HC Deb 13 January 1977 vol 923 cc1777-98

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendent be made.

Mr. Raison

I was making the point before that interruption that the Government's scheme has an effect on the economies of England, Ulster and Wales as well as on the economy of Scotland. That is an important point. I am making a general argument that the Bill affects other parts of the United Kingdom— —

The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. Will hon. Members who do not wish to listen to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) kindly withdraw from the Chamber quietly.

Mr. Raison

I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Murton.

I am not the only one who believes that this effect is inherent in the Bill. The same point has been made by Lord Crowther-Hunt, who was, until a short time ago, one of the Government's advisers in the formulation of their devolu tion policy. I gather that he is a bit disgruntled and displeased about the way in which the policy has worked out. He speaks with a great deal of experience in this matter since he was a member of the Kilbrandon Commission. [Interruption.]

The Chairman

I have already appealed to the Committee once for quiet, and I hope that I shall not have to do so again.

Mr. Raison

Lord Crowther-Hunt said in an article he wrote, which appeared in The Times just before Christmas: The Government's consultative document 'Devolution: the English dimension' has all the characteristics of a false prospectus. First, it plays down the extent of the devolution of power now actually proposed for Scotland and Wales; inevitably therefore, it gives the false impression that England has nothing to worry about. He made a number of other very pertinent and relevant points which I forbear from quoting only because it is getting late. He makes some powerful arguments.

What happens in Scotland under the Government's scheme has a very significant effect on the other parts of the United Kingdom. One of the points which Lord Crowther-Hunt made in a second article, and which other hon. Members have made during this debate, is that the inevitable scramble for resources under the block grant system would be bound to produce very bad feeling. The English would naturally resent what was happening and so would Ulster people and the Welsh, because they would see that, as Lord Crowther-Hunt pointed out, the Scottish people had extra advantages in the scramble for resources. The Scottish people would continue to have their own Secretary of State in the Cabinet. They would also have their own Executive, which would be negotiating with Whitehall on the size of the block grant, and they would continue to have full—some would say overfull—representation in the House of Commons. In other words, when negotiations took place on the amount of money that was to go to Scotland, the Scots would be in a very strong position. It is not surprising that more and more hon. Members from the poorer English regions are beginning to feel very deep resentment about this. I imagine that this was behind the conference in Newcastle to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) referred.

Mr. Robertson

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he believes that there might be some kind of advantage to the Scottish people by devolution—although he has not described in detail what that would be—and that he is opposed to the Bill for that reason alone?

Mr. Raison

I do not think that anyone would accuse me of saying that it was for that reason alone that I oppose the Bill. I have advanced a number of other points. That is only one of the reasons why the scheme is unsatisfactory. It would have the effect of producing very bad feeling between the member countries of the United Kingdom. It would therefore be likely to do damage to the United Kingdom, something about which I am deeply concerned.

It is also inherent in the Government's scheme that they are trying to do something which is impossible—to separate economic and social policy. Economic and social policy are bound to go together. The whole purpose of the Government's scheme is to say roughly that social policy will become the preserve of the Scottish Assembly and the Scottish Executive and that economic policy will continue to come under the Treasury and the United Kingdom Parliament.

Again, in the interests of time, I do not want to go into these arguments in detail, but it must be obvious that to try to separate, for example, housing from the general management of the economy is impossible. The Bill itself shows clearly how difficult it is when it states that certain provisions for the fixing of rents should remain with the United Kingdom Government, whereas housing policy as a whole would be given to the Scottish Assembly. There are many other fields in which one can see that there will be a totally unnatural and artificial split caused by the Government scheme. In many ways the economic and social arrangements are bound to produce friction.

It was significant that the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid), who is one of the two spokesmen on devolution for his party—a Gilbertian, Gondolierian attitude—said on Second Reading that the present suggestion was a recipe for acrimonious conflict between Scotland and England." — [Official Report, 14th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1363.] He was absolutely right. The scheme is a sure-fire recipe for conflict between Scotland and England, between Scotland and Wales and between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Conflict is inevitable under the scheme. It is not possible during the passage of the Bill to devise amendments to do away with the conflict which is fundamental to the structure of the Bill.

The House will do a great service to the future of our country if it supports the amendment. We could then settle down, forget about this scheme and come to grips with the real, desperately difficult problems which face us.

