§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I beg to move Amendment No. 453, in page 1, line 15, leave out subsection (1) and insert—'(1) There shall be established in Scotland a Parliament called "the Parliament of Scotland" consisting of Her Majesty and an assembly elected by the people of Scotland called "the Scots Parliament", and there shall be established in Wales a Parliament called "the Parliament of Wales" consisting of Her Majesty and an assembly elected by the people of Wales called "y Senedd" or "the Senate of the Parliament of Wales"'.
§ The Chairman
With this amendment we may also take the following amendments:
- No. 312, in page 1, line 15, leave out 'Scottish Assembly and a Welsh Assembly' and insert
- 'National Assembly for Scotland and a National Assembly for Wales'.
- No. 454, in page 1, line 15, leave out 'Assembly' and insert 'Parliament'.
- No. 57, in page 1, leave out line 16 and insert 'Parliament'.
- No. 391, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'Assembly' and insert 'Council'.
- No. 64, in page 1, line 17, leave out 'Assembly' and insert 'Parliament'.
- No. 69, in page 1, line 19, leave out 'parliamentary elections' and insert
- 'elections to the Parliament of the United Kingdom'.
- No. 81, in page 2, line 1, leave out 'Assembly' and insert 'Parliament'.
- No. 85, in page 2, line 2, leave out 'Assembly' and insert 'Parliament'.
§ Mr. Steel
Shortly after 4.30 a.m. this morning, when the Government were exhausted. I was about to embark on this series of amendments. They are intended 1530 to make marginal improvements to the Bill. It is not my intention to burden the debate with yet another re-run of the arguments about federalism or anything else. These amendments simply deal with technicalities in the Bill.
§ The Chairman
At the beginning of today's consideration of the Bill in Committee I appeal for courtesy on both sides.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) tell us who moved to report Progress on the Bill last night?
§ The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)
The comment made by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) was not relevant. There was no need for him to make that remark. Some hon. Members would like to remind the public, who do not attend the House but who read Hansard, that some hours before 4.30 a.m. today the Liberal Chief Whip moved to report Progress on the Bill. That indicates that the Liberals were tiring.
§ Mr. Steel
The reason for that was that we saw no hope of reaching a vote at that time, but once a vote had been taken we would have been happy to continue the debate. All I wanted to point out is that we are now able to begin a fresh amendment on a new day instead of debating far into the morning.
These are technical amendments designed to improve the Bill. My colleagues would prefer to see the word "Parliament" inserted where at present the word "Assembly" appears. There are three grounds for this. First I want 1531 to repeat a point that I made when the White Paper with the Government's proposals was published.
The Government have the psychology of the devolution programme wrong. This could be seen when they introduced governor-general type powers for the Secretary of State which have been considerably if not entirely modified since in the light of objections. It was wrong to call the Premier in the Assemblies by the same name as the chief officer of a local authority. It was entirely wrong that the legislatures should be described as Assemblies—a term used by my party for its annual conference and by the Church of Scotland for its annual gathering. I would have thought that a body that will have executive and legislative powers— and I hope more powers than are contained in the Bill—should be worth the title of Parliament.
We are dealing with an exercise intended to respond to the wishes of the people of Scotland. I have no doubt that the prevailing mood is for the return of a Scottish Parliament to look after Scottish interests. We can have detailed arguments about how far we would go in giving away powers to such a Parliament.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
The old Scottish Parliament was a sovereign body. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the people of Scotland wish to return to such a system?
§ Mr. Steel
That is just what I did not say. I said that there was a wish to establish a Scottish Parliament, but that we would all have different views about what its powers should be. The SNP would argue that it should have the same powers as the Scottish Parliament which existed before the Act of Union in 1707. That is not my view.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
This whole debate is about the word "Parliament" and it is important that the right hon. Gentleman tells us what he means by that word. We cannot make up our minds on the amendment unless he tells us what "Parliament" means and what powers it ought to have.
§ Mr. Steel
I do not propose to fall into the trap of reopening a general discussion. Other amendments, some in the 1532 names of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, deal with, for example, powers of taxation, cutting down Scottish representation in this House and extending powers over industry and the economy. But we shall come to those later and if we have a general debate on every amendment, we shall never make progress.
This is an important but technical series of amendments to change the drafting of the Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) will allow me to answer his questions in discussions on later amendments. I shall confine my remarks to Scotland as some of my hon. Friends may wish to speak on the Welsh section of the amendment.
My second argument follows. The title of "Parliament" has existed in Scotland before. It is historically correct and it is worth looking back at the arguments in Scotland in the run-in to the negotiations on the 1707 treaties. There is no doubt that a great section of Scottish opinion, including Scottish parliamentary opinion, believed that the commissioners were appointed to come to London and treat for the benefit of the people of Scotland for union with the Parliament of England. They were expected to treat for that union within some sort of federal or quasi-federal framework. However, the commissioners took back proposals for an incorporating union and they were agreed by the Scottish and English Parliaments.
§ Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the arrangements in 1707 were peculiarly patrician and bore little relevance to our present democratic society?
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that many members of the nobility in that Parliament got their dukedoms and promotions after their votes for the Union had been tendered?
§ Mr. Steel
The hon. Gentleman is partly, though not wholly, correct.
Professor Hannam, formerly of the chair of politics at Edinburgh University, has argued convincingly in a book that 1533 Texas got more from the act of union in the United States, not in an economic, but in a political sense, than Scotland got from the Act of Union of 1707. The Scottish Parliament agreed to form an incorporating union which left Scotland with no voice, no political focus and no operational unit through which public opinion could express itself on any grievance. It is our view, though not I suspect the Government's, that we are trying to amend that situation in this legislation.
There is a good case for restoring the proper title without going back to sovereign status or dissolution of the Act of Union. We can recreate a sense of inspiration in the people of Scotland by recreating the Parliament which used to exist, albeit in a very different form from that which we would expect of a democratic assembly today.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
The right hon. Gentleman is arguing his case persuasively, but Clause 1 says that this legislation will not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament. Does he not accept that it is desirable to use a title other than "Parliament" for the devolved bodies so that we may establish that they are not sovereign institutions and that they are something fundamentally different from the Parliament of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Steel
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. We have passed Clause 1, but my right hon. and hon. Friends and I tabled an amendment to the clause which would have removed this difficulty. We now have to deal with the Bill as it is and our amendment suggests that the body in Edinburgh should be called the "Scots Parliament" so that there will be no muddle with the Westminster Parliament.
My third argument brings us to a point of difference between my party and the Government—how much power we propose to give to the devolved body. I can understand the Government resisting a change in the title of the Assembly if they see it as being a subordinate instrument of the Government with no power, for example, to raise taxation and with its powers of legislation limited to those 1534 which could be overridden at any time by the Westminster Parliament.
We should not like to see the Bill develop in that way. We are at an early stage in our discussions, but I must confess that our third reason for wanting a change may not appeal to all hon. Members. I believe that the powers given to the elected body in Scotland should be greater than those outlined in the Bill. We shall be discussing this point later, but it is consistent with our opinions that the body should be given the proper title of Parliament rather than what appears to be the second-grade title of Assembly.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not agree with the claim of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) that this is simply a technical series of amendments. It is far more than playing with words and far more than mere semantics; nomenclature is a matter of considerable importance. If I speak for a little longer than I have hitherto—and my seven-minute speech yesterday was the shortest in the debate—it is a reflection of the importance which I attach to the amendment.
Incidentally, in response to the Liberal leader, it is possible to give many different versions of what happened at the time of the Act of Union. I read a great deal about it during the Christmas Recess and it was not only a question of the Scots trying to muscle in on English trade.
There were a number of Scots politicians who saw being part of a larger British whole as a partial answer to the continual friction and bickering within Scotland at that time. That has some relevance for us today, as a salutory warning.
Those who speak, like the right hon. Gentleman, of creating a sense of inspiration must mean that they want the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a separate State.
I simply do not believe that one can claim to derive a sense of inspiration from institutions such as the proposed Assembly. Though I would disagree with them, some people might claim a sense of inspiration in setting up a new nation State. I do not believe that changing the form of institutions in the way that the Government wish can seriously be claimed to be creating a sense of inspiration.
1535 If we are to reminisce about the Scottish Parliament that was, let us also remember that for very many of us the golden age of Scotland came after, not before, 1707. Post 1907 was the age of enlightenment, the age of Hume, the age when Edinburgh created the first planned new town in the world, when Edinburgh had the first fire service in the world and created a whole list of other achievements.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Unless I misheard the hon. Gentleman, he said that Edinburgh was the first planned new town in the world. If I did not mishear him, surely he is overlooking several thousand years of planned new towns which preceded Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I realised as soon as the right hon. Gentleman stirred in his seat that I was unwise to mention new towns. I should have said that I was referring to the first new town, post-Renaissance, in the Western world, and that I concede straight away. I hope not to get into some Thucydidean wrangle with the right hon. Gentleman.
As I see it, the issue depends on the possibilities that exist for this institution, call it Parliament or Assembly, and I believe that there are four such possibilities. The first possibility is that the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies would have no representation at Westminster. That is obviously absurd unless all political power is to be transferred to the Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff. That is the SNP and Plaid Cymru solution and it involves the decision to dismantle the United Kingdom and would mean the end of Britain as we have known it. Naturally, just so long as the Parliament of the United Kingdom exercises any powers in Scotland and Wales, so the inhabitants there must clearly be represented in Westminster. This is therefore not an option.
The second possible answer to the problem of representation is that the electorate of Scotland and Wales would continue to be represented at Westminster as they are now in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the unitary State. Is such a situation tolerable, however, and if it is, for how long will it remain so?
Scotland is significantly over-represented at present and so is Wales to a 1536 lesser extent. If there are to be Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff, such over-representation is no longer defensible. It might not even have been defended for many months longer in the absence of the proposals for the Assemblies.
Here I must put a question to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Some time ago there was an argument whether the Government were thinking of getting out of this real difficulty by substantially increasing the number of English MPs and basing the numbers on a per capita basis. On such a basis the membership of the House of Commons would increase to 780. If we were to tell our electors that, as a result of our great devolution proposals, we were increasing the number of Members to 780, I think that our electors might have some comment to make. On the other hand, I gather that this proposal is not dead and therefore I ask my hon. Friend whether he has any comment on it.
In the current situation how in good conscience can Westminster say to a Stormont-less electorate in Ulster "You have 12 MPs, one for every 85,000 Northern Ireland electors, but the Scots over the water with their own Assembly, with control over education, housing, health and a host of other subjects, have 71 MPs representing 52,000 electors each"? This is not a credible situation which can survive. In that situation Members of Parliament from Scotland and Wales can legislate on subjects for which they are simply not responsible to their constituents and are not answerable to the voters affected in England. There will, I believe, be a reaction to that among those who regard it as intolerable.
We have to be clear. Are the Government proposing a Parliament or an Assembly? Our Scottish participation could very well be decisive on legislation merely affecting the residents of England. Further, the Scots and the Welsh could very well decide the political complexion of the majority at Westminster and, as a result, the political attitude of the Government.
To add insult to injury, this could be the position in the aftermath of an election which had largely or partly been decided on the very issues of political debate on which the High School and the Coal Exchange were autonomous. In 1537 any stable political situation both no representation of Welsh and Scots in the Assembly, and full representation are ruled out, and such a position one way or the other simply does not accord with the continued existence of the United Kingdom in its literal sense, to which my right hon. Friends, no less than I, are committed. There is, however, no cosy in-between course either.
Let us consider the third and fourth possible answers to the problem of representation of Scots and Welsh in the United Kingdom Parliament and its effect on the situation in the Assemblies, or Parliaments, whichever they are to be, in Edinburgh and Cardiff. The third answer, and one that tends to attract pro-devolution Members who consider themselves realistic and candid, is that reduced representation must come, and I think that it is on the outcome of this nomenclature discussion that certain further amendments have to be considered. It could be reflected that to reduce the number of Scottish MPs to 57 or thereabouts would defeat much of the political purpose of the whole exercise on which in the Labour Party we are embarked.
In no way, however, would reduced representation solve the problem of irresponsible participation in other people's business. The principle remains the same. It makes it no better whether 50, 57, 35 or 10 hon. Members can vote on matters for which literally they have no responsibility whatever.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) will remember that I interrupted him on this point the other evening saying that I thought his argument in this case was a bad argument. On further reflection I think that it is even worse because we are voting on issues for which literally we have no responsibility.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
I think, if we are talking about the same discussion, that we were simply at cross purposes. I refer to the problems both of the number and the rôle. I think that I ended up by agreeing with the hon. Member and that we were saying that the position left by the Bill was insupportable and provided an unanswered dilemma on both grounds. I do not think that we need disagree.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Perhaps I should re-read, yet again, the Hansard report. However 1538 I got the impression that the hon. Gentleman did not concede that point. The truth is that under this Bill I can vote on schools, roads, housing and many other matters in Whitby, Yorkshire, and not only can the hon. Gentleman not vote on the very same matters in Whitburn, West Lothian, but neither can I. That is the absurdity of the situation.
§ Mr. Brittan
Let me clarify this point beyond peradventure. There is no need to disagree when we agree. If the hon. Member will look at the late amendment, Amendment No. 562, tabled yesterday in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and others of my hon. Friends, he will see that the same point that he is making is taken.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not want to continue my discussion with the hon. Member. I must obviously look at that amendment, and I accept what he says.
§ Mr. Raison
At the risk of seeming pedantic, may I point out that I shall still be able to vote about any internal matter in the hon. Gentleman's constituency? The Government are relying on a convention which says that I shall not be able to vote on matters in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. But under the law of the land, if the Bill goes through, I shall be just as much able to vote about anything that happens in his constituency as I can at present. The scheme is absurd and anomalous. It depends on people obeying convention. There is no reason why active Scottish Members should necessarily observe that convention. They may decide to vote on matters concerning their constituencies, and I might decide to vote on matters concerning the hon. Gentleman's constituency. This points to the enormous anomalies in this unworkable scheme.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) is right, that has certain consequences for Members of the Assembly. If he is right, this will lead to enormous resentment inside the Assembly. But I am not sure whether he is right.
It will be in your recollection, Mr. Murton, that I have already formally asked you once for your advice, and I must now ask you again. Because of the 1539 critical nature of the issue raised by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, there ought to be a statement from the Lord Advocate at an early stage setting out the legal consequences of what is proposed. The Lord Advocate wrote me a very courteous letter, which I quoted to the Committee, and I am sure that he is working hard on this problem, but people have been working on the devolution proposals for two and a half to three years. This is a fundamental, fulcrum point, and we are entitled to ask for a statement from one of the Law Officers about whether the hon. Member for Aylesbury is right. If he is, it makes a great difference to future discussions. If he is wrong in law, a statement to that effect will save considerable time.
§ Mr. David Steel
Although the hon. Gentleman has never agreed with our proposals, I hope that he will grant me and my colleagues that part of the absurdities and anomalies which he is outlining stem from the lack of a comprehensive federal system but surely they are nothing like as ferocious as the absurdities with which he is dealing at present, where on a crucial matter like, for example, the Local Government (Scotland) Bill we had serious debates throughout the night among Scottish Members whose constituencies were affected, only to have the final vote decided on the basis of the English majority who carried no responsibility for local government in Scotland. Surely that is one of the objectives behind the changes that we suggest. They are taking away one of the biggest absurdities of all.
§ The Chairman
Before the debate continues, I must point out to the Committee that this amendment relates to the nomenclature of the two Assemblies. I am becoming slightly alarmed that the debate is going rather wide of that mark. The difficulty is that, if the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) goes wide of that mark, other right hon. and hon. Members may be drawn into similar discussion. Nomenclature is the word upon which we must pin our debate.
§ Mr. Raison
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. The Committee is in some difficulty. Quite clearly, when we are discussing nomenclature we must 1540 have an idea of the meaning of the word. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said that he was not necessarily talking about the Assembly as the Government see it. He referred to an Assembly which might be improved in certain respects which he mentioned in his speech and in his intervention. It would be unduly restrictive if we were to be confined very tightly to the nomenclature without being able to discuss what it means in reality.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. The Leader of the Liberal Party said inter alia that there were two reasons which prompted him to move his amendment. The first was that of psychology and the second was that he wanted the Assembly proposed by the Government to have additional powers which, of course, would be more appropriate to an Assembly which was called a Parliament. Since the Chair permitted the Leader of the Liberal Party to discuss the whole psychology of government and the powers of the Assembly, is it not in order for other hon. Members to follow the right hon. Gentleman, and is it not in order, therefore, for the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) to follow the line of argument that he is pursuing?
§ The Chairman
I do not desire to be unduly restrictive, but I heard the word "federalism" mentioned at one point. That is clearly not the intention of the amendment.
§ Mr. Raison
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I took some notes of what the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles said in introducing his amendment. On a number of occasions he referred to a federal or quasi-federal interpretation. Furthermore, when he intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), he again said that he had in mind something which was more federal than what the Government are proposing.
§ The Chairman
It was the latter remark that attracted my attention. I think that the best thing is for me to say that I shall attempt not to be unduly restrictive. I hope that hon. Members understand my difficulty on this matter. I shall be as lenient as I can within the rules of order, and I shall allow the hon. Member for West Lothian to continue his argument.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I hope that, despite your remark about not being unduly restrictive, you will not allow the discussion to become so wide that the debate becomes a repeat of previous debates on questions of substance. All of us are anxious to see the fullest possible debate on this issue, but we fear that if hon. Members stray too widely they will be providing the Government with an opportunity to bring in a guillotine motion, which would be disgraceful.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman's second point has nothing to do with the Chair, but his first remark was merely repeating what I had said. I am anxious that the debate does not spread too wide from the amendment.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The last thing that I want is to provide reasons for my right hon. Friends to proceed with a guillotine motion. That is why I am sticking rather carefully to my notes, because it is a tightly drawn argument and I do not want to waste words.
