HC Deb 13 January 1977 vol 923 cc1720-77

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)

I beg to move Amendment No. 351, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'Scotland and'.

The Chairman

With this we may take the following amendments:

  • No. 352, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'parts' and insert 'part'.
  • No. 54, in Clause 2, page 1, line 15, leave out 'a Scottish Assembly and'.
  • No. 70, in Clause 2, page 1, line 19, leave out 'Scotland and'.
  • 1721
  • No. 72, in Clause 2, page 1, line 20, leave out 'respectively'.
  • No. 91, in Clause 3, page 2, line 11, leave out 'Scottish or'.
  • No. 254, in Schedule 1, page 69, line 6, leave out 'for Scotland or the Boundary Commission'.
  • No. 260, in Schedule 1, page 69, line 29, leave out from '1972' to 'shall' in line 31.
  • No. 262, in Schedule 1, page 70, line 2, leave out 'Scotland and'.

Mr. Sproat

We are setting out on what will be a very long and, I suspect, very rough journey. The amount of time taken by the discussion that we have already had this afternoon and the problems that we have had with what would normally be fairly straightforward procedural matters indicate some of the snares, dangers and absurdities into which the Bill will lead us.

I am glad that the first amendment to be considered is to leave out Scotland from any of the effects of the Bill. It is clearly one of the most important amendments, and it is appropriate that it is the first to be considered. It contains within its fairly broad ambit many of the important principles which we shall be considering.

It has been said this afternoon that no one will have to filibuster during this Committee stage. I am aware of the difficulties of trying to compress within a reasonable length of time all that I want to say. I shall leave to other hon. Members many of the fair and apt points which I could make.

Before I give some of the reasons why Scotland should be left out, I want to place on record one of the reasons why I find the Bill so detestable. It is that as a Member for a Scottish seat, I know that the prime motive for the Bill is fear—fear of the Scottish National Party. I do not say that that is the prime motive of every hon. Member. We all know that the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) has been campaigning for years for some sort of Scottish Parliament, and that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), once rejoiced in the nickname of "the hammer of the Nats". But the hon. Gentleman changed his mind. So long as one does not change one's mind frivolously or too frequently, there is nothing wrong in changing it.

I am not imputing to everyone ignoble motives, but fear is the prime motive of the Labour Government. If they did not fear that they would lose seats to the SNP at the next election, particularly in the West Central belt of Scotland, they would not have thought twice about bringing the Bill before the House.

It is humiliating that we should not only be wasting our time today but wasting the time of the House for many months to come, when we are in the middle of what is arguably the worst crisis that many of us have known, certainly the worst peace-time crisis, debating an act of political appeasement. The Bill is foolish appeasement, because it would not work even if it were to be passed. It is an act of political cowardice.

I move to some of the reasons why I want to see Scotland left out of the Bill. The first is that it will mean more government. Every party thinks that we are over-governed. Under the Bill we would have six tiers of government in Scotland. This point must be hammered home time after time. The danger is that the arguments are so obvious, so indisputably true, that we shall stop making them.

If the Bill is passed there will be six tiers of government in Scotland—community councils, district councils, regional councils, a Scottish Assembly, the House of Commons and the European Parliament. It is no use hon. Members saying that we can get rid of one tier—that we can get rid of the regions or the districts—because the Government have already said that it is not their intention to do so. We would therefore be landed with six tiers of government, and Scotland would be the most over-governed country in the world. However, that is something which other Members will take up, and I leave that issue there for the moment.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the dangers of over-government and the number of tiers of government. Like myself, he strongly campaigned for Britain's continued membership of the European Parliament, which added another tier of government. Did he allow that consideration to deflect him from his wish that we should belong to the Community?

Mr. Sproat

No, it did not. We were talking then of five levels of government; now we are talking of six. That goes too far.

Mr. Mackintosh rose——

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian will have a chance to intervene later. It is not I but the Government who are proposing six tiers.

Mr. Mackintosh

The hon. Member has bored people to death for years about this. There is no provision in the Bill for six tiers of government. The provision is that local government shall come under the control of the Assembly and that it can be altered by the Assembly. There is no provision for six tiers. The Assembly is not an extra tier but a method of controlling an existing bureaucratic tier which exists in St. Andrew's House. The hon. Member would carry more conviction if he paid more attention to the facts.

Mr. Sproat

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should introduce personal acrimony at such at early stage.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

The hon. Member is used to that. Give us some names.

Mr. Sproat

Not on this occasion. Perhaps, as the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian says, a Scottish Assembly will want to get rid of another tier of government, but that is not what is said in the Bill. I put it to him that if it is within the power of a Scottish Assembly to decrease the amount of local government in Scotland it is equally in its power to increase it.

We are talking not about what a future Scottish Assembly may do but about the Bill, which adds another tier of government.

Mr. Mackintosh

It does not.

Mr. Sproat

Hon. Members may split semantic hairs as long as they like, but to everyone in Scotland a Scottish Assembly means adding another tier of government. The Government believe that that is justified. I do not. Whether or not it is justified, it is certainly another tier.

An Assembly will mean more civil servants. Almost all hon. Members believe that we have too great a bureaucracy already, and yet here we are, at one step, adding another 1,000 civil servants by the Bill. Our experience of local government reform—indeed, of almost every reform—is that it increases the number of civil servants. That is another reason why many people in Scotland, as over the coming months they more closely consider what the Bill means, will reject it. The Bill means more government, more civil servants and more expenditure. The Government are desperately trying to cut public expenditure and yet they bring forward a Bill that increases public expenditure, which will inevitably lead to higher taxation.

These arguments have been rehearsed frequently before, as the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian said. Unfortunately, he was not in his place when I began my speech and when I said that it was necessary to hammer home that point.

Mr. Mackintosh

I was here.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Member may have been here all afternoon, but if he had been in his place, as he should have been at the beginning of the Committee stage, he would have heard me deal with that argument.

We all agree that there should be more decentralisation. The Bill will achieve not more decentralisation but government centralised in Edinburgh. In my region that is an unwelcome move in principle, and also because we know that any Scottish Assembly is likely to be dominated by Strathclyde, for understandable demographic reasons. At present Strathclyde is Socialist-dominated. I do not take exception to that.

I do not object to domination by the Socialists, because I take the argument above the level of whether the Bill will benefit the Conservatives or the Labour Party. Even if it were a Conservative-dominated Assembly I should be disturbed to find such a small area politically dominating Scotland because it has the most voters in it. The people of my region and the Shetland Region feel that they get a fairer crack of the whip from Westminster than they would from a Scottish Assembly that will be dominated by Strathclyde, whether through Conservatives, Socialists or Liberals.

Decentralisation will not be served by the Bill. The imposition of the will of Strathclyde would not be to the benefit of Scotland as a whole or to the other regions.

My next point is one of important principle. The greatest reason why I oppose the Bill—why I am moving this amendment—is that I believe that in a Scottish Assembly we are setting up the momentum towards the fragmentation of the United Kingdom. That is why the Scottish National Party wants it. The party openly admits it. It supports the Bill because of the belief that it will be the first step towards a separate Scotland. That is what I seek to avoid.

There are those who say that even if 95 per cent. of the people of Scotland do not want to see Scotland separate—and I believe that that is the number—a small nationalist party could, in effect, lead, drive or nudge Scotland towards separatism. Without our wanting it, Scotland would be edged toward separatism, because everything that went right in Scotland—economically, for instance—would be attributed to the benevolent effects of the Scottish Assembly. That is what certain people would say. For everything that went wrong with Scotland, on the other hand, they would say "This is because we are still partly shackled to Westminster. Get rid of the United Kingdom domination and England and things would go better for us." They would use every opportunity to drive a wedge between the people of Scotland and of England. That is why I am opposed to it.

7.30 p.m.

I believe a Scottish Assembly to be a guaranteed recipe for conflict. That is not just my view. It is not just the view of my hon. Friends and some Labour Members. I want to use this opportunity, in the first debate in this very long debate on the Scottish Assembly, to place on record what other very important bodies in Scotland feel, because some hon. Members, particularly those who sit for English constituencies, may be under a misapprehension. Listening to the SNP and the Government Front Bench, they may think that all the official bodies in Scotland are in favour of this. On the contrary, that is not so. I want to indicate some of the important bodies that at this stage I want the House to know are totally against what the Government are trying to do to Scotland.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

Will the hon. Gentleman make amends for continuing to repeat over and over again arguments that we have heard previously, by doing the Committee a favour and applying his amendment to the next part of the clause and telling us why he is in favour of the changes proposed in the Bill for Wales?

Mr. Sproat

No, I shall not do that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to wait until we reach the next group of amendments and discuss Wales. That is the appropriate time to discuss the Welsh situation.

At this stage I want to get on record in this Parliament what one or two other bodies in Scotland—bodies with which I was in touch this morning—have said. I have in my hand a message from the Chairman of the CBI in Scotland. I shall not read out all of it. I pick out one or two important points that the chairman, Mr. Hardie, makes. He says, The CBI in Scotland oppose the Government's proposals in this Bill because the motivation for the proposals is clearly political and there would be no advantage to industry from their implementation. That is his general background feeling about the Bill.

The chairman makes another point about extra government, which I have already made. He makes a third point about extra cost, which I have already made and shall not go into in greater detail. However, the fourth point that the CBI makes concerns something that the House ought to consider very carefully. The chairman says, The proposals would endanger the industrial and commercial unity of the United Kingdom with obvious threats to the job security and prosperity of Scotland. This is something—[Interruption.] The hon. Member interrupting from a sedentary position, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, will be aware of the changing mood in the trade unions as well. The Chairman of the CBI is talking about industry as a whole and saying that the Bill is a threat to jobs. Goodness knows, unemployment is terrible enough in Scotland at present. The Chairman of the CBI is talking about the jobs and prosperity of the Scottish people as a whole.

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the CBI said exactly the same thing about entry or non-entry into the Common Market. Given that we have experience of the value of the CBI's judgment, we know what weight to put on the words that the hon. Gentleman has just read.

Mr. Sproat

That was a ridiculous intervention, considering that we have been members of the Common Market for only a few years. Who knows what the unemployment situation would have been otherwise? Let the hon. Gentleman argue that with his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian.

Mr. Sillars

I have already done that.

Mr. Sproat

The CBI has made another point which is very important and which the Committee ought to bear in mind. It has said, We regret that at a time when we are gradually emerging from the more serious recession in world trade most of us have known, we should be considering what is potentially the most fundamental and far-reaching constitutional change in the United Kingdom, which must inevitably produce a period of uncertainty at a time when we should be harnessing all our efforts to curing inflation and our present economic ills. That is absolutely central. It is madness that this country should be spending all this time debating a Scottish Assembly which will do nothing for unemployment, nothing for inflation and nothing for the unity of the country at all; yet we are wasting our time on this and creating uncertainty.