Mr. John Smith

We have had a fairly extensive debate on the amendment. Hon. Members——

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Will you explain what the Minister is doing now? Is he making an intervention or attempting to close the debate?

The Chairman

The Minister has been called to speak.

Mr. Crouch

Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I need clarification on this first debate on such an important constitutional issue.

The Chairman

If a Minister rises it is normal to call him.

Mr. Smith

I have listened with care to the speeches—

Sir Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

On a point of order Mr. Murton. It may not have escaped the notice of yourself or of the Minister, although you have not been in the Chamber recently, that some hon. Members have been sitting here for three or four hours waiting to speak. Since the rule has been suspended it is unnecessary for the Minister to wind up the debate now. It is not only unnecessary but damned discourteous.

Mr. Smith

It is appropriate that I should seek to answer some of the points made by a fairly large number of hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) ——

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Will you call other speakers after the Minister has sat down?

The Chairman

That depends entirely on whether any right hon. or hon. Member rises.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Member for Aylesbury told us his thoughts at some length. He was frank and said that this was a wrecking amendment. Indeed, his speech was an attack on the whole concept of the Bill and was a Second Reading speech. The same line was taken by other hon. Members who have said that they are totally opposed to the Bill. Typically, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) was supported by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).

The speech by the hon. Member for Aylesbury was so effectively answered by his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) that I can add little. I was interested to notice the genuine differences which exist within the Conservative Party and I shall be interested to hear what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has to say if he seeks to intervene. [Interruption.] I an not trying to stop the hon. Member from doing anything. I apologise to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) if I am not seeking to oblige him in that regard.

10.15 p.m.

We have had a number of contributions from some who were frankly opposed to the Bill. Their arguments were that the Bill was wrong in principle and, therefore, they would seek to take Scotland out of it. Some of them will no doubt be seeking to take Wales out of the Bill on a series of other amendments. Taking one with the other, this would be completely destructive of the Bill.

I notice, however, that the official Opposition—no doubt the hon. Member for Cathcart will make the matter clear—do not support this amendment. That is no doubt because, as I understand the policy of the Conservative Party, Conservatives are committed to a directly elected legislative Assembly for Scotland, without any commitment to the English regions. I hope that the hon. Member for Aylesbury will take into account the fact that the policy of the party that he supports here—it has been the policy for some time—is that there should be a directly elected legislative authority in Scotland without, as I understand it, any commitment being made by the Conservative Party to similar arrangements or any sort of regional operation in England or, indeed, anything at all for Wales.

?Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)

Does the Minister accept that the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) was making about the economic matters was dependent not on there being a directly elected Assembly for Scotland but on there being an Executive with separate financial resources, and if one is not in favour of an Executive the point fails.

Mr. Smith

That was one of the points that the hon. Member for Aylesbury made. I listened to him with care. It was certainly one of his points, but I think that he was on a wider point that one could not make differential arrangements for different parts of the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party proposes a constitutional change, albeit a much more limited change than that proposed in the Bill and one which confines itself to legislative authority for the Scottish Assembly, with such an Assembly being a sort of extended arm of the House of Commons, as I understand it. There are great difficulties in that kind of concept. However, the hon. Member for Aylesbury should remember that the Conservative Party accepted that there was to be a separate proposition for Scotland.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) made a remark which I think caused some surprise. He said that he thought that the Liberal Party would vote against Third Reading of the Bill. We shall be asking Liberal speakers throughout the debate for some elucidation of this matter, because prima facie there appears to be an odd situation in which a party votes for a Second Reading but against the Third Reading. However, I understand that it may depend upon amendments. Perhaps the Leader of the Liberal Party would care to clarify the matter.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

Yes, I would. I remind the Minister of State, because of the surprise that has been caused, of what I said at the end of my speech on Second Reading. I said, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, but I say that on the clear understanding that we intend to press amendments on all these points and others in detail in Committee and that if the Bill is to succeed and to make progress through the House the Government must approach these issues with the utmost flexibility." —[0fficial Report, 13th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1021.] That remains our position.

Mr. Smith

I understand that, but in that speech the Leader of the Liberal Party did not say anything about voting against the Bill on Third Reading. That was the difference highlighted in the remarks that his right hon. Friend made tonight. I merely mention that, although it was noticed by a number of hon. Members and has been the subject of comment. No doubt for good reasons, the Leader of the Liberal Party was not able to be present when the remarks concerned were made. I thought that the feeling in the House would be that the Liberal Party's attitude should be clarified if possible.