The interventions illustrate part of the difficulty of this subject. For two or three years much of the argument on the subject has been confined to catch phrases, sloganising and arguments that were not properly thought out. We are now paying the penalty.
I understand the position of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles on federalism, but I must not be drawn down that alley. The federalism which we are discussing here is very different from the federal structure of Germany, and implies in Britain 85 per cent. of the population in one unit, 10 per cent. in another and 5 per cent. in another.
I will listen to his argument on this point as soon as I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) say that we must have a subordinate Parliament or Assembly in Liverpool and when I hear other hon. Members asking for legislative Assemblies in Bristol, Birmingham, Norwich and elsewhere. Then it becomes a possibility. But, until this happens, I do not think it is sensible to talk in terms of what the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles wants.
1542 The fourth possibility is that the representatives of Scotland and Wales in this House, having Assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff, should speak and vote only on those subjects for which powers have not been transferred to the Assemblies. I gather that this possibility is currently under discussion inside the Government. This would put Scottish and Welsh Members in the position of the "in and out" Members, as they used to be called, in the debates upon Mr. Gladstone's 1893 Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
This is not defensible. Apart from creating what will inevitably soon be perceived as first and second-class Members of the same House of Commons, no real demarcation line can be drawn in a unitary State between one set of topics and another set of topics. In any modern legislature social subjects and economic policy become intertwined. There is not a Budget debate nowadays without also a discussion not only of wages policy but of the level of housing subsidy, school meals and other thorny issues. There is not a debate on domestic affairs without reference to foreign policies in general and foreign bankers in particular.
If there is to be an entrenched separation of functions between a unitary State and subordinate Parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff, at the very least it means changing the unitary State into some kind of federal State such as the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles suggests.
Can one seriously believe that, even in an ethos of maximum good will—which emphatically does not and is not likely to exist—one can think of Members of the same Parliament with different functions and limitations?
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Gentleman said that it was not possible to have what he called these "in and out" Members, because it was not possible to differentiate between different kinds of legislation. Is it not a fact that Mr. Speaker now certifies that certain Bills are Scottish Bills? Why can he not in the same way certify that certain Bills are English Bills? Then the hon. Gentleman and I, if we are still in this new House, would not be able to vote on those matters. But we shall be able to vote in the same numbers as at present on what I might call, to use an old-fashioned phrase, imperial matters, such as defence.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Gentleman deserves a direct answer. The Chair would continuously be in an impossible situation. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the following extract from the speech by the right hon. Member for Renfrew-shire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) who, on Second Reading, said:There is not time to consider the possibilities and difficulties of having selective voting rights at Westminster. What I have said clearly indicates that this dissension will inevitably follow. The Bill makes no mention of that—one of the most important considerations which will arise quickly. Suffice it to say that no Parliament, in Edinburgh, Cardiff or at Westminster, could long survive having first and second-class members.At that stage I intervened and said:The right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) is one of the hon. Members who has spoken in the debate who has experience of the Chair. Is it not hard for the Chair to make a judgment on selective voting rights about what impinges on the United Kingdom as a whole or what is genuinely a Scottish or Welsh matter?The right hon. Lady, who, as hon. Members know, is one of the few who have experience of the Chair, replied:I do not want to take any responsibility for considerations which the Chair might make, but I can say that throughout my time in the Chair I have strenuously fought to ensure that the Chair is protected from making any such decisions which sooner or later impinge—this is the point—upon party political considerations in which the Chair must never take part."—[Official Report, 15th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 1623–4.]The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith) raised a matter of crucial importance. The idea that the Chair, day after day, would be making decisions whether the Scots could vote on procedural decisions makes matters complicated to the point of being almost impossible. We all know that procedural decisions in the House of Commons have considerable relevance to the political realities. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small) wish to intervene? Can we imagine the Chair deciding whether Scots could vote or not vote on guillotine motions?
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscadden)
I was beginning to think that my hon. Friend was wandering from the nomenclature.
§ The Chairman
Order. I must rise again and say that the hon. Member for West Lothian is abusing the generosity of the Chair. We must stick to the question of nomenclature. The hon. Gentleman is going very wide of the mark.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The last thing that I want to do is in any way to abuse the generosity of the Chair on this matter. Therefore, I shall bring my remarks to a close.
If we are to have this compartmentalised discussion on this whole issue, if it is to be as itsy-bitsy as some decisions might imply, we shall have an unreal discussion.
The truth is that in this whole business so many subjects are intertwined. That is part of the difficulty of what we are discussing. If it is said that it is just a matter of names, it is just a matter of nomenclature and it does not matter very much, why on earth are we having this discussion? Presumably the reason why you, Mr. Murton, have called all these amendments and given them an important place in the timetable is that they are important. The truth is that we cannot have a subordinate Assembly or Parliament in part—though only part—of a unitary State.
The last thing that I want to do is to abuse the time of the Committee or to be awkward to the Chair. Therefore, I shall bring my remarks to a halt.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
I thought that it was a breathtaking piece of nomenclature on the part of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) to describe his amendment as technical.
§ Mr. Powell
You, Mr. Murton, are entirely right, as always, in saying that prima facie the subject of the amendment is one of nomenclature. But the right hon. Gentleman in moving the amendment left us in no doubt that the word and the thing are very closely connected. Behind most words there lies a thing, but what a thing it is that lies behind the word "Parliament".
The right hon. Gentleman had not launched very far into commending the amendment to the Committee before he said that he wanted to see more powers 1545 given to this thing which he believes ought to be called a Parliament. Then he went on to refer—this is germane to the use of the word—to the return of a Scottish Parliament.
"A Scottish Parliament" can mean anything that we like. But, if we are talking about the "return" of a Scottish Parliament, we know in what context we are using the expression "a Scottish Parliament"—namely, that which the Scottish Parliament was before what the right hon. Gentleman correctly described as "an incorporating union".
There is no mistaking the significance or the intention of this amendment or the fact that, whether we like it or not and however narrowly we endeavour to compartmentalise this part of our debates, we are being invited to go to the heart of the proposals in the Bill.
"Parliament"—again, a word can mean whatever we say that it shall mean—a.has a clear and distinct constitutional significance, and a clear and distinct constitutional usage in our legislation. The whole of the liberties and sovereign independence of the United Kingdom are founded upon what Parliament is and can do. That was expressed dramatically by Henry VIII when he declared:We are nowhere so high in our Estate Royal as in this our High Court of Parliament.He was using the word "Parliament" there—by no means for the first time in several centuries of English history—to indicate that setting in which power and competence are at their widest possible extent.
If we write the word "Parliament" into the Bill in substitution for "Assembly", we are putting up a programme. There is no mistaking what those who wish to write in "Parliament" mean. They mean that these bodies are intended to be assemblies worthy to be called, and to have the proper and natural meaning of, Parliaments.
There are two—I think only two—contexts in which "Parliament" is used in our constitutional diction and legislation The first is as the supreme assembly of a sovereign state. It is in that sense that accurately—at any rate until 1972—it has been applied to this institution of which the House of Commons is a part.
But elsewhere in the Commonwealth there are Parliaments which are not parallel 1546 to the supreme legislature of the United Kingdom. For example, in the Commonwealth of Australia there is a Commonwealth Parliament and there is also a Parliament in each of the states.
That observation does not destroy the validity of what I have claimed for the significance of the word "Parliament" because, since the Commonwealth of Australia is a federation, both the Commonwealth itself and the individual states have vested, guaranteed rights by the fundamental law establishing the Commonwealth, which defines the spheres within which the respective assemblies are sovereign. So whether we look to a federal State or to a unitary State, we find that in our usage the word "Parliament" is the description of an assembly which exercises, with the Crown, sovereign power.
There is, as usual, the Irish exception; but, as usual, the Irish exception turns out to be an exception that proves the rule, and also to be of instruction. I observe that the wording of the amendment moved on behalf of the Liberal Party follows fairly closely the nomenclature of the 1914 and 1920 Acts setting up home rule in Ireland—in the earlier case in the whole island of Ireland; in the second case, in the two several parts into which the island of Ireland was, for that purpose, divided.
For example, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 begins with the words,On and after the appointed day there shall be established for Southern Ireland a Parliament to be called the Parliament of Southern Ireland consisting of His Majesty, the Senate of Southern Ireland, and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland".That is as close a parallel as one could desire for the proposition in each of the two parts of the amendment before the Committee thatThere shall he established … a Parliament … consisting of Her Majesty and an assembly … called the Scots Parliament'.Given that the Assembly in the framework of the Bill is unicameral, I do not think that the Liberal Party could have reproduced the formulae of the 1914 and 1920 Acts m0uch more closely than it has done in the terminology of the amendment.
What happened as a result of setting up a Parliament in Southern Ireland and a Parliament in Northern Ireland—a 1547 Parliament in each case consisting of His Majesty and a bicameral assembly? There happened in the case of Southern Ireland—as there would have happened, had the 1914 Act been persisted in, in the case of Ireland as a whole—that separation of Southern Ireland from the United Kingdom which had been seen and predicted as the necessary and inevitable consequence of establishing a body fit to be called a Parliament—a consequence which had been predicted and argued at great length on very much the same grounds as have been summarily displayed to the Committee by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—because of the very nature of what was done in the forefront of those statutes. What we are being invited, so far as nomenclature goes, to do in this Bill is to set up a new sovereign body. Now, there cannot be two competitive sovereign bodies.
§ Mr. Powell
Perhaps I could help the Minister of State. I hope that he is not about to take me on to dealing with the case of Northern Ireland, because I am about to come to that.
§ Mr. John Smith
It is all right. I wonder whether perhaps the right hon. Gentleman made a slip of the tongue. I thought that he said that what we were being invited to do in the Bill was to set up another sovereign body. That is what we may be being invited to do in the amendment, but certainly not in the Bill.
§ Mr. Powell
I apologise if by a slip of the tongue I substituted the word "Bill" for the word "amendment". It is what we are being invited to do by the amendment. We are being invited by the amendment to declare that assemblies to be set up under the Bill, and in particular the Scots Assembly, are to be Parliaments analogous to the home rule Parliament in Ireland, or Southern Ireland, as the case might be.
Of course, there is always the exception which proves the rule—that of Northern Ireland. Although Northern Ireland, against the will of the Unionists of the day, was provided with a Parliament comprising His Majesty and two Houses, 1548 nevertheless separation, though it was intended by the framework of the 1920 Act, did not follow. No one can read the 1920 Act without seeing that it was designed to lead by an intermediate stage to the end which would have been attained in one step by the 1914 Act. The whole structure of that Act—the Council of Ireland and the provision for an eventual Parliament of the whole of Ireland—was a clear indication that it was anticipated that the head and the body would before long come together and coalesce, as had been envisaged in 1914. That this did not happen was simply because, though they were equipped with all the trimmings of dominion status, though they were launched with a Parliament like the Parliaments of the dominions, the determination of the majority in Northern Ireland not to be separated from the rest of the Union ensured that these institutions were so used as not to allow, so far as might be, the slightest divergence or ground of separation to arise between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
However, I am afraid that the Committee would make a great mistake if we thought that that would justify us in envisaging these Assemblies as Parliaments and then imagining that the course of events, at any rate so far as the unity of the realm is concerned, would follow that which has been experienced with Northern Ireland, because the Bill is brought forward by the Government in respect of Scotland and Wales on the very express ground which is repudiated by the majority of the people of Northern Ireland—namely, that Scotland and Wales are nations.
I apologise—but it is necessary to be done—for troubling the Committee once again with the words of the Prime Minister in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. The Prime Minister said:If this Bill becomes law, as I believe it must, there will be a new settlement among the nations that constitute the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 13th December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 992.]and he went on to refer to Wales and Scotland again as nations.
There is no doubt whatsoever what is meant by providing that which one describes as a nation with a Parliament comprising the Sovereign and an elected 1549 assembly. The very presence in that context of the Sovereign as part—as indeed she necessarily is—of Parliament is the clearest indication that a separation, a breaking of the Union, a "return" as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said, "to a Scots Parliament", not merely is, but is bound logically to be, envisaged upon the very argumentation of the Government themselves.
As the Bill is drafted, it is carefully so drawn that the Crown is not part of the Assembly in Scotland or Wales. The Assent of the Crown to the Acts of the Scottish Assembly is given on the recommendation of the Secretary of State by Her Majesty in Council. This is an arrangement deliberately distinct from that of legislation by a Parliament embracing the Crown along with the one or two houses of an assembly.
In the Bill as it stands, certainly the Government have endeavoured to guard themselves against the Crown becoming an integral part of the new Assemblies of Scotland and Wales. They have done this because they know perfectly well that if that were so—if they once admitted what we are told is a matter of nomenclature that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party is proposing—there would have been created independent sovereign States. That can be the only result.
The connection between the Crown of those new States and the Crown of this realm of England would be a personal connection, just as the connection between the Crown of the United Kingdom and the Crown of the Commonwealth of Australia, which are juridically different, is only a personal union arising because the two happen to be the same person of Her present Gracious Majesty. As states they are totally independent, distinct and sovereign, marked by the existence of the two Parliaments—the Crown in Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Crown in Parliament in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. David Steel
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has considerable experience of Australia but what is the more precise analogy—the relationship between the Crown and the Commonwealth of Australia or the Crown in relation to State Parliament?
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman leads us into familiar pastures, the pastures on the edge of which the hon. Member for West Lothian was treading when the vigilance of the Chair held him back, but the only pastures in which we can stray while creating legislative assemblies in parts of the United Kingdom and still maintaining that the United Kingdom continues to subsist. They are the pastures marked "federation". As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the position is that the Parliaments of the Australian States and the Parliament of the Australian Commonwealth are in their respective spheres sovereign—at least, that is how it was envisaged. That is so because Australia is a federal State and the respective spheres of the component parts and of the whole are marked out in a way which they are not, and arguably cannot be, in this United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
To use the right hon. Gentleman's analogy of pastures, is it not part of the problem that those who have been putting forward these proposals have given the impression that the fences, dykes or whatever that separate one pasture from another are only very small fences or dykes and of little consequence, and it is at the end of the day that we discover that the proposals that have been put forward as trivial in their nature and nothing to bother about turn out to be central issues of discussion and mark very real boundaries?
§ Mr. Powell
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is why we find at this moment that a debate on a matter of nomenclature opens up and reveals the very depths of our existence as a nation.
I must warn the Minister of State and the Government that they cannot shrug off the implications that have been revealed by the Liberal amendment. They cannot do so for two separate and yet connected reasons. They cannot do so, first, because of the very reason that they proclaim for the Bill—namely, the recognition of Scotland and Wales as nations. They cannot do so, secondly, because the machinery that they are attempting to establish within a unitary State, as the hon. Member for West Lothian has demonstrated and as many of us have demonstrated in the past, is unworkable and incompatible with the 1551 continued existence of that unitary State of the United Kingdom.
It is no accident, nor is it a perversity of hon. Members seeking to prolong debate—which I do not believe has been happening in these debates—that we constantly find ourselves driven back to fundamentals. In everything that we attempt to enact in the Bill, we are digging up the fundamentals of the United Kingdom. I think that unwittingly the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party has done the Committee a service by proving that by means of the amendment.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, I see the amendment as inconsistent with the Bill as it has been drawn and inconsistent with the objectives of the Bill as they have been described by Government spokesmen in the House of Commons.
In no way does the Bill change the name of this Parliament at Westminster. If we refer to the wording of Amendment No. 453, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have adopted the term "Parliament", which he seemed to describe as superior to "Assembly". Indeed, he seemed to deprecate the use of "Assembly". He appeared to suggest that "Assembly" was merely a term used in connection with the Synod of the Established Church of Scotland, namely, its General Assembly, or in the context of his party's general assembly. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it has another connotation. It has a respectable use in terms of the United Nations. "Assembly" is not necessarily an inferior word. It is a word that is compatible with "Parliament".
My reasons for hesitating to support the adoption of the term "Parliament" have been stated clearly by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
§ Mr. David Steel
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press his analogy of the United Nations assembly too far. In comparison with the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, its powers are even less. It is not an executive and it is not a legislative body, whereas in the Bill we are providing for both attributes.
§ Sir R. Gower
The reasons for my hesitating to adopt the word "Parliament" have been stated clearly by the right hon. Member for Down, South. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party may say, I am sure that he is aware that in the context of the United Kingdom and in our constitutional history the term "Parliament" has acquired over the years a meaning that we all comprehend. It conveys the idea of a sovereign body. It implies the idea of a superior body that is uncontrolled by any other body. It is the main legislature of these islands and has been such for a couple of centuries.
If we use such terminology in respect of the Assemblies, we shall be conveying expectations in the minds of the public at large that they will be bodies similar in character to the Westminster Parliament, the supreme sovereign body that is uncontrolled by any outside body. That would surely mean that which is objectionable to many of us, namely, the inevitable break-up of the United Kingdom. I cannot see how the continuance of the United Kingdom can be reconciled with supreme Parliaments in constituent parts of the United Kingdom. I cannot accept the suggestion made by the Leader of the Liberal Party that the use of such terminology is a minor matter. The Leader of the Liberal Party said it was a technical alteration to the Bill, but I suggest that it goes much further.
The right hon. Gentleman adopted two divisions—the psychological division and the question of powers. With regard to the psychological division I hope I do not overstate the case, but surely this will put in people's minds the idea that even if the bodies that we are now setting up under the Bill are not sovereign bodies the very terminology means that they will become bodies with such powers. It will reduce the Bill to a sort of halfway house, which will inevitably lead us on to something different.