I also have messages from other bodies, such as the Chamber of Commerce. I shall not read them out——

Mr. Gow

Why not?

Mr. Sproat

—because I want to show the Government that I am trying to compress what I have to say as tightly as I can, so that there will be no chance for them to say that there has been any filibustering and that they must introduce a guillotine. We are trying to demon strate that the Bill is too important and full for anything of that sort.

I conclude by saying that I shall vote against the Bill with everything at my command, because it means simply more government, more civil servants, more public expenditure and more taxation, and in my view it is a guaranteed recipe for conflict which would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dalyell

I, too, am sensitive to possible charges of filibustering.

I have something of a premonition that if a Scottish Assembly comes about, we have seen just now the foretaste of the bickering and the kind of argument in which that Assembly may indulge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Unfair".] I am not sure that it is unfair. I just hope that I am wrong in that matter, if an Assembly emerges.

I start with a complaint. I hope that the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grange mouth (Mr. Ewing), on the Front Bench will not take it amiss. In the Adjournment debate in December, I raised with my right hon. Friend the Lord President the whole question of how the present Government would be represented on the Front Bench during this debate.

With a friendship that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows that I have for him, and a respect, too, in this matter and many others, he will not take it amiss when I say that in this kind of debate there should be the regular attendance of certain senior Ministers. The ones we have seen have simply drifted in to inquire of the Whips whether there is to be a vote.

I point again to the impossibility of the task that faces the Lord President. Not only is he Lord President but he is Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Cabinet. He is also Leader of the House of Commons. Anyone who has been a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Lord President knows the multitude of other jobs that he must perform, let alone that he is Deputy Prime Minister in any Government.

Therefore, this combination of being Secretary of State responsible for devolution and Lord President of the Council is a task which is too heavy for any man, however talented. Because of the sensitivity to which I have referred, of my speaking for too long, I stick to one point only.

That is to try to illuminate an actual situation that would come about, and why it is that I believe that SNP Members are quite right when they say that this is a "first step", a "launching pad", a "moving escalator", towards independence and a separate Scottish State.

Neal Ascherson referred to the Assembly as the pod in which the pea of a separate Scottish State would ripen. All those analogies are well known to the House.

The point I put to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is this—and it concerns money, but money is crucial.

Whether or not we like it, there will have to be some kind of annual financial settlement between the Assembly and the House of Commons and the Government in Whitehall. That is inevitable. There is no way out of it, and this has to be done.

But let us just imagine the mechanics of this and what would happen in fact. The Prime Minister of Scotland and the Chancellor of the Scottish Exchequer would probably come to Downing Street or Great George Street, whichever it was, and they would start an annual settlement haggle—or whatever one wishes to call it—for the amount of the block grant. There are several possibilities.

I suppose it is conceivable that they could get a very good deal, in which case they might appear before the television cameras saying "We have been given a very good deal. We have been wholly satisfied." I believe that is an unlikely set of circumstances.

My hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) has now left the Front Bench, but I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Mr. Tinn) that I was the guest of the Tyne and Wear Council last Friday.

I did not imagine that about 150 councillors from the North-East would turn up at the meeting, nor did I even foresee the vehemence of their speeches.

Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)

Was that the speech of George Lawson?

Mr. Dalyell

Not only George Lawson but Stanley Yapp from the West Midlands and Bill Sefton from Merseyside. They were the heavyweights of the English local authorities.

If an Assembly comes, those men are determined to ensure that the Scots per head receive no more than the English per head. We know from Kilbrandon that at that time the Scots received £131 of public expenditure for every £100 in England. We know from the latest Answers that we get £119 and Humberside gets £87. That is the present situation. Therefore, the people from the North are sensitive. They intend to ensure that the Scots, if they get an Assembly, do not do better per head than the English regions.

Mr. Robertson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dalyell

No, not just now. Later. The English regions have equal problems, including equally serious unemployment problems. That means that even if they wanted to, no Prime Minister in Westminster and no Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great George Street, under the watchful scrutiny of the English local authorities, could satisfy the Scottish Prime Minister and the Scottish Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Therefore they would come away extremely dissatisfied, and ironically, come an Assembly, Scotland might get less, not more.

There are two possibilities that follow.

Mr. Robertson rose——

Mr. Dalyell

No, I shall not give way for the moment. My hon. Friend should wait until I have completed the argument.

Either the Scottish Chancellor and the Scottish Prime Minister would bravely defend a settlement that was inadequate in their opinion, in the opinion of their supporters and in the opinion of most of their electors, or they would say "Of course it is totally inadequate". If they said that it was inadequate, the argument is for more powers and an amendment of the Scotland and Wales Act. Let us make no bones—I am sure that SNP Members do not—about the fact that the Chairman of the Scottish National Party has gone on record, quite understandably from his point of view, that he will make every effort to amend any Scotland and Wales Act.

Do not let us suppose that it is any sort of "final settlement" that might have been envisaged in 1974. Let us be clear, in 1976, that no final settlement is possible. There is no "corpus of agreement" as the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) suggested on Second Reading.

Mr. Robertson rose——

Mr. Dalyell

No. Be patient. Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to pursue my argument. He knows very well that I always give way at the completion of an argument.

Even supposing that a Scottish Chancellor and a Scottish Prime Minister were prepared to defend the settlement, it is absolutely certain that the Leader of the Opposition in the Scottish Assembly and his party would not be satisfied.

The Scottish Chancellor and the Scottish Prime Minister would be accused of getting an insufficiently good deal from Great George Street. Herein lies the certainty of a gradual pressure that will be irreversible and irresistible once a legislative Assembly is set up in Edinburgh.

Once it has gone that far, I doubt very much whether the situation can be reversed. These are the mechanics of the pressures that would exist in every conceivable or likely situation, providing the path to a separate State in Scotland.

Mr. Robertson

At long last. Does my hon. Friend agree that the meeting that he attended consisted of English local authority Members and English Members of Parliament, and that only two or three Scottish people attended it? Does he agree that the conclusions reached at the meeting were predetermined by the sort of speech that he made?

Mr. Dalyell

I am not sure about my oratical powers in swaying 150 hardheaded local authority men and women, I shall make one comment but I must not take up too much time.

Mr. Robertson

Is my hon. Friend going to answer?

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Dalyell

Yes. I shall give a proper reply to my hon. Friend. Let us not be cantankerous about these matters.

I am not happy about the implied argument that he uses. If we talk about the English in the North and the English this, the English that and the English other, we develop an ethnic argument. One of the points made time and again at Newcastle was that among the English councillors were many Scots.

The convener of one of the important committees is as Scottish as any Scot in the Chamber. There were many others who are either half Scots, first-generation Scots or second-generation Scots.

I am reminded of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) on Second Reading. He said that in the Birmingham Division of Yardley, which he represented from 1966 to 1970, there were as many pure Welsh men and women as there are in his present constituency of Aberdare. That may or may not be exaggeration.

All that I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) is that I am bothered about the ethnic argument that is creeping into political discussion on these matters. The people of this Island have been mixed up between Scots, Welsh, and English. Geography does not determine ethnic origin.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I refer to the hon. Gentleman's original proposition, which was that the block grant will produce friction on negotiation. From another point of view, is that not equally an argument for giving the Assembly tax raising powers?

Mr. Dalyell

Yes, if anyone could think of tax raising powers that would be acceptable.

It was suggested that there should be a levy on the rates, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of State knows very well that that was made impossible by the understandable objections of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

If my right hon. Friend or anyone else in the Chamber went to a ratepayers' meeting and told it that as a result of our great devolution plans, the ratepayers would have the privilege of paying a rate surcharge, he would be chased into the North Sea. It is up to the Liberals to say what tax they would suggest.

Corporation tax and the payroll tax are quite impossible because of their effect on investment and the subsequent effect on unemployment. The Lord Home sales tax across the border and in this small Island would not be very workable.

There is the Liberal suggestion of somehow or other taking a layer of the oil revenues. That was put forward by the Leader of the Liberal Party, although he refused to give way when pressed. It seems that the Liberals are saying that a layer of the oil revenues should be used, a system they say that the international oil companies are familiar with in other States.

This is the old game of tit for tat. I do not want to bore my hon. Friends, but once any oil revenues are hypothecated to the Scottish Assembly we shall inevitably set up counter reactions. It will then become Selby coal, English natural gas, Blackpool natural gas and English china clay.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing) rose——

Mr. Dalyell

I am imposing a time limit, hopefully, on every speech I make. But, of course, I give way to a Minister.

Mr. Harry Ewing

My hon. Friend has laid great emphasis on the problem of negotiating a block grant. Does he appreciate that the allocation of resources to the Assembly on a block grant basis was part of the September 1974 White Paper on which my hon. Friend contested the October 1974 election, and on which, I presume, at Keir Hardy House on the Monday following the election he called for implementation of the Scottish Assembly as quickly as possible? We have not introduced anything that is new. It has been there since September 1974.

Mr. Dalyell

I dealt with that matter candidly and at some length in a Second Reading speech. Doubtless my hon. Friend will come back to it time and again in these debates and if he wants me to comment in detail every time, I shall certainly do so. For the present, I would just refer him to my Second Reading speech, to be read in column 1062 of Hansard of 13th December.

Mr. Rifkind

I agree with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that there is much concern in England, particularly the North-East, about the consequences of devolution. But I think that he will agree that the main concern, particularly in local government, is not about the Scots controlling their own education or housing or about whether matters consequent upon the existence of a separate legal system should be determined in Edinburgh. I have yet to meet anyone in England who feels strongly about that.

The concern arises, rightly, at the possibility of any substantial economic powers being given to the Assembly. That would create a sense of deep unfairness in a single United Kingdom. Hypothecation of oil revenue would clearly give an unfair advantage to one part of the Kingdom.

Mr. Lambie

Hypothecation is Liberal Party policy.

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, but no one else is putting it forward. The Liberal Party is not the Government. This is not a Liberal Bill and Liberal amendments are unlikely to succeed without support.

It is not good enough for the hon. Member for West Lothian to say that if powers which neither the Government nor the official Opposition propose and which have no chance of being provided were given to the Assembly, it would be unfair. That may be so, but we are not considering that situation and such talk does not help us to reach a reasonable view on devolution.

Having held many meetings on devolution in England, I accept that there is substantial concern among ordinary people—but it is not passionate hostility. I am asked questions like, "Do people in Scotland want to break away from England?" When I have been able to reassure people that they do not and that the aim is that all problems peculiar to Scotland should be considered locally, I have found that, far from hostility, there is wide agreement in surprising quarters about the desirability of devolution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said that he was against devolution because it would lead to over-government, giving us six levels of government instead of the present five. I have some doubts about his definition of "government". No one would maintain that the community councils are a level of government. They have no powers, they are not legislatures, they can only advise local authorities. They are exactly the same as residents' associations, but with a statutory basis.