Many remarks have been made by hon. Members about the effect of the Bill upon the Union of the United Kingdom. I agree entirely with what was said by the hon. Member for Aylesbury about the value of the United Kingdom. It has been beneficial to every part of it. I believe that the vast majority of the people of Scotland, and the vast majority of the people of all parts of the United Kingdom, are dedicated to the maintenance of an effective United Kingdom. It is our case that these proposals do not damage that. With respect to the hon. Member for Aylesbury, I believe that his case was a series of assertions rather than a carefully developed logical case.

Mr. Raison rose——

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman must give me a little opportunity to develop my argument. Some of it involves a matter of judgment. The hon. Gentleman was quite wrong to be so condescending about the level of public discussion that there has been in Scotland. I think that it has been quite high. There is much greater perception of the issues than some people think. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should come to conclusions about opinion in Scotland and how the matter is discussed from random television executives whom he happens to meet.

Mr. Raison

I made a particular point on Scottish feeling about representation in the House of Commons if the scheme went through. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me what the general Scottish feeling is on that issue and what the Government feel about it?

Mr. Smith

If I am led into these matters, I shall be at the Dispatch Box for a long time. The hon. Gentleman will remember that we are discussing a particular amendment.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend explain on what Scottish Members in the House of Commons will be allowed to vote and on what they will have the opportunity of voting in regard to Scotland?

Mr. Smith

That is a very wide question—[interruption.] Conservative Members must not attempt to condemn those who speak from the Government Dispatch Box before they have heard what they have to say. It is a habit that they should not acquire.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) should know from his reading of the Bill that Scottish Members will be able to vote as Members of the House of Commons on matters for which the House of Commons remains responsible. That is a very wide range of matters. We are often criticised by those who oppose the Bill for various reasons that the powers that will be given to the Assembly will not be significant. I disagree. I think they will be significant. Surely it is necessary only to mention education, health and housing. Those are matters of great concern. No doubt some important matters are retained at the United Kingdom Parliament, such as energy, trade, industry, general economic and industrial policy and employment policy. A very wide range is retained at United Kingdom level for the responsibility of the British Government and the United Kingdom Parliament.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)rose——

Mr. Smith

No. I am still dealing with the intervention made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Peter Reesrose——

The Chairman

Order. If the Minister does not desire to give way, he cannot be made to do so.

Mr. Smith

Surely the House should allow me to be heard. I should be more disposed to give way to the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) if he had sat through the debate as patiently as my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, to whom I am replying.

I take it that my hon. Friend feels that the Bill presents some danger to the unity of the United Kingdom. This is a matter of judgment. It is my firm judgment that the unity of the United Kingdom will be strengthened by recognising the diversity of its different parts. I am not alone in that opinion. I refer Conservative Members, some of whom might not be willing to take the fact from me, that the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), in a very good speech on Second Reading, made that point forcefully.

There is a certain danger in considering the devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales and saying that no change should be made in the machinery of government of the United Kingdom unless some sort of overall scheme is proposed for the whole of the United Kingdom. I do not think there is any intrinsic merit in the proposition that the machinery of government in different parts of the United Kingdom must necessarily advance at the same pace. There is no merit in the implied argument that all changes must be uniform for the whole of the United Kingdom.

We have already found it necessary within the structure of Government to have territorial Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. In the case of Scotland, that is because since the Union there have been enduring national institutions—for example, the legal system, the Church, the education system and local government. These institutions are so different that the British Government have found it convenient to have territorial administrations, albeit within a unitary political system, for Scotland and Wales. We have not found it necessary to do that for different parts of the United Kingdom.

Already in an administrative sense there is a quite different process of government in Scotland and Wales. The critics of the Government's scheme should take that into account.

Another important reason for devolution being desired, especially in Scot land, is that there is the administrative machinery that I have mentioned. However, it is not for a political parallel that we have developed the administrations and created new centres of Civil Service power and authority. We have not taken a step to bring forward political machinery for control, discussion and criticism to parallel it. The democratisation of the existing administrative machinery is one of the important reasons for devolution and it being welcomed in Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

Those are fine words, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is the first legislation to affect the voting rights of Members of this House from various parts of the United Kingdom. There is a fundamental difference between administrative devolution and the effect on hon. Members voting on legislation for one part of the Kingdom and not that for other parts.