I share the right hon. Gentleman's views about preferring a federal system. I shall not develop that argument, because I shall be ruled out of order. However, I sought to table amendments on that basis but I was advised that they were outside the Long and Short Titles of the Bill. I would certainly prefer a 1553 federal system to the Bill, because, under that system, we would have specified and clearly separate powers for the Parliament at Westminster and clearly defined powers for the separate bodies in Scotland and Wales and, possibly, eventually in Northern Ireland, too. That could be reconciled with the maintenance of the United Kingdom for a long period ahead.
But we have not got this system. We have got something quite different. According to the Bill, the United Kingdom is apparently not to be changed. That statement is hardly justified. We are told that the powers of the United Kingdom are not to be diminished and would remain as sovereign powers.
I object to the use by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) of the term "technical". I also reject the right hon. Gentleman's description of powers. The amendment would pave the way to the enlargement of the powers without the safeguards of a federal system.
§ Mr. Gow
My hon. Friend said that if the Liberal amendment were carried it would lead us to a sort of half-way house situation. Is that not putting it too low? If this amendment is carried there will then be three Parliaments within the United Kingdom—a Parliament here at Westminster, one in Wales and one in Scotland. According to the amendment there would be the Queen in this Parliament, the Queen in Parliament in Wales and the Queen in Parliament in Scotland.
§ Sir R. Gower
I accept my hon. Friend's intervention, although we would still have the Bill, which states that those bodies do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament here to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it.
I regard the titular changes as irreconcilable with the wording of Clause 1. I regard the terminology contained in the amendment as wholly inconsistent and irreconcilable with that wording. I am not intransigently opposed to devolution of any kind. But I am frightened by the sort of devolution that seems to be not merely irreconcilable with the terminology in the Bill but also with the setting up of bodies like this. Such a combination cannot easily be reconciled with the maintenance of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)
The hon. Gentleman explained that he sought to table amendments relating to his preference for federalism as an alternative. I am not aware that the hon. Gentleman's party has taken this line before. Since the hon. Gentleman has an objection, as I do, to the setting up of Assemblies—and since his party has apparently no allegiance to federalism, as I have not—will the hon. Gentleman make his position clear? Is the better alternative not to have an Assembly or federal system at all but a Parliament sovereign in the United Kingdom?
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir R. Gower
That may be the case. But we have already voted on the principle on Second Reading. The Committee has already defeated attempts to exempt Scotland and Wales respectively. We are now talking in that context. It is not open to me at this stage to suggest what the hon. Gentleman proposes.
I have indeed tabled certain amendments suggesting that the powers in the Bill should not come into operation until similar Assemblies have been set up in the regions of England. But they have not been selected. I am dealing solely with the sort of system that the Bill sets up. I feel that the terminology proposed by the Liberal Party will make it even more objectionable because it will suggest changes which in future would certainly involve the destruction and breaking up of the United Kingdom.
As it stands the Bill uses the term "Assemblies". It is conceivable, I hope possible, that we shall be able to hold it at that.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
The Government have revealed their concern about the danger of the Welsh Assembly being called a Parliament by using the Welsh word "Cynnulliad" for "Assembly" in the White Papers. If one asked any Welsh speaker in this House—we have a number of them—how he would translate that word into English, he would say that "gathering" is the correct translation. The word "Assembly" would be just about the last to occur to a Welsh speaker as being the proper English translation for the word "Cynnulliad".
Clearly the Government have gone out of their way to devise this outlandish 1555 word which is as outlandish in Welsh as it is in English. I notice that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) agrees with me. The hon. Gentleman is a scholar in this respect. The Government have gone out of their way to use this word in a political connection in Wales, whereas it is only used in a religious or agricultural connection. It actually means to glean or to gather. The Government have deliberately used this word and have avoided using the most obvious Welsh word—Senedd—which is the Welsh for "Senate" or Parliament.
§ Sir R. Gower
I listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend said. I shall not argue the merits or demerits of alternative words for "Assembly", or anything else.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) stated, the amendment also uses the word "Senate". That would also be objectionable, because although it may have a special Welsh connotation the literal translation of "Senate"—one that has acquired a particular constitutional significance in the constitutional history of this country and the Commonwealth—is that it usually means a second chamber.
I would regard that as a most inappropriate term to use for a first Chamber. But that is a lesser matter. I sincerely hope that on reflection hon. Members will feel that the legislation, if enacted, is delicate enough without making it even more dangerous by the incorporation of terms that suggest supreme sovereign powers which I hope the Assemblies are not likely to have at any time. That would mean involving the separation of parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Tom Ellis
I should like to respond to the speech made by the Leader of the Liberal Party who moved the amendment. I thought it was a thin speech, and it was certainly brief. I have nothing against brevity; it is an admirable quality, I hope to be equally brief. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Gentleman was being quite deliberately brief in order to try to strengthen his claim that he was dealing with technicalities rather than anything of major substance.
1556 I cannot help but reflect how ironic it was that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman deprecated the lack of psychological understanding on the Government's part while at the same time showing a complete lack of psychological understanding himself by assuming that the word "parliament" is no more than a mere technicality.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) demonstrated in his customary masterly way precisely how wide of the mark psychologically and in substance was the Leader of the Liberal Party. The right hon. Member for Down, South strongly objected to a Parliament being established in Scotland or Wales. I am not so strongly averse. I could devise a better system to satisfy myself, and I am not averse in principle to a federal structure. However, I am pretty sure that I shall be in company with the right hon. Gentleman in the Lobby tonight when I vote with him against the amendment. I should like to give my reasons therefore—from the other side of the fence as it were—why the amendment should not be approved.
The Leader of the Liberal Party put forward three arguments. He spoke of the need to respond to the mood of the Scottish people. I am the last to argue with him about what that mood is. He clearly knows much more about Scottish people than I do. But I do appreciate the difficulty of assessing from a "technical" point of view the nebulous concept of the mood of the people.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke, secondly, about the word "Parliament" in the Scottish context having a historical validity. Thirdly, he emphasised his desire that the proposed Assembly should not have a substantially subordinate rôle. In a brief intervention I hope that I dismissed the right hon. Gentleman's second argument of historical validity. Circumstances at the beginning of the eighteenth century were vastly different from those that exist today, and I see no justification for that argument being adduced to support the amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman felt that the Government were not responding speedily enough to the mood of the Scottish people by proposing, not a "technical" Parliament, merely an Assembly. The Government's response has been remarkably quick. It can be argued that the 1557 proposal has been rushed through too quickly. The issue in Scotland has developed within a comparatively short time; it has been brewing for much longer in Wales. In recent articles I claimed that in many respects Wales had a greater justification for a measure of devolution than had Scotland. There is no justification for the right hon. Gentleman's claim that the Government's response has been slow.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of additional powers that should be granted to the Assembly. The right lion. Member for Down, South argued that the use of the word "Parliament" and the additional powers referred to by the Leader of the Liberal Party would take us away from devolution as the Government see it towards federalism. In that regard I have doubt about the Government's proposals, not so much for Wales but for Scotland, doubts that would be enhanced if the amendment were accepted.
When we are setting out to pass legislation on such a fundamentally important subject as devolution, we have to go very carefully. In the Parliament of 1970–74 the Government of the day introduced industrial relations legislation. I was against the contents of the legislation and felt that it was basically unsound to produce out of a vacuum, out of the heads of Ministers—I am not sure whether the terms are synonymous—a complex intangible corpus of law to deal at a stroke with the subject of industrial relations in its entirety. In the event, we see that no one in the Government of the day was clever enough to produce at such speed anything that could have the faintest chance of working.
In the Scottish proposals there is a blurring of the edges of a limited devolution to Scotland within the clear-cut framework of the sovereignty of the British Parliament and the nation State. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said that various things—for example an abandoning of the Secretary of States Governor-Generalship rôle—had happened that betokened a fudging of this clear-cut issue. In the Welsh proposal it is obvious that devolution is limited to a well-understood nation State structure. The Scottish proposal might be running the risk of falling half-way between the Welsh position and the whole-hogging 1558 federalism that the Leader of the Liberal Party and I would welcome.
On the ground of the impossibility of improving by ad hoc amendments legislation framed in such a way that no one can be certain that it will work satisfactorily, I shall oppose the amendment.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I regret that I missed part of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). When we started to discuss what an Assembly was and what a Parliament was, I left the Chamber to resort to the Oxford Dictionary. There I found that the word "assembly" is defined as follows:Gathering together, meeting".I was shocked to find that the next definition was:Hostile meeting, onslaught, attack".The next definition was:A concourse, a throng".Only in the fifth definition of "assembly" does the Oxford Dictionary get to what we are talking about:Gathering of persons for the purpose of deliberation and decision".Having in my mind a definition of "assembly", I turned to "Parliament". There I found that it was:The name applied in the early times of the French monarchy to the assembly of the great lords of the kingdom".The next definition is:The great council of the nation consisting of the three estates".The fourth definition has a direct relevance to the debate:The title of the corresponding legislative bodies which formerly existed in Scotland and Ireland".Here we come to a definition of Parliament related to the previous Parliaments in Scotland and Ireland. I mention this with great diffidence in view of a previous ruling, but the definition goes on to refer to the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and so on. That brings us right to federalism.
The fifth definition is:A convocation of tinners in the stannaries of Devon. A consultative assembly of the Middle or Inner Temple.".I do not think that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) intended, by "Parliament", any of those concourses or convocations.
1559 6.30 p.m.
The right hon. Gentleman introduced the amendment as a cosmetic amendment. He said that it was not a matter of substance, and in pursuance of that he carefully refrained from giving the Committee a definition of "Parliament" or "Assembly". But the amendment steps over the boundaries of nomenclature. It is not merely an interpretation clause. It states that a Parliament is an Assembly plus Her Majesty or that an Assembly is a Parliament without Her Majesty. That is as far as the definition and interpretation go. Then, beyond the first line of interpretation, beyond the first 12 words, we come to an attempt to enact a positive law, that the Parliaments about which we are talking shall consistof Her Majesty and an assembly".There is an attempt not merely to put a name to the Assemblies of Scotland and Wales but to say of what they shall consist. As the right hon. Member for Down, South rightly pointed out, that is the clue to the amendment's intention.
This innocent-looking amendment has unearthed and thrown up a fundamental anomaly of the Bill. It endeavours to create substantive law in the wordsconsisting of Her Majesty and an assembly".I do not want the Bill at all, but as we have it before us I hope that it will do as little as possible by way of devolution. I do not want to create sovereign bodies in Scotland and Wales or even, as the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said earlier, on Merseyside. Here we have an attempt to create those sovereign bodies by—with all respect to the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles—sneaking a substantive piece of law into an interpretation clause. I would resist the amendment very firmly.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
In trying to change the name of the elected bodies to be set up in Scotland and Wales, the amendment follows the arguments we have constantly heard from the Liberals in favour of the introduction of a federal system. If we are to have a federal system, it is essential to have bodies which must be referred to as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament. It is not just a question of a change of name. If the Committee changed the name at 1560 this stage, we should be moving towards the idea that the Liberal Party is putting forward.
§ Mr. Evans
I am glad to have the agreement of the Leader of the Liberal Party. We should be moving to a federalist structure.
We must examine what the Kilbrandon Commission said about federalism. Chapter 13 of its report deals with the question whether we should have a federal solution to our problems. The Commission reported:At all events we have concluded that if government in the United Kingdom is to meet the present-day needs of the people it is necessary for the undivided sovereignty of Parliament to be maintained. We believe that only within the general ambit of one supreme elected authority is it likely that there will emerge the degree of unity, co-operation and flexibility which common sense suggests is desirable.The federalist solution put forward in the Liberal amendment was rejected by Kilbrandon and is not the basis upon which the Government have tried to formulate their devolution proposals.
The same applies to the separatist arguments of the nationalist parties. There is a semantic difference between the Welsh nationalists and the Scottish nationalists. The Scottish nationalists are firm and determined in saying that they want independence, that they want saparatism. But in Wales, where the nationalists have found the going rough in trying to persuade the people to accept their philosophy, the nationalists' evidence to the Government on the sort of questions they would like in the referendum talks of—I forget the actual phrase—
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)
The hon. Gentleman persists in attributing to my party a policy that it has never had. The precise wording of our policy is "full national status". We have never been a separatist party in either an economic or a constitutional sense. Our position has remained constant throughout the years. In our preliminary evidence to the Crowther-Kilbrandon Commission we stated clearly that we sought full national status for Wales within a common market in the United Kingdom. within an economic union. That position has remained constant.
§ Mr. Evans
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will consult the statement by his party secretary at the party's Press conference dealing with the referendum questions. The party secretary said that the Welsh nationalists wanted the same sort of national status as Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries had. Their only concession was to say that they did not want the same status as that of the Irish Republic. I understand that for some reason they are trying to introduce the Royal Family into the questions that they want to put before the people of Wales.
The Government reject separatism and federalism. There is a demand on them to accelerate devolution and to increase the amount of devolution that we should have. I have tabled a probing amendment to insert the word "Council" in place of "Assembly" for Wales. There have been long discussions in Wales about how we can devolve certain powers from this Parliament to the regions. There can be a danger in the use of words. Those of us who are opposed to the proposals in the Bill are sometimes described as anti-devolutionists. That is a misuse of the term, because there is devolution now. Certain powers have been devolved from this Parliament to local government.
I want to refer to the evidence submitted by the Labour Party to the Kilbrandon Commission. I realise the difficulty the Government have had. They have tried to meet the wishes of the people of Wales for some sort of devolution, but a major difficulty is that after the Commission was set up to investigate what could be done the Conservative Government reorganised local government. We have recently had a new local government structure established in Wales. The Government have tried to introduce proposals to reform the structure of local government and to make additional proposals. I believe that the previous Government's reorganisation of 1562 local government, the health service and the water industry was bad. Just because they did it badly is no reason for us to add to the difficulties.
In its evidence, the Labour Party of Wales said:Together with our colleagues in the Parliamentary Party, we reject the wasteful duplication and inevitable confusion which would arise from an Assembly for Wales which had legislative power. I would reduce the effectiveness of Welsh MPs and the influence of Wales in the United Kingdom, and would jeopardise the unity of the country as a whole. We reject an assembly which is a pure 'talking-shop', for that would probably lead to a forum with the utmost frustration where account of problems led to no possibility of dealing with them. What we shall propose therefore is reform of machinery of government for Wales based on the radica reform of local government functions and structure, the extension of democratic control over the numerous nominated or statutory bodies operating in Wales, on the need for closer scrutiny of administration in Wales of the wide. United Kingdom policies over many fields of government, and based on the need to prepare the machinery within Wales which will make it possible for the United Kingdom Government to devolve responsibility for those decisions, and for those functions which can adequately and satisfactorily be taken and carried out at a Welsh level.So the evidence of the Labour Party was that there should be a top tier of local government.
Later on, this point was developed further, under the heading "Need for an Elected Welsh Council":Having looked at government, local and regional, and at the wide shadowing area between local government and central government in which the nominated and appointed committees operate, and the need to provide a channel for devolution from central government, we feel that the possibility of an elected Welsh Council merits serious consideration by the Commission.We have in mind certain fundamental considerations".The evidence goes on to concede the value of an all-Wales authority as the top tier of local government in Wales.
We were talking there about the need for a local government structure to meet the needs of local government in the whole of Wales, with a unitary local government authority beneath. Since the reorganisation of the previous Government, we have eight counties in Wales, instead of the previous 13, and 37 districts and various community councils. They would be left alone; the additional tier would be added to the existing structure.
1563 The danger now is that the Assembly will be created in addition to local government instead of as a substitute for it and if it is not to be a talking shop it will seek certain powers.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Surely the hon. Gentleman did not subscribe to the view that we should give powers to an Assembly by making it a top tier of local government, thereby centralising local government and taking powers from local government? Is that what he favoured?
§ Mr. Evans
I agree that that is one of the difficulties that we might have foreseen. We are talking about devolution, but the proposal which my party put forward would, it is true, have taken powers, if we had still had the 13 counties, from those 13 county towns and given them to one all-Wales Council. Now that we have eight counties, what will happen to Wales in the future? Will they be abolished? I believe that that is what the creation of an Assembly means.
That proposal for a top tier of local government was better than the proposals of the previous Government. However, in the critical economic and financial situation we face at the moment, it would have been better to leave local government alone for the time being.
§ The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. I think that it would be better if the hon. Gentleman discussed the amendment.
§ Mr. Evans
But the point of the amendment is the attempt by the opposition minority parties to remove the word "Assembly" and to add a word like "Parliament". That would mean not the body proposed in the Bill but one with far greater powers.
In its evidence to the Commission, the Labour Party of Wales talked about a council and a top tier of local government. One of the problems with the Bill is that, although the county councils and district councils have powers to raise finance, the Assembly will have no such powers. It will depend on the block grant. But an elected council for the whole of Wales could have had a rate precept and a block grant like the rate support grant—
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hooson
I shook my head because the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is a horrible concept—that the Assembly should have the present powers of the county councils to raise rate precepts throughout Wales. I do not believe that the people of Wales would accept that at all.
§ Mr. Evans
The Liberals always say "Wait and see". That is a favourite expression of theirs. We shall wait and see. Certain views have been expressed now, but another approach may be adopted on Third Reading.
We are seeing the results now of the mistakes of the previous Government in reorganisation. On Monday of this week, the Water Charges Equalisation Bill proved that their original Water Act was wrong. We have also received evidence this week, from those who made it, that the McKinsey Report on the reorganisation of the NHS was wrong. As for the mistakes in local government reorganisation, the only evidence one needs is to talk to local councillors.
