roust not be misunderstood. It is not merely because I say that the timing is not right for the amendment. It is because I see that there is need to appeal again to the Government to respond, for the day of reckoning will come. On that day there will be an explosion of the realisation that this matter must be dealt with. It can be dealt with in only one way, and that is by throwing this rotten potato out of the window now.
§ Mr. George Thompson (Galloway)
Although I see that the clock is winding its way towards 5 a.m., I think I can hardly fail to give some advice to the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Lead-bitter). I remind him of the old English proverbFaint heart never won fair maid".Faint hearts in the Labour Party will surely never win fair Tory voters in England. Surely English Socialists must have something wrong with them if they have concluded that they can never hope to have a Labour Government in England unless they have Scottish and Welsh Members to provide them with a majority. I would say to them "Take 496 heart. Preach your gospel to the people of England. Perhaps they will listen, perhaps they will not."
I sometimes have the pleasure of appearing on that bicultural medium Border Television. I tell English Members who are debating with me that if they feel that the North of England needs a regional Assembly they should ask for it and very likely the Government will give them it. [AN HON. MEMBER: "From a crock of gold."] If the Government have crocks of gold, no doubt they will give it to them.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
It is not a question of faint hearts. Every hon. Member who spoke about representation has made it abundantly clear that the traditional representation from Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons is something that we all appreciate and want. Rather than express a faint heart, we are seeking to express our faith in a system that has enriched this House of Commons.
§ Mr. Thompson
I do not want to go down the lane that the hon. Gentleman has kindly opened up in front of me. But I am bound to say that it was he who feared that there would never be a Labour Government in England if there were no Scottish or Welsh Labour Members.
When we talk about peripheral areas, it seems to me that almost the whole of the United Kingdom is peripheral to London. We have been told that we should not talk of Scottish, Welsh, English or Northern Irish Members. Why not? We talk about Scottish Questions and the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have a Scottish Grand Committee, which some of us came down to attend yesterday but discovered that it was not sitting. Nevertheless, it exists and it sits.
We have been told by several hon. Members about the numerous Back Benchers who have spoken against their own Government's propositions. Some of those hon. Members must be suffering from an optical or an oral illusion. They have added up all the interventions and speeches of hon. Members such as the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and have come to the conclusion that the number of Back Benchers speaking against the Government are legion. That is not so.
497 If I remember the history of Scotland well, one of the sticking points when the Commissioners met to negotiate the parliamentary Union in 1706 concerned representation. The Scottish Parliament insisted on the number of representatives being increased. I admit that the mystical number of 71 had not been attained at that time. Perhaps the Lord President, or whoever replies, can tell us when that mystical number was invented.
I wanted to emphasise the point that apparent or real over-representation depends in part on the sparsity of population. My constituency is an example of that. A mountain mass lies between us and South Ayrshire. While it may be possible to adjust the boundaries between the constituency in Galloway and Dumfriesshire, I do not think it would be easy to adjust the boundaries with South Ayrshire, in spite of the Forestry Commission having built many roads over the hills and through the valleys.
The Tories in Galloway have been telling us that the Bill will reduce the representation of Galloway. In fact, what is happening is that the Tories are endeavouring to reduce the representation of Galloway in the House of Commons.
As long as the House deals with important aspects of Scottish life, as it will, even in a devolved situation, foreign affairs and European Economic Community affairs—these will loom larger and larger in our national life and they will all be dealt with from the House—that is one reason why we must continue to have the representation that we have today.
It would be quite acceptable, in my view, that Scottish and Welsh Members should abstain or, it necessary, should be debarred from voting on English matters. This is quite feasible. My hon. Friends and I normally observe this self-imposed convention, and we do not find that it works so badly. After all, it is perfectly possible to characterise Bills as referring to Scotland, to England or to Wales. If I am not mistaken, the Committee presided over by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) recommended that in future English and Welsh Bills should have a parenthetic addition like Scottish Bills have, so that their titles include the 498 word "England" or the word "wales" in brackets as we at present do with the word "Scotland" in our legislation.
§ Mr. Tebbit
would the hon. Gentle man feel that he had the right to take part in a vote of no confidences?
§ Mr. Thompson
In so far as a vote of confidence is about the Government, who deal with these important aspects of Scottish life, yes, I should feel perfectly entitled to vote.
During this debate I have felt that the arguments deployed have frequently veered towards suggesting federalism as the proper solution. It would make clear distinction between what was given to the subordinate Assembly and what was not, and it would clarify the issue much better than the present Bill does. Naturally, I do not want to argue for federalism, because that is not what my party stands for—
§ Mr. Thompson
Yes, Sir Myer. I agree, and I am grateful to you for pointing that out to me. I have endeavoured to keep within the bounds of order, but I realise that the temptations are very great and that some of us are tempted down side tracks.