Mr. Smith

I am sorry that I gave way. I thought that the hon. Gentleman intended to follow up the point about the democratisation of the administrative machinery. I do not think that he is right when he says that this is the first such Bill but I will let that argument——

Mr. Galbraith rose——

Mr. Smith

No, I will not give way to the hon. Member.

We have had a fairly wide debate. In the document on the proposals for English devolution, the Government set out various issues and asked for opinions from England. We have been getting some of that opinion in this debate. The hon. Member for Aylesbury referred to a comment in that document about block grants for regional assemblies which would diminish overall control of the British economy. That is a factor to be taken into account. The Government were setting out both sides of the case in an attempt to get informed opinion.

There is quite a difference between a whole series of block grants throughout the United Kingdom and a block fund for Scotland and Wales, because there will still remain under the control of central Government a large part of the expenditure which affects 85 per cent. of the population.

Mr. Raisonindicated dissent.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman does not agree, but this is an important point and I hope that he will think more about it.

Mr. Raisonrose——

Mr. Smith

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already, and he had a long time to develop his argument.

Although we have had an interesting debate on this matter, I hope that we shall get down to detail. To some extent, this has been a re-run of the Second Reading debate—perhaps necessarily so—and I do not think that many minds will have been changed by the arguments advanced today. In those circumstances, the best service that I can do the Committee is to remind hon. Members that if they carry the amendment they will sink the Bill. Since we recently decided in principle to support it and since there will be an opportunity on the next series of amendments to discuss the Welsh issue, I hope that the Committee will reject the amendment.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

I hope that those of my hon. Friends who still wish to speak will forgive me for coming in now, but having seen the aggressive look on the face of the Deputy Chief Whip I thought it right that there should be some small speech from the Opposition Front Bench.

Although this has been a useful and constructive debate at a high level—which undermines all the prophecies that we might have destructive sessions—the Minister of State's answer in this first debate was woefully inadequate. Major points of principle were raised by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Certainly the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) has not made a constructive contribution to this or any other debate for a long time. It is shameful that, despite the care with which my hon. Friends have prepared detailed arguments, they have been ignored.

The Minister of State simply said that our fears generally were not justified. In a debate on a wide-ranging amendment which proposes to take Scotland out of the Bill, the one thing that we could have expected from the Government and the Minister was some indication of what good these proposals would do for Scotland. One of the unfortunate features of these debates is that Ministers limit themselves to saying that our fears are unjustified.

For example, the Minister said that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who made a super speech, was simply making assertions, whereas the Minister himself was making judgments. The Minister of State gave no indication of how the Bill will help Scotland.

The main purpose of a Front Bench speech on an occasion like this is to outline the attitude of the Conservative Party and the Shadow Cabinet to the amendment. Normally, that is a great mystery to be revealed, but on this occasion, unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) made his own assertions in advance about what that would be and he welcomed it. In welcoming it, he drew a certain assumption. For the sake of the record I must redress the balance. My hon. Friend conveyed the impression that if the Front Bench were to suggest that we should not vote for or against the amendment it would represent a welcome change in our attitude to the Bill.

10.30 p.m.

There is no question of any change of attitude on the part of the Shadow Cabinet. We made clear from the beginning that we would vote against the Second Reading of the Bill and from the moment the Second Reading was approved by a majority that we would be constructive in our approach to the Bill.

Mr. Reid

As the hon. Gentleman is dealing with assumptions, perhaps he will tell us what assumption we can draw from the leaflet issued in his constituency of Glasgow, Cathcart in the October 1974 General Election campaign under his imprimatur, which reads as follows: We will establish a Scottish Assembly to ensure that decision-making is removed from London. There will be a separate Scots budget".

Mr. Taylor

What the hon. Gentleman was reading represented the policy of the Conservative Government that there should be a separate Assembly for Scotland. Of course it would have involved a payment of cash for that purpose. We cannot have an Assembly without cost, as has been made clear by the Government on many occasions. When the people of Scotland discover the precise cost of the Government's proposals, they will have second thoughts.