I hope that this Bill will not be railroaded through. The original intention was that we should have a dummy Bill so that we could knock the Government's proposals into shape. We have had our present system for hundreds of years and we do not need to solve any problems by October. If we have devolution and the aim of the Bill is to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom, we must go through every clause and every sentence to ensure that what emerges is a democratic structure of the machinery of government and that it binds together the peoples of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Among the amendments selected is No. 312, in the name of the Scottish National Party. That amendment does not see the name "Assembly" as demeaning, in the way described by the Leader of the Liberal Party. Both his amendment and ours are trigger amendments related not so much to the powers of the Scottish Assembly, or the National Assembly as we would prefer to call it, or to the Parliament of Scotland or the Scots Parliament, to use the two titles clown by the Liberals. They relate more to the national status of Scotland and Wales.
We have heard some discussion about what a sovereign Parliament is. Ever since the European Communities Act, this Parliament has not been sovereign. It has given away some of its sovereignty to another body. It is perfectly possible for a Parliament to be non-sovereign. The Parliament of Northern Ireland was a non-sovereign body. We are not talking of anything other than the nomenclature that should be adopted in this case. In the amendments that we have put forward we suggest that the terminology should give added authority and stature to the bodies that will be set up under this Bill. The Government have used certain terms in the Bill which are not acceptable to people in Scotland.
§ Mr. Wilson
The authority that comes from having the correct nomenclature—the terminology that indicates the body's standing with the Scottish public. We have the example of the chief executive. The other terms that could be used are Prime Minister or Premier. The chief executive in Scotland is a term given to the professional civil servant who commands the regional structure of local government in each region, and it would be wrong to deploy the same term for the chief minister of the Scottish Executive.
The next term mentioned is the Scottish Executive. That, too, is an indication of the Government's thinking—that what we are really dealing with is an added form of local government. It is a top tier, because it is an Executive rather than a group of Ministers.
In Scotland there is no real problem over the use of these terms. Whatever 1566 we call the chief minister—the Chief Executive, the Prime Minister, the Premier or whatever—there is no doubt that the Press in Scotland will refer to him as the Prime Minister. But it is proper that Parliament should seek to give appropriate names to the terms set out in the Bill. I do not think that it is proper that Parliament should seek to give appropriate names to the terms set out in the Bill. I do not think that it is proper at this stage to go much farther than that. On Clause 19 there will be a much greater opportunity to discuss the powers, rights and obligations of the Assemblies and we should leave the big debate until then.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I think that it is an important Committee point that we should seek a definition of what the hon. Gentleman means. He was asked what he meant by "added authority". He sought to give examples by referring to the standing or status of persons within institutions. When we talk about "added authority" of this Parliament, Assembly or Senate institution, we are talking about the authority it accrues through having certain powers. Will the hon. Member answer the hon. Member for Alyesbury (Mr. Raison) who asked what he means by "added authority" for the Assembly?
§ Mr. Wilson
Despite the cheers which the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) is getting from the Conservative Front Bench, I thought I answered that question quite adequately. We are talking in terms of the correct names that should be applied to the Parliament and its officers to reflect their position in Scottish life. It is as simple as that. If the hon. Member has no understanding of Scottish feelings then he is in a void of uncertainty, and it would be far better for him to go to Scotland, speak to people and find out their opinions before venting his opinions in this House.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
That is a party political point which has no particular meaning. There is no point in the hon. Member making that kind of jibe. The average person in Scotland, or, indeed, in Wales or England, is a non-active political being, an ordinary citizen who is very much concerned about these definitions which are being attributed to him for the purposes of debate. The ordinary 1567 person in Scotland does not take the same point of view as the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Wilson
When the hon. Member for Hartlepool goes to Scotland or lives in Scotland I will listen to his views about the feelings of the ordinary man and woman there on these matters. Representing a Scottish constituency as I do, I feel free to put my views about the feelings of the Scottish people. I am getting jibes from certain Members of the Committee who would be delighted to extend the debate into infinity.
In our amendment we suggest that instead of using the terms Scottish Assembly and Welsh Assembly we should call them the National Assembly for Wales and the National Assembly for Scotland. These terms recognise the national status of both Scotland and Wales, and this was recognised by the Prime Minister during the Second Reading debate. There is no problem in principle. The Scottish and Welsh nations exist even if certain hon. Members will not admit this.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) accept that his view is neither better nor worse than mine? Some of us are united in taking a particular view about the aspirations of the Scottish people. We believe that their overwhelming aspiration is to remain as part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I go back to the beginning of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), and express disappointment that he made a very snide remark about Progress being moved in the House on the Bill this morning because the Government were exhausted. I take particular exception to that, because a couple of hours earlier his own Chief Whip moved to report Progress. When the Leader of the Liberal Party was challenged on this point by my own Chief Whip he tried to slide out of it. He presents himself as a knight in shining armour, claiming that the Liberal Party is above all that kind of petty party politics. But occasionally, when he is tired and has been kept out of his bed after midnight, the mask slips and we find out exactly what he looks like.
The Liberal Leader's speech in introducing the amendment was one of the 1568 thinnest I have ever heard him make. At one stage he referred to federalism and at another stage he said the amendment was simply a technical change and was taking account of psychology. Then, later on, he talked about the return of a Scots Parliament. He should have explained what he meant by "psychology" and "technical change".
Many hon. Members have taken up the right hon. Member over the word "Parliament" and have suggested that the use of this word necessarily means that there will be a rapid slide into the break-up of the United Kingdom. I take the view that the use of the word "Parliament" neither brings disadvantages nor automatically produces advantages, but I do wonder what is meant by psychology in the use of the word Parliament. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) was getting on to common ground with the Leader of the Liberal Party.
We have been told that what is at stake is the matter of authority. The spokesman for the SNP used the phrase "national Assembly" as relating to the standing or status of that body. The hon. Gentleman was also implying some measure of respect. The Leader of the Liberal Party meant the same thing when he spoke of the psychology of the situation—in other words, that if we used the term "Parliament" devolution would take on more respect as a concept.
I believe that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles fell into the same trap as did members of the SNP and others who are pro-devolution. They are more concerned with the trappings of power than with the substance. They seem to think that so long as there is a body with a fancy name it will solve all their problems, but that is not the case. If we are dealing with power, we should say so. Certainly we know exactly where the SNP Members stand on that issue. They are looking for complete separation and total independence for Scotland.
The Leader of the Liberal Party and others who seek to use the word "Assembly" as being some kind of second-rate term are deliberately setting out to denigrate the Assembly before it is ever in being. There is no doubt that if one looks at the powers in the Bill one takes varying views. Some argue that the 1569 powers go too far, others that they do not go far enough, but nobody has argued that the Bill does not contain substantial powers because there are very great powers indeed vested in that body.
I go a certain way with the Leader of the Liberal Party on one issue. There are those who believe that the Assembly and devolution are ways of holding back the advance of thet SNP. It is certainly time that SNP Members stopped all their carping criticism of the Bill and of the names used in it. If the Assembly is branded as second-class before it even starts, people will not be willing to face up to the difficult decision which the Assembly will have to take. There will be no sudden millenium in Scotland in terms of power if and when the Assembly is set up. The Assembly will have to make difficult choices and face up to responsibility. Therefore, it is wrong to denigrate the Assembly by implying that it will be second-rate. If it is given credibility, those who are in favour of it should be prepared to argue that credibility instead of advancing constant negative criticisms. I hope that they will reflect on this important matter, because they are destroying their own case for devolution as representing a meaningful transfer of power to the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) referred to this as a technical amendment. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) referred to it as a simple amendment. But as this discussion has continued, it has become clear that this amendment is not just of technical importance nor of simple substance. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has already said that every debate in Committee—and today is no exception—begins as a discussion on a narrow little amendment on an easily contained subject, but we then find ourselves faced with a discussion on the fundamental issues that lie behind this legislation.
Is this body to be an Assembly or a Parliament? How will it be integrated with the House of Commons? Will it affect the unity of the United Kingdom? Week after week, month after month, our constituents read items in their newspapers and see programmes on television suggesting that the Bill will not hold 1570 water for the purposes for which it was intended. It is said time and again that it will lead to the disunity of the United Kingdom.
At the beginning of this discussion the Chairman told the Committee that we were dealing with a matter of nomenclature. That is of course true, but it is much more than that. As the right hon. Member for Down, South made clear—with all his scholarship, allusion and knowledge of history—the word "Parliament" has a depth of richness which we could debate for many hours. In a curious way the Leader of the Liberal Party contradicted himself. He said at one stage that this was a technical amendment, and later said that it would give inspiration to the Scottish people. Therefore, this little amendment, which began as a technical matter, has somehow suddenly become transformed into a provision that will inspire the people of Scotland. That is a load of rubbish. I do not believe that the change of one word will make any difference to the situation.
As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, people are dealing with the paint that lies on the surface instead of getting to the substance of the matter. We are here talking about power. It is no use saying that we must change the name of this body from "Assembly" to "Parliament" without saying why we want to do so. The only reason one wants change is that one seeks to change the power situation.
I agree that not a great deal of help will be gained from looking at all the varying Parliaments and Assemblies throughout the world for the purposes of comparison. By and large the word "Parliament" implies a higher status and a connotation of added authority.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Does not the amendment envisage an entirely different constitutional animal—not just an Assembly, which is constitutionally different, but a Parliament to be given further powers?
§ Mr. Sproat
My right hon. Friend is correct in that assumption. The word "Parliament" is supposed of its essence to add importance. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles said that the Parliament would 1571 be an inspiration to the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Sproat
Presumably, that is why the right hon. Gentleman tabled the amendment.
The SNP spokesman said that the name of "Parliament" would give the Assembly added authority. But it would make a difference that would not just stop with the change of name. If the name is changed the body must change in line with it.
An hon. Member who spoke earlier—I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower)—said in an intervention that if there were two bodies called "Parliaments", one here at Westminster and one in Scotland, there would be confusion. There certainly would be confusion. I dare say that that is precisely one of the objects that the SNP has in mind, because if there were confusion between the two bodies they would slowly become equal. People would be unable to distinguish between the two Parliaments. They would have equal weight and balance. At present, under the Bill, the balance is weighted about 75 per cent. in favour of the Westminster Parliament and 25 per cent. to Scotland. The confusion would even up the balance, power would depart from here and go to Edinburgh and Cardiff.
I made a note of what was said by the Leader of the Liberal Party but if I have it wrong perhaps he will correct me, and I will give way to him. He said that the Scottish Parliament, as he would like to call it, "should not be subordinate". But how can it not be subordinate without being equal or superior? A Scottish Assembly that is equal or superior to Parliament would be a different animal, and a more dangerous one than that which we are now discussing.
As the House may have gathered, I do not want any form of Scottish Assembly, save possibly Scottish MPs 1572 sitting in Edinburgh. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), I believe that what we should be doing in Committee is, if not throwing out the principle of the Bill, at least trying to improve it. The Liberals say that the Scottish Assembly should not be subordinate. I say it should be. That is essential, if only in justice to people in the rest of the United Kingdom, particularly in England, who constitute 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. of the Union and who provide cash—in greater amounts than the people of Scotland—for purposes in Scotland.
§ Mr. George Thompson (Galloway)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) is well known as the hammer of the scroungers, in dealing with individual scroungers. From his point of view, Scotland as a nation must be a collective scrounger. Should he not, therefore, in principle, tell the Scots that they should learn to stand on their own feet and deal with their own problems, and not depend on others, as the hon. Gentleman claims that they do.
§ Mr. Sproat
I have no shame as a Scottish Member in saying that Scotland now receives about 19 per cent. more per head of the population than people in England from the United Kingdom Treasury. Money is not the only means of contributing to the Union. The United Kingdom is not just an economic unit of the Britsh Isles, but a social, political and cultural association. Scotland's contribution is unparalled, and I will not go into all the contributions that Scotland has made because some have already been spoken of this afternoon. But I could mention David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns, the new town of Edinburgh, Alexander Fleming, and the inventors of the bicycle, the breech-loading rifle and the telephone.
In Scotland, every lump of coal that is hacked out of the ground is hacked out uneconomically. If SNP policies were followed every coal mine in Scotland would have to be closed down. There is not an inch of railway line in Scotland that can be run economically. But that is not the contribution that Scotland makes to the United Kingdom. Therefore, to speak of Scotland as scrounging is absurd.
I do not accept that Scotland is a separate nation. I believe in the British nation. I accept that if any part of the 1573 British Isles needs more money from the United Kingdom Treasury it should receive it. If there is more unemployment in Liverpool than in Glasgow the help should go to Liverpool, not to Glasgow simply because it is Scottish.
It would be wrong to call the proposed body a Parliament, because it will not be one. It will not deal with all the matters that affect Scotland. Even under the proposals of the Leader of the Liberal Party it would not be a Parliament in the sense that this House is a Parliament. Not many things are semantically provable, but that is. Such a body would not be dealing with overall taxation, foreign affairs, defence, or even North Sea oil. Even with the additions that the Leader of the Liberal Party would like—and that I would not like—such a body would not be a parliament in the same sense as the Westminster Parliament. It would not deal with the same subjects. To have two bodies of the same name with different functions in one island would be a foolish semantic confusion.
§ Mr. David Steel
If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) had paid more attention to the eloquent speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—to which he earlier paid tribut—he would have heard described instances where two kinds of Parliament exist within one island, as in Australia. He would have heard that there are two Parliaments in the British Isles already—one in Northern Ireland and one here.
§ Mr. Sproat
I do not have to accept everything said by the right hon. Member for Down, South, as gospel, and it would be strange if the Leader of the Liberal Party said that I should. In Australia they call bodies Parliaments if they like, but in this country it would lead to confusion if we had one Parliament here and another in Edinburgh. Why cause unnecessary confusion? It is in the interests of such people as members of the SNP to cause confusion, so that power can be drawn from Westminster.
§ Mr. Thompson
The amendment put down by the SNP proposes to call the body not a Parliament but a National Assembly for Scotland. Does that not interfere with the argument?
§ Mr. Sproat
Indeed it does, because I was directing my remarks to the amendment put down by the Liberals that refers a Parliament and saying that the resulting confusion would benefit the SNP. To use that interesting word that was employed by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles "psychologically" power and influence would appear to be drawn from the House.
Another reason why I object to renaming the Assembly and making it a Parliament is that it would raise that body's status, and it would do so in a nationalist way. It would bolster the idea of Scotland as a nation but not as an integrated nation, in the sense that we use the word and in the sense that the Prime Minister used it when he talked about the nations of the United Kingdom. Of course there is a nation of Scotland in that sense, but it co-exists with the British nation. The amendment, by raising the status of the Assembly to that of a Parliament, would fan the flames of separatist nationalism.
We all know that hon. Members who sit on the SNP Bench in the House are honourable men, but there are many less attractive people who support their party in Scotland and who would not hesitate to use this nationalist flavour for far nastier ends. Enough trouble is caused in the world today by nationalism and the revivification of the flames of nationalism without the House adding to them. Indeed, we have seen it. It is no use members of the SNP shaking their heads. Bombs have already exploded in Scotland, and a member of the SNP was taken to court. We know that the danger is there, and we should do nothing to fan the flames. I object to the amendment, because it raises the ugly face of nationalism. Not all the faces of nationalism—if I may speak in a kind of Hydra metaphor—are ugly, but that one is.
One of my reasons for opposing the Bill is that I believe that it is the first step down the slippery slope, and no amount of people saying that they do not agree will convince me, the majority of the Scottish people or the SNP. That is why the SNP favours the Bill; it says that half a loaf is better than no bread. The higher the status given to the Assembly, the bigger becomes the step down the road towards separatism.
§ The Second Deputy Chairman
Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to keep strictly to the amendment.
§ Mr. Sproat
I was discussing nomenclature—whether it should be a Scottish Assembly or a Scottish Parliament. I am sorry if I did not make my argument clear. I thought that I was sticking strictly to the point in saying that changing the name from Assembly to Parliament would increase the status of the body, represent a bigger step down the road to separatism and encourage an even greater feeling of Scotland as a separate nation than does the Bill.
The Bill takes us some way down the slippery slope and the amendment takes us further by increasing the status of the body and giving it greater powers—as the Liberals would like—as well as by giving it a more prestigious name.
The Leader of the Liberal Party referred to federalism. A discussion of the merits and demerits of federalism would be inopportune at present, but the right hon. Gentleman mentioned it and the previous occupant of the Chair said that he would not be unduly restrictive if we discussed this topic. We know that the Liberal Party is in favour of federalism and that it would call a federal body in Scotland a Scottish Parliament. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to change the name of the Assembly to the Scottish Parliament, it is a fair assumption that this is part of the Liberals' plan for a federal system for the United Kingdom.
The idea of federalism for this country is rubbish. It might be all right for the United States, for geographical and historical reasons, and it might be suitable for Switzerland, where three different languages are spoken. But when 85 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom lives in England, federalism here would be absurd.
The Liberals' answer is to split up England. However, England does not want that—and just think of the cost! The cost of the proposed Assemblies terrifies most of us. Just imagine the cost of a dozen assemblies in England. The Liberals want this amendment as a peg upon which they will later seek to hang their idiotic doctrine of federalism.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South 1576 (Mr. Sproat) except to say that I agree that this is not a semantic argument. Since words still have some meaning, even in this House, we have soon moved from a discussion of meanings to their political connotations. I shall try not to go too far into the general argument, but alternative words have already been advanced.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) suggested "Council" as a title for the new bodies. It is clear why he is anxious to use that word. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberals have been accused of wanting the Assemblies to be called "Parliaments" so as to be confused with this House, but the hon. Member for Aberdare clearly wants to confuse the Assembly with the nominated Welsh Council or the district and county councils.