Equally, as yet, the European Parliament and the Commission are not a level of government. We may be moving in that direction and I shall be interested to see whether my hon. Friend supports such moves.

Mr. Gow

Surely it cannot be argued that the European Commission is not an element of government affecting the United Kingdom——

Mr. Lambie

It is not a tier of government.

Mr. Gow

But it is an element. For good or ill, many decisions now have to be referred to the Commission. Does my hon. Friend not think it reasonable to regard it as a tier of government?

Mr. Rifkind

I do not want to get into a semantic discussion, but there is no such thing as a European government, a federal government or anything like it.

But even accepting what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South said, that we have five levels of government, what is he actually saying? He is saying that he, along with all who voted for two levels of local government in Scotland, for the Bill which allowed for community councils, most of whom also voted for our membership of the European Community—there was no opposition in this House to the Local Government (Scotland) Act——

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

Yes there was.

Mr. Rifkind

I withdraw that: there was no opposition from any party in this House. I accept that some individuals were strongly opposed to the Bill or to parts of it. But no party, including that represented by one member of the Scottish National Party, voted against it. So all parties accepted two levels of local government.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is difficult to divide the House on one's own?

Mr. Rifkind

But the attempt can be made and it can be clear that it has been made, even if it fails. No attempt was made and it is dishonest of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that there was opposition when the Leader of his party, who was in the House then, did not seek to force a Division on the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Would my hon. Friend accept that there is nothing to stop one member of a Committee calling a Division, even if the result is 54 to 1 against him? There is nothing that the nationalists can do to hide the fact that on Second Reading of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, which they now bitterly oppose, their representative did not even try for a vote against it.

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—and that one Member of the SNP was not an insignificant Member who has now disappeared but the Leader of the party. I hope that, although he is not here now, the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) will make his position clear, even if his hon. Friends try to disguise it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South says that it is all right to have five levels of local government but not six. That is an arbitrary distinction.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back.

Mr. Rifkind

In that case, perhaps we should be arguing about which level of government we should dispense with.

Mr. Gordon Wilson


Mr. Rifkind

It should not be said that there is hostility to an Assembly because it would lead to over-government. We should say rather: if there is over-government, with which of these five or six levels should we dispense? The community councils are not relevant. There is an overwhelming argument for the Assembly one day dispensing with one tier of local government. That will be within its powers and no one will doubt that it will use those powers.

Mr. Lambie

The sooner the better.

Mr. Rifkind

The sooner the better, as the hon. Member says.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South also said that, apart from the principle of devolution, it should be unacceptable in Scotland because it would lead to the dominance of the Strathclyde region in West Central Scotland, where the bulk of the population live. Quite apart from the party political aspects, into which my hon. Friend rightly did not enter, he should realise the implications of what he is saying.

If it is an argument against devolution that Scotland would be dominated by West Central Scotland, he should consider the implications of that view for the United Kingdom as a whole. In this House, quite properly, of 635 Members, 520 represent constituencies in England. South-East England has 40 per cent. of the total population of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Galbraith

My hon. Friend is getting into racialist arguments about English Members of Parliament feeling as Englishmen feel. They do not act as Englishmen, and this Parliament is different from the Assembly, which will be dominated by Clydeside. My hon. Friend should be behind his lawyers, dealing with the matter in the proper way.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Rifkind

With respect, I am not suggesting that a person from one part of the country will concern himself only with the interests of that part of the country. It appears to be my hon. Friend's view that because people come from West Central Scotland they will set out to attack the interests of people who live in other parts of the country. As he represents a Glasgow constituency, I am sure that he does not take that view.

Mr. Galbraith

I do take that view.

Mr. Rifkind

There is no answer I can make to that interjection. I had better pass on to the next part of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. His final argument was that, if devolution led to strengthening the Union rather than weakening it, why should the Scottish National Party be so anxious to have an Assembly. The answer is patently obvious. Half a loaf is better than none. The SNP is dissatisfied with the present system of government. It wants more decisions to be taken in Scotland. It knows that eight out of every 10 Scotsmen want to remain British. It knows that a referendum would show that an overwhelming majority wish for the maintenance of the Union. Of course the SNP would prefer to have the Assembly rather than the status quo.

My hon. Friend went on to say that once the Assembly was established the SNP would seek to use it to try to disrupt the United Kingdom. He said that the nationalists would blame the Union for everything that went wrong and would want the Assembly to have more powers. I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. I have no doubt that those will be the tactics of the SNP, but why does he assume that the Scottish people will listen to the SNP? Why should they believe the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) rather than my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South?

The important point is not whether one party or another complains and sows dissension, but whether it has an audience willing to listen to the complaints, an audience which feels a genuine sense of grievance and believes that the Assembly would respond to its legitimate interests. The overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland wish to remain Scottish and to have in Scotland as great a measure of control as possible over purely Scottish problems.

The amendment is a Back-Bench amendment. I understand that it does not have the support of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. I congratulate the Shadow Cabinet on taking the view that, as the House of Commons by a substantial majority voted for the Second Reading of the Bill, the Conservative Party should continue to support a directly-elected Assembly in Scotland and not support the amendment which seeks to have references to Scotland deleted from the Bill.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

This part of the Conservative Party thinks no such thing.

Mr. Rifkind

The views of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Hutchison) are well known. Throughout the past 10 years when the Conservative Party fought for an Assembly he has fought against it. It is not his view to which I am referring.

Mr. Lambie

We all know the views of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Hutchison), but will the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) tell us why the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) whose views we know, is here?

Mr. Rifkind

If there is one hon. Member who has never required anyone else to speak for him it is my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). If the hon. Gentleman bides his time he will find out exactly what his views are. They will be put forward with my hon. Friend's normal pungency and effectiveness.

It is important that the Conservative Party has decided not to support the amendment. Misunderstanding arose as a result of the decision on the Second Reading of the Bill. The amendment, which goes forward simply as a Back-Bench amendment, will command little support. The people of England and Scotland will realise that the Conservative Party is not hostile to the principle of devolution. We are seeking to ensure a system that will work, meet the aspirations of our fellow citizens north of the border and help to strengthen the United Kingdom.

Mr. Grimond

When I took a straw poll in my constituency about devolution one answer I received was "I can imagine nothing more awful than being run by a party of Glasgow trade unionists and Edinburgh lawyers". That sentiment is felt widely in Scotland. Had the amendment been to take Scotland out of this Bill and to put it into a separate Bill I would have had some sympathy for it.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why his constituents sought to elect to represent them in Parliament an English-trained lawyer?

Mr. Grimond

Quite right. One of the great difficulties is that the Bill deals with both Wales and Scotland. The amendment would wreck the Bill. On the first amendment, that would not be wise as the Bill has received a Second Reading.

I have the greatest reservations about the Bill. I believe that we must eventually give the Scottish Parliament the right to tax. I see appalling confusion in the offing.

We have embarked on this operation under a misunderstanding. The people do not want more government. I am amazed to hear anyone say that we are not over-governed. Apart altogether from the number of tiers of government, the amount of legislation has gone up by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Extra burdens have been placed on local authorities and these have led to the doubling and trebling of local authority staffs and the expenditure of a vast amount of money. What Scotland wants is less and better government, and a focus for its national aspirations. The Bill will not provide either of those requirements.

The Bill is drafted in terms which imply that it is an extension of local government. For instance, it includes the phrase "Chief Executive" which implies that it is simply another tier of local government. That is exactly what it should not be.

There are grave possibilities for trouble. The Secretary of State who will have powers of veto will almost certainly come into conflict with the Assembly or Scottish Parliament—as I prefer to call it. There is a long schedule of measures, some given to the Scottish Assembly, some not, and yet others split between the two. The Scottish Assembly has power to amend Acts of Parliament, but those amendments may be vetoed by the Secretary of State. There are some vague phrases, such as "guidelines". What happens if the relevant member of the Scottish Executive ignores the guidelines? There is reference to "public interest". People have tried time and again to define "public interest" but have always failed.

Let us not throw out the Bill now. Self-government, devolution, Home Rule have been discussed in Scotland for years. It is high time that the Houses of Parliament had a proper discussion about it. In the end we shall have to devise some federal system which is the only method of achieving clear demarcation between governing authorities.

But unless there are major changes in the Bill, unless we have more of what Scotland wants, and unless there are clearer allocations of functions, I shall feel bound to vote against the Third Reading.

Mr. Buchan

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is speaking on behalf of his party or of himself?

Mr. Grimond

I am speaking on behalf of my party, common sense, myself, and all the good people of Scotland. I very much hope that the Government will leave the Bill open to a wide number of amendments.

Mr. Sillars

We have just heard an extraordinary statement from the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). We require further clarification whether other Liberal Members will vote against the Bill on Third Reading. That would certainly be political suicide for many Liberal Members, and I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) in facing his electorate if the Liberal Party take that course. I hope that before Third Reading the Liberal Party wil reflect on the wisdom of the course enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman.

The reason I am intervening in the discussion is to seek to answer the spurious point put by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). The hon. Gentleman tried to divide the Scottish people between those who live on Strathclyde and others in the rest of Scotland. I am aware that there are some people in Scotland in what would normally be called traditionally Conservative areas who go in great fear of the working class in the West. The concept of Strathclyde is a recent one and was introduced as a homogenous unit as a result of the local government reorganisation in 1973. The Ayrshire people are not in favour of Strathclyde, and the people in Lanarkshire regard it as an unpopular concept as do the people in Renfrewshire.

Mr. Buchan

On the contrary. It is by far the best form of local government we have had in Renfrewshire. We had been suffering from Tory government there for 10 years, and the difference is considerable.

Mr. Sillars

I am talking about Strathclyde as a region. The people of Renfrewshire would have preferred a different type of structure, as I believe would the people of Argyll and Bute. Strathclyde is not a solid block. We should accept that we are legislating not simply for 1977 but for a considerable period ahead.

I invite the House to consider the demographic changes and the change in the make-up of Scotland because of the economic pull of the North-East following the advent of North Sea oil. There is a decline in the West of Scotland. It has been calculated in a regional survey carried out in Strathclyde that between 1976 and 1980 we may lose 70,000 jobs in the area known as Strathclyde. There will be an increase in the number of jobs in the North-East and obviously considerable changes are taking place in the West, East and North-East of Scotland. If the Scottish Assembly is able to engineer Scotland and its economy in a better manner than Westminster has ever been able to do, we shall see a pull of population towards the borders and a further regeneration of the Highlands. We shall obtain a far better spread in future of the demographic features of Scotland than we have seen in the past.