Conflicting arguments have been put forward on the amendment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, the proposals for Scotland have grave disadvantages. The question of over-government was not dealt with seriously by the Minister. If the Bill is passed, there will be an additional tier of government in Scotland. We have to see whether that can be justified. Whereas a few years ago a normal constituency in a city might be represented by three people and two tiers, there is now a possibility of five or six tiers and 13 people. That is a real danger.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) said, there is a threat of the breaking-up of Britain in these proposals. There has been discussion between my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands and others on why the SNP welcomes the proposals for Scotland. My hon. Friend suggested that half a loaf was better than no bread. That is the attitude of some who feel that they might not get a full loaf. There is no indication that the SNP has given up hope of getting a full loaf, but after more detailed discussions on the plan for Scotland support might wither away.

Mr. Reid

How much of a loaf the Scots will get was described in this further leaflet distributed in Cathcart during the last election campaign. It was headed The Right Way with oil. It went on to say: It will be right with the Tories. Scotland first to benefit. We'll get the benefits fast. We'll get rid of the bottlenecks. We'll give Scotland a fair deal with a new tax on North Sea oil profits. No mention was made of Britain. I wonder how many leaflets went out saying that Yorkshire would benefit.

Mr. Taylor

Everything mentioned in the pamphlets put out in Cathcart—I assume they were Conservative pamphlets—was fully consistent with the Conservative manifesto.

We accept that the Bill has many great dangers, as my right hon. and hon Friends have said. [Interruption.] On the other hand——

The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. There is too much cross-talk below the Gangway.

Mr. Taylor

On the other hand, as has been made clear, there are other considerations. First, the Bill has been approved on Second Reading, and therefore it is perhaps right that we should consider it in depth and detail. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made clear, the Conservative Opposition will be approaching the Bill in a constructive way, seeking to improve and amend it. In these circumstances, it would be unfair to suggest that we should remove Scotland entirely from the Bill. That would prevent us from putting forward constructive amendments.

Secondly, while the Minister of State has said that we have had a full and comprehensive debate in Scotland on the issue of devolution for a long time, my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury was right to say that the effects of the Government's proposals, and others along these lines, have not been made clear to the people. I am sure that many people in Scotland are not aware that, under the Government's proposals, Westminster Members will not be able to participate in Scottish legislation unless the Secretary of State exercises his veto; Bills will be handled by the Scottish Assembly and not by Members of the House of Commons.

When we are looking at the question of how well aware the people of Scotland are of the Government's plans, the Minister of State will be interested to note that in a poll in the Scotsman a year ago 10 per cent. of those interviewed had not heard of the Government's proposals, while in a poll conducted this year 28 per cent. said that they had not heard of them. Therefore, while the Minister may say that everyone in Scotland knows about the position and has debated it at length, the truth is that the people of Scotland are simply not aware of the Government's proposals and of the severe damage they will do to them and their country.

While I respect the point of view put by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South, I must say that it might be in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the House of Commons if we could have a full and wide-ranging debate about the implications of the proposals, so that when and if it comes to a referendum the people of Scotland will know exactly what is before them.

In these circumstances, we think that the Government could find themselves faced with a boomerang and not a great political advantage. The people of Scotland will realise in the fullness of time, if we have constructive debates on these issues and they are made clear, that the Government's proposals will simply mean more taxation, more politicians, more civil servants and more confusion, with, as far as we can see, no advantage.

It might well be in the interests of those who feel that the proposals for Scotland are wrong, as we do, that we should have this full, wide-ranging debate. Therefore, the Shadow Cabinet would not wish to support the amendment. On the other hand we would not wish to oppose it, because the one thing we would not wish to convey is that in any sense the Conservative Party supports the Government's proposals for Scotland.

We have made it clear that we regard these proposals as objectionable and dangerous. My belief is that if we can get down to the detailed consideration the people of Scotland will begin to realise, as the Conservative Opposition have done, that the Government's proposals are damaging and dangerous, and will bring about over-government and too much bureaucracy. The more we can tell the people of Scotland what the Government's scheme will mean for them and of the failures inherent in it, the better it will be for those who, like the Conservative Party, stand firmly by the Union.

The best way of preserving the Union is to support the policies of the party which stands most firmly by the Union, and to that extent I suggest to my hon. Friends that it might be in the best interests of those who, like us, oppose the Government's proposals for Scotland that we should not pursue this amendment.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) has quoted selectively, as Members of the Scottish National Party always do, from pamphlets distributed in the election campaign. I say to him and his friends that, while I believe that the Government's proposals when they are clarified will be rejected, I also believe that, if the SNP's proposals for Scottish independence are made clear, the peripheral advantage which they have at present and the upsurge in nationalism will be not only undermined but destroyed. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will know that at least I publish pamphlets and make my views clear.