It is a deliberate attempt to deflate the status of this body. We cannot describe bodies engaged in the national allocation of resources and the scrutiny of secondary legislation as a council. That might be an appropriate word to describe a body whose functions were wholly executive, but it cannot be used to describe the body proposed in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) suggested this morning that the membership of the Assembly should be reduced. This is another deliberate attempt to lower its status in the eyes of the Welsh electorate.
I support the amendment for a number of reasons. "Parliament" is a better functional description of the body and is the best English word to describe it. I shall say something about the Welsh translation later. The national, elected body in Wales will undertake two of the major rôles of a parliament. The Scottish Assembly will undertake three.
The Welsh Assembly will be voting and allocating resources, and scrutinising the executive decisions of government. The Scottish Assembly will also be initiating its own legislation. If I have read properly the works of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), I understand that these are the three main functions of a parliament. We can say with authority that the Scottish body may be described as a parliament in the same way as Stormont, the devolved assembly 1577 in Northern Ireland, was described as the Northern Ireland Parliament.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
Is there not an additional function of a parliament to which the hon. Gentleman has not referred, namely, the collection and responsibility for the disbursement of taxes? Does the hon. Gentleman's party believe that this power should be added to those provided for the Welsh Assembly in the Bill?
§ Mr. Thomas
I was careful to refer to voting and allocation of resources. That is part of the financial function of a parliament, and will be carried out by both Assemblies. I appreciate that neither will be raising revenue, but that is only part of the financial function. The other part—the allocation of resources—will be undertaken by the Assemblies.
I do not favour powers to raise taxation being given to the Welsh Assembly, as currently proposed, because this power is an integral part of economic management and without substantially greater economic powers being given to the Assembly it would not be possible for it to vary the rates of taxation or to use taxation as an instrument of economic management. There is a case for direct revenue-raising powers being given to a parliament which had complete control over the Welsh economy within the economy of the EEC, but I do not support the granting of taxation powers to an Assembly which cannot undertake broad economic management.
§ Mr. Raison
The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting point. Would he apply the same argument to Scotland?
§ Mr. Thomas
I take it that the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I think that the Scottish Assembly should have revenue-raising powers. Taxation must be seen as part of the whole policy of economic management, and the one cannot function effectively without the other. The SNP advances the case for transferring oil revenues to the Assembly, and it is that party's policy that the Assembly should proceed rapidly to become a parliament in the full sense of the word, able to use the broad range of economic levers, of which the control and raising of taxation is only one.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Has the hon. Gentleman's party discussed with the Inland Revenue Staff Federation the sheer practical difficulty of disentangling the taxation of these islands? Does the hon. Gentleman realise the difficulties? We have tax offices all over the country—
§ The Second Deputy Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) will not go too far down that road.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am grateful to you, Mr. Godman Irvine, for drawing attention to my deviation. I plead in mitigation that it was inspired by interventions. I shall try not to give way so much during the rest of my speech.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Kinnock
On this point about nomenclature, the word "Parliament". and the powers that should most properly go with it under the Bill, will the hon. Gentleman say whether, in the event of the Scottish Assembly or parliament getting power over oil revenues, that would be to the benefit or detriment of the people of Wales?
§ Mr. Thomas
It would be out of order for me to comment on the economic implications of what the hon. Gentleman says. I have referred earlier, however, at Second Reading to confidential talks with the SNP about the cycling of oil revenues, and I am sure that there would be such discussions between an independent Scottish Government and the Government of England.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
Are we to understand from what the hon. Gentleman just said that there would be some such arrangement as exists between Saudi Arabia and Egypt so that an independent Scotland would be underwriting an independent Wales with its oil revenues? The hon. Gentleman tantalised us by saying that these were confidential discussions, but he owes it to the Committee to say a little more about the arrangements that are proposed.
§ Mr. Thomas
Perhaps I may put the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind at rest by assuring him that I shall seek to return to this issue at a more appropriate time in our Committee discussions.
1579 I should like to get back now to the major issue about the use of the word "Parliament" for these Assemblies. A Scottish Assembly would certainly carry out three of the functions of the parliament and the Welsh Assembly would carry out two-and-a-third functions. The reason the Government have rejected the term "Scottish Parliament", which would be wholly appropriate in view of the range of legislative powers, powers of scrutiny, and powers of allocating resources, is that they cannot have two titles in the Bill for two bodies. They cannot admit publicly and clearly that the Welsh Assembly is an institution of less power status than the Scottish Assembly.
I think that the word "Parliament" ought to be included for another reason, apart from that of the description of the functions of the bodies. The word "Parliament" is more readily understandable to the public than "Assembly" as the description of a Government institution. We have had references to the General Assembly of the United Nations, but that is not quite appropriate to the internal political situation in the United Kingdom. The description of the Assembly as a Parliament would place clearly in the public mind its status within the process of government.
I know that the argument has been advanced by the Conservatives rejecting the Liberal point of view tonight and saying that by giving the Assembly the title "Parliament" we are somehow precipitating down—I do not like this term and wish we had another—what is known as the slippery slope. It is hardly justifiable to argue that the use of the term "Parliament" in this context will result somehow in a body transforming itself overnight into something far more powerful and independent.
The SNP and ourselves have clearly stated that, since a referendum is to be used to establish the Assemblies, it can be used equally well to strengthen the powers of the Assemblies. I do not think that using the word "Parliament" somehow bodes ill for the Unionists in terms of the expansion of the powers of the Assemblies. The name of an institution should be immediately recognisable to those who will be voting members to it and who will be looking to it as a center 1580 of government. Here we are transferring powers away from the central United Kingdom Parliament and to a subordinate institution of a similar kind in Scotland and Wales. In other words, it will be a mini-Welsh parliament and a mini-Scottish parliament, and it would be clearer to the public if that is what they were called.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, since he sees the Assembly as a mini-parliament, he and his hon. Friends will seek to ensure that the Assembly will work, or will they use it as a base to bring about a maxi-parliament? In other words, will they try to get increased powers within the Assembly away from this Chamber?
§ Mr. Thomas
It would be out of order to be drawn on that point, but I shall endeavour to reply to it at a more appropriate time later in our debate.
Let me now get on to the linguistic argument, which I hesitate to bring into the debate. If, however, hon. Members are not interested in that argument perhaps they would like to retire from the Chamber. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) introduced this point earlier. He described me as a Welsh scholar, although I would hesitate to accept such a description. I have no intention of using my arguments here to support an application by me for a part-time Chair in Welsh, even if there were one going.
I have been very concerned throughout the devolution debate and after reading the White Paper about the use of the word "cynulliad" for the assembly. That word has never been used generally as a description of any particular body. The only normal use of the word in Welsh is to describe the numbers of a congregation. If I and my hon. Friend were returning from a Congregational chapel we might say "Roedd yna gynulliad gweddol yno", which would mean that there was a fair congregation there. Only in that context has the word been used, and the only regular linguistic use is in the form "oynulleidfa". That is a congregation, or, literally, a place where people congregate. The verb noun cynnull is used in the form neuadd gynnull for an assembly hall, but it is the verb noun and not the noun which is used.
1581 The more readily used translation for Assembly is "cymanfa" and I do not understand why this was rejected out of hand by the Secretary of State's translation unit. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, in which I was proud to be reared, is known as Y Gymanfa Gyffredinol. We have "gymanfa ganu", as the Secretary of State will know, since he has presided over many of them. I do not know whether he has taken part in a "gymanfa bregether" though he has certainly attended many. We have, therefore, singing assemblies and preaching assemblies and at least the translation of assembly as "cymanfa" could have been carried over from its religious context into its political context, and would, in my view, be more meaningful to the majority of Welsh speakers than the ill used and rather meaningless form "cynulliad". "Senedd" is the most readily understood, and that is why I strongly support the inclusion of "Senedd" in the Liberal amendment. That is the translation of senate. We have many Seneddau, apart from this establishment here at Westminster. We have the senates of colleges. We have the Senedd which is the supreme governing body of Cymdeitha yr Iaith Gymraeg of which the Secretary of State will know, since it communicates so frequently with him. In many colloquial discussions at local government we hear of the community councils referred to as "Senedd bro".
§ Mr. Raison
Surely the logic of all that the hon. Gentleman is saying is that the Liberal amendment should use the word "senate" and not "parliament".
§ Mr. Thomas
I accept the logic of what the hon. Gentleman says. If this amendment is not carried tonight we might return on Report to the matter, to try to improve on the Liberal amendment. In our amendment, which was not selected, we described the Assemblymen—a terrible term—as senators, which is to us a far more sensible expression.
§ Mr. Powell
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the last words of the Liberal amendmentthe Senate of the Parliament of Walesare a misprint forthe Senate or the Parliament of Wales"?1582 If not, what could possibly be the meaning ofthe Senate of the Parliamentsince Senedd Cymru is the Parliament of Wales?
§ Mr. Thomas
I accept that. I do not know whether the Chair can enlighten us whether there is a misprint. It would appear to me that the right hon. Gentleman is certainly right in indicating that this body should be referred to as the Senate or Parliament of Wales. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) can enlighten us on that matter.
§ Mr. Thomas
From that I take it that had the Amendment Paper been printed by Gwasg Gomer at Llandysul there would have been no hint of a misprint. The Secretary of State agrees?
Finally, I would like to put forward my most powerful argument for the use of the word "Senedd"—in Welsh. Although it is a rather personal one, the Secretary of State knows that I never make personal attacks on him. I regularly watch the Secretary of State's appearances on Welsh language television. He occasionally uses the word "cynulliad" but he always follows it with the word "Assembly" which, to my ears, is not an easily pronounceable Welsh word and does not appear in the Geiriadur Mawr. The Secretary of State is severely embarrassed by the word which has been created by his translation unit. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State could indicate whether he accepts that the term "cynulliad" should be dropped from the Government's White Paper and from the references in the White Paper in the Welsh language. Either the word "cymanfa" or the more readily intelligible word "Senedd" should be substituted. Even if the English word "Assembly" is insisted on in English, "Senedd" as a more general term in Welsh would be more appropriate. I hope that we may have some indication from the Secretary of State about his intentions when he appears in future Welsh language television programmes.
§ Mr. Brittan
I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to make further points 1583 relating to the amendment, but it might be helpful if I gave some indication of what my right hon. and hon. Friends' views are on this issue. I would not have the impertinence to express any view at all on one of the matters debated most recently—the correct translation of the Welsh phrase for "Welsh Assembly".
I see that the Secretary of State for Wales is here. It might be helpful if, at some stage, he explained why this Welsh translation for "the Welsh Assembly" has been used. I would not attempt to intervene on that subject. Apart from the use of any particular word in the Welsh language, there is a problem in the Liberal amendment about the precise meaning ofthe Senate of the Parliament of Wales.These are problems that cannot be dealt with at this stage, but it is clear that any view about the Liberal amendment assumes that there will be both a Parliament of Scotland and a Parliament of Wales or at least that institutions will be set up by this Bill which could be so described.
In considering the merits of the amendment, it seems that there are two possible purposes behind it. When I listened to the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) I could not help feeling that he had somewhat confused the two possible purposes. On the one hand, it might be that we could say to the House that the amendment should be made because the word "Parliament" more accurately described the institutions created by the Bill than the word "Assembly". The alternative approach would be to say that we were not satisfied that the institutions created by the Bill were properly described as "Assemblies" and that what had to be created could be more properly described as "Parliaments".
I felt that, in putting forward his argument in favour of the amendment, the Leader of the Liberal Party mixed up the two possible purposes. Perhaps it does not matter quite so much, because the amendment is equally objectionable whatever its purposes. If the true purpose is to describe accurately the institutions set up by the Bill, I do not think it is a better functional description to use the word used by the hon. Member for 1584 Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and to describe the institutions as "Parliaments".
The reason why I take that view is that I accept the analysis of the nature and the concept of a Parliament, as expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). He epitomised the matter by saying that "Parliament" has a clear and distinct constitutional usage and importance, and that a Parliament was the supreme assembly of a sovereign State. He explained how that concept was compatible with a federal structure and he also explained the one anomaly of the Northern Ireland Parliament. In that analysis we find the basis for the objection to calling these institutions "Parliaments". As I understand it, it is not the Government's intention to create anything that could conceivably be called the supreme assembly of a sovereign State. Nor, much as I criticise the Bill, would I make the criticism that the Government have fallen into the error, purely by inadvertence, of creating such a supreme assembly of any such sovereign State. They have not done anything of the kind. Nor have they created a federal structure. Therefore, to call these Assemblies "Parliaments", if the object is to produce a better functional description of what the Bill is creating, is simply, according to normal usage, grossly misleading.Therefore, the amendment should be rejected.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) may talk about normal usage, but is he not aware that those of us in Scotland understand perfectly well that the Daily Record, the Sunday Mail, the Scotsman, the Scottish Daily Express produced in Manchester will not be too careful about the use of words, and to them it will become a Parliament, and expectations of a Parliament will be aroused in the public's mind. Is he not aware that words are chosen, perhaps not very meaningfully at first, and are then given meanings which were not originally intended? That is part of the history of the past three years of debate.
§ Mr. Brittan
I do not disagree with one word that the hon. Gentleman said. But, if we create an Assembly and people call it a Parliament, at least they 1585 can be corrected—although it may be a hopeless task to correct them, and that may be the object of the whole scheme.
This scheme, which I do not support, plainly makes matters very much worse if we give succour and support to any misdescription by ignoring such a misdescription in the Bill itself. If the object of the exercise is to describe accurately the institutions, the amendment should not be supported. But plainly the real objective of the exercise is not to give a description of the institutions created by the Bill; the object is to try to change the nature of those institutions by describing them inaccurately, hoping in that way either that they will be able to assume powers which are not granted them by the Bill or, alternatively, that they will, because of the assumption of the name "Parliament", be assisted in claiming powers by amendment of the Bill or by further Bills which it is not intended to give in this Bill.
I regard that as being a less than candid way of achieving the purposes of those who support the amendment. If we are seeking to create a federal or independent structure let us do it. But it is not worthy of this Parliament to bring about effects of that kind by a side wind.
The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles talked about getting the psychology wrong. Unless one is being deliberately wilful in this respect, I cannot think of anything more dangerous than arousing expectations which cannot be fulfilled by the institutions which have been created in the hope that those expectations will lead to the demise, destruction, removal or alteration of the institutions which have been created. Therefore, to talk about there being a good historical argument for the use of the word "Parliament" is completely misleading, as the institution which historically bore that title bears no resemblance to the institutions being created by the Bill.
Other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen made the same point. My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said that the amendment sought to sneak in a substantive change. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said that it amounted to a demand to the Government to accelerate the process 1586 embodied in the Bill, but that it had not reached anything approaching the stage which could properly be described as a Parliament.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when the Labour and Liberal Parties, at the beginning of this century, were in favour of a policy described as home rule all round, they referred to as Parliaments what we now call Assemblies in Scotland, Ireland and Wales?
§ Mr. Brittan
I am not as much of an expert as the hon. Gentleman on the nature of the proposals put forward. Different proposals were put forward at different times. Whatever may have been put forward on previous occasions, what is put forward in this legislation cannot, in ordinary usage, properly be called a Parliament. To call it that is to arouse false expectations and is extremely dangerous. For those reasons, I cannot advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment.
§ Mr. John Smith
The heart of this debate is the nomenclature to be applied to the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) suggested that they be called Parliaments on the basis of psychology, history and powers. There has already been comment, with which I substantially agree, about the misapplication of psychology in this respect. We want to find an accurate name for the Assemblies which neither overstates nor understates their powers.
In modern usage the term "Parliament" has come to carry the implication of sovereignty. A fundamental feature of the Bill is that sovereignty is not devolved. Powers are devolved—indeed, substantial powers are devolved, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) pointed out—but sovereignty is not devolved. I understand that is the classic difference between a scheme of devolution and a scheme of federation. Federation divides sovereignty. If we were talking about a federal proposition, it would be appropriate to call the subordinate institutions Parliaments. In that sense they are not subordinate, because they share sovereignty or have a different aspect of sovereignty. The Government have not suggested that that is what they are 1587 proposing. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to use the term "Parliament" for the type of bodies being set up by the Bill.
I suppose that it is inevitable that from time to time throughout the debates we shall have references to the old Scots Parliament. There is no connection between what is proposed and the old Scots Parliament of what was then an independent State. It is foolish to refer to the future Scottish Assembly as a giant which has been wakened from a sleep of 250 years. This is a different concept, a different form of government. It has no genealogy going back to the previous Scottish Parliament. The Government have made no pretension that sovereignty resides with the Westminster Parliament in the way that it resided at Westminster in the case of the so-called Parliament of Northern Ireland.
It is interesting that when the House of Commons considered the elected body in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 it chose the term "Assembly" and abandoned the term "Parliament" which had appeared, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) reminded us, in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. That was an entirely appropriate description of the body there created just as it is an appropriate description of the body here created.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. Friend allow me to intervene on a friendly point? In view of what he said, will he make it clear that if we get the Assembly there will be no question of the first meeting being held at the beautiful, old, revered Parliament House in Edinburgh, but that it will take place in the High School? Does he agree that those, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who is not present, who are pressing for the the first meeting to take place symbolically in the beautiful Parliament House are in fact misleading people?
§ Mr. Smith
I thank my hon. Friend not only for the question but for the friendly way in which it was put. I am not as surprised as he might think. I take the point about the High School. It would be psychologically inappropriate for the Scottish Assembly to be set up in the home of the old Scots Parliament. 1588 Apart from the psychology, it would be difficult to evict the court of session and the very powerful men who work within it. As a former worker in that establishment, I know how difficult it would be.
The Liberal Party fears that the Scottish Assembly will be dominated by Glasgow trade unionists and Edinburgh lawyers—a magnificent combination. I do not know why there should be any fear about that. The Leader of the Liberal Party appears to express surprise. Recently, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) suggested that being an English lawyer, he was in a magnificent position to be impartial.