8.15 p.m.

I do not think that anybody in Scotland need fear what they call the Strathclyde people. I strongly object to reference to the trade unionists of Glasgow. I have a high regard for those people. It was the trade unionists of Glasgow who began the arguments for the Highlands and Islands Development Board in the first place. The idea was born within the forum of the Scottish TUC. When I was employed by the Scottish TUC we spent a substantial amount of our resources—money contributed by Glasgow trade unionists and others—in promoting a highlands conference. Trade unionists in Glasgow have a good reputation for considering matters outside their area.

I turn to the arguments deployed by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). The arguments he advanced against the establishment of a Scottish Assembly could have been employed against the Common Market and direct elections, and indeed against the establishment of a European Assembly in Strasbourg. It is another layer of government and involves another degree of bureaucracy. It involves the election of further Members of Parliament and all that goes with it. Surely if one is arguing for European democracy, as my hon. Friend did in the Common Market campaign, those matters are irrelevant. They are the price one has to pay. Similarly we believe that this is a worthwhile price to pay to achieve certain democratic changes inside Scotland for the better government of Scotland.

With the exception of one or two members of the Strathclyde Regional Council, most people in Scotland now acknowledge that once the Assembly is established one of the first priorities will be to knock some sense into the present local government structure. There is a growing consensus of opinion that we may demolish the regional tier altogether.

Mr. Dalyell

May I tell my hon. Friend what experience of the European Assembly in the last 18 months has taught me? It has taught me what happens when an institution such as that has no finance-raising powers. My German and Italian colleagues spend half their time at that Assembly talking about the extension of parliamentary power.

Mr. Sillars

Does not the hon. Gentleman think as a matter of logic that because of political friction between member States in the EEC that body is bound to break up within a period of time? That concept involves nine member States who have been together for only a short period of time, whereas in the context of the United Kingdom we are talking of people who have been together for 270 years. There is surely a better chance of a Scottish-English link enduring in terms of fraternity than there is in terms of a European Community. This is especially the case when one considers the political problems between Westminster under a Labour Government, or Edinburgh under a Labour, Tory, or SNP Government, whereas in Brussels we have perhaps ultimately the bringing together of a Communist Government in Italy, a united front Government in France, a Strauss Government in West Germany and coalition governments in Denmark and Belgium. We also have in that unit whatever kind of government exists in Luxembourg and the Fianna Fail in Southern Ireland. In the EEC there is a very real mixture of potential political friction. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian does not think that the EEC will break up and disappear in a puff of smoke because of the political heat generated by those varying alignments.

I do not want to be accused of filibustering, and I shall end by saying that if this amendment is carried it will destroy the purpose of the Bill. That is why it should be rejected.

Mr. Galbraith

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind)—I am sorry that he is not here—for getting rather angry at what I thought was his somewhat disingenuous comparison between the size of the English representation in this House and the influence that the industrial belt would have in the Scottish Assembly. I disagree fundamentally that it was a mistake for the Opposition to have a three-line Whip on Second Reading of the Bill. I have had numerous letters from constituents saying that it is good that we should show that we are not just the Conservative Party but the Unionist Party as well.

The purpose of the amendment is to remove Scotland from the scope of the Bill. That will mean leaving Wales in the Bill, which may be regarded as a little unfair on Wales. I would prefer there to be no devolution, but if there is to be, what is proposed for Wales is much more moderate than what is proposed for Scotland, which goes much too far.

If Scotland remains in the Bill, what will be created will not be some modest advisory body, which was considered at some time, nor even a third Chamber to assist the two existing Chambers, as was proposed by Lord Home's constitutional committee as a means of giving a special Scottish dimension to the legislative process. Either of those proposals would have been bad enough, and entirely unnecessary, since we have, in the Scottish Grand Committee, a legislative body that is part of the existing processes of Parliament and which does both jobs, in an advisory capacity and legislatively, most adequately and is certainly better than anything that is provided for England.

But the proposals in the Bill are infinitely worse than Lord Home's proposals. Not only do they set up a legislative Chamber—they set up the whole panoply of alternative government for Scotland, with a Cabinet and, in effect, a Prime Minister. Although for the time being he may be called the Chief Executive, he will act as a Prime Minister, and it is with the pretensions to being a full sovereign Parliament for Scotland that the Assembly will also be bound to act.

The Government keep on saying that the object of these constitutional changes in Scotland is to preserve the Union. They say in Clause 1 that the provisions of the Bill do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom …". How can they really say that? How can they really say that? How can Ministers be so naive as to believe it? How can the Government put such faith in mere words? The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) looks startled. We all know that words do not command events. They have no more strength than the paper they are written on, and, so far as preserving the unity of the United Kingdom is concerned, the Bill is a mere scrap of paper which will be torn up by events, because the system of government to be set up under it will be essentially unstable and will easily be circumvented by the Scottish National Party.

Dr. M. S. Miller

The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill will be a scrap of paper. I hope that he is not suggesting that the people of Scotland in particular and the people of the United Kingdom in general will not obey the law. Once passed, the Bill will be law. It will be in the framework of the law. That is the safeguard for the non-breakup of the United Kingdom. Whatever happens after that, nothing is immutable. There will be changes all the time, and it will be up to the Scottish people and the rest of the United Kingdom to decide what happens after that. But the law is the law, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not saying that the people of Scotland will not obey it.

Mr. Galbraith

I am saying that it is nonsensical to put into an Act of Parliament the statement that these proposals do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom". No one can say what does or does not affect the unity of the United Kingdom. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that people in Scotland, particularly in the SNP, are going to say "The Act says that these proposals do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom and therefore we must do nothing about it"? They will be agitating the whole time.

Why otherwise should the SNP welcome this Bill? If it took the same view of the Bill as the Government foolishly do—that it preserves the unity of the United Kingdom for ever—and if it thought that the Government were right in believing that the Bill is not a threat to the unity of the United Kingdom, surely it would be opposing the Bill as a wicked measure which puts Scotland into shackles. On the contrary, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who is busy preparing his speech, will welcome the Bill. If he believed that these proposals did not affect the unity of the United Kingdom, he would be protesting. Instead, the SNP welcomes the Bill, because it sees that, rather than being a defence of unity, it provides the SNP with a wonderful opportunity to destroy the unity of the United Kingdom and is an ideal stepping stone—perhaps a moving staircase—gradually carrying the country towards separation, as the nationalists desire.

Although I have some doubts about federalism, the dangers of separatism becoming inevitable might be less if a federal solution for the whole of the United Kingdom were being proposed, with regional Assemblies covering areas with genuine identity of interest. That concept would not have led to the creation of one Assembly for the whole of Scotland, set up on nationalist lines. That is what is wrong with this Assembly.

Dr. M. S. Miller

At the moment it is not envisaged that there should be the kind of neo-federalism that he is talking about, but why should he seek to deny the people of Scotland the right to take this first step in the movement which might take place over the coming years?

Mr. Galbraith

I am saying that what is wrong with this proposal is that it divides up the United Kingdom on nationalistic lines. This problem would not have arisen if, instead of the creation of one Assembly for the whole of Scotland along nationalistic lines, there were several Assemblies covering areas with identical interests. There is no single interest in Scotland which can be clearly identified. That is where the hon. Gentleman and I differ. For example, there is the Highland interest, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) would agree that his Highland interest is different from my Strathclyde interest.

Mr. Sillars


Mr. Galbraith

The hon. Gentleman says "No". He is my Member of Parliament. We must agree to differ. There is a Highland interest and there is an industrial interest in the Midlands of Scotland, and there now appears to be an identifiable interest forming in the outer Islands. That is because very rightly these people fear that an Assembly in Edinburgh will entirely lack the impartial concern for the whole country that Parliament displays. That is the difference between Parliament and an Assembly. Parliament is impartial. No part of Great Britain can dominate Parliament. But an Assembly will be dominated by the central industrial belt of Scotland.

8.30 p.m.

If the separate areas with identifiable interests were catered for by separate Assemblies, if England and Wales were similarly split up into regions, each provided with clearly defined powers and with an appropriate regional—or perhaps I should say provincial—system of taxation so as to create a sense of financial responsibility, and if in addition there was a federal Parliament for the whole of the United Kingdom with a written constitution and a constitutional court for effecting change, such a system might just possibly work without leading to disintegration. The whole country would be being treated in the same way. But to take a nibble at the problem of the ramifications of modern government, as the Government are doing, and to do it in a nationalistic context so that Wales is treated in one way, Scotland in another and England not at all, is simply asking for trouble, especially in Scotland.

This is because under the Bill the whole machinery for a separate Government is being set up in Scotland. It is being done in such a way that the demand for change within Scotland will be never-ending. I am afraid that people have been led to hope for a great deal from an Assembly. They have been led to believe that it will be able to deal with the economic problems of life that assail them as individuals. It is only because of the concern of the ordinary people with the poor performance of the economy and because of the lowering of their financial expectations that they have taken any interest at all in an Assembly for Scotland.

Unlike the founder members of the SNP, the genuine Nationalists of which one—the hon. Member for Dundee, East—is listening to the debate now—[Interruption.] I do not care what party the hon. Gentleman used to belong to. He is one of the genuine dedicated SNP members and I contrast him with the ordinary voter in Scotland who has no nationalist aspirations for constitutional change. The ordinary voter could not be more bored with the subject. He has a considerable desire for improvement in the standard of living. The idea of an Assembly has been sold to him by the hon. Member for Dundee, East and his colleagues as a means of providing just that.

An Assembly will do nothing of the kind. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) seemed to indicate that it would. It will not affect the standard of living in Scotland in the least. The Assembly will be powerless to deal with the financial problems that most people really care about because the Assembly is merely the present Scottish Office writ large.

When people find out that the Assembly can deal with none of the economic problems which worry them they will be filled with a sense of frustration, with a feeling that they have been hoodwinked, that the Government have sold them a pup. That is what the Government have done. This will make them easier targets than they already are for the propaganda of the SNP. There will therefore be public pressure for more and more power to be passed from Westminster to Edinburgh, since the nationalist propaganda that an Assembly will make life better has been largely accepted by the people of Scotland.

The Assembly is regarded by the people of Scotland as a kind of talisman. That is where the SNP has been so skilful. It is a false belief but it is a belief which undoubtedly exists. However, the more that powers are transferred, the more the unity of Britain will be not so much imperilled but made unworkable. It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. I only hope they are able to laugh in 10 years' time. I would love myself to be wrong and them to be right, but I am afraid that the result will be the other way round.