If the number of Scottish Members in the House of Commons is reduced, the Scottish people will see that their best course of action is to assume full responsibility for their own affairs and they will draw the logical conclusion. My hon. Friends and I can never accept a reduction in the number of Scottish Members in the House until the day comes when we all pack up our bags and go home for good. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In that case, this honourable House of Commons will revert to being the Parliament of England which so often it has psychologically remained. I put it to the Committee that perhaps the simplest solution to cut all the Gordian knots that we have discussed in this debate would be for Scotland and England both to resume their independence, and to allow Wales to do likewise.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On a point of order, Sir Myer. Is it right that the Lord President should be called to address the Committee again on this amendment when certain hon. Members have not had an opportunity to contribute to the debate?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
It is quite in order for the Lord President to address the Committee again, and the choice of speakers is a matter entirely for the Chair.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. Is it not right that, in a Committee stage, the Lord President should seek leave to speak again?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the Committee. This is a Committee stage, and there is no need for the Lord President to ask leave to speak again.
§ Mr. Foot
Some hours ago I delivered a speech which, as I recall, did not meet with immediate acclaim and approval in every part of the Committee I seem to have become aware also that, during the debate, a critical tone crept into some of the speeches. I seek to intervene again to deal with some aspects of the matter. I do not propose to traverse the same arguments and the same aspects as before. Instead, I shall deal directly with some of the essential and immediate points which arise from the amendment. These turn partly on the question of the reference of some of the matters to a Speaker's Conference.
We should all agree that the question of in-and-out membership of the House of Commons, or first and second-tier membership, is not a matter which can be referred to a Speaker's Conference in any sense. This is a matter on which the House must make up its mind during the course of the Bill. I do not believe that any solution we arrive at could possibly incorporate that principle. We must make up our minds to abjure that principle whatever consequent difficulties or embarrassments arise.
§ Mr. Amery
Does the Lord President appreciate that if we have Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff we shall, in fact, be introducing a two-tier system in the 500 House and that it will be extremely difficult for Scottish and Welsh Members to be appointed as Ministers for health or education, for example? The Bill will neuter Scottish and Welsh Members to some extent.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not accept that at all. We should not work on the principle that we are establishing two categories of Members of Parliament. Whatever differences we may have on how the Bill applies, we should all agree that the question of categories of hon. Members is not a proper matter for a Speaker's Conference. That is the issue we are debating in the amendment.
I emphasise the point I made in reply to the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery), who challenged what I said about the Speaker's Conference. He thought I was speaking derogatorily about the Speaker's Conference. I believe that it is the proper way, according to our traditions and methods, for dealing with representation in the House in certain circumstances. That has been the principle on which we have operated many other electoral requirements. They have been dealt with by a Speaker's Conference, and that is reasonable.
We have argued however, that on the basis of the figures which I quoted there is in the situation since 1944 no case for altering the grounds for reference of this issue to a Speaker's Conference. On the 1939 registers, which were in force in 1944, the English electorates were on average 23 per cent. higher than Scottish electorates and 16 per cent. higher than the Welsh. The comparable 1975 figures were 24 per cent. and 16 per cent. respectively. The figures are almost unchanged. When these matters were examined in 1944, there was a considerable weighting in favour of Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, against English representation.
Those figures, which were reviewed by the Speaker's Conference in 1944, are almost the same as the figures which prevail today. On those grounds, therefore, there is no case for a reference of the matter to the Speaker's Conference. We believe that as there has not been a great change in the circumstances we should try to sustain the situation.
As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Honiton, that is not merely my view. 501 It was the view which was upheld by the Conservative Attorney-General in 1958 when there was a redistribution of seats. He said that one should not lightly depart from the accepted recommendations of a Speaker's Conference which have stood for a long time. As there was a case in 1958 for holding to the 1944 recommendations, so I say that there is a case for doing the same today.
That was the principal ground on which the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition made an approach to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister urging that the whole question of representation in this House of Commons should be referred to a Speaker's Conference. This was proposed by the official Opposition before any question of devolution was proposed. The Opposition were not urging that it should be done on the basis of devolution. That is a perfectly legitimate position for the Opposition to adopt. They are perfectly entitled to make such recommendations about having the matter referred to a Speaker's Conference. Equally, we are entitled to tell the House—since the matter affects this debate—the grounds on which we believe that there should be no such reference.