We are anxious not to create false expectations about what the Assembly can do. Indeed, the Government have not created any false expectations in that respect. The Assembly will have important and substantial powers. Those powers will be exercised within the continuing framework of the unity of the United Kingdom and under the sovereignty of this Parliament. It is as well to get that correct from the start. Therefore, we should resist the amendment.
The debate, perhaps inevitably, strayed on to other matters. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), if I may reply to him in a friendly fashion, asked me to comment on the proposition that there should be a House of Commons with 780 Members. My comment is that it would be an absurdity.
We had some discussion about the Welsh aspect of this matter, into which I do not feel entitled to go. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) put down an amendment seeking to change "Assembly" to "Council".
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)
The hon. Gentleman said that he did not feel entitled to go into the Welsh aspect. Does that mean that, on all the important points which were made on the Welsh aspect, we shall have a reply from the Secretary of State for Wales?
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I apologise for interrupting the Minister in mid-flight. I have become concerned about the comings and goings on the Treasury Bench. The Government Deputy Chief Whip arrived after my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) got up to speak for the Opposition. My hon. Friend made it clear that he did not intend winding up the debate. The Government Deputy Chief Whip did not see the number of hon. Members who were trying to catch your eye, Mr. Godman Irvine. I hope that the Government Deputy Chief Whip, having heard my point of order and the appeal for a reply from the Secretary of State for Wales, will not be so rash as to try to stifle further discussion on this important group of amendments.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. What makes anyone suppose that the Government Deputy Chief Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Harrison), is not here to ensure that we have an objective hearing?
§ Mr. Smith
I think that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) has a sauce, especially as he has not taken part in the debate and therefore is not in a position to know where the Government Deputy Chief Whip has been. My hon. Friend has been in and out of the Chamber during the debate, which is more than I can say for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Smith
I am not prepared to give way to the hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare—who as well as attending the debate contributed to the debate—put forward an interesting amendment to change the name of the elected body to "Council". 1590 With respect, I think that that follows his theory that we should be having an all-purpose—
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Goodhew
On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. I apologise for interrupting the Minister again, but I really must protest, to get the record straight. I have been sitting in the Chamber throughout the debate. If the Minister has not been noticing that—
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare has a view as to how Government should be reorganised in Wales, a view that does not entirely coincide, to put it mildly, with the proposals in the Bill. His view is that there ought to be a reform of local government, with an all-purpose top tier, as I understand it. "Council" would be appropriate for that. Perhaps he tabled his amendment to canvass his arguments, but I do not think that it would be appropriate for the proposals in the Bill.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
I intended it to be a probing amendment because this is what the Labour Party's policy for Wales was in the evidence that it submitted to the Royal Commission. I wanted to know why we had moved away from that concept to that which is now contained in the Bill.
§ Mr. Smith
I know that my hon. Friend has taken a full part in the discussion of policy on Wales. He is in as good a position to answer that question himself as he is to ask me to answer it for him. His proposition that there should be a "Council" follows from his view of what the Assembly should be. I accept that it was a probing amendment.
Scottish nationalists and Welsh nationalists are trying to make these Assemblies look more powerful than they will be, and it is part of the suggestion that we ought to be moving towards the creation of separate nation States. I was fascinated by the Welsh nationalist proposition that somehow there is a difference between full national status and having some sort of independent State. I should have thought that either it is an independent State or it is not.
1591 The SNP is at least clear on that point. SNP Members argue for a sovereign independent State. I am not at all clear what it is that the Welsh nationalists propose.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
Perhaps I can help the Minister. He seems to be rather obsessed with 19th century nationalist concepts. Surely in the 1970s we must be looking for a formula which guarantees nationalities a status which can give them sufficient power to manage their economic affairs and to have external relationships—for example, as a member State of the EEC. That would not be in any way, as the Minister described, economic separation and independent sovereignty.
§ Mr. Smith
I would see how one can give some status to a nationality, but I am not sure what that has to do with government. One would have to spell out the government institutions which would flow from whatever it is that Welsh nationalists want to achieve. Wales would have to become a sovereign independent State as a condition of membership of the EEC.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
Has the Minister any idea how one can have nationality without having a sovereign nation? Surely one cannot have a nationality without having the sovereign nation to back it.
§ Mr. Smith
With respect, there are many examples of that around the world. We have them in the United Kingdom where there is a Scottish nation and, I think, a Welsh nation. However, it does not follow from that—and this is where we part company with the nationalists—that one must create an independent nation State to reflect that state of nationhood.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
The purpose of the SNP amendment was to include a change in name of the Assembly, from "Scottish Assembly" to "National Assembly for Scotland", to represent the fact that Scotland is a nation. That was the extent of the amendment, and it goes no further than that.
§ Mr. Smith
I think that there has been a lack of co-ordination. I do not know whether it came about from a failure of 1592 the confidential discussions that always seem to be taking place between the SNP and Plaid Cymru, between SNP lines and Plaid Cymru lines in proposing these arguments. One must be a little suspicious if a Welsh nationalist puts forward a change of nomenclature with a declared difference of political meaning and a Scottish nationalist says that he espouses a change of political meaning one is entitled to suspect taking the Scottish nationalist at face value. The hon. Gentleman says that he believes in devolution. With respect, I do not think that he does. He believes in independence.
Before the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) becomes more agitated, let me say that he keeps saying to Members from English constituencies, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter), that they ought to go to Scotland and find out something. I am not quite sure what it is that they are supposed to find out. However, although my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool does not reach total unanimity with me on the proposition in the Bill, I hope that if he wants to find out what is going on in Scotland and to assess public opinion there, he will consult other hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies, such as myself, and—
§ Mr. Smith
And my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool might find it more advantageous to take a wider sample than just myself and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, because he might get some slightly different conclusions from us on some matters.
However, it is part of the potential of the SNP, in its conduct in the House of Commons, that it seeks to present itself as the exclusive champion of the people of Scotland. It is not. Hon. Members of other parties who represent people in Scotland vigorously assert the interests of their constituents and, indeed, Scotland throughout Parliament. Sometimes they fail to get the same publicity for their efforts, but they make those efforts none the less.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North reminded us of the importance of stressing the powers conferred upon the Assemblies. These Assemblies will be an exciting new 1593 venture in our constitution. They will give real power and influence to the Scottish people and the Welsh people to shape a very large part of the government that affects them directly, but they will also, both Scotland and Wales, keep firmly within the context of the United kingdom without diminishing the sovereignty of this Parliament.
Because the provisions in the Bill reflect adequately what the intention is, an intention that the House of Commons has already approved by the substantial majority that it gave the Bill on Second
§ Reading, we ask the Committee to reject the propositions put forward in the amendment.
§ 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 he now put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 155, Noes 63.1595
|Allaun, Frank||Freeson, Reginald||Pardoe, John|
|Anderson, Donald||George, Bruce||Park, George|
|Archer, Peter||Gilbert, Dr John||Parker, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Golding, John||Parry, Robert|
|Ashton, Joe||Gourlay, Harry||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Graham, Ted||Reid, George|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Bates, Alf||Harper, Joseph||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bean, R. E.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Beith, A. J.||Hayman, Mrs Helena||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Henderson, Douglas||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hooley, Frank||Rose, Paul B.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hooson, Emlyn||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Sadgemore, Brian|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hunter, Adam||Small, William|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Campbell, Ian||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Canavan, Dennis||John, Brynmor||Snape, Peter|
|Carmichael, Neil||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cartwright, John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kaufman, Gerald||Stoddart, David|
|Coleman, Donald||Kerr, Russell||Stott, Roger|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lambie, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lamond, James||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Corbett, Robin||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Thompson, George|
|Crawford, Douglas||Lipton, Marcus||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Loyden, Eddie||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||MacCormick, Iain||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Ward, Michael|
|Dempsey, James||McElhone, Frank||Watkins, David|
|Doig, Peter||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Watt, Hamish|
|Dormand, J. D.||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Eadie, Alex||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Edge, Geoff||Madden, Max||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Marks, Kenneth||Whitlock, William|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mikardo, Ian||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Molloy, William||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Woodall, Alec|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Newens, Stanley||Woof, Robert|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Noble, Mike||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Ogden, Eric|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ford, Ben||Ovenden, John||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Forrester, John||Palmer, Arthur||Mr. James Tinn.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Emery, Peter|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Benyon, W.||Dalyell, Tam||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Brittan, Leon||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.|
|Brotherton, Michael||Drayson, Burnaby||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||McCrindle, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Goodhew, Victor||Macfarlane, Neil||Sproat, Iain|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Gray, Hamish||Mather, Carol||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Tebblt, Norman|
|Grist, Ian||Mills, Peter||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Montgomery, Fergus||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Nott, John||Weatherill, Bernard.|
|Holland, Philip||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Penhaligon, David||Younger, Hon George|
|Kinnock, Neil||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Raison, Timothy||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Rhodes James, R.||Mr. Nigel Lawson and|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shepherd, Colin||Mr. Peter Morrison.|
|Question accordingly agreed to.|
Mr. Goodhew rose—
The Temporary Chairman (Mr. A. P. Constain):I cannot take point of order before putting the Question.
|Question put accordingiy, That the amendment be made:—|
|The committee divided: Ayes 24, Noes 156.|
|Division No. 50.]||AYES||[8.18p.m.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Penhaligon, David||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Reid, George||Watt, Hamish|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Smith, [...]il (Rochdale)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Steel, Rt Hon David||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Henderson, Douglas||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Thompson, George||Mr. A. J. Beith and|
|MacCormick, Iain||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)||Mr. Russell Johnston.|
|Allaun, Frank||Dempsey, James||Hughes, Rt Hon C.(Anglesey)|
|Anderson, Donald||Doig, Peter||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Archer, Peter||Dormand, J. D.||Hunter, Adam|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Drayson, Burnaby||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Ashton, Joe||Dunlop, John||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Eadie, Alex||John, Brynmor|
|Bates, Alf||Edge, Geoff||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Bean, R. E.||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Emery, Peter||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lambie, David|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Evans, John (Newton)||Lamond, James|
|Brotherton, Michael||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lipton, Marcus|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Ford, Ben||Loyden, Eddie|
|Campbell, Ian||Forrester, John||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson|
|Canavan, Dennis||Freeson, Reginald||McCusker, H.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Carson, John||George, Bruce||McElhone, Frank|
|Cartwright, John||Gilbert, Dr John||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Golding, John||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Goodhew, Victor||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol)||Gourlay, Harry||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Madden, Max|
|Coleman, Donald||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Conlan, Bernard||Graham, Ted||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Grist, Ian||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Corbett, Robin||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Harper, Joseph||Molloy, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Molyneaux, James|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Holland, Philip||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hooley, Frank||Newens, Stanley|
|Noble, Mike||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Ogden, Eric||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Ward, Michael|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Rowlands, Ted||Watkins, David|
|Ovenden, John||Sedgemore, Brian||White, James (Pollok)|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Skinner, Dennis||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Palmer, Arthur||Small, William||Whitlock, William|
|Park, George||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'[...]ch)|
|Parker, John||Spriggs, Leslie||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Parry, Robert||Sproat, Iain||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Stallard, A. W.||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Stoddart, David||Woodall, Alec|
|Raison, Timothy||Stem, Roger||Woof, Robert|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Strang, Gavin||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Roberta, Albert (Normanton)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Roberta, Gwilym (Cannock)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Tinn, James||Mr. Peter Snape and|
|Rooker, J. W.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Mr. Thomas Cox.|
|Rose, Paul B.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. Goodhew
On a point of order, Mr. Costain. It may not be within your knowledge, but when the Deputy Chief Whip moved the closure a number of my hon. Friends, who had been present throughout the debate and who wished to speak, were trying to catch the eye of the Chair. I hope that that will be taken into account when it comes to considering whether we should debate the motion, "That the clause stand part of the Bill".
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)
So that the Government may have the opportunity of negativing Amendment No. 521, I shall move it formally.
§ Amendment proposed: No. 521, in page 1, line 15, leave out 'Scottish Assembly' and insert 'three Scottish Assemblies'.—[Mr. Emery.]
§ Amendment negatived.
The Temporary Chairman
Before I call Amendment No. 79 may I inform the Committee that the Chairman of Ways and Means has accepted a manuscript amendment to it, namely, in line 2, after first "one" insert "initial". There are copies of the amendment in the Vote Office.
§ Mr. David Steel
On a point of order, Mr. Costain. Will you tell us who has tabled the manuscript amendment?
§ Mr. Powell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Costain. Is the amendment intelligible? With the amendment, the passage would read:one initial member for Orkney and one for Shetland".1598 I do not know whether that would be taken to mean one initial member for Shetland.
§ The Chairman
That is what the amendment says, and I presume that the Government will explain to the Committee in due course why they have tabled it.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I beg to move Amendment No. 79, in page 1, line 23, at end insert:'except that in the case of the constituency of Orkney and Shetland there shall be one member for Orkney and one for Shetland'.
§ The Chairman
With this we are taking the following amendments:
No. 314, in page 1, line 23, at end insert:'save in the case of Orkney and Shetland, which shall have one initial member each'.No. 518, in Schedule 1, page 70, line 11, at end insert:'and, in particular, in the case of Orkney and Shetland, each island area shall comprise one Assembly constituency'.
§ Mr. Grimond
I hope that the explanation from an official source will go a long way, if not the whole way, towards giving me what I ask for. I ask that Orkney and Shetland should be separately represented at the Assembly. Were it not for the population figures they would have been represented separately in this Parliament. The two groups of islands are a considerable distance apart, but their total population is only between 38,000 and 40,000, roughly equally divided. Therefore, each group could hardly claim to have a representative in the House of Commons.
Under the Bill, each existing constituency will return two Members. This is 1599 an obvious opportunity for dividing Shetland from Orkney and giving each group of islands one Member each at the Assembly instead of two Members between them. That would not create a precedent, because for many years Shetland did not have a representative in the House of Commons because the Shetland electorate was too poor to qualify until the 1830s. Now things have changed and it is considerably richer.
In case there should be any doubt, the distance from Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, is over 100 miles. There are about 10 Shetland islands that have a population of more than one or two, and at least 12 Orkney islands. I speak from personal experience when I say that in a General Election campaign it is impossible to get through all the islands and to hold meetings in the evenings. It is difficult enough to get through them at any time. I do not know whether many Ministers have been to Foula lately, but no doubt it would do their stomachs good were they to attempt it. It is a very difficult region to cover.
No one can deny that now is the time to divide this constituency, whose extent is equivalent to the distance between London and York, although its population is small. In many ways I should be sorry to see the constituency divided, even for the purposes of the Assembly.
In its time the constituency has, oddly enough, been represented by notable men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for those cheers. It is believed that Charles James Fox was elected for the Northern Burghs, and a remarkable Member called Mr. Wason sat for Orkney and Shetland for many years. I hope that I do not do his descendants any libel by remarking that he constantly knitted in the House, a sensible thing to do. Think of the amount of knitting that might have been done last night if only that valuable custom had continued! I am told that he also developed a remarkable technique when kissing the babies of the more influential people, succeeding of passing half a sovereign into the babies' mouths. A regular scene after he had left was that of mothers holding their babies upside down and shaking them to see what emerged. Perhaps we 1600 may now have three Members adopting his interesting custom.
I return to the serious point. The first difficulty is that of travel. Even on the ground Shetland is 70 miles from one end to the other, and some other islands are big and not easy to cover in one evening. Further, while Shetland depends largely upon wool and fishing, Orkney is an agricultural island or group of islands and the staple of Orkney has always been its cattle. Although Orkney and Shetland have similar histories, they have different problems and different industries, and they deserve different representation in the Scottish Assembly.
Therefore, I hope that the Government will look as favourably upon the amendment as it so far appears they are content to do. I have no desire to insist upon the exact wording of the amendment. For all we know, the method of election in Scotland may be altered by the end of the Committee stage or in the future. But the time has come to give separate representation to the islands of Orkney and Shetland.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is it intended that the Assembly, if it comes into being, should be full time in the sense that representatives of Orkney or Shetland would have to have a home base in Edinburgh, or that it should be much more of a part-time Assembly, making it possible for representatives of such places, and anywhere outside driving distance of a night of Edinburgh, to remain in their own homes? May we have a statement of precisely what is in the Government's mind? Is it to be an Assembly that meets for 40 weeks in the year, five days a week, or much more of a part-time Assembly? I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will comment.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)
I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for coming here tonight during his convalescence and standing by his constituents. He said that Orkney and Shetland had been represented by distinguished men. May I say what a distinguished man he is in deporting himself in such a manner tonight and on previous occasions?
Whilst it may appear from the manuscript amendment that the Government 1601 are moving a little to accommodate the Orkney and Shetland islands, a case should nevertheless be made. Representation in an Assembly may be entirely different from representation in this House, but a population of 30,000 is not the absolute criterion. We must consider the enormous potential of these islands. Since the Isle of Man is a self-governing and independent State, the least that can be expected for these islands is separate representation. As the islands have decided to associate closely with Scotland and to participate in the Assembly, there are three basic reasons for their having separate representation—their political development and the enormous potential of the islands. The third is the need to safeguard their entrenched rights.
The North Sea oil potential is enormous. It would not be repetition to refer to the potential in this quarter. Although the population of these islands is minute, the enormous potential is a reason for them having the ability to argue their case in the Assembly.