There is a contradiction between the Government's assurances that unity is not affected and the never-ending pressure that will develop for more and more powers to be transferred. The individual transfers of power might not matter very much, but the cumulative effect cannot fail to prove fatal to the Union. It is because of that effect that I want Scotland excluded from the Bill. I can argue that the present system is much better in the way in which it deals with legislation and keeps a check on Government than many people, especially the media, seem to realise. However many imperfections there may be in the present system, it is infinitely better than what is proposed in the Bill. The present system is clear and definite. We know where we are with it, whereas the Bill contains the germs of conflict, disruption and constant change.

In spite of all the time that has been devoted to the preparation of the Bill, the proposals for Scotland are ill thought out, particularly their long-term consequences. But even in the short term it is vastly expensive. There will be more Ministers, Members of Parliament and officials as well as more cost for doing exactly the same job that is being done now with fewer Ministers, officials and Members of Parliament at less cost. It will not be done more smoothly but with increasing bitterness and conflict.

Nothing is more likely to turn the Scots against the English, or the English against the Scots, than to leave Scotland in the Bill. At a time when we are hard pressed financially, the proposals for Scotland are a travesty of common sense.

I am glad that one or two hon. Members for English constituencies have been listening to what is predominantly a Scottish debate. Some of them are perhaps sympathetic to the Bill and do not want to have Scotland thrown out. Perhaps hon. Members from English constituencies will understand the profligacy of what is proposed for Scotland if I tell them that if this same system was applied to the rest of the United Kingdom it would burden the country with approximately 2,000 MPs. That at a time when many people think that 600 is more than enough.

Scottish Ministers are fond of saying that the matter has been discussed in Scotland for a decade. That is the sort of half truth, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands used, that irritates me. Of course it has been a matter of conversation and limited discussion for that time, but at what depth? I contend that it is only since 1974 that the matter has received any serious consideration in detail and that the more people know about it the less they like it.

That perhaps explains the success of the "Scotland is British" campaign. Until that campaign started, I had no letters at all. But since it started I have had letters from lots of constituents saying "Thank God someone at last has had the guts and the gumption to express publicly what we feel".

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Since the hon. Gentleman claims that the "Scotland is British" campaign is a success, can he explain why he has received some letters in connection with it while I have still to receive a single one despite 20 posters festooning the Dundee area?

Mr. Galbraith

That is one of the difficulties about attaching too much importance to letters one receives or, indeed, to what people say. I quite accept that. On the whole, people are polite. It is not much good writing to the hon. Gentleman and telling him that the "Scotland is British" campaign is a good thing.

I am sorry that some of the writers of letters addressed to me did not know my views. That was a great disappointment. I had hoped that my views were well known. These people were constituents of mine asking "We know what the views are of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), but are your views the same as those of the 'Scotland is British' campaign?" I was able to assure them that that was so, and to that extent it is a successful campaign.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman place those letters in the Library so that the whole House will know what are the views of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor)?

Mr. Galbraith

The views expressed about the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) are views that I should have liked to have expressed about myself. They were entirely proper and satisfactory. In any event, I think that this shows that it has been a successful campaign.

I, too, have no wish to filibuster, and I conclude with this comment. Before the time that Scotland and England had one Parliament, there was endless trouble between the two countries. That is a historic fact. I foresee the same happening again if another legislative body and another Government are set up in Scotland.

It is because of the fears which I have for future tranquility as well as in an endeavour to limit profligate use of scarce resources that I urge the Committee to support this amendment to exclude Scotland from the Bill. Let us see whether our existing very good system cannot deal adequately with any real faults which now exist. I emphasise the word "real". Of course, our present system cannot possibly satisfy the nationalists, but I suggest that that is the very best possible reason for retaining the present system and not making the change suggested in the Bill.

Mr. Heffer

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) when he says that for a decade the people of Scotland have not considered devolution or, much more importantly, a type of Scottish Parliament. I think that they have considered it for much longer.

Mr. Galbraith

The professor of administrative law at Strathclyde University, in an article published in The Times which was circulated to me and, I dare say, to all other hon. Members, said that in fact adequate deep discussions on the effects of this Bill, or, rather, of devolution, were only now beginning. I believe that he was right and that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) is wrong.

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Member for Hillhead misunderstands me. I am sure that he is right when he says that there has not been any detailed discussion of what is meant by devolution in the present context. However, the possibility of a Scottish Parliament and of Scottish independence has been discussed in the working-class movement in Scotland for much longer than a decade.

If we go into the history of this matter, we find for example, beginning with Keir Hardie, that there has been a very serious and lengthy debate amongst the Scottish trade union and Labour movements and among Socialists in Scotland, and I do not think that it helps the case that I support to pretend otherwise. In fact, it strengthens the alternative case, because the matter has been discussed for many years.

It is very interesting, for example, to see what happened in Scotland immediately following the Russian Revolution. I am sorry that I have to refer to this, because I know that as soon as anyone mentions Russia, the Soviets, or revolution, Opposition Members seem almost to have apoplexy. But they will have to bear with me for a moment, because this is rather important in the historical context of my argument.

Immediately following the Russian Revolution, members of the Scottish working-class movement were very much attracted to the Soviet form of government as it existed at the time. Many early Scottish supporters who believed in some form of Scottish Parliament or, in the case of their greatest advocate, John Maclean, actually believed in a separate Scotland and tried to form a Scottish Communist Party. In fact, such a party was formed. Other Scots were equally involved in the trade union and Labour movements and just as dedicated to the concepts of Socialism in Scotland as was John Maclean, one of whom was his lieutenant, Harry McShane—who, incidentally is still alive, and a very fine old Socialist—who refused to go along that road. They did not follow John Maclean along the path forming a separate Communist Party or demanding a separate Scotland. Harry McShane argued that this was against the interests of all the British working people, whether they were Scots, English, Irish or Welsh. He argued most strongly, on a Socialist basis, in favour of the concept of a Scottish Parliament, and said that the alternative of Scottish separation was wrong.

8.45 p.m.

The argument has continued in the Labour movement in Scotland and throughout the British Isles for a long time. Keir Hardie was a great advocate of a Scottish Parliament, but he, of course, fought a seat in South Wales and at one stage entered the House of Commons to represent Merthyr Tydfil. By chance, some of the speeches he made during that election campaign have come into my possession. He opposed the nationalists in Wales because they wanted a type of nationalism that had nothing to do with the concept of Socialism. I am sorry if I am boring Opposition Members opposite but to hon. Members on this side this is an argument of great importance. Unfortunately, I do not have Keir Hardie's speeches with me. I would have loved to quote from them. The things that he has been claimed to have said are not the same as the things he did say. Some people put a gloss on the statements of others in order to help argue their own cases if it suits them.

When I looked at Keir Hardie's speeches I found that that which I had been told he had believed was not the same as that which he did believe and argue. He argued for a Scottish Parliament, but fighting seats in different parts of the United Kingdom made him realise that the interests of the people of the United Kingdom were the same, whether they lived in London, South Wales or Scotland. That is the point I want to make as a Socialist and as an Englishman.

I know that some people believe that if one is English, one cannot possibly understand the aspirations of the Scottish people. I take the point made by an hon. Member in an earlier intervention that Englishmen do not tend to think as Englishmen. That is true. But when I said that before in the House I was accused of big power chauvinism. I was told that we English are so superior that we do not recognise this as a fault. It is not a fault. We recognise the United Kingdom as such and we set ourselves up not as Englishmen in the United Kingdom but as part of the overall United Kingdom. That does not mean that an Englishman cannot understand the aspirations of the Scots or the Welsh.

Over the years, I have read a great deal of Scottish poetry. I found it somewhat difficult, because I needed an English translation to help me understand it. That was regrettable, because without reading in the Scots dialect—a genuine dialect and not a bastardised English—one does not get the flavour of the poetry. The poems of Robert Burns are among the greatest ever written. We should never forget that wonderful line: A man's a man for a' that. I remember reading a trilogy of books called "A Scots Quair", written by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, who, under the name J. Leslie Mitchell, wrote "Spartacus"—the finest book ever written about the Roman slave revolt. I have also read as much as possible of Scott and other Scottish authors over the years.

I was stationed in Glasgow for part of the war and I got to know the Scottish people. I admit that they are different in many ways. They have they own dialect, which it took me a long time to understand. The Glasgow dialect is different from that of other parts of Scotland. A Glaswegian would need a translator to understand some of the things said by a person from the North of Scotland. The intonations are not always the same.

I understand that there are five cultures in Scotland. I know of two. There is a powerful Irish influence in Scotland, and the Roman Catholic Church has great influence. That Church is, in turn, influenced by the Calvinists. Many Catholics do not drink—although I admit that many Catholics and Calvinists drink a great deal. But this is an indication of the interaction of Churches and cultures.

Scotland is not a complete entity; there are a number of Scotlands, as has been proved in the arguments over North Sea oil.

Mr. Sillars

Are there not also a number of Englands?

Dr. M. S. Miller

I am enjoying my hon. Friend's argument and the information that he is giving the House. I agree with him on many points, and basically we are not that far apart. However, I was surprised to hear him say that an Englishman does not think as an Englishman. He mentioned the sort of chauvinism that has developed in England. Does he realise that Englishmen not only think as Englishmen as a matter of instinct; they also have the annoying habit of referring to Scotsmen and Welshmen as Englishmen?

Mr. Dalyell

Does my hon. Friend not agree that Keir Hardie had nothing to do with some of the misplaced ethnic arguments that we are now getting from unexpected quarters?

Mr. Heffer

I shall attempt to deal with those three interventions. I agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) that there are many Englands. A Cornishman considers himself different from the people in other parts of England. The Geordies are much influenced by the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Danes. Many Geordie names have Norse roots. There is a different type of Englishman in the North-East.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

What authority has the hon. Gentleman for saying that? As the only Geordie in the Chamber, I tell him that he is talking absolute rubbish. We are Englishmen. I attended a conference in Newcastle last weekend, when the entire Socialist Party in the North-East of England declared itself against the Bill.

Mr. Heffer

I should not have given way to the hon. Gentleman, who has just come into the Chamber and did not hear the previous part of my argument. He made no serious point. I was saying that we were not just one nation, that there were a number of peoples making up the so-called English nation.

Because of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I have forgotten one of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller).

Dr. M. S. Miller

It was that sometimes Englishmen use that word to include Scotsmen, Welshmen and Irishmen.

Mr. Heffer

I agree. That was a point that I was going to make. There has been a serious problem over the years, one for which we are responsible without understanding it. Like many other hon. Members, I have seen some of the 1940 war films of late. In those films there are often references to England when those concerned really mean the whole of Britain. That is wrong. I can understand Scots asking "What the hell are we? Are we not part of it?" One cannot say that the whole of Britain is England. We should always have made clear that it is made up of four parts. It is a very serious mistake that that was not made clear. I entirely accent that argument. It is an important point.