Furthermore, our view is that the devolution debate does not alter the situation. There may be a case at some future stage for referring these matters to a Speaker's Conference, but we say that it would be wrong for the House to say that that should happen now. In a sense, it would be the more dangerous because the whole of such a reference would become involved in the very questions of devolution—such as first and second-class membership—which have figured prominently in our debates today. That would lead to a distortion rather than a proper estimate of how we should deal with the situation.
§ Mr. Emery
The Lord President's argument is that we do not easily move away from recommendations of a Speaker's Conference when those recommendations have stood for many years. But the Labour Party has already moved away from four of the recommendations of the Conference on the questions of two constituencies and double voting. The Labour Party has not worried about this principle previously.
§ Mr. Foot
Many of these matters have been referred to Speaker's Conferences. Many of these matters have been dealt with by mutual agreement between the parties. But there is no case now for a reference of the question of changing representation to a Speaker's Conference.
Some of my hon. Friends have used arguments of a different character. They have said that what we propose in the Bill would be damaging to the Labour Party and the Labour movement. In my opinion, nothing could be more damaging to the Labour Party and its good name for us to go back on the pledges we gave to the Labour movement in Scotland, Wales and the country as a whole, and to go back on the understanding that we reached. That would be the most damaging course of all, particularly if it were associated with any yielding to the propositions from the official Opposition in the debate today.
I trust that, whatever differences there may be about other matters, all my hon. Friends will join the Government in resisting the amendments, which could be damaging to not only the Labour Party but the country as a whole. I repeat that nothing could do more injury to the long-term unity of the United Kingdom than that we should embark upon the kind of alterations in the whole of the representation in the House that the Opposition appear to be urging upon us. Therefore, I appeal to my hon. Friends to resist the amendments.
§ Mr. Brittan
When, a very long time ago, the Lord President opened his side of the debate, he made a speech which many on both sides of the Chamber will have regarded as ragged, tawdry and profoundly unconvincing. Whether that speech was more damaging to his reputation or to the Bill I leave to the Committee to judge, but one thing that is clear is that any damage to the right hon Gentleman's reputation or to the Bill caused by his first speech was not rectified by the second, which answered none of the substantial points made on both sides of the Committee.
§ Mr. Kinnock
During the course of the Bill's passage the hon. Gentleman and I will have occasion to be in close sympathy with one another, but does he not do his cause a great deal of harm by that kind of 503 personal attack on my right hon. Friend, with whom I have the most profound differences on the Bill?
§ Mr. Brittan
The Lord President started his initial observations by objecting to the form of the amendment. It is well known that there are inevitably constraints on an Opposition in putting down amendments to a restricted Bill of this kind, restricted by the way in which the Government have chosen to present it. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that, as was made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), we are very anxious that the Speaker's Conference should consider more than the consequences of the Bill for the representation of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom generally. If the right hon. Gentleman had been inclined to respond to the debate constructively, he would have recognised that nothing in the amendment would confine the Speaker's Conference to Scotland and Wales. The amendment deals specifically only with Scotland and Wales, but the Speaker's Conference would be entitled to go well beyond those two countries.
Next, the right hon. Gentleman cavilled at the date. He knows that 1st Janunary 1978 was included precisely to avoid the accusation that the amendment's purpose was to delay the implementation of the Bill, if it passes through the House. That was an unworthy and trivial argument too.
Then the right hon. Gentleman complained that it was illogical or improper that the Speaker's Conference should be bound up with the Bill. But the suggestion of a Speaker's Conference was made by my right hon. Friend because we did not believe that there was a ready answer to the problems presented by the Bill. There is no simple solution, although the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), on behalf of the Liberal Party, put forward a solution and criticised the official Opposition for not coming up with a firm proposal. It is because the problems of representation are peculiarly intractable, and because we do not have a dogmatic answer, that we have suggested that the matter should be referred to a Speaker's Conference. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) regarded it as an unsuitable 504 vehicle because it was a political body and its recommendations were not always followed.
I suggest that, precisely because it is a political body which produces recommendations which do not have to be followed automatically, it is peculiarly suitable to consider this matter. Ultimately the decisions have to be taken in the House of Commons. Ultimately the Speaker's Conference reports to the House and the House decides whether and to what extent to accept the recommendations. Therefore, we are not taking a decision away from the House. Quite the reverse. We are suggesting a Conference that would have the opportunity to consider the various alternatives put before it in a more considered way than the House of Commons could possibly do by amendments put before it in Committee. It is an entirely rational and reasonable proposal to put before the Committee for dealing with these problems.