The following North Sea oil fields in the United Kingdom sector are off the Shetland Islands: Alwyn, Beryl, Bruce, Brent, Cormorant, Crawford, Dunlin, Heather, Hutton, Ninian, Magnus, Murchison, Statfjord, Tern and Thistle. This area will include six commercial fields, 10 significant named prospects and 12 others, unnamed—a total of 28 fields. That is a significant total. By comparison, in the United Kingdom area, up to the median line with Scotland there are four commercial fields, three significant named fields and eight unnamed ones—a total of 15. The Brae field of block 16/7 would probably fall into the Orkney sector.
As I said on Second Reading, if one takes into account the commercial fields alone the Scottish area would have about 3,190 million barrels, or 38 per cent. of the total. The Shetlands area would have 4,998 million barrels or 60 per cent. of the total. The English area would have a minute share.
§ Mr. Skeet
The hon. Lady says that there is none. According to my calculations of the commercial fields, the English 1602 share would be 120 million barrels or 1.4 per cent.
I was impressed when the Minister of State, Department of Energy, told my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) the other day in Written Answer:In the broadest terms, I estimate that 50 per cent. of the North Sea oil would be landed in the Shetlands, 15 per cent. in the Orkneys and 25 per cent. in the mainland of Scotland, while some 10 per cent. would be loaded into tankers at sea and landed at different ports."—[Official Report, 17th January 1977; Vol. 924, c. 1.]We know that there is a 36-inch pipeline to Sullom Voe which will carry about 1 million barrels a day by 1980, by which date the Shetlands will be receiving 60 per cent. of the total United Kingdom sector oil. Later, 730 million barrels a year will be flowing from the complexes of Brent, Ninian and Statfjord. Therefore, not only have the Shetland Islands, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, enormous offshore potential. some of which is not yet being developed: they also have interests in two major pipelines from Brent and Ninian and a substantial tank farm at Sullom Voe. There is also the possibility of a major refinery centre. Whether the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will support that. I do not know. It could be one of the largest in Northern Europe, and could rival Europort. On these grounds alone, the citizens of Orkney and Shetland can claim legitimately to have separate representations.
There is another argument. I have listened with interest to Members of the Scottish National Party in numerous debates when they have proclaimed on these matters with a rather divided voice. For example, one hon. Member claims that Scotland should go completely independent, while the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) has indicated that he is quite prepared to concede autonomy to Shetland and Orkney, because Scotland has sufficient oil on its own.
In legislation such at this we must look further ahead, and ensure that the islands keep their entrenched rights and safeguards. We must maintain their autonomy and financial privileges. They have a perfect right to present their cases 1603 separately with differing degrees of emphasis.
§ Mr. George Reid (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
In view of the negotiations between the United Kingdom and French Governments, would the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) allow the same rights to the people of the Channel Islands and the Scilly Isles?
§ Mr. Skeet
The negotiations between France and the United Kingdom are at present before arbitration and we have not the remotest idea which way the decision will go. According to the 1958 International Convention, lines have been clearly established between the median line and the projections from the coast which would determine accurately the situation between the United Kingdom and France.
§ Mr. Skeet
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to estimate what the arbitrators will decide. It would be very interesting if I could figure that out.
If the ultimate aspirations of the Scottish National Party are achieved and Scotland is completely independent, arbitration or representations to the International Court in The Hague or elsewhere could last for many years in determining precisely where the lines should be drawn. What is apparent from the International Convention and the Continental Shelf Act 1964 is that the United Kingdom would succeed. The Scottish Assembly will not be sovereign. The sovereign body of the United Kingdom is the House of Commons at Westminster.
The Zetland County Council Act 1974 and the Orkney County Council Act 1974 cover a number of matters such as the acquisition of land, the regulation of harbour areas and financial matters. These two Acts are the charter of the islands and any tampering with them by the Assembly would go against the fundamental basis of matters which the islands consider essentially their birthright. If they have separate representation in the Assembly in future they will be able to put their case forcefully. If 1604 they were to be jointly representative, the situation would not be as satisfactory because different legislation would apply.
I wish to refer to some correspondence which I have had with the Shetland County Council. I shall try to summarise the county council's case set out in a letter dated 29th November 1976. It poses the question whether, if there is to be a further reorganisation, local government will eventually be abolished? Is Strathclyde, which controls about 50 per cent. of the total, to be altered?
§ Mr. Skeet
The hon. Lady says "Yes", but if that is the result this could be extremely serious for the Shetland Islands.
I appreciate that the significance of the Bill lies in the fact that many of these matters remain within the United Kingdom, but we may find later that some of these powers in a modified form may slip over to the Assembly. In that case what would happen in Sullom Voe where there are tank farms and other facilities? Will they be handed over to a third party?
I should like to read directly from the letter that I received from the Shetland County Council:A Scottish Assembly may vary the rate support grant distribution formulae in a manner which favours the highly populated and deprived areas of Scotland at the expense of Shetland. In addition, whereas the Council are reasonably assured that the distinction between disturbance and other monies intended specifically to protect Shetland's future and grants intended specifically to promote the national interest in Shetland is understood by Government, they are far from assured that this distinction will be recognised and perpetuated by a Scottish Assembly.Therefore, it is indispensable that representatives from the two islands should be in the Assembly to state their case and to see that there is no fundamental alteration in the basic rights which are there established.
In allocating block grant and giving limited revenue-raising powers the Assembly may choose to allocate more finance for its own use and less for local government. Alternatively, there may be a surcharge on local authority taxation, as suggested by the Layfield Report, and that could lead to unrest among ratepayers, particularly if no additional benefits accrue to Shetland.
1605 I hope that these matters are apparent to the Government and that they will take the view that the islands should be put in a special position because of their potential in the Assembly. I hope that they will be enabled to speak out and conduct prolonged consultations on these important matters.
I wish to support the Liberal amendment. Unfortunately, since I am paired, I cannot do so, but in spirit and thought I am behind them on this amendment. I must make that clear in case somebody refers to the record and my name is absent from it. It is only right that a Member from an English constituency should say that he is prepared to support the claims of the Shetland Islands because he sees justification in their arguments.
The Government have brought before Parliament an impossible Bill. What they could do for the Shetland Islands would he to adopt some of the later amendments on these matters; but the least they can do is to ensure that these islands have a safe future, certainly as safe as if they had remained fully within the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I rise to ask a question of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I think that with this very refreshing approach he has relieved the House of many hours of long debate. There is personal respect for him on both sides of the House and we all respect his judgment and care for his constituency. I should like to ask for further aid in a matter that has appeared to produce a spontaneous reaction of support in the Committee.
His suggestion was clear, but there is a likelihood that a problem will arise from it. Further amendments in the group under discussion suggest that Orkney and Shetland should be separate island Assembly constituencies. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has served in the House of Commons for many years efficiently, adequately, capably and to the satisfaction of all his constituents in both islands. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will not strictly adhere to the amendment if the Government respond to the general principle and if there is a state of equiescence and agreement among hon. Members. But does he not see that there might be some difficulty if the islands 1606 become two constituencies for Assembly representation but a single constituency for parliamentary representation? Would this not create future problems for parliamentary and Assembly representation? Would it be possible if there is general agreement on this to explore the possibility of having a one constituency arrangement for both the islands while allowing them two representatives in the Assembly, thus retaining the one constituency basis?
§ Mr. Galbraith
The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) was not only first class it illustrated the value of this United Kingdom Parliament, where it is possible for Members from as far away from the Orkneys and Shetlands as Bedford—a landlocked constituency—to give valuable and interesting dispositions on the situation in that remote northern part of the country. I agreed strongly with the warm tribute that the hon. Member paid to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who moved the amendment. I hope later to explain to the Committee why I support that amendment.
The main point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford was that these two islands should have separate representation because of the great growth of industry resulting from the exploitation of oil and its related products. My hon. Friend made that the basis of his argument. But even if there were no oil at all in the islands, I would still support the amendment. I hope that I shall not bore the Committee, but I want to explain the reason why I support the amendment. It has been the subject of a theme that I have stressed repeatedly in our debates.
There will be a body in the Assembly that will not be impartial. That will be so because the vast majority of Assemblymen, or Members of Parliament, or whatever they may be called, will represent the industrial belt of Scotland—the part of Scotland that I represent—that is, Strathclyde.
No one has a higher regard for the people from Strathclyde, Scotland—even when they sit on the other side of the House—than I, but if we have an Assembly dominated by a large number 1607 of people from a small part of the country with a single industrial interest, it will be bad for the rest of Scotland. The Government are making it worse by proposing that some of these industrial seats should have not two but three Members, thereby emphasising still further the domination of the industrial area over rural districts and far-flung parts such as Orkney and Shetland.
I welcome the amendment, because I am afraid that the Assembly cannot be impartial, and the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland adds additional Members from outlying areas. The principle behind the amendment should be extended to other distant areas.
I should have preferred the Orkneys and the Shetlands to go their own way and not be forced under the umbrella of the Assembly. The islanders know that this House is impartial. That is why they wanted to remain under our umbrella. No one can claim that the bulk of Scottish people living in the central industrial belt care a damn about the Highlands, the difficulties of rural transport or other problems that concern hon. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger).
§ Mr. Dalyell
Whatever the arguments on this amendment, does the hon. Gentleman realise that many constituents in the central belt care deeply about the Highlands and about Orkney and Shetland?
§ Mr. Grimond
I may have been a little discourteous to hon. Members who have raised subjects that go rather wider than I had intended to go in the amendment. There are two local authorities, one in Orkney and one in Shetland. They are quite separate. I am not trying to extend the representation of Orkney and Shetland, I am trying to divide them and provide for one Member each.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. I should like the outlying areas to have additional Members, but I gather that the right hon. Gentleman merely wishes to split up the representation of Orkney and Shetland. I cannot support the amendment strongly as I would otherwise have done, because I believe that Orkney and Shetland should have two Assemblymen each, but I shall support the amendment anyway.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
I support the perfectly sensible, reasonable and logical proposal of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). These islands are far away, and I am ashamed to say that I have visited them only once. That was after my election to this House in November 1967. I went because I thought that as a Scottish Member of Parliament it was wrong to come all the way to Westminster without knowing the feelings of the inhabitants of this most distant place.
I have always treasured the memory of my visit to this unique set of islands. They are individualistic and different. I am sorry to say that I have not been back. I should like to return, and the fact that I have not done so is not the fault of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who is most hospitable in inviting all hon. Members to his constituency.
These islands have been used by the Westminster Government in time of war and they have been left with dereliction. As a child at school I learned the name Scapa Flow. That name should strike terror into everyone who is concerned about dereliction. The islands co-operated and assisted, but now they have been left with dereliction.
Oil has been found at the bottom of the garden, and though it may be irrelevant to this debate, perhaps I may spell out SNP policy on the subject. Since my party was founded 50 years ago we have recognised that the two groups of islands are unique. We have said that they should have as much autonomy as they want. Our policy in that respect has never changed.
Hon. Members have tried in this House to introduce a red herring by saying that if the islands were given their independence, or if they went back to Denmark, that would be against the SNP because the SNP wants the oil. I say "No". They can have the oil. They can all be billionaires if they want. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland can be the head of a billionaire group of islands. The only thing that matters to my party is that the people of these islands should have the right to be individualistic, and if that means that they must have Beryl and all the other oilfields that it seems are always named 1609 after women, they are perfectly entitled in my party's view to have them.
I care about every part of my very distinguished country, and I care about this distinguished unique set of islands. The discovery of oil may not he to their particular advantage because of the greed of mankind. The islands have been used before and they might be used again.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has bravely come here in spite of his poor health and has put forward a modest request. If this Committee votes against it, it is not a Committee worth coming to. Anyone who votes against the amendment is not prepared to recognise the beauty of individuality.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
I note the hon. Lady's honesty about SNP policy, but may I clarify the matter? As a result of what she said will she and her colleagues now stop using their slogan "Scotland's Oil" and refer instead to the fact that they have only one-third of what was Scottish oil?
§ Mrs. Ewing
Certainly. That is absolutely certain. That is SNP policy, but no one has listened to us.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I have not even had a chance to answer the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken). One at a time, please. I shall take on all corners, but I cannot take them all on at once.
The SNP means this policy, because it is not a question of oil. Oil has been a useful propaganda exercise to destroy the myth of Scottish poverty that was put about in this honourable House when I was previously a Member. For three years, many hon. Members said "We would agree with the hon. Lady if only it would not be awfully bad for the poor old Scots who need to put out their hands for handouts." Then, suddenly, oil was found. I was in the Scottish National Party when I was 17 years old and Scottish oil had never been heard of then.
1610 This point about oil is a most interesting one. It happens that a lot of the oil is around the Orkneys and Shetlands and many clever international jurists—and I am a lawyer myself by trade—
§ Mrs. Ewing
Englishmen made it a trade and Scotsmen made it a profession. We taught it universally while the English taught it as a craft. I make no apology for saying that I am a lawyer by trade, but if I were to be awfully quibbling about it there is quite a set of international legal agreements which say, cleverly, that Orkney and Shetland are too small as an international entity to have their own oil. But the SNP view is that, if Orkney and Shetland wish to have autonomy, let them have it. If that means that they get their oil, let them have it. Strangely enough, there plenty of oil—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)
Order. I know that oil has been mentioned, but we are debating an amendment about the number of representatives. I hope that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) will return to the point.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I do not want to attack the hon. Lady, but, before she obeys your ruling, Mr. Crawshaw, and leaves the subject of oil, she made the very interesting statement that, if these islands were to become autonomous, they could take the oil at the bottom of the garden with them.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith) will not lead the hon. Lady further astray from the point under discussion. There is not much point in the Chair bringing the hon. Lady to order if other hon. Members try to extend the debate even further.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Would you allow me, Mr. Crawshaw, to clarify one point? If these islands, instead of being autonomous, wished to continue as part of the United Kingdom, but Scotland was autonomous, would the hon. Lady still allow the oil to go with them?
§ Mrs. Ewing
Of course. I am a democrat, unlike some hon. Members. Therefore, I accept the rule of democracy that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith) has just posed. I do not know how often the hon. Member has been to the islands of Orkney and Shetland—
§ Mrs. Ewing
If he has been the same number of times, that is once.
When I was there, there was a very interesting set of slogans painted on walls. Apart from one which said "Down with Willy Ross", which I am too polite to mention, there was one saying "Back to Denmark".
A gentleman, whom the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will know well, telephoned me. I asked him "Is this 'Back to Denmark' movement very powerful?" He said "No." I said "But there are slogans everywhere. Have you many members?" He said "Just me". I said "It is strange that we should have all this. Why have you done it?" He said "That was just a kite that I flew."
In my opinion, these islands are not interested in going back to Denmark. I base my opinion not on my visit, but on the visits of many of my colleagues.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Lady talked about dereliction at Scapa. I wondered precisely what was involved. Is the idea that battleships which have not been raised should be raised? That point should be expanded.
I listened carefully and seriously to the hon. Lady's important statement on oil. I ask this without bad taste or anything. In the light of what she said, if she means it, does she not think that she ought to prevail upon the SNP to remove the posters in our constituencies portraying "The old man, it is his oil. The old woman, it is her oil. The kids, it is their oil."? Frankly, those posters do not 1612 coincide with the statement made by the hon. Lady.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the chance to reply. I might otherwise be out of order. Those posters could be based on the Forties field alone. Hardly a pennyworth of benefit is going to people who are dying of cold in Scotland or to the slum dwellers who are still with me just as they were with my father who was a member of the ILP. They are still the same as when I was a child. The posters are right. There is enough in the Forties. If the Orcadians and Shetlanders, including the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, would like to be billionaires, I say good luck to them. They have suffered so much that they are perfectly entitled to it. I pray every night "Let England find oil in her own sector of the North Sea and she might get the chip off her shoulder and we might have a more dignified debate".
§ Mr. Brotherton
In Anglia, in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), 93 per cent. of all natural gas consumed in this country comes ashore. So far as I know, nobody has ever talked about English gas.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I have pointed out that we are debating numbers for constituencies. I do not want hon. Members intervening and widening the debate even further. I have pointed this out to the hon. Lady. I hope that she will come to the amendment.
§ Mrs. Ewing
These are two unique sets of islands. I have spoken up for them as best I can, and I do not in any sense represent them. I represent a constituency quite a bit south of Orkney and Shetland, although quite a bit north of this place.
1613 When the House of Commons stops recognising and understanding the unique individuality of these two sets of islands, it is a disgrace. The amendment is reasonable. It is not asking for anything extra. It is asking only that we recognise that an Orcadian does not feel the same as a Shetlander. Those islands are far away from this place. The islanders trust those of us who are here at the moment to do them justice. I ask the Committee to support the amendment.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
Perhaps it would help the Committee if I intervened at this stage to explain the Government's attitude to the amendment and to move the manuscript amendment that I placed in the hands of the Clerk of the House this afternoon.
First, I should indicate that it is the Government's intention to accent the amendment. My reason for tabling the manuscript amendment—as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) rightly cottoned on to, if that is the correct expression—was that technically the amendment was slightly deficient, inasmuch as we are discussing the initial elections to the Assembly. Therefore, technically, to bring the amendment into order, it was necessary for the Government to table the manuscript amendment, which I hope that the Committee will accept.
§ Mr. Ewing
The manuscript amendment inserts the word "initial" after the first "one" in the proposed amendment That is because we are dealing with the initial elections. I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment.
When we saw the amendment we were immediately attracted by its provisions. I had been to the Shetlands and had discussed devolution with the Shetland Island Council. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his former capacity as Minister of State, has in recent months been to the Shetlands. One of the points put to us most forcibly was that it was considered that should the Assembly come about it would be appropriate for Orkney and Shetland to have a member in the Assembly representing each island area. As the right 1614 hon. Gentleman rightly says, the islands are probably 100 miles apart. There is a fair distance between the two sets of islands.