The average Englishman is only beginning to think about the problem of devolution. It has bewildered, confused and saddened him. He has suddenly woken up to the fact that the United Kingdom could again consist of separate small nations, that we could return to pre-unity days, with nations possibly even warring with each other.

I conclude on the note on which I began, with the Socialist argument. In the Socialist movement there is a slogan: "Workers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains." It is not "Workers of Scotland unite" or "Workers of England unite"; it is a world concept, a universal concept, an international concept.

Another argument that we have always used in the labour, trade union and Socialist movements is that no worker is strictly a citizen of one country; he is a citizen of the world. Working people have travelled the world working, and they still do. That is the fundamental point.

One can understand national aspirations. One can understand people wishing to retain their culture, poetry, literature and theatre. One should encourage that, and develop it to an even higher level. One can understand people wishing to retain their language and to improve it. But that does not mean that when there is a voluntary agreement to work with each other we should do anything to sever that agreement and thereby move backwards in history.

I shall not vote for the amendment, because I believe that the people should have the right to decide the issue by referendum. I have sympathy with the amendment. That is my only reason for not voting for it. There is no other reason. My argument had to be put on a Socialist basis.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I did not intend to intervene in this debate since I made every point that I wanted to make on Second Reading, but I was provoked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) who made a speech with which I almost wholly disagree. It was grossly but unintentionally misleading. He did grave damage to the concept of a proper form of devolution and the handing over to the people of a greater degree of control over matters which most closely affect their lives by linking the whole concept of devolution, both in his vote and in his speech, with the concept in the Bill which is malicious, dishonest and is bound to lead to disappointment.

Hon. Members opposite have asked why there should be conflict with a devolved Assembly in Scotland or Wales when there is no such conflict within the European Community. That is a different matter. In many ways the European Community is still fragile. The unity is not as great as many of us would like to see, but it is a unity of countries that have come together and decided to diminish their nationhood rather than a single country beginning to take the decision to split itself apart. That is the big difference.

The second big difference between the European Community and the concept underlying the Bill is that in the Community the ability to tax primarily rests with the nation States. The States have handed over a part of their budgets to the Community. But here we are discussing a system which contains no element of financial independence. This is representation by taxation. The Assembly will be dependent on a block grant from this Parliament provided largely by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom as a whole and therefore, disproportionately, by the taxpayers of England. Naturally, under our system of taxation, for many years the richer have tended to contribute more than the poorer. This has applied to the rating system, and the block grant system there, and throughout Government expenditure and the way in which it is allocated to different parts of the country. I leave that out of the argument. I do not want to repeat it. The figures have been quoted and can be looked up.

We should all have done very well to listen with great care to the words of wisdom of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), speaking for himself, for the Liberal Party, for all good men and true in Scotland, and all the rest. He made the point that there is some serious object to be gained by devolution through some form of federal solution to a national assembly, which he preferred to call a parliament. His choice of words showed an intellectual honesty in himself and the intellectual dishonesty of the measure before us, because he made it plain that the only sort of assembly that could work was a parliament, working perhaps with other national parliaments within a federated United Kingdom, a parliament with all the powers to tax, to raise money and to control its own expenditure, except for the purposes of foreign policy, defence and so on.

That was the implication behind the way that the right hon. Gentleman saw through the difficulty that we are now in. He made it plain—I think that the Scottish National Party has made it plain, too—that the only reason for supporting the Bill is that it might lead to that sort of solution, that the only rational reason for supporting it is a degree of separation, whether or not it can be contained within a federal structure.

I must disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith). I do not believe that there is any possibility of making a sensible federal structure on a regional basis. It is national or not at all, because the danger of conflict which arises out of this Assembly is that it is an elected Assembly, elected on a national basis, and we have heard developing already the chauvinistic arguments. God knows where it leaves me or what my nationality is. I am British and I cannot say anything else.

Mr. John Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Macmillan

No, I shall not give way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands pretended that none of this was so and that this was just a measure which was widely accepted in Scotland and welcomed because it would give greater local control and local feeling of involvement. But it will not give that. My hon. Friend was looking only just beyond the end of the passage of the Bill. I hope that he will forgive me for saying that it was very irresponsible of him not to look further down the road on which he is seeking to march us all, because it is at the end of that road that the conflict lies and not at the beginning.

If we have, as we would have if the Bill were passed as it stands, an Assembly dependent for its funds on Westminster, the only thing that it can do is to ask for more, and the pressure will come for a greater degree of independence and a greater capacity to act without the control of Westminster. There is not one genuine power in the Bill that is not subject to the veto of the Secretary of State.

Mr. John Smith

That is not true.

Mr. Macmillan

There is not one power that is not already delegated one way or another to other local bodies. I attack my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands because he is blurring the issue. He is confusing the delegation of administrative powers and the delegation of authority with the setting up of a separately directly elected Assembly. That is the damage that his view has done to his country and his party. It was on the basis that such an Assembly would not necessarily be directly elected that a very great measure of agreement was established in England, Scotland and Wales within the Tory Party and with others who want a form of devolution. It is the bringing in of the directly elected element that has done so much harm to that concept.

Mr. Rifkind

I must comment on my right hon. Friend's final point. He must not mislead the House. He has suggested that belief in a directly elected Assembly by the Conservative Party is some new phenomenon. Before he makes that comment again in public, I ask him to read the recommendations of the Douglas-Home Report, which appeared in 1970. If he reads it—in fact, I assume that he has read it—he will see that it directly recommends a directly elected Scottish convention. Those proposals were accepted by the then leader of the Conservatives and were included in the election manifesto on which my right hon. Friend fought the 1970 election. At that time I was not a Member of the House.

Mr. Macmillan

My hon. Friend will forgive my saying that I did not fight the 1970 election on that platform. I specifically rejected that element of our political platform. I have never found myself—this applies to many of the people whom I admire most on the Government Benches—bound by party manifestos in every detail. This House would not be as good a place as it should be if that were so. It is the most ridiculous doctrine. It is almost as ridiculous as the doctrine of mandate.

Further, I do not accept that everything that former leaders of the Conservative Party or any other party have done commit a party after defeat at a General Election.

Since the 1974 election is was the difficulty over the nature of an Assembly that enabled us to create a great degree of unity on the concept of an Assembly. We were able to leave the matter until we could see more clearly what emerged from the Bill. In that way we were able to decide what would be our view on the detail—for example, how the Assembly should be selected, and set up.

What I am certain cannot work—my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands must think carefully about this—is an Assembly elected directly with the sort of constitution that is now proposed, which does not have more power and does not have the ability to raise money itself. If that is the road that my hon. Friend is going down, let him say so. Let him say that he wants separation with a federal link, otherwise there is the gravest danger that we are putting before our Scottish friends a proposal that will bring great resentment in the English constituencies in due course and will lead to pressure to push different parts of the United Kingdom apart at a later stage, all of which we can avoid by careful amendment of the Bill and a clearer view than most of the House and the country now have of where the Bill, in its detail, is leading us.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) said that the Scottish Assembly would be a profligate misuse of scarce resources. In terms of parliamentary time, this debate is a profligate misuse of scarce resources, considering how much time we have to spend on the other parts of the Bill, I hope more constructively.

I am surprised by the attitude of the reactionary, diehard Unionists to this feeble measure. They seem to be scared of what will happen if there is a Scottish Assembly. The Scottish National Party is confident that Scotland is heading for self-government, but that feeling does not seem to be shared by others whether they call themselves Unionists, British or anything else.

Such people are scared of their own society. I should have thought that a confident society would be prepared to change its institutions as required, to adjust them to what is needed and what the public want, but apparently this minor measure causes fearful tremblings among those who are determined to prevent and change, even if the Scottish people want it.

This is a wrecking amendment. There is no need for it. We had a Second Reading debate lasting four days, when hon. Members could express their views. That debate related to the principle of Assemblies for Scotland and Wales, and the vote then should have decided the issue. Those who support this maverick amendment should realise that if they want to cause the maximum difficulty for their Unionist parties, whether Labour or Conservative, the amendment is right way to do it.

There is ample evidence, in polls and in the two General Elections of 1974, that the Scottish people have a preponderant wish for constitutional change—and for change with economic implications. One of the jobs of my hon. Friends and myself in this Committee will be to introduce fiscal power into the Bill to enable the Assembly to achieve the objectives of the Scottish people.

It behoves the Conservative Party to sort itself out. Although supported by one or two Labour Members, this is largely a Conservative Amendment. We do not know what policy the Conservatives have. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, West (Mr. Fairgrieve) talks of federalism, almost laughing and clapping at the thought that the Conservative Party may head in that direction. Others are completely against change. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) is an elected Assembly, with no independent existence. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) leads the Scottish Conservatives from a position of confusion. He is beginning to be known as the Cathcart Conundrum.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)

So that we may get his party's position straight, is the hon. Gentleman opposing the amendment because he thinks that it will lead to a strengthening of the United Kingdom or because he thinks that it will lead to a weakening of the United Kingdom? In other words, does he want separatism or devolution? What is his party's policy?

Mr. Wilson

We have made no secret of the fact that we want independence for Scotland. The hon. Gentleman should know that. He talks continually of the British position. Why does he not pay more attention to what the Scottish people want? Why are hon. Members so frightened of the reaction of the Scottish people? Do they not trust the Scottish people? The plain fact is that they do not. They fear that the Scottish people are beginning to go along the road to independence and that nothing that they can do or say will stop them.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Stephen McAdden)

Order. Under the rules of order, hon. Members are required to make their speeches from their place in the Committee and not to walk up and down.

Mr. Wilson

I thank you for drawing me to order, Sir Stephen. That is not a mistake that I was accustomed to make on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill Committee, on which we both served.

Miss Harvie Anderson rose——

Mr. Wilson

If I may be allowed to sit down and not move my position, I shall give way to the right hon. Lady.

Miss Harvie Anderson

The hon. Gentleman said that he is in favour of separation. Does he think that the separation of Scotland will weaken or strengthen the unity of the United Kingdom, with which the amendment is concerned and about which Clause 1 is written?

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Lady, as a Scottish Member, is making the mistake of paying attention to the United Kingdom when she should be paying attention to Scotland. Independence for Scotland will lead to greater prosperity in Scotland and more employment, and that is the aim of the SNP.

Mr. Rifkind

If the independence of Scotland will lead to greater prosperity and more jobs, how is it that in the last two weeks insurance companies, banks and both sides of industry have rejected independence, maintaining that it would lead to less prosperity and fewer jobs?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is taking a selective view. There have been reports in the Press to the contrary from the organisations that he has mentioned. The hon. Gentleman should try to explain to the Scottish people why successive Westminster Governments have led to increased unemployment and social deprivation in Scotland.