In opening and in replying to the debate, the Lord President said that no change whatsoever was called for. He gave no explanation of why no change was called for. Indeed, he gave no justification and he refused to recognise that any problem existed. Particularly in replying, he concentrated on trying to bemuse the Committee with what amounted to a red herring of an argument. The fact that the idea of a change in the representation of Scotland and Wales has been put forward outside the context of the Bill does not in any way affect the argument when we come to consider the Bill. Whether or not there was justification for altering the representation of Scotland and Wales when there was no Bill, of one thing we can be quite clear: that the Bill makes all the difference in the world and completely alters the situation regarding representation.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Is it not the fact that the Kilbrandon Report suggested that the representation of Scotland and Wales should be adjusted if devolution were implemented?
§ Mr. Brittan
My hon. Friend is right. The Kilbrandon Report suggested exactly that. The Lord President completely ignored that point, although it was made in the debate before my hon. Friend's 505 intervention. That matter has not been dealt with at all. As has been repeatedly pointed out, the effect of the Bill will be that many of the most important political questions affecting Scotland and Wales will be decided in Scotland and Wales, not at Westminster. Yet exactly the same kind of matters affecting England will be decided at Westminster, and Scottish and Welsh Members will not only be able to consider them but may provide the crucial votes that determine the outcome. To say that the question of the representation of Scotland and Wales is not affected by the passage of the Bill is a manifest absurdity, and the Lord President knows it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) pointed out that in theory it would be possible for the House of Commons to pass legislation affecting Scotland and Wales, even in the devolved areas, but that, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) pointed out, unless regular use was made of what was meant to be an irregular power it would be illogical to keep the representation the same as it is now after the Bill comes into effect. As the right hon. Gentleman described it, this very problem is the explosive charge that will blow the Bill to pieces.
The effect of devolution on representation was recognised with the reduction in the numbers of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament. As my hon. Friends the Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) pointed out, the Kilbrandon recommendation recognised that a devolution measure cannot be passed without having consequences for the representation of the part of the country to which devolved powers are passed.
It is absurd to suggest that there is no problem. The Lord President certainly pointed out some of the difficulties of one of the solutions which has been proposed—the in-and-out solution—which was canvassed in the Home Rule debates at the end of the nineteenth century. The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson) seemed to think that that procedure was acceptable, but on this occasion I am inclined to agree for once with the Lord President that the solution is not acceptable. The truth is 506 that there is no solution to this problem because of the nature of the Bill. The principal benefit of the amendment is that it has compelled us all to face the consequences of passing a Bill of this kind.
As has been pointed out in the debate, there may be a heavy price to pay for the Bill. It is right that before continuing our consideration of the Bill the Committee should consider whether the price is worth paying. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said that we must spell out to the people of Wales and Scotland the cost of these proposals. It may be that the price is not worth paying. As the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) said, the Bill will make nationalists of us all. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) said that we are now beginning to think and talk of ourselves as English Members in a way which never happened before the Bill was presented. The amendment has forced the Committee to face the consequences of the Bill.
Some Labour Members recognise the consequences in their heart of hearts but are rather more candid than other Labour Members and say that although they recognise the consequences of the Bill they will oppose the amendment because it might lead to fewer Labour Members. To those hon. Members I say that if the amendment is defeated the issue will not go away even if the Bill is passed. Future Parliaments and future Governments will have to resolve the question. It would be much more conducive to the unity of the United Kingdom, however, to consider this question in conjunction with the Bill rather than have to face it much later after the passage of the Bill, when there will be a real risk that the problem of representation will be posed in a spirit of anger and resentment instead of the readiness for rational discussion which is enshrined in the amendment and which leads me to commend it to the Committee.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South) (seated and covered)
On a point of order, Sir Myer. As we have no 507 guillotine on this debate, will you advise us why the Government find it necessary to close the debate now when some hon. Members have been here for seven hours waiting to speak? Is this simply another example of English gerrymandering?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Nobody closed the debate. No hon. Member rose to speak when the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) sat down.