However, I must also make it clear that in accepting the amendment we are in no circumstances creating a precedent. We do not see a situation in the other constituencies in Scotland that would qualify for the treatment that we are prepared to concede to Orkney and Shetland and which I now suggest we should concede.
I should not welcome our acceptance of the amendment being quoted to us as a precedent, should any other right hon. or hon. Members suggest to the Government that their constituencies should have precisely the same treatment. We have examined the situation and we do not see any other part of Scotland that is unique in a similar respect. We are talking about a unique situation in Orkney and Shetland.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Would it comfort the Minister to know that we do not see any other part of Scotland that is also unique in the way in which Orkney and Shetland is? Does he have in mind any other possible precedent that worries him?
§ Mr. Harry Ewing
I assure the hon. Lady that everything she has said tonight has been of tremendous comfort to me. I am sure that most of the statements that she made in her enthralling speech, which took up the last 10 or 15 minutes, she will see appearing in print time and again between now and the next General Election. I should like to dispose of her speech by saying that I got the impression that it was directed not particularly to this Committee but to the islands of Orkney and Shetland. I think that in the hon. Lady's most generous moments she would agree with that. However, I think that it was also directed to her hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid). who is on record as saying that should Shetland gain its independence, the SNP would use international law in order to stop the islands taking with them the oil that is in the Shetland basin.
§ Mr. Reid
It would be useful if the hon. Gentleman quoted exactly aright the newspaper that both of us share between out constituencies. I said that it 1615 would be "dubious" in international practice, if Shetland ever gained its independence, that she would get all the oil. I direct the hon. Gentleman's attention to what is happening in the Aegean Sea, the Scilly Isles and the Channel Islands, where international law takes differing views on the small land area and the population base, and on the other hand, the North Atlantic, where there is a rather different situation, and the Farces, which have a unique relationship with Denmark. Surely that is quite possible in an independent Scotland.
§ Mr. Ewing
Despite our political differences, the hon. Gentleman and I share an amenable friendship. I think he will accept that none of us has the power to rewrite the columns of the Falkirk Herald. We are both friendly with the editor of the Herald but none of us has the power to rewrite the Herald's columns.
§ Mr. Ewing
The Herald's report of the meeting that took place in the hon. Gentleman's constituency is clear and specific in that the hon. Gentleman made it clear that in his view international law would prevent Orkney and Shetland from taking with them the oil that is presently located in the Shetland basin if they were to become an independent State.
It seemed that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) was directing her speech not particularly to the House of Commons but to the Orcadians and Shetlanders and the SNP, so that the SNP can resolve its internal difficulties and differences over its attitude to Orkney and Shetland.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) made his usual brief contribution. He asked whether the Government consider that the Assembly should be full time or part time. The length of the Assembly's sessions and the procedures that it will adopt are basically matters for the Assembly. Perhaps I can put the mind of the Committee at rest by saying that in our calculations of the staff that will be required for the Assembly, we have worked on the basis of what could loosely be described as a one-shift system.
§ Mr. George Younger
I think that we all understand what a one-shift system means in the context of a factory, but it is extremely difficult to understand what it means in terms of an Assembly. Perhaps the Minister will explain.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Are we to assume for the purposes of the amendment that whoever is the Member for Orkney and whoever is the Member for Shetland will be expected to have a home in Edinburgh?
§ Mr. Younger
It is all very well having this debate in a slightly light-hearted manner, but those outside will read Hansard. We must have some explanation from the Minister about the Assembly operating on a one-shift system. Surely he can clarify this point.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ewing
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not understand the position. We have in mind that the Assembly will meet between 10 o'clock in the morning and 6 o'clock at night, or something like that. Our calculations for the staff that will be required have been based on a day spanning those hours.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Has the Minister made any calculation of the number of weeks in the year that he thinks the Assembly might meet? If so, will he tell us at some stage?
§ Mr. Ewing
My right hon. Friend the Lord President has great difficulty in making calculations about the number of weeks that the House of Commons 1617 will meet. I am sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) will not expect me to become involved in calculations about the number of weeks that the Assembly will meet, or about any other aspect of the procedures of the Assembly, including how long the sessions should be.
I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet). It was devoted almost entirely to the relationship between the Shetlands and the oil resources in the Shetland basin. But, as has been said so often in the debate, it is stretching the rules of order to bring in this much wider issue. The amendment deals with the question of the number of members coming from a particular constituency to represent that area in the Assembly. There was much validity in what the hon. Gentleman said, but I do not think that I should go into the detail of the argument that he presented. Suffice it to say that I agree with much of what he said.
The hon. Gentleman made two particular points relating to the Zetland County Council Act 1974. He quoted from a letter which he had received in November 1976 from the island council. The Zetland County Council Act deals with matters that are not devolved—in other words, ports and harbours and energy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in replying to the Shetland Island Council, has made the point that those subjects are not devolved. I think that the reply was to the letter from which the hon. Gentleman quoted.
§ Mr. Skeet
The Bill leads Scotland on to the slippery slope. It is a very bad Bill. If we were absolutely satisfied that the consequences that we have discussed would not occur, I should agree with the hon. Gentleman. But if it goes the other way and complete independence is wrested from Westminster, are we not entitled to raise important matters which concern Scotland?
§ Mr. Ewing
It is not for me to say what matters Members are or are not entitled to raise. I am simply replying to the debate. Whoever is in the Chair is responsible for ensuring the maintenance of the rules of order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) raised an important point. The answer to it is that 1618 the Assembly representations will be based on parliamentary constituencies. That should resolve any doubt that my hon. Friend might have.
I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith). Again, we heard the argument that there is the fear in Orkney and Shetland—and I admit that the Shetland Island Council expressed it to me when I visited the Shetlands in the middle of 1976 and had discussions with the council—that they will be dominated by Assembly men or women from the central belt of Scotland.
I know that it is difficult, however much Ministers or Members of Parliament may try, to allay such fears, but the history of the consideration that the House of Commons has had—[Interruption.] Scottish representation in the House is equally dominated by Members from the central belt of Scotland. The hon. Member for Hillhead is one of them. Many Members who have been elected to represent Highlands constituencies come from the central belt. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn is a Glaswegian and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, who represents Caithness and Sutherland, is a Glaswegian.
In the central belt some Glasgow constituencies have elected Members of Parliament who were not born and brought up in Glasgow. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is Dundee-born and bred. He represents a Glasgow constituency. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Gordon Wilson) is a Paisley man—I do not know of a greater mixture than that.
It is a disservice to the people of Scotland to suggest that those who come from one part have no concern for any other part. I wish that these arguments would cease, because from past experience it is clear that they have no validity. I hope that what I have said will go a long way to allay the fears of the islanders.
§ Mr. Canavan
Does my hon. Friend agree that some hon. Members—myself, for instance—are in the almost unique position of representing constituencies which take in part of the central industrial belt of Scotland and part of the Scottish Highlands. I have had many 1619 letters from the Highlands part of my constituency congratulating me on my ability to represent not just my constituents in the industrial belt but also those who live above the Highlands line of Scotland.
§ Mr. Ewing
I represent the constituency adjoining that of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan). I know from first-hand experience how much the farmers, fishermen and all my hon. Friend's constituents appreciate the way in which he represents them in the House of Commons. I have no doubt that the farmers, the landowners and the owners of vast estates will be queueing up to vote for my hon. Friend at the next election.
§ Mr. Iain MacCormick (Argyll)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the case he puts is astonishing? The only islands in Scotland with a genuine case for independence are the Western Islands. In the Shetland and Orkney Islands there is not one person who can speak in the language that they blether about as being their national language.
§ Mr. Ewing
From time to time Ministers have incredible good luck and good fortune. To his misfortune, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) has come late to the debate. He missed the new SNP policy that was announced at 9.20 pm by his hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn. After the hon. Member for Argyll has read Hansard tomorrow, he should send it immediately to his constituency party, advising the party that SNP policy changed at 9.20 pm on 26th January and suggesting that it should adjust all its printing orders accordingly.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing
I do not want to continue the debate unnecessarily, because I know that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland is anxious to return to his convalescence. It is obvious that the SNP is in total disarray. We have heard tonight three polices put forward by members of the SNP. The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire has one policy, his hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn 1620 another and his hon. Friend the Member for Argyll yet another. I am sorry that not all members of the SNP are here. Had they all been here I am sure that each would have advanced a different policy, and that would have been most interesting.
§ Mr. Reid
As a good friend of my neighbour, may I direct the Minister's attention to the small matter of geography? As far as I am aware, there are no deep-water fish in his, mine and the neighbouring constituency of West Stirlingshire. [Interruption.] I agree that there are some fresh-water fish, but not sea fish of the kind that we think of when we deal with Orkney and Shetland.
Does the Minister remember enough history to remember what Rupert of the Rhine did to the Scilly Islands and to know that the relationship between the Scilly Islands and England has less historical continuity than the 500 years history that Shetland shared with Scotland? If the Scilly Islands, in international law. were to go independent, the entire Western Approaches would become Scilly Islands waters. In the Aaegean there are the same problems between Turkey and Greece. The dispute between India and Sri Lanka on this matter was solved by making an island between the two of them a holy shrine.
In all these problems of territorial definitions in international law there are grey areas. Inside the European Community we find San Marino, Andorra and other small countries which are theoretically independent—
§ Mr. Ewing
However much the hon. Gentleman tries to tempt me, I have no intention of getting the SNP out of its internal difficulties. I leave it to sort them out for itself.
I have dealt with the speech of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn. I hope that I have answered all the questions. I said at the beginning that the Government were happy to accept the amendment on the basis that the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee accepted a manuscript amendment to bring it into order.
1621 In conclusion, I should say something about Amendment No. 518, to Schedule 1. That amendement is not acceptable to the Government. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland knows the reason. which is that it would tie the hands of the Boundary Commission when considering Assembly constituencies. That would be an unprecedented step which we do not wish to take. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept all the very good reasons for our not doing so.
I beg to move, as a manuscript amendment to the proposed Amendment, after first "one" insert "initial".
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I realise that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is about to rise, no doubt to accept with gratitude the Minister's constructive reply. But I want to speak briefly because I think it important that English Members should occasionally be heard on matters that affect Scotland. We in England will have many of our affairs discussed by Scottish Members even when they have their own devolved Asembly, so it is important that the voice of England should not go unheard from time to time.
I am sure that the Minister is right to accept the amendment, but I cannot understand why he did not do it a couple of hours ago. However, it has been of inestimable political value to both sides of the Committee that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) was allowed her head. Perhaps her head was in a somewhat enlivened condition this evening. I am certain that she will regret a great deal of what she said.
If the Minister had accepted the amendment right at the start, the Committee could have got on with its business. It is an eminently reasonable amendment. From the schedule the Minister will appreciate that the Boundary Commission in any event is bound to take account of the problems of accessibility and the peculiar geographical and other features of Orkney and Shetland. Therefore, it is almost implicit in the geography of these islands that they should have a separate seat each rather than being lumped together and given two seats.
1622 9.45 p.m.
The Government Chief Whip or the Lord President may soon be telling us that time has been wasted and that debate on the Bill must be guillotined. I want to put on record the fact—I say this with respect to the Minister—that the Government have allowed two or three hours to be unnecessarily used. If the Minister had accepted the amendment clean and simple in the first place, he would not have wasted the time of the House. I hope that the Government will not argue therefore that time has been improperly consumed when the responsibility for losing this time lies largely with the Government.
I slightly restrain my criticism on one point, because if we had not had this debate we should not have heard the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn, who managed to give more hostages to fortune than I have heard for a long time.
§ Mr. MacCormick
Where does the Conservative Party's policy lie? What is the difference in the Hon. Member's party's view between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and the isles to the west of Scotland?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not answer that question either.
§ Mr. Griffiths
You know me well enough, Mr. Crawshaw, to know that I would never presume to do any such thing. I shall eschew such a temptation and remain in order.
I was impressed when the Minister said that it was possible in Scotland for hon. Members from one part of the country adequately to represent other areas. That is of course true. It does not follow that one must have someone from Orkney to represent Orkney. The Minister gave cogent illustraions. He said—I think that I know enough of Scotland to appreciate his point—that there is a Paisley man representing Dundee, which is quite an achievement, just as there are many Glaswegians effectively representing Highlands seats.
This is so, but it is so throughout the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) admirably represents that constituency, although he comes from New Zealand. 1623 One of your colleagues, Mr. Crawshaw, who presides so frequently and so well over our affairs, comes from Canada. Many of my hon. friends adequately represents seats where they were not born and did not grow up.
I agree wholeheartedly with the Minister but I would point out that what he has said shows what is wrong with the Bill. It is based on the assumption that only Scots can run Scotland, when we should recognise that we are all part of one nation, the British nation, and that all of us, whether we are Anglo-Scots, Anglo-Welsh, Englishmen representing Scottish seats or Welshmen representing English seats, are one together in a single community. I agree with what the Minister said, but in saying it he destroyed one of the pillars of his own Bill.
§ Mr. Grimond
I thank the Minister. In spite of any unkind words which have been said about him, he has our deep and sincere thanks. I thank the Government as well. This is the first amendment they have accepted and I, in turn, am very pleased to accept their amendment. I hope that this sets an example for the rest of the Bill, but it is very unlikely that any such similar cases will arise.
I have been a little surprised now and then at the extraordinary wide implications of the question of whether we should have separate Members for Orkney and Shetland in the Assembly or a Member for both. I was amazed at the way this question seemed to interfere with the whole Scottish-English relationship. Also, in the debate we touched on Ceylon, world-wide oil supplies, and the terrible fears about the central belt of Scotland. When I come to discuss the preservation of the St. Kilda wren, who knows what really world-shaking problems that will throw up? No doubt it will fill in another two interesting hours of debate. I am well content with the Government's amendment tonight.
§ Mr. Aitken
I, too, thank the Minister, who so gracefully accepted the amendment of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). The only thing that I have in common with him politically is that I represent an island, or part of an island, in the House of Commons. My island is one on which 1624 the two constituent parts are separately represented. The reason for this representation is, of course, population. This is the one ground on which the amendment tonight could not be justified.
One important reason for the amendment was not touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman in explaining why the two parts of Orkney and Shetland should be separately represented. This is the fact that they have different futures in relation to North Sea oil development.
We have had some quite fascinating revelations about Scottish oil this evening and I was astounded by the answer to my intervention by the hon. Lady the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing). Her frankness and truthfulness tonight contrasts with the deception and mendacity of the wall posters of the Scottish National Party. I am quite sure that we shall hear more of this debate after tonight.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
As I have been referred to more than once, may I point out that the poster about "Scotland's Oil" remains true. Our policy is to allow these distinctive islands to have exactly what they want. But it is also our observation from frequent visits there—not on my part but by other Members of my party—that the claims tonight are a myth, and Orkney and Shetland want to be part of Scotland.
§ Mr. Aitken
If the hon. Lady insists in bowling me long hops, she cannot be surprised if I occasionally dispatch them to the boundary. The deception and mendacity of the poster was not in the small print, but in the continuous line which the Scottish National Party perpetuates—that Scotland is economically viable and strong as a separate nation. That is the theory behind the cry "Scotland's Oil". Yet tonight the hon. Lady admitted that only one-third of the oil would be in the possession of an independent Scotland. I was very grateful for that revelation.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
What would be the position if the North-East Coast of Scotland, comprising Aberdeen and the Grampian Region, decided that it wanted independence from Scotland and also the oil off the North-East Coast?
§ Mr. Aitken
Unaccustomed as I am to be called upon as spokesman of the 1625 SNP—although I could hardly do worse than its spokesmen have done this evening—I can hardly refrain from granting the hon. Gentleman full oil rights, because that seems to be in line with policy laid down by SNP spokesmen.
I thought that the Minister was in an optimistic mood in introducing his manuscript amendment and hoping that it would not set a precedent. I must warn him that I see certain trouble arising from this situation, because Orkney and Shetland are likely to have a rather different economic future because one island is likely to be very rich because of North Sea oil under Shetland and the other is likely to be not so rich.
§ Mr. Grimond
Shetland may be very rich, but Orkney will also be rich to the extent of many millions of pounds per year.
§ Mr. Aitken
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that point. However, I remind him that experience 1626 in the Middle East shows that many of the emirates declare themselves to be united but still indulge in disputes over a few hundred barrels of oil. I would refer the Committee to the current dispute between Dubai and Sharjah over a border line. It is affecting oil production in that area.
Therefore, there appear to be genuine dangers in having separate Members for two groups of islands which in many respects are similar. I fear that questions of greed in economic terms may come into the picture similar to the situation in the Middle East and that there are dangers in that respect.
The other arguments advanced by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland were so compelling that I am pleased to support his amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.1627
§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move Amendment No. 87, in page 2, line 4, at end insert(4) An Order in Council under Part 1 of Schedule 1 to this Act specifying constituencies under subsection (3) above shall not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament".I doubt whether I shall make this amendment as interesting or as exciting as was the last amendment, but I shall endeavour to explain it as clearly as I can.
The amendment relates to Clause 2, in relation to which subsection (3) provides thatother Members of each Assembly shall be returned for the Assembly constituencies for the time being specified in an Order in an Order in Council under Schedule 1".It envisages that there shall be one Member for each such constituency.
The point with which I am concerned relates to the phraseOrder in Council under Schedule 1 to this Act".The amendment is intended to ensure that such an Order in Council under Part I of Schedule 1 specifying constituencies shall not be made unless a draft has been laid and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
I hope that this will prove to be a probing amendment, because there may already be provision for this situation by way of cross reference. We should make sure that this Parliament at Westminster will have the right to lay an order creating the new constituencies in the new Assemblies and to approve or disapprove of such an order. The new Assembly constituencies will come into being by recommendation of the Boundary Commission—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.