The question of principle was settled by the Second Reading debate. If there are further doubts whether the Scottish people wish to have the proposals in the Bill, or any other proposals, the Government have proposed a referendum. Surely it would be better to settle the matter in that way rather than by this method. I regard the amendment as a wrecking amendment that should be defeated.

Mr. Buchan

We spent four days debating and agreeing the principle of the Bill. The amendment to remove Scotland is, therefore, a wrecking amendment. I shall be interested to know whether those who put down the amendment to remove Scotland from the Bill will support the motion to remove Wales—in which case there will be no Bill left.

There has been wasteful intervention from the Front Bench. Of course the SNP stands for separation. We know that, and the members of the SNP know that, but they are afraid to tell the Scottish people that they stand for separation. They speak of Home Rule, self-government, self-determination, and so on, but they never say that they wish to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. They say that they are afraid of a referendum question: "Do you want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom?".

If I can make myself heard above the hubbub, let me say I do not believe it is proper for Members of Parliament to press for a referendum and, having achieved the promise of a referendum——

The Temporary Chairman

Order. As the hon. Gentleman has the Floor, it would be helpful if other committee meetings could cease.

Mr. Buchan

It is inappropriate for Members of Parliament to press for and achieve a referendum and then to try to pre-empt the decision of the referendum by removing Scotland from the Bill. The referendum decision was welcomed by many who oppose the Bill. I welcome it as one who supports the Bill.

Grave theoretical errors were made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) and the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) who came, was called, spoke, and went out again. As a member of the Government who took us into the EEC, for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to the surrender of powers under the Bill was an intolerable insult to our intelligence. He referred to the block grant. How otherwise is the EEC financed except by the block grant? The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) is correctly critical of the lack of fiscal powers.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire was guilty of an even graver theoretical error when he said that even if devolution led to an independent position for Scotland inside the EEC it would not mean separation and independence, because Scotland would be part of the EEC. The hon. Gentleman, either deliberately or through foolishness, has it entirely wrong. Scotland can become an independent member of the EEC only if it first becomes an independent State. The SNP accepts that. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) accepted that in debate with me on the night after the referendum debate.

There is one Member here who I know would give me an honest answer on that point. I know that I could expect an honest answer from the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson), to the effect that Scotland, to become an independent member of the EEC, must first become an independent State. By adopting the attitude that they are in Scotland, the SLP is proceeding by stealth, although I would never accuse SNP Members of trying to achieve independence by stealth.

I want to comment on the attacks that have taken place from all parts of the Committee upon the existing regional government in Scotland. The proposition that regional government must go is based on two arguments. The first is the keen centralising ethos of the SNP. It talks about small communities—"communitas". But basically the centralisation at Edinburgh defeats the ethos of communities.

On the other hand, the SNP has its allies on this point within the Tory Party—allies who fear that a devolved Scotland would be subordinate to Strathclyde. The Tory Party fears that there would be a great deal of working-class power in such an Assembly. This is an expression of fear of a working class in Scotland rather than a fear of Strathclyde as an institution.

There are one or two rather nasty implications in this. There is a flaw in the argument that we in Scotland would be dominated by Strathclyde but that that has no relationship to the argument that within the United Kingdom we would be dominated by England. That is giving the SNP its argument. The SNP is totally and stupidly wrong in its argument. For Tories in Scotland to argue that members of the Assembly would vote only on a regional basis, instead of according to the kind of society they want, is giving the SNP its argument. The SNP is not concerned with the kind of Scotland that the Tories want. Its members want the trappings and the psychological pleasure of being an independent State. That is why they want customs posts and border posts. That is why they want a Scottish army and a Scottish navy. That is why they want ceremonial in Edinburgh. They have a psychological need for the trappings and centralising force of State-ism.

Therefore, the SNP uses the argument that Scotland has not sufficient power within a United Kingdom framework, but the assumption is wrong. Voting does not take place in the House of Commons on a Scottish, English and Welsh basis, or even on a regional basis. We vote according to the kind of society we want to create. That is of the nature of political parties. They are there to reflect not a national, a regional or a local attitude but a microcosm of views about the kind of society which it is desirable to create and maintain. The same would apply in Scotland as applies here. I therefore wish that the SNP would drop that argument.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Surely the hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that the Orkneys, of which he has a close knowledge, and the Highlands and the Borders do not necessarily want the same kind of society as the central belt where he and I live. That is a fact that we must recognise.

Mr. Buchan

I understand that. That is true of larger groups, too. One imagines that when all the London Members meet, arguments are advanced by those who represent Kensington and Cities of London and Westminster, for example, which are different from those advanced by Members who represent East Ham and West Ham. That is why there are different parties—so that we can get a unification of concept to override the differences. There is some good radical history in the Highlands, and the trade unionists in West Central Scotland can give a great deal of inspiration in these matters.

9.30 p.m.

Of course, there are dangers in these proposals. It may be right that the establishment of the Assembly will lead to separation. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and others asked why these proposals are supported by the SNP. They say that the SNP supports devolution because it will lead to separation. That is wrong. The reason why the SNP supports the proposals is that it can do nothing else but support them. It could not be seen as opposing a devolved Assembly. But if one asks SNP Members in private what they would like to see happening above all, it would be that this Bill will become so bogged down in Westminster that it will fall. The likelihood of separation will come much more from the Bill's failure than from anything else. That is the point that we have reached.

We then have the argument that these provisions will create a polarised situation. The next fundamental error is based on the analogy with the EEC situation. The difference between Scotland and the situation in the EEC is that in the latter case one has nine independent States who argue, discuss and decide matters. That is not a polarised situation. But as between Scotland and England disagreement and tension could lead to a possible split.

I shall be brief, because I hope that we shall all get to bed at a civilised time tonight. Another danger foisted on the present situation is a form of racialism in Scotland. Scotland's most august newspaper, the Scotsman, has been in the forefront of this movement. Letters have appeared in the Scotsman in which the word "English" is used in a racial sense. My wife recently wrote a letter to the Scotsman drawing attention to the situation. Certainly some of the letters that have appeared in that journal could well have appeared in National Front publications if, instead of the word "English", the context had been Jewish, Pakistani or Trish. That is a terrifying development, but not one SNP Member has come forward to denounce it. When my wife sought to draw attention to this situation, she was accused of attempting a smear campaign.

A recent editorial in the Scotsman suggested that there are no racial differences in Scotland, and went on to say that there are no religious divisions there. Has that leader writer ever been outside Edinburgh? Has he never attended any football matches" We surely cannot seek to create a new Scotland without seeking the truth.

The Scotsman has not even a leader writer with any historical background. A leader in that journal emphasised that Scotland must become a nation State because, it opined, every other nation has been a nation State for centuries throughout the world. That is absolute rubbish. There are few nation States in the world today—and, in so far as there are, they came into being only within the last century or two. Certainly in the Third World they have come into being only within the last 20 or 30 years. In Western Europe the story goes back 100 or 150 years. Such States came into being somewhat earlier in France, Britain and Spain. That kind of nonsensical history terrifies me, because we cannot make progress without truth.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), as spokesman for the Liberal Party, said that unless the House agreed to liberal amendments in respect of federalism and other matters, and, indeed, unless the Bill were fundamentally changed, the Liberals would vote against the Bill on Third Reading. I hope that we shall hear a little more from the Liberals in this matter, because although the Liberal Party has quite a reasonable radical tradition in Scotland, this kind of thing is liable to finish it. There are dangers in what we are doing in the Bill, but there are greater dangers in not doing it.

Mr. Raison

I agree with the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) in two respects. The first is on the danger of nascent racialism in Scotland. I thought that it was not very great, but having heard the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), I begin to wonder. I thought his speech contemptible. Secondly, I agree with the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West about the risks lying in either course of policy. I think that what he said is true. I do not doubt that, whatever decision the House takes on the Bill as a whole, there will be problems. I believe strongly that the balance of the argument points towards the defeat of the Bill. That is why I am happy to support the amendment.

I wish Scotland to be taken out of the Bill because I want the Bill to fall. I make no bones about that. In approaching this, there is a number of criteria, but I pick out only two, which are crucial and which have been mentioned by many other hon. Members. First, there is the effect on the Union and on the individual member countries; secondly, there is the question whether this scheme, or any feasible variant, is capable of working.

I will not say much about the break-up of the United Kingdom because, if that is not wholly common ground, it is largely so. I will simply say that I believe that such a break up would be a tragedy and that the mutual benefits which derive from the United Kingdom are vast, whether they be in terms of culture, civilisation, commerce, economics, science, the professions, or family life. In all these respects, we have, on balance, benefited enormously over the years by the creation of the United Kingdom. It has added vitality to our life and to its pleasantness.

I accept the ultimate right of the Scottish people to self-determination and secession. I do not take the view that Abraham Lincoln took about the United States when he said that the only thing that mattered was to keep the United States together. I think that if it were overwhelmingly clear that the people of Scotland, however defined—that would be a problem—really did want to form a separate State, that would be something to which they were entitled. But I do not believe that they do. I also believe that if it did happen it would be a very great loss to us all.

The first and essential question in the debate is whether the inclusion of Scotland in the Bill is more likely to preserve and enhance the United Kingdom or the opposite. We also have to ask the equally important question whether the inherent logic of the structure put forward by the Government is sound. My answer to both questions is a firm "No". It is no good being vaguely in favour of devolution to Scotland as a matter of principle if the conceivable actuality will be damaging. It seems to me that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have not yet faced that question. They think that devolution is in some way or other a good thing, and they have not paid enough regard to whether the kind of devolution proposed would actually work and achieve the desirable objectives.

It is not enough to have this rather lofty view about things. One has to look at the details of the scheme. Here, I defend the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on Second Reading. In sharp contrast to the Prime Minister, she looked at the details of the scheme. She was accused of nit-picking. I will put myself in the same category, because it is only by looking at the details that one can really make a judgment whether this is a viable scheme. I believe that the more one looks at the Government scheme and the more one looks at the Bill the more apparent it becomes that the scheme is not viable and is not capable of amendment to make it viable. The scheme is bad and it cannot be amended to improve it.

I hope that this point will be taken on board, particularly by the Liberal Party. I was frankly encouraged by most of what the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said because he seemed to produce a pretty good argument against the Bill. I am only sorry that he did not declare more resolutely his opposition to it and his support for the amendment.