§ The Committee having divided: Ayes 199, Noes 277.511
|Division No. 54.]||AYES||[5.13 a.m.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gray, Hamish||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Alison, Michael||Grieve, Percy||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Griffiths, Eldon||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Arnold, Tom||Grist, Ian||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Grylls, Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Awdry, Daniel||Hall, Sir John||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Baker, Kenneth||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Banks, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Hannam, John||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Benyon, W.||Hastings, Stephen||Raison, Timothy|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Havers, Sir Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Biffen, John||Hawkins, Paul||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hayhoe, Barney||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Blaker, Peter||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Higgins, Terence L.||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Holland, Philip||Rhodes James, R.|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hordern, Peter||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Brittan, Leon||Howell, David (Guildford)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brotherton, Michael||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Buck, Antony||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hurd, Douglas||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hutchison, Michael Clark||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Burden, F. A.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Jopling, Michael||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Shepherd, Colin|
|Channon, Paul||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Shersby, Michael|
|Churchill, W. S.||Kershaw, Anthony||Silvester, Fred|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Kilfedder, James||Sims, Roger|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cope, John||Knight, Mrs Jill||Speed, Keith|
|Cordle, John H.||Lamont, Norman||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Crowder, F.P.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Lawson, Nigel||Sproat, Iain|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lloyd, Ian||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Loveridge, John||Stanley, John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Macfarlane, Neil||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||MacGregor, John||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Durant, Tony||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Eden, Rt Hn Sir John||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Elliott Sir William||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Emery, Peter||Marten, Neil||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Mather, Carol||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Trotter, Neville|
|Fell,Anthony||Mayhew, Patrick||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Mills, Peter||Wakeham, John|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Moate, Roger||Wall, Patrick|
|Forman, Nigel||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Walters, Dennis|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Neave, Airey||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Nelson, Anthony||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Neubert, Michael||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Newton, Tony||Younger, Hon George|
|Goodhew Victor||Normanton, Tom|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Nott, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gorst, John||Onslow, Cranley||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Osborn, John|
|Abse, Leo||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Allaun, Frank||Flannery, Martin||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Archer, Peter||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Meacher, Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Ashton, Joe||Ford, Ben||Mendelson, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Forrester, John||Mikardo, Ian|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Freeson, Reginald||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Freud, Clement||Molloy, William|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Bates, Alf||George, Bruce||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bean, R. E.||Gilbert, Dr John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Beith, A. J.||Ginsburg, David||Moyle, Roland|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Golding, John||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Gould, Bryan||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Graham, Ted||Newens, Stanley|
|Bishop, E. S.||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Noble, Mike|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Grant, John (Islington C)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Grocott, Bruce||Ogden, Eric|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Hardy, Peter||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Harper, Joseph||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Bradley, Tom||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Ovenden, John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Padley, Walter|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Palmer, Arthur|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Park, George|
|Buchan, Norman||Heffer, Eric S.||Parry, Robert|
|Buchanan, Richard||Henderson, Douglas||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Hooley, Frank||Pendry, Tom|
|Campbell, Ian||Horam, John||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||price, William (Rugby)|
|Cant, R. B.||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Radice, Giles|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Rees Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Carter, Ray||Huckfield, Les||Reid, George|
|carter-Jones, Lewis||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Cartwright, John||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Hunter, Adam||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Cohen, Stanley||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Coleman, Donald||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Roper, John|
|Conlan, Bernard||Janner, Greville||Ross Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Ross Rt Hon w. (Kilmarnock)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Cowans, Harry||John, Brynmor||Sandelson, Neville|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford Scuth)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Shore, Rl Hon Peter|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Cryer, Bob||Judd, Frank||Sillars, James|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten)||Kaufman, Gerald||Silverman, Julius|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kelley, Richard||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kerr, Russell||Small, William|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Kinnock, Neil||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lambie, David||Snape, Peter|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lamborn, Harry||Spearing, Nigel|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Deakins, Eric||Leadbitter, Ted||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Stoddart, David|
|Dempsey, James||Litterick, Tom||Stott, Roger|
|Doig, Peter||Loyden, Eddie||Strang, Gavin|
|Dormand, J. D.||Luard, Evan||Swain, Thomas|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Duffy. A. E. P.||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Dunn, James A.||McCartney, Hugh||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Dunnett, Jack||MacCormick, Iain||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||McElhone, Frank||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Eadie, Alex||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Thompson, George|
|Edge, Geoff||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||MacKenzie, Gregor||Tierney, Sydney|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Maclennan, Robert||Tomlinson, John|
|English, Michael||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Torney, Tom|
|Ennals, David||McNamara, Kevin||Urwin, T. W.|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Madden, Max||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Magee, Bryan||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Mahon, Simon||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Marks, Kenneth||Ward, Michael|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Watkins, David|
|Watkinson, John||Whitlock, William||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Watt, Hamish||Wigley, Dafydd||Woodall, Alec|
|Weetch, Ken||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Woof, Robert|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Wellbeloved, James||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Welsh, Andrew||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|White, Frank R. (Bury)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|White, James (Pollok)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)||Mr James Tinn and|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)||Mr. James Hamilton.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. John Smith.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.