On the other hand, the Scottish National Party has recently taken the initiative in publishing one group of policy proposals about the financial arrangements for an independent Scotland. No sooner had it published those proposals about financial independence for Scotland than that great industry in Scotland, insurance—which is largely based in Perth with the General Accident, announced that the proposals would be disastrous for Scotland. Industry, commerce and banking have said the same. Within a couple of days the nationalists took back their proposals.

I ask both parties not to take up further time——

Mr. Reidrose——

Mr. Taylor

I have already given way twice. I believe that if we give the House of Commons and the people of Scotland an opportunity to hear in detail ——

Mr. Reidrose——

Mr. Taylor

No, I have given way twice.

Mr. Reidrose——

Mr. Taylor

I will not give way. It is my belief that the more that the people of Scotland can learn about the Government's proposals the more they will realise the dangers, and the more the people of Scotland realise the dangers attached to the hon. Gentleman and his extremist party the sooner they will not only reject the Government's plan but reject even more overwhelmingly the crazy ideas advanced by the Scottish National Party.

Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put: —

The Committee proceeded to a Division.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Crouch

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Murton. The debate on this group of amendments has been closed at far too early a stage. I have been sitting here for over three hours waiting to catch your eye, but I have not been successful. We have had what amounts to Second Reading speeches lasting up to half an hour, and it is clear that this serious debate is not yet over.

The Chairman

This matter is entirely within the Chair's discretion, and this debate has taken over three and a half hours.

Sir Nigel Fisher

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I wish to reinforce what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I have been sitting here for four hours waiting to take part in this debate. The Government suspended the rule only three-quarters of an hour ago, and they now have the gall to apply the closure when many hon. Members have still not had an opportunity to speak in the debate. It is a scandalous abuse of Government power.

The Chairman

As I have already said, this matter is entirely at the discretion of the Chair.

Mr. Crouch

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I submit that the views of English Members have not been sufficiently——

The Chairman

Order. The Tellers for the Ayes are Mr. Stallard and Mr. Coleman. There being no Tellers for the Noes, the Ayes have it.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Spelthorne)

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Murton. The names of the Tellers for the Noes were handed in while, unfortunately, you were listening to a point of order. [Hon. Members: "No."] I hope that the Government Front Bench will not say "No". I am addressing my point of order to you, Mr. Murton, and to the Treasury Bench. At your elbow was one of my colleagues putting in the Tellers while you were listening to a point of order. I am sorry that, because of that fact, you were unable to accept the Tellers, but the names of the Tellers were put in time, and I emphasise the right of the Opposition to register their protest that the Government are applying the closure.

The Chairman

I desire to reply to the point of order. I was on my feet at the time.

Mr. Atkins

(seated and covered): No, with the greatest respect, Mr. Murton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I was standing beside you. I know that you rose