I think that some of his hon. Friends take a different attitude. They are more sympathetic to the Bill. Somehow they believe it is possible to transmute this scheme, which they do not like, into something which would be acceptable to them. The process they have in mind is to convert the whole scheme on to a federal basis. Whatever else one may think, it will be impossible to turn this Bill into a basis for a federal structure. We had a long and interesting discussion about the Short Title and, more especially, the Long Title of the Bill. I am not clear whether we were enlightened as a result. But whatever one thinks of the Long Title, the clauses and any proposed amendments to them, it is not possible to convert the Bill into a federal structure. The Liberal Party might as well recognise that and accept that the Bill is not the vehicle to give them what they apparently want.

The really crucial point we have to get over is that the Scottish provisions in the Bill do not affect only Scotland. They have very important consequences for other parts of the United Kingdom, and that is one of the reasons why I am in favour of the amendment. I believe that those consequences are liable to be very damaging to all the other parts of the United Kingdom as well as to Scotland.

One of the things I resent is that some members of the SNP seem to try to turn this issue into a Scotland versus England war. That is the last thing I want. The whole point of the Union is to preserve and build upon our great tradition of friendship. But I remind the House that the points I make refer not just to the effects of the Bill on England but to the effects on the other constituent countries of the United Kingdom.

At the heart of it, it affects the whole bargain which is implicit in the Act of Union. After all, it is something which has survived for two and a half centuries. It is not simply a matter between England and Scotland but embraces the rest of the United Kingdom as well.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Member referred to the actions of the SNP. Is there not a question that should be addressed to that party? Should it not be asked why it holds its major annual political rally at Bannockburn? For what purpose is it held there?

Mr. Raison

That is a fair and pertinent point for the hon. Member to raise.

The Bill, particularly the Scottish provisions, affect the question of representation in Parliament. This point was discussed on Second Reading. It is an absolutely major issue in the whole problem that we are discussing. It seems strange in a way to me that although Scotland has talked about the subject for a decade or more—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) told us that the Scots had been talking about it for much longer than that—the discussion in Scotland in recent years appears to me to have paid little regard to what happens about representation in the House of Commons.

I was talking only the other day to a leading figure in one part of Scotland. He said that the trouble with the English was that we were too late in getting into this argument. He said that the Scots had been talking about it for years, that we had only just awakened, and that we did not understand. I asked him what was the general view in Scotland on the question of representation. Was it right to have Scottish Members voting about English matters, and vice versa? He had not really thought about it. If that is the level of debate that has been going on in Scotland all this time, I do not think it can be claimed that the matter has been exhaustively discussed in Scotland and neglected in England.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. George Reid (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Since our arrival in the House, the SNP has practised a self-denying ordinance whereby it does not vote on matters of purely English, Welsh or Irish concern. That might be a model for the future.

Mr. Raison

I would say to the hon. Gentleman that it does not really matter whether the SNP votes on these issues. There is a much deeper problem that basically affects the Government, and I shall come to it later.

Numerically speaking, Scotland is over-represented in the House of Commons I have no objection to that. It is reasonable that Scotland should have received favourable treatment under the existing constitution as we know it. It is right that one should always be sensitive towards minorities. The fact that Scotland is over-represented is a sign of sensitivity that I thoroughly welcome.

But when we have this devolution scheme, the case is bound to be altered. Some people have argued that this matter could be resolved by simply reducing Scotland—in terms of its representation—to the same basis as England, for example. The Leader of the Liberal Party, talking about this on Second Reading, said in effect that if the number of Scotland's Members of Parliament was reduced from 71 to 56, that would solve the problem. With respect, I do not think that would solve the problem. It still leaves the fact that the Scottish Members will be able to vote on English, Welsh and Northern Irish matters and the converse will not apply.

If the number of Scottish Members was reduced proportionately to the number of Northern Ireland Members—Northern Ireland has fewer Members proportionately than the rest of the country—this would still not meet the problem. The real problem would be that some MPs would be able to vote with regard to the affairs of other countries and the converse would not apply.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) suggested that the answer was a self-denying ordinance. I do not believe that would work. It may be that because of a voluntary self-denying ordinance members of the SNP disappear when we discuss English matters. Good luck to them. I do not mind. But it would be quite different for the Government, and the Government must know it.

What could happen is that the Government could have a majority on the United Kingdom business but only a minority on domestic matters. It would make a nonsense of our system for a Government to bring that into operation. I would be delighted if it applied to the Labour Party because I do not want it meddling with English comprehensive schools, for example and it might not be able to do that if it lost its Scottish Members. But this could not work.

We all know that the Government do not propose to do anything about this. They believe that the present system suits them rather well and they have no desire to change it. As this Committee stage proceeds, I believe that it will become more and more apparent that what they are proposing is completely untenable and immoral. There is no way out of this problem under the structure that the Government are putting forward in the Bill.

This poses a grave danger to the United Kingdom because it will arouse the most enormous resentment. I believe that it will create an anomaly. We already have one with regard to Northern Ireland, which has been an anomaly since Stormont was abolished. That is a relatively small matter. But to build this up into a major matter would be impossible.

The Lord President must recognise that this is so. One cannot operate a system of government which can be seen to be totally and utterly unfair. It is a part of the Government's structure that the system would be unfair, and I think that would be completely unacceptable.

That is the first and crucial point. As I say, there is perhaps an answer which the Liberal Party likes to put forward. It is to have a federal structure. I accept that a federal structure meets the problem that I have been discussing. At the same time, a federal structure is, if not impossible, wholly unsuited to the United Kingdom.

There are two versions of a federal structure which are possible. One is to have the four countries as the four federal units and a United Kingdom Parliament to deal with defence, foreign affairs and United Kingdom national matters. But I do not think that a federation is feasible if one country constitutes 85 per cent. of the total population. I cannot think of any example of a federation working on that pattern. It is inherently and fundamentally an unsound structure.

Mr. Lee

Perhaps it is not a very happy example, but there is an example of what might be described as a popularly imbalanced federation, which is the Federation of Nigeria. I agree that it is not a very happy example.

Mr. Raison

I shall not go very far——

The Temporary Chairman

I hope that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Mr. Lee) will not mislead the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) into making a speech which is out of order. The hon. Gentleman is making a Second Reading speech, in any event.

Mr. Raison

There is a problem here, is there not, Sir Stephen? It is not just that Conservative Back Benchers were virtually unable to get into the Second Reading debate. There is a real problem here that this is an amendment which is fundamental to the whole Bill. If we take out Scotland, we destroy the Bill. I do not dispute that. Therefore, surely it is reasonable to go in some depth into the reason why this is an unworkable edifice. I hope that you will not feel that I am straying beyond the bounds of order. However, I will not pursue the example of Nigeria. Indeed, I think that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) neatly answered his own observation——

The Temporary Chairman

I do not object to the hon. Gentleman developing that argument. But he must not develop alternative solutions.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order, Sir Stephen. We discussed this difficulty earlier today. We debated at some length what could and could not be said and how far hon. Members could or could not go. We were given an assurance from the Chair that hon. Members could go a long way. If any hon. Member wishes to relate the possibility of Scotland being taken out of the Bill to the situation in Nigeria or to the position of Sardinia in relation to France or that of Sicily in relation to Italy, this is relevant to our discussion. We cannot have a proper discussion of matters of this kind unless hon. Members are able to give these examples. If that is not permitted, our discussion becomes so narrow and so confined that it is impossible to have an intelligent debate.

The Temporary Chairman

The last thing that I want to do is narrow the discussion. But I am anxious that we should not stray too far. I have no objection to the hon. Member for Aylesbury making reference to Nigeria, but I do not think that we should discuss the Federation of Nigeria on this amendment.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to that point of order, Sir Stephen. Earlier today, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, there was a long discussion about this difficulty, and some of us said gently that the undertakings which were given, doubtless in all good faith, by my right hon. Friend the Lord President about the scope for the Bill and the scope for argument could not be implemented by him and that they were matters for the Chair. Does not this further make the case for some kind of statement by either the Chairman of Ways and Means or Mr. Speaker himself about what the precise guidelines will be from the Chair?

The Temporary Chairman

That may be so. But that is not a matter for me to decide. Certainly I shall make representations to the Chairman of Ways and Means and to the Speaker about these matters. But it is not a question for me to decide, and certainly it is not one for the Lord President to decide.

Mr. Raison

I accept your implied rebuke, Sir Stephen, about discussing Nigeria. I point out only that I did not discuss it. It was the hon. Member for Handsworth who dragged that country into the debate. But I think that it is reasonable to say a word or two about why I do not believe that a federal solution would work.

Many hon. Members on this side of the House, particularly on the Liberal Benches, have talked about the federal alternative. But I do not believe that the federal alternative sincerely put forward by the Liberal Party and others is capable of working. I do not think that a federation consisting of four countries is workable for one particular reason—the size of England.

There is another version of the federation, which is to have the English regions plus Scotland, Ireland and Wales. That is not necessarily unworkable but it is thoroughly undesirable. I will not go into why I am strongly against English regionalism, although there is no desire for it, no merit in it, and it would be expensive and damaging in many ways. I will not pursue that because the Bill is not capable of being converted into one providing a regional structure.

This Bill is constitutionally odious to the United Kingdom Parliament and it is incapable of conversion into something workable. One is bound to bring into a discussion about whether Scotland should be included in the Bill the effect of the Bill on the economic policy of the United Kingdom. It is argued, but I do not think that the Government believe, that it is possible to give the degree of economic separation that this scheme would give to Scotland without causing damage to the United Kingdom economy.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) pointed out, there is in the Government's White Paper on English devolution a paragraph which effectively puts the lie to that. It is the paragraph which refers to block funds. Block funds are an inherent part of the scheme. The White Paper talks about block funds as applied to English regions and says: such funds would make the Government's task of economic management more difficult". I hope that the Minister will answer that point because Ministers' have been singularly reluctant to answer points made during the debate. The Government believe that block funds for English regions would make it difficult to manage the economy as a whole. Why, therefore, will a block fund for Scotland not have the same effect? The case appears to be incontrovertible. The truth is that Scottish devolution would effect the United Kingdom economy as a whole.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Some of us argue that the economic powers given in the Bill are too small. There is a fair amount of mythology about the fact that any limited degree of separation is likely to rupture the concept of United Kingdom economic unity. But if one takes the example of Stormont—which had greater economic powers than are now proposed for the Edinburgh Assembly—that did not lead to such a rupture, and in the federal systems mentioned earlier it can be seen that economic unity can be compromised with a degree of State separation of economic power.

Mr. Raison

Federal systems are not compatible with the Government scheme and that must be admitted. This Bill cannot be converted into such a scheme and one could not devise amendments to achieve that. I understand the point about Stormont but there is a fundamental difference because Stormont had to behave and knew that it was on a kind of licence.

It being Ten o'clock, The Chairman left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

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