Division No.31.] AYES [10.50p.m.
Aitken, Jonathan Goodhew, Victor Page, John(Harrow West)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gow, Ian(Eastbourne) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham(Crosby)
Brotherton, Michael Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Raison, Timothy
Crowder, F.P. Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees, Peter(Dover & Deal)
Dalyell, Tarm Jones, Arthur(Daventry) Stanbrook, Ivor
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Tebbit, Norman
Eyre, Reginald Marshall, Michael(Arundel) Wiggin, Jerry
Fisher, Sir Nigel Marten, Neil
Fox, Marcus Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fraser, Rt Hon H.(Stafford & St) Montgomery, Fergus Mr. George Gardiner and
Galbraith, Hon T.G.D. Morrison, Charles(Devizes) Mr. Jan Sproat.
Garrett, W.E.(Wallsend)
Armstrong, Ernest Davidson, Arthur Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Ashton, Joe Davis, Clinton(Hackney C) Jenkins, Hugh(Putney)
Atkins, Ronald(Preston N> Deakins, Eric John, Brynmor
Atkinson, Norman Dormand, J.D. Johnston, Russell(Inverness)
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Duffy, A.E.P. Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Eadie, Alex Judd, Frank
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel(Heywood) Ellis, John(Brigg & Scun) Kaufman, Gerald
Bates, Alf English, Michael Kerr, Russell
Beith, A.J. Ewing, Harry(Stirling) Kilfedder, James
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Faulds, Andrew Kinnock, Neil
Bennett, Andrew(Stockport N) Flannery, Martin Lambie, David
Bishop, E.S. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lamborn, Harry
Blenkinsop, Arthur Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lester, Miss Joan(Eton & Slough)
Boyden, James(Bish Auck) Forrester, John Litterick, Tom
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fowler, Gerald(The Wrekin) Loyden, Eddie
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Freud, Clement Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Brown, Ronald(Hackney S) George, Bruce Mabon, Rt Kon Dr J. Dickson
Buchan, Norman Gilbert, Dr John McCartney, Hugh
Callaghan, Jim(Middleton & P) Golding, John McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Campbell, lan Gourlay, Harry McElhone, Frank
Canavan, Dennis Graham, Ted MacKenzie, Gregor
Cant R.d. Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackintosh, John P.
Carmichael, Neil Grimond, Rt Hon J. McNamara, Kevin
Carter, Ray Grocott, Bruce Madden, Max
Crrtwright, John Hamilton, James(Bothwell) Magee, Bryan
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Harper, Joseph Mikardo, lan
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cohen, Stanley Henderson, Douglas Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Hooley, Frank Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cook, Robin F.(Edin C) Hooson, Emlyn Moyle, Roland
Corbett, Robin Horam, John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Newens, Stanley
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Noble, Mike
Crawford, Douglas Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Ogden, Eric
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hunter, Adam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cryer, Bob Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Ovenden, John

to your feet directly afterwards and I know that your attention was distracted. One of my colleagues was giving the names of the Tellers when you were in your seat.

The Chairman

I am afraid that I am the only person who can answer that point, and I was on my feet.

Mr. Gow

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. If the names of the Tellers were given, and if——

The Chairman

Order. The Question has been decided. The Ayes have it.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 30, Noes 162.

Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Watkins, David
Palmer, Arthur Snape, Peter Watt, Hamish
Parry, Robert Spriggs, Leslie Wellbeloved, James
Penhaligon, David Steel, Rt Hon David Welsh, Andrew
Price, William (Rugby) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) White, James (Pollok)
Reid, George Strang, Gavin Whitehead, Phillip
Richardson, Miss Jo Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Wigley, Dafydd
Robertson, John (Paisley) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Rooker, J.W. Thompson, George Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Tinn, James Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rowlands, Ted Torney, Tom Woof, Robert
Sandelson, Neville Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Wrlgglesworth, lan
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Sillars, James Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Mr. A. W. Stallard and
Skinner, Dennis Ward, Michael Mr. Donald Coleman.
small, William

Question accordingly negatived.

11.0 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. John Smith.]

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Murton. The whole Committee realises, after the first debate on this measure which will be with us for some months, the difficult position in which the Chair will find itself with its successive incumbents, but on this first debate on a series of amendments there has been inadequate representation of some sections of opinion in the House of Commons.

We do not expect you, Mr. Murton, to recognise immediately, in these early days, what that opinion is and where it lies, but I must point out to you that in a debate which was fundamental to the continuance of the Bill, on an amendment which would have wrecked it, only three English Members were called to represent their views on the matter and all of them were against devolution. Not once did we have a chance today to hear the views of an English Member concerned to see that the Bill should proceed.

Passion expressed itself in the way people spoke on this matter. That is right. Time was taken up, and admittedly some hon. Members took longer than they would normally have done in Committee. We recognise that you had to allow hon. Members to speak passionately in expressing their views on this first day when the Bill could have been killed. I suggest that for future guidance it would be helpful if the House knew that there would be room for passion and room for the expression of all points of view as we proceed.

I am the last person—[Interruption.] I address my remarks solely to you, Mr. Murton, because I hope that, as we proceed, you will recognise that many of us want to express a view with passion and are passionately in favour of making progress with the Bill towards devolution in Scotland, in Wales and subsequently in the rest of the United Kingdom. The House of Commons being a mixture of people, some of us feel passionately in that way as others feel passionately against this measure. The temperature here with me is rising. I feel passionately about this measure, and I hope that I have succeeded in making my point.

The Chairman

In reply to that point of order, I am well aware of the problems and also of the passion which has been expressed